About this time every year, the big question on the minds of commercial harvesters is what price per pound they will get for their investment of time and effort in Alaska’s commercial wild salmon fishery. The only certainty is that in 2013, as in other years, the price will depend on the exchange rate on the Japanese yen and the Euro, the harvest of other wild fish producers, particularly in Russia and Japan, and the shape of farmed salmon markets. People need to be aware of what’s happening with farmed salmon prices, how much canned salmon is carried over from last year’s harvest, and the elusive general mood of people in the market, said Gunnar Knapp, a fisheries economist with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. Everyone always tries to manipulate expectations, he said.
If people think the demand for salmon is strong they are willing to pay a good price, but it people think it’s weak, processors may say they had better take a deal while they can get it. “That’s the game everyone always plays,” he said.
In his analysis of Alaska salmon values in a recent salmon market bulletin for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Andy Wink of the McDowell Group in Juneau noted that in the case of troll-caught Chinook salmon, fishermen receive a large share of the retail value, offset by trollers’ low production volume.
In the case of frozen Bristol Bay sockeye fillets, fishermen received 40 percent to 50 percent of the first wholesale value, and with tall canned pink salmon, fishermen receive a smaller share of the retail value, but that is offset by seiners’ high production volume.
Distributors ship, store, sell and occasionally process fish before selling to retailers or restaurants. Sometimes these are independent companies and sometimes the processor or retailer maintains his own distribution business, Wink noted.
Regardless of whether salmon are sold directly from a processor to a retailer or whether they are sold to distributors, all salmon products incur distribution costs, and distributor mark-ups can range from pennies per pound to more than a dollar per pound, depending on the product, he said.