Alaska’s wild salmon harvests rose to more than 211 million fish through Aug. 18, as the humpy harvest alone climbed to 143.6 million, exceeding the forecast of 140 million pinks.
That was an overall estimated catch increase of 35.7 million fish over the last week, including 33.2 million pink salmon. The preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest report is updated daily during the salmon season by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute had forecast earlier this year that the 2015 salmon harvest might set new records, with commercial fishermen projected to harvest 221 million salmon, or roughly 1 billion pounds. The largest factor in the record catch of 2013 was the pink salmon harvest, which was greater than the forecast by 92 percent.
Also during the past week, the latest preliminary harvest data showed the statewide harvest increases in other salmon species, bringing those totals to nearly 52 million sockeyes and 13 million chums, plus 2.1 million silvers and 502,000 Chinooks.
It adds up to the sixth time in over 135 years that the commercial salmon harvest in Alaska has topped 200 million fish. And while the sockeye salmon harvest, which got a late start this year, will fall a little short of the forecast, it was really good, said Andy Wink, a research analyst and project manager specializing in seafood with the McDowell Group in Juneau.
The robust harvest notwithstanding, processors have challenges on an international level, because of the strength of the dollar against other currencies, Russia’s current embargo on imports from the United States, European Union, Norway, and Canada, and the economic crisis in the Ukraine.
Russia and the Ukraine are key markets also for salmon roe, but Russia has cut off such purchase and the Ukraine currency has really weakened, so while Alaska processors can still sell there, it is not as strong of a market as it was two to three years ago.
Alaska provides about 10 percent to 13 percent of the salmon worldwide, and has a niche, a strong brand image for a lot of the state’s products, so that’s a plus, but it can only carry you so far, Wink said.
With the larger harvest there will be a fairly large canned pack, but to the extent of what goes to the frozen market and what goes to canned is still to be determined.