Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Salmon Harvests in Alaska Generally Below Expectations

Commercial salmon harvests in Alaska are off to a slow start in the 2020 season, with year-to-date statewide landings at just over three million fish – the lowest in at least 12 years.

Still while some areas have been late to open or are much lower than historical averages, recovery from early season weakness can happen quickly as key fisheries come online, says Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group. For example, said Evridge, a single strong week in Bristol Bay can produce multiples of the entire statewide May and June harvest.

Sockeye landings of some 640,000 fish are 75 percent lower than the same time in 2019, by which time more than 2.5 million fish had been harvested.

All regions are slow against prior years, with Prince William Sound down sharply. Through June 23, the total catch for Prince William Sound was 759,000 fish, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s blue sheet- the preliminary catch report.

Keta production is also weaker than last year with the current harvest about half of that of 2019. Prince William Sound is the main keta-producing region right now, in addition to Kodiak, which is only 9 percent behind last year. Meanwhile the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands region is up by 11 percent from last year.

Evridge also notes that due to strong landings in the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands that the pink salmon harvest is well above that for the same period in 2018.

Chinook landings are 48 percent lower year-to-date, due to slow Prince William Sound harvests. In most years, slowing Prince William Sound Chinook catch is offset by stronger harvests in the June/July timeframe in Southeast Alaska and Bristol Bay.

Evridge produces the in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest reports on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

ADF&G produces daily updated preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest reports online at

Pandemic Continues to Challenge Seafood Processors

In a normal year, seafood processors coming to Alaska to process millions of pounds of fish are faced with the usual challenges of estimating the timing and run strength of the salmon, and when the actual harvest will begin, so all the manpower and equipment is in place and functioning as it should be. This year, with a global pandemic already showing its face all over Alaska, the processors have been planning for months on how to keep their employees, their facilities and the coastal communities they work in safe from COVID-19.

It has been a work in progress.

Through Tuesday, June 22, 778 Alaska residents have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 129 nonresidents, mostly seafood processor workers, and 12 of the new cases confirmed yesterday were seafood workers in Dillingham. All 12 workers are employed at the OBI Seafoods Wood River processing facility. (OBI Seafoods was created recently with the merger of Ocean Beauty and Icicle Seafoods.) Their diagnosis was confirmed through their employer’s quarantine and testing protocols. Dillingham city officials noted that all 12 were moved to separate isolation facilities within the company’s closed campus and that additional sanitation protocols were initiated.

OBI Seafoods tests all incoming employees before travel to Dillingham and then twice during the quarantine period. These employees were tested on day six of their quarantine in Dillingham, the second of three planned tests. City officials are now working with area and state health officials on contact tracing. Dillingham Mayor Alice Ruby said the company’s protection plans caught these cases during quarantine and are helping to prevent the spread of the virus through the community.

In Cordova, on Prince William Sound, Ocean Beauty and the Cordova Medical Response Team confirmed two nonresident seafood workers had tested positive, and that they are now in isolation on Ocean Beauty’s closed campus. City officials there said they did not feel these cases pose a risk to the community at this time.

Pacific Seafood-Westport Settles with EPA

The US Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with Pacific Seafood-Westport, LLC, over violations of the federal Clean Water Act at its Westport, Washington, crab and shrimp processing facility.

Settlement documents note that the EPA identified more than 2,100 violations of the Westport facility’s wastewater discharge permit during an unannounced inspection in 2017. The federal agency documented discharge limit violations, as well as violations related to monitoring frequency, incorrect sampling and incomplete or inadequate reporting.

There’s a reason for these wastewater discharge permit limits,” said Lauris Davies, acting director of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance assurance in Seattle. “Local receiving waters can get inundated with body parts, entails, shell particles, oil and other byproducts in volumes they just can’t handle. When discharges exceed permit requirements, companies must take swift action to comply with legal limits, or face penalties.” Pacific Seafood has agreed to pay a penalty of $190,000, and to initiate new programs and implemented technologies to address compliance issues at the Westport facility. EPA officials said as a direct result of the enforcement action they expect to see a significant reduction in fecal coliform, biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids and oil and grease discharge at the facility.

Also as part of the agreement Pacific Seafood neither confirms or denies the allegations contained in the signed consent agreement and final order, the EPA said.

Federal Court Says EPA Must Update Response Plan

A federal district court judge in California has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has a duty to update its national contingency plan for responding to oil and hazardous substance contamination, as mandated by the Clean Water Act.

In doing so in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge William. H. Orrick recently denied a motion by the EPA to dismiss arguments brought by Earth Island Institute and other plaintiffs, and also denied a motion from the American Petroleum Institute to intervene in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in January, compels the EPA to issue rules that restrict use of chemical agents to clean up oil spills, as these chemical dispersants have been proven to be more toxic than the oil itself to people, and the environment. The lawsuit was filed by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of California Berkeley and the Center for Biological Diversity on behalf of Earth Island Institute and its ALERT project, a campaign to ban toxic dispersants from use during oil spill response started after the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Plaintiffs also include individuals who personally experienced the toxic effects of the chemical agent Corexit during the cleanup from the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound or the 2019 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Said Claudia Polsky, director of the UC Berkley Environmental Law Clinic, “this is the first time a court has addressed whether EPA has a duty to keep the cleanup plans current and effective. The court said ’yes’.”

Several plaintiffs in the case are based in Alaska, including Cook Inletkeeper and Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Executive director Pam Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics said the ruling is an important step toward protecting the health of oil spill workers and coastal communities from exposure to dangerous dispersant chemicals.

The lawsuit has been a long time coming, said Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist and activist in Cordova, Alaska, and author of two books on the Exxon Valdez disaster and its consequences.

Modern, up-to-date response tools are needed to protect coastal fisheries and the families and economies they support, especially now that climate change is opening up new shipping routes in the Arctic, said Bob Shavelson, director at Cook Inletkeeper

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Pacific Salmon Catches Remain High Overall

A new report from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission says North Pacific-wide total salmon catches for 2019 remained near all-time high levels, but were particularly low for some salmon species in commission member countries.

Russia led with 499.1 thousand metric tons, or 51 percent, followed by 406.9 thousand metric tons, or 42 percent by the United States, of which 401.9 metric tons was caught in Alaska.

Japanese harvesters caught 59.5 thousand metric tons, or 6 percent; Canadian fishermen harvested 2.9 thousand metric tons, less than 1 percent, and Korean harvesters brought in 130 metric tons.

Pink salmon constituted the majority of the total commercial catch, 54 percent by weight, followed by chum, 24 percent, and sockeye salmon 19 percent. Coho comprised 2 percent of the catch. Chinook salmon, cherry salmon and steelhead trout were each less than 1 percent of the catch by weight.

NPAFC officials said pink and chum salmon dominate Asian catches.

In Alaska, pink and sockeye salmon are the primary species, followed by chums. In Canada, chum, sockeye and pink salmon were the most abundant species caught, but exceptionally low catches of those salmon species in 2019 resulted in the lowest total catches of salmon - 2,973 metric tons- on record for Canada in the NPAFC database dating back to 1925.

In Washington, Oregon and California Chinook, chum and coho salmon are typically the most abundant species caught. Particularly low catches of chum, sockeye and coho salmon in 2019 resulted in the lowest total catches of salmon -4,965 metric tons – on record for those three states in the NPAFC database.

Hatchery releases of salmon and steelhead from NPAFC member countries have been stable since 1993, with some 5 billion fish released annually. The highest hatchery releases on record – 5.5 billion fish – occurred in 2019, primarily because of increased Asia hatchery releases.

Hatcheries released 2,023 million fish, or 37 percent of the total in the U.S.

Japan released 1,918 million fish, or 35 percent; Russia 1,181 million or 21 percent; Canada 384 million or 7 percent, and Korea 11 million, or less than 1 percent, the NPAFC said.

Alaska’s Commercial Salmon Season Gets Off to a Slow Start

The 2020 Alaska salmon season may be off to a slow start, but fisheries economist Garrett Evridge of the McDowell Group, in Anchorage, says it is too early to draw any conclusions.

In an average year less than 10 percent of the annual harvest occurs in May and June and Evridge notes that harvest typically expand modestly over the next two weeks before climbing sharply in early July.

Early season harvest figures for 2020 are below historical averages.

Preliminary harvest figures from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game through Tuesday, June 16, showed that commercial harvesters in Alaska had delivered some 440 thousand wild salmon, including 28,000 Chinook, 189,000 sockeye and 223,000 chum. The bulk of harvests to date have been in Prince William Sound, with a cumulative preliminary total harvest of 337,000 fish, including 222,000 chum, 111,000 sockeye and 4,000 kings. In Kodiak, processors have received some 17,000 sockeye and 1,000 chum salmon.

Prince William Sound is particularly slow, with sockeye and Chinook landings down about 80 percent from the same time a year ago, and 70 percent lower than the five-year average.

Seine harvests of keta salmon in Prince William Sound are running counter to this weakness with harvest roughly double the five-year average. Cook Inlet fishing is slow compared to 2019, but nearly equal to the five-year average, Kodiak likewise is off to a slow start along with Area M, the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands.

ADF&G biologists are projecting a harvest of 132 million salmon this year, a level similar to other even-numbered years. Humpy harvests are expected to be on the lower end of recent even numbered years. The projected sockeye harvest is below the five-year average, but higher than the 10-year average. Anticipated keta and coho harvests are nearly equal to the five-year average, and the anticipated production of 320,000 kings would represent a third year of increasing harvest if realized.

Updates on preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvests are posted online at

Bristol Bay Fishermen Skeptical of Latest Pebble Proposal

A Canadian mining firm intending to develop a rich copper, gold and molybdenum deposit in Southwest Alaska says they have created a Pebble Performance Dividend that will distribute a percentage of revenue generated by the mine to year-round residents of Bristol Bay.

According to Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier, every year-round resident of Bristol Bay who wants to participate can register and learn more about the offer online at Collier said once the mine is fully operational and profitable the plan would distribute 3 percent of net profits from the mine to registered Bristol Bay residents. The PLP acknowledge that if permitted, the mine would not yield any profits for the first several years of development, but that the PLP would ensure a minimum distribution by contributing $3 million annually toward that distribution.

The reaction to that offer was swift and critical from Bristol Bay fishermen, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation and tribal entities.

“It’s clear the company is just trying to promise future dividends to create a illusion of support, but in reality they’ve never been a trustworthy company,” said Katharine Carscallen, speaking for Commercial Fishermen of Bristol Bay. “They will say and do anything to try and force this toxic project forward that fishermen and the regional will never support.”

Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, said fishermen heading out to harvest in the world ‘s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery are counting on Congress to protect some 14,500 workers directly employed in the fishery from a mine that threatens Alaskan jobs, the nation‘s food security and a salmon resource unparalleled anywhere on the planet.

Norm Van Vactor, president and CEO of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, called the offer “an eleventh-hour desperate attempt by Pebble to make empty promises offering breadcrumbs to the very people whose lives will be ruined by this project.”

Bristol Bay Native Corporation, with offices in Dillingham and Anchorage, also voiced skepticism of the offer. “This is just another PLP tactic to try to sway public opinion on this vastly unpopular project,” said Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of BBNC.

“We will not trade salmon for gold, and we will not be swayed by promises of cash payments from a proposed mine that cannot and should not be built,” he said.

“Bristol Bay has long-opposed this project because of the devastation it will cause to our lands, waters and people,” said Ralph Andersen of Bristol Bay Native Association. “We know that our way of life is more previous than gold and we will not allow a foreign mining company to devastate our cultures and communities.”

Copper River Seafoods Initiates New Cost Saver Cold Storage Plan

After years of storing large quantities of its flash frozen seafood with a Seattle cold storage firm, Copper River Seafoods is investing in its own cold storage facility in Anchorage, one with a capacity of two million pounds of frozen seafood.

“Since Copper River Seafoods is Alaska’s seafood processing company, being the only one of the big eight seafood processors operating in Alaska that is owned and operated as an Alaska and US company, it only makes sense to continue our growth by investing in Alaska, by bringing this critical business function of cold storage in house to meet our storage needs,” says Jim Kostka, the company’s marketing director. “This meets a CRS major objective, that is tied to the business/supply chain cycle of bringing wild and sustainable Alaska seafood to the market.” Kostka said the new cold storage facility will eliminate the cost of shipping the frozen product south and then back to Alaska for additional processing, while meeting corporate goals to creates new jobs and economic opportunities for the communities they serve.

All CRS inventory currently in cold storage in Seattle is to be transferred to Anchorage later this summer, and all seafood being processed from this year’s harvest that requires cold storage will go directly to the new storage facility in Anchorage, he said.

The novel coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe has impacted economies everywhere, including restaurant and food service markets critical to seafood processors. While demand from restaurants is on the uptick, they are not buying like they used to, and the absence of thousands of visitors in the summer of 2020, including cruise ship passengers, is also expected to have a big impact on demand for seafood.

Kostka said that the COVID-19 scare has allowed Copper River Seafoods to reshape the company, offering Alaskans the opportunity to buy directly from them a variety of seafoods through their weekly pop up market, ordering online at

Recent offerings include 10 pound boxes of Wild Alaska Halibut Kickers, lightly breaded halibut portions with Cajun spices for $167.95, or the $73.95 Alaskan Weekend Sampler Pack, with two pounds of Wild Alaska Halibut Kickers, two pounds of wild Alaska coho salmon portions, and two pounds of Wild Alaska halibut burger meat. CRS also plans to expand operations for local restaurants, boutique hotels and retail customers placing online orders from the Lower 48 states.

The new cold storage facility, one fully operational, is expected to create some 40 new year-round jobs, Kostka said.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Harvests Dwindling in Copper River, Prince William Sound Opens

Four weeks into Alaska’s famed Copper River salmon fishery just half of the potential 12-hour commercial openers have been fished and inseason harvest estimates compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game stand at a grand total of some 78,177 fish.

Deliveries from the four commercial drift gillnet fisheries – the latest on June 1 – brought to processors some 5,751 Chinooks, 71,370 sockeye and 1,056 chum salmon.

The largest catch to date came on May 25, with 457 deliveries of a total of 1,451 king, 33,777 red and 611 chum salmon.

With other commercial fisheries in Prince William Sound starting to open up, hope lies in the pink and chum salmon returns, which are forecast to be 19 percent above the 10-year average.

Meanwhile drift gillnetters in the Eshamy Main Bay district have caught 2,811 sockeyes, 1,686 chum and 44 kings. In the Coghill district, the estimated chum salmon catch came to 16,918 and the king catch to 58 fish. Purse seiners in the Prince William Sound Southwestern and Montague districts have also begun fishing, and while their catch of sockeyes and kings has been low, the Montague district has caught 31,712 chums and PWS Southwestern district fishermen another 13,000 chums.

Prices for the Copper River sockeye fillets have dropped by $10 a pound to $39.99 a pound at Pike Place Fish Market, but were still about $50 a pound in Austin, Texas, $44.95 a pound at online marketer FishEx in Anchorage and $22.95 a pound at 10th&M Seafoods in Anchorage. The best deal of the week was $16.99 a pound for Copper River red fillets at Costco stores in Anchorage.

COVID-19 Worries Mount as Processors Brace for More Salmon Openers

One new death and 11 new cases of COVID-19 in six communities reported by state health officials on Tuesday, June 9, boosted Alaska’s total number of resident cases to 573 and the statewide death toll to 11. The addition of two new nonresident cases, both of them seafood industry workers, meanwhile brought the number of nonresident cases to 49.

One of the nonresident cases is in the Aleutians East Borough and the other in the combined Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula boroughs. Another case previously reported as an Alaska resident in the Kenai Peninsula Borough has been reclassified as a nonresident case in the wake of follow-up interviews.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said that six additional Alaska Marine Highway employees aboard the M/V Tustumena tested positive for COVID-19. Another AMHS employee tested positive at Dutch Harbor when the M/V Tustumena arrived there earlier this week. The vessel made the return trip to Homer with several passengers and the crew aboard and six more members of the crew tested positive for the virus in Homer.

The Tustumena is now scheduled to return to service on June 27.

Those test results are to be added to other all test positive cases reported by seafood processors. So far all positive tests were detected while the individuals were still in quarantine and not at work in the seafood plants. While the state of Alaska has lifted its required 14-day quarantine for everyone coming to Alaska, putting in place a requirement for travelers to get tested before boarding a plane to Alaska, several coastal communities still have the 14-day quarantine in place, with testing to be done while quarantining.

Battle for King Cove-Cold Bay Road Loses Another Battle In Court

Count the Alaska Peninsula fishing community of King Cove down but not out in the latest courtroom battle over a proposed one-lane gravel road that would provide for ground transportation to Cold Bay’s all-weather airport in medical emergencies.

“We’re totally disheartened, (but) we won’t give up,” said Della Trumble, president of the King Cove Corp., an Alaska Native village corporation. King Cove, which lies some 600 nautical miles southwest of Anchorage, is the home of Peter Pan Seafoods largest processing facility. Deliveries to the plant include king crab, bairdi and opilio tanner crab, Polllock, cod, salmon, halibut and black cod harvested in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Peter Pan has operated facilities in King Cove for more than 100 years and is a major contributor to the local economy.

Trumble said the corporation is reviewing the recent decision by US District Court Judge John Sedwick that vacated a proposed land exchange that would have allowed for 11 miles of the gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. That stretch of road would connect two other existing roads already in the wildlife refuge.

Environmental entities who brought the case against the Interior Department to court meanwhile said they were thrilled that Sedwick had rejected the land exchange proposal. The judge found that it constituted an unlawful action in violation of the federal Administrative Procedures Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

When the weather is good, small aircraft can transport individuals in need of emergency medical care from King Cove to Cold Bay, from where they can be rushed to medical facilities in Anchorage. In inclement weather the only option may be a three-hour ride from King Cove to Cold Bay on a fishing vessel. Poor weather conditions usually result in the small gravel airstrip in King Cove being closed over 100 days a year.

Alaska’s congressional delegation, which supports the road plan, notes that there have been a number of emergency medevacs from King Cove, including 33 by the US Coast Guard, and said they intend to keep fighting to get the road through.

NOAA Approves Renewal of Prohibited Species Donation Permits to SeaShare

NOAA Fisheries has announced the renewal of two prohibited species donation permits to SeaShare, authorizing the Washington state nonprofit organization to distribute Pacific salmon and Pacific halibut to economically disadvantaged people under the PSD program.

The permits apply to salmon and halibut caught incidentally during directed fisheries for groundfish with trawl gear off the coast of Alaska. They will be effective through May 28, 2023.

Retention of incidentally caught prohibited species is prohibited in groundfish fisheries except for salmon and halibut for the purposes of the PSD program. The salmon donation program was approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service on July 10, 1996 and expanded to include halibut as part of the PSD program on May 6, 1998.

SeaShare was founded to help the seafood industry donate to domestic hunger relief efforts and is the sole authorized distributor of salmon and halibut taken incidentally in the groundfish trawl fisheries off the coast of Alaska.

Current participants in the PSD program administered by SeaShare include 12 shoreside processors and 136 catcher vessels delivering to shoreside processors, 34 catcher/processors, and three motherships. Two reprocessing plants that generate steaked salmon and halibut participate in the program. NOAA officials noted that SeaShare has the capacity to receive and distribute salmon and halibut from up to 60 processors and associated catcher vessels.

The nonprofit distributes millions of portions of wild Alaska seafood to food banks all over the United States. Recently those contributions included some 112,850 pounds of halibut, salmon, Pollock and smelt to food banks in Alaska.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Factory Trawler Crew Infected With COVID-19

Eighty-six of 126 crewmen on board the American Seafoods factory trawler American Dynasty have tested positive for COVID-19 in the wake of a fishing trip off the coast of Washington State, the company has confirmed.

The vessel is now moored at Seattle, under lockdown, with one crewmember hospitalized and others quarantined and monitored by medical personnel.

American Seafoods Chief Officer Mikel Durham said crewmembers on the American Triumph and the Northern Jaeger are also being tested today, June 3, for COVID-19 as a precautionary measure. The Triumph docked today at Bellingham and the Jaeger arrives later today. One crewmember aboard the Northern Jaeger reported feeling ill on board last week, was transported to a hospital, and tested negative. Durham said the rest of the crew was being tested about of an abundance of caution.

American Seafoods, based in Seattle and Dutch Harbor, Alaska, maintains a fleet of six vessels that fish in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Durham said the company has preparedness plans in place for virus outbreaks and that those plans have now been fully executed. “The health and safety of our crew, employees and the communities where we operate is always the top priority for us,” Dunham said.

Officials with Trident Seafoods meanwhile closed the company’s Bellingham plant for the day on June 1 for a deep clean and to assess if contact tracing and isolation are necessary for anyone who might have been in a common area shared by individuals in contact with or from the American Dynasty,” said Trident spokesman Shannon Carroll.

“In our Lower-48 value added seafood operations, we have strong precautionary measures in place to detect and prevent spread of the virus,” Carroll said. “Our closure today was consistent with that precautionary approach.”

Trident Seafoods’ Alaska 14-day quarantine and testing procedures meanwhile were going smoothly and remain consistent with best practice, so we haven’t needed to make adjustments, but are constantly evaluating new information,” he said.

Ocean Going Robots Will Conduct Pollock Survey

With the cancellation of ship-based Alaska Pollock surveys due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NOAA Fisheries is counting on Saildrones to conduct the summer eastern Bering Sea survey to support management of Alaska pollock.

Three unmanned, wind-powered surface vehicles are currently sailing autonomously from Alameda, California on a six-week journey to the eastern Bering Sea. They are expected to arrive in early July to begin the 60-day survey, during which they will cover roughly the same area normally included by standard research vessels there to estimate Pollock abundance.

The Saildrones are equipped with low-power sonar instruments known as echosounders, a fish finder technology that detects the presence of fish using sound, although it is less effective at differentiating among species and fish sizes. That’s why under normal circumstances scientists also use a net to collect a sample of fish to determine weight, length and sex of individual fish.

Stock assessment scientists may use this data along with other data collected from commercial fishing vessels to estimate the fish of fish populations annually.

But extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, says NOAA Fisheries biologist Alex De Robertis, project leader for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Faced with the possible cancellation of the usual survey, they came up with a contingency plan to collect data, working closely with Saildrone and NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

Testing over several years, they found that the Saildrone-mounted echosounders produced equivalent acoustic measurements of Pollock to NOAA’s survey vessels. So even without directly sample fish this summer, NOAA hopes to gather necessary data.

The Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s efforts in testing new technologies both improves operating efficiencies and enables NOAA to quickly respond when situations like this arise, according to Bob Foy, director of the science center.

The Saildrones are also equipped with solar-powered instruments to measure oceanographic and meteorological conditions. Wind, solar radiation surface temperature, and salinity measurements will be made along the way.

Satellite links will be used to adjust the course of the Saildrones as necessary. Then scientists at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory will process the oceanographic and meteorological data in real time.

De Robertis said that had he been asked about this technology six years ago, he would not have thought it was possible. Now he sees it as a valuable tool for augmenting standard surveys.

Copper River Harvest Remains a Slow One

Prices for the famed Copper River kings and sockeye are holding their own at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, while in Alaska’s Copper River fishery itself, the harvest has been slow.

“The fish are fine,” said veteran harvester John Renner, vice president of Cordova District Fishermen United. “There are just not enough of them. It’s a weak season in my humble opinion. It’s not a biological catastrophe, but a financial one,” he said.

“It is coming in well under the forecast for reds and kings on the Copper River,” noted Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Cordova. “The run is coming in late, but also looking smaller than forecast. So far it has been pretty scratchy, but we have lots of potential for sockeye and chum for western Prince William Sound” for seiners and the drift fleet, he said.

Only four of the six 12-hour openers scheduled since the harvest began on May 14 have been opened for fishing by ADF&G. To date there have been 1,653 deliveries for a total of 78,177 fish, including 5,751 Chinook, 71,370 sockeyes and 1,056 chum salmon. The first opener on May 14 resulted in 372 deliveries of 1,552 kings, 1,473 reds ad 34 chum, a total of 3,059 fish. Adding to that was the May 18 opener, with a catch of 6,622 salmon, the May 25 opener, with 35,839 salmon and the June 1 opener, with 32,657 salmon delivered to processors.

Seafood shops that are hawking Copper River salmon meanwhile are asking premium prices.

At the online seafood shop FishEx in Anchorage premium portions of fresh Copper River king salmon are $78.95 a pound, premium portions of fresh Copper River sockeyes are $44.95 a pound, and a 20-pound case of Copper River king fillets is selling for $1,250.

At Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle the prices for fresh Copper River salmon are holding at $74.98 a pound for king fillets and $49.99 a pound f

or sockeye fillets. Whole fresh Copper River kings are still commanding $659.99 apiece and whole fresh Copper River reds are $174.99. As of yesterday, June 2, the market was sold out of Copper River king fillets and whole fish, but still had whole Copper River reds and sockeye fillets in stock.

Statewide, as the wild salmon harvest season gets off and running, preliminary harvest figures compiled by ADF&G show an overall harvest of 115,000 fish, including 91,000 reds, 23,000 kings and 1,000 chums in Southeast and the Central regions of Alaska.

New Report Shows Surge in Marine Economy

A new federal Commerce Department report shows that America’s marine economy contributed about $373 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2018, growing faster than the nation’s overall economy.

“The marine economy statistics clarify just how dependent America is on our waters,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “It is nearly impossible for most Americans to go a single day without eating, wearing or using products that come from or through our coastal communities.”

According to Deputy NOAA Administrator Tim Gallaudet these statistics are the first-of-its-kind estimate of the U.S. marine economy, a primary driver of jobs, innovation and economic growth. “Data such as these provide a critical baseline to inform, track progress and accelerate America’s economic recovery,” said Gallaudet.

In gathering these statistics, the Commerce Department considered 10 sectors representing businesses dependent on the nation’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes from 2014 to 2018. The data showed that marine-related gross domestic product grew 5.8 percent from 2917 to 2018, faster than the 5.4 percent growth of the total U.S. gross domestic product as measured in current dollars. Businesses included in the report also supported 2.3 million jobs in 2018.

The living resources sector examined for the report, including commercial fishing and aquaculture alone, contributed $13 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product for those years, while ship and boat building added another $9 billion, the report said.

“These prototype statistics offer a baseline for understanding the importance of the ocean economy, including recreation, seafood, transportation and ship building, said Mary Bohman, acting director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Businesses, policymakers and coastal communities can use these economic data as a compass as they chart the way forward,” she said. The complete report and other materials are available online at

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