Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bristol Bay Harvesters Say Majors Offering $1.20 a Pound for Sockeyes

Commercial harvesters delivering to Bristol Bay processors have brought in more than 28 million salmon through July 15, and the going home price appears to be about $1.20 a pound, the same price paid by processors in 1998. That’s 30 cents less than the $1.50 base price announced for the same week a year ago.

While processors were unavailable to confirm those prices, the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association, and several individual fishermen, said they had learned that the major processors were paying $1.20 a pound, plus 15 cents for chilled fish.

AIFMA had no immediate comment on the price, but reactions elsewhere ranged from acceptance to disappointment.

“Everyone was thinking the price would go up a little bit,” said Bill Gardner, who delivers his fish to North Pacific Seafoods. “A lot of guys are still out fishing, but the season is winding down. We are happy with what we caught. We’ll do it again, I’m sure, but it’s always kind of a punch in the gut to get a big reduction in price.”

Gardner, who owns a boat repair business in the Seattle area, said he realized the processors have a lot to consider, and “the market place is the market place.

“If the Fraser River doesn’t come in, maybe we’ll get some price adjustments,” he said. Processors have a tough job going out on the market to sell the fish, he said.

Canadian fisheries officials have predicted that the Fraser River salmon run may be shaping up to be the biggest there in 100 years. Meanwhile, Russian fishery science officials were also forecasting a large run of red salmon.

Canadian and Russia forecasts notwithstanding, some fishermen said they were plainly disgusted.

Casey Dochtermann, fishing with his brother Shawn Dochtermann in Egegik, described the $1.20 a pound going home price as “a sucker punch to the gut.”

In what other industry do you see the price going down on product being delivered while the price of everything else is going up, asked Casey Dohtermann.

No matter what the fishermen are paid, sockeye salmon fillets sell all year long for $9.99 to $12.99 a pound, he said. Widespread rumors this past spring were that Silver Bay Seafoods, a relative newcomer to Bristol Bay, was writing contracts for $2 a pound, so many fishermen anticipated that they would make more than last year.

Statewide, fish harvesters in Alaska through July 15 had delivered to processors more than 61 million salmon, including 35.8 million sockeye, 20.5 million humpies, 4.6 million chum, 300,000 Chinook and 269,000 silvers.

For Prince William Sound, the preliminary catch to date is estimated at over 23 million salmon, including 19.3 million pink, more than 3 million red, 1 million chum, 10,000 king and 3,000 coho salmon.

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