Commercial harvests of wild Alaska salmon grew to an estimated 248,645,000 fish through September 2, including upwards of 178 million pink salmon – the third highest harvest on record. Chinook harvests of 503,000 fish also were far and above the statewide forecast of 54,000 kings.
Harvesters have also delivered to processors a total of nearly 53 million sockeyes, more than 14 million chum and 2.6 million silver salmon, according to the latest 2015 preliminary commercial salmon harvest data compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Chum harvests continue and the silver season isn’t yet in full swing, and many are waiting to see what happens with the roe, frozen and canned markets for the humpies. “If processors in Alaska froze more and canned a little less, that might work out well this year,” said Andy Wink, senior seafood analyst for the McDowell Group, a research and analysis firm in Juneau.
Markets currently for pink roe are not big enough to handle all that roe, which has been a really important market for the Alaska salmon industry for the last few years, and now with the Russian embargo on food imports from Western nations and the change in currency values, a lot has changed, Wink said.
In some years the wholesale value of roe can be more than 40 percent of the fish, but the Japanese market is just not going to absorb that much more of the pink roe, at least at the market price that sales in Russia did, and the value of the yen is weaker too, he said.
Frozen headed and gutted pink salmon can be made into several product forms, but if you are not getting the value you were getting from roe, there is no other product form to put it into, which explains a lot of the declining exvessel prices seen for pink salmon, he said.
But all things considered, said Wink, the frozen and canned markets are in decent shape. Given how much pink salmon was caught this year and how much was expected to be caught, there is a chance we could come out stable in the canned market, he said.