2013 salmon numbers look good because of pinks

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released an extensive look at the salmon season just passed mixed with a peek at the one coming up.

The state is predicting a bumper salmon crop next year in terms of numbers, with a total catch expected to be about 179 million fish, an increase of 30 percent over the 2012 season catch of 127 million fish. However, that number is driven by an expected odd-year jump in low-value pink salmon harvest expected to reach 118 million fish, compared to the 2012 catch of 68 million pinks.

Nearly half of the pink harvest should take place in Southeast, where ADF&G predicts a catch of 54 million fish. That compares to a 2012 pink harvest of 21.3 million fish.

Prince William Sound is looking at a potential harvest of 38.3 million pinks, up from 27.2 million in 2012, but the vast majority of those, 33.6 million fish, are expected to come from hatchery production.

The harvest of other species is predicted to remain largely flat, with sockeye, cohos and chums expected to come in in numbers within a percentage point of last season.

However, the distribution of the “money fish” is expected to shift according to area.

Bristol Bay, which had a fairly normal catch of 20.6 million sockeye in 2012, is expected to see that fall by 4 million fish.

Upper Cook Inlet is expecting nearly a million more sockeye than last year, at 4.9 million, and Kodiak is expected to be up about half a million, at 2.7 million. Chignik is looking for about 800,000 more fish, with a predicted harvest of 2.6 million sockeye.

All together, the expected harvest of sockeye statewide is 34.3 million fish, which would have once been considered a pretty good season for Bristol Bay alone, which saw a harvest of 44 million sockeye in 1995, and 31 million as recently as 2009. The 20-year average for Bristol Bay from 1992-2011 was 37.3 million sockeye.

The statewide harvest of sockeye for that banner year in Bristol Bay, 1995, was 63.5 million. The statewide harvest of all species that year was 217.8 million.

The value of last year’s salmon harvest in terms of ex-vessel prices was $505 million, with Southeast producing $152.3 million of that. More than half of the value in that area was chum salmon, with a harvest of 10.6 million fish and an average price of 84 cents, for a total of $82.6 million.

Bristol Bay came in second with a value of $121 million, and Prince William Sound in third with $110.9 million. Kodiak made a distant fourth place with a value of $46.5 million.

Although it came in fifth statewide in terms of ex-vessel value of the commercial salmon fishery at $36.2 million, Cook Inlet took the prize for the most money paid per salmon caught of all species, at an average of $8.14 per fish. Bristol Bay came in second at $5.44 per fish overall.

With an average sockeye weight of 6.7 pounds, compared to 5.7 in Bristol Bay, and an average price of $1.51 per pound, compared to $1 per pound in Bristol Bay, coupled with a lack of substantial numbers of lower-value pinks, chums or cohos, the Cook Inlet salmon fishery delivered the best bang for the buck.

Cook Inlet also grossed more than the Alaska Peninsula/Aleutian Islands (Area M), Chignik and Yukon commercial salmon fisheries combined, and within $200,000 of adding the $2 million Kuskokwim salmon fishery to the mix.

Area M brought in $17.5 million, Chignik $13.8 million and Yukon $3.1 million.

Salmon prices are expected to be strong in 2013, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp. Find the full report through the ADF&G website at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishingCommercial.main.

The Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center is offering federal grants for fishermen harmed by imports of foreign products.

According to a press statement, the federal grant program is available to help “Made in America” companies become more competitive and save U.S. jobs. The funds come from the TAA program of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration to assist a wide range of businesses and service industries. Companies that are losing sales to foreign imports or have been forced to lay off workers or cut back on hours are likely eligible for the TAA grants.

The release notes that Alaska’s seafood industry is a prime example. Wild salmon faces intense competition from less expensive farmed fish from Chile and Norway. Alaska king crab gets clobbered by Russian product; snow crab sales get squeezed by imports from Eastern Canada.

Most recently, Alaska cod markets have crumbled due to enormous amounts of fish coming from the Barents Sea.

Alaska seafood companies, fish processors and brokers, and other related businesses may be eligible to receive up to $75,000 in grants for a wide range of projects of their choice. The funds enable recipients to develop and complete projects that they might not otherwise have considered.

For example, with the help of TAA funds, an Alaska salmon processor created a new corporate brand identity and developed product labels, brochures and other marketing materials in several languages. Sales are up by 20 percent from increased catalog and Internet sales.

An Alaska fishing family was able to start marketing their own products by using TAA funds to develop a web presence.

Other projects can include marketing and branding, designing trade show booths, new product development, site layouts, customer service analysis, custom software creation, manufacturing design and site layouts, and specialized staff training, to name but a few.

TAA staff will work with fishermen at no cost to determine if your company is eligible for TAA grant funding. They help clients develop a strategic plan, and make sure it is accomplished by hiring outside experts to complete the projects. All information is treated as confidential. Find more information about TAA grants for “Made in America” companies at www.nwtaac.org or contact Patrick Meuleman, client development manager, at patrick@nwtaac.org.

Cristy Fry has commercial fished out of Homer and King Cove since 1978. She can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.