Twelve major processors of Bristol Bay’s salmon run say their intended purchases for 2016 total 35.5 million fish, which is about six million fish more than the forecast harvest of 29.5 million fish.
Responding to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game survey, they estimated a maximum daily processing capacity of 2.6 million fish per day, which could be sustained for some 17 days. State biologists cautioned that the salmon processing capacity estimated in their report is not guaranteed, nor is there an implied guarantee that all fishermen will have buyers for all of their salmon.
The ADF&G harvest forecast of 29.52 million fish, released last October, would be eight percent greater than the previous 10-year mean harvest, and 46 percent greater than the long-term mean harvest of 20.20 million fish.
The tendering fleet has a holding capacity of 39.1 million pounds, or approximately 6.8 million salmon. The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon processing capacity survey is an instrument that can be used to determine whether domestic processors have enough capacity to handle the expected harvest. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act provides the framework requirements that must be met before foreign processing ships are allowed into internal waters of the state. Should the governor of Alaska receive a request to bring in foreign processing ships to process salmon in Bristol Bay this year, information from this survey would be considered by the governor, along with other information, to determine whether those foreign vessel should be allowed to do so.
The Ugashik District is the only fishing district that the surveyed processors were asked about specifically, as that district can be underserved by processing capacity.
Of the 12 companies, 11 said they would provide tenders inside Bristol Bay waters.
Individual processor’s salmon capacities are protected as confidential information under Alaska statutes.
Surveyed processors were asked if their company intends to purchase sockeye salmon in the Ugashik District this year, and if so, would their company be purchasing more sockeye salmon that a year ago. Last year surveyed processors bought an aggregated 99.9 percent of the total Ugashik District red salmon harvest.
Of the 12 companies surveyed nine said they intend to operate in the Ugashik District in 2016 and four of those nine companies said they intend to purchase more salmon that last year.