The year 2015 was good for the Alaska seafood industry, according to the 2016 annual report from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
ASMI is a marketing organization that consists of a public/private partnership between the state and the seafood industry that works to promote Alaska seafood in the domestic and international marketplace.
According to the report, Alaska seafood finally tops the list of all other protein brands in U.S. restaurants, after having sat at number two for several years.
It beat out such luminaries as Kobe and Angus beef and Louisiana seafood.
Research shows that 94 percent of diners are more likely to order seafood if it says “Alaska” next to it.
One of the challenges of marketing Alaska seafood has been the strength of the dollar, which, as of December 2016, was 8.5 percent higher than in 2015, and 30 percent stronger than in 2012, making Alaska seafood more expensive to overseas buyers.
By contrast, the currency of major competitors such as Russia, Norway and Chile have been especially weak, and the euro is at its weakest point compared to the dollar since 2003.
However, exports to Japan rose 15 percent, in part due to the strength of the yen.
Another bright spot is Spain, which is the fourth largest importer of all seafood in the world, which is officially out of its long recession.
The seafood industry remains an economic driver in Alaska, as well as a major employer, with about 60,000 people, mostly Alaska residents, working in the state’s seafood industry. More than half of those, around 31,580, are fishermen, operating 8,600 vessels and delivering fish to 176 processing plants along Alaska’s 6,640 mile coastline.
Alaska’s largest fishery by volume remains pollock, which topped 3 billion pounds, but salmon remains the largest in dollar amount, coming in at over $540 million in ex-vessel value, in spite of an anemic pink salmon harvest last year.
One of ASMI’s goals as stated in the report is to increase ex-vessel values by 0.5 percent annually.
The collective ex-vessel value of key species in 2015 declined by 7.9 percent; however, the report points out that harvest volumes and values fluctuate from year to year, and it is important to look at the big picture.
Over the past ten years, 2006-2015, the ex-vessel values increased 22 percent.
Cristy Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.