“Alaska Fish Factor” says that “the winter kings being caught by Southeast Alaska trollers are averaging 10 pounds each with a dock price of $7.34 a pound, according to state fish tickets. That adds up to $73.40 per fish, compared to less than $25 per barrel of oil.”
Along with early season Copper River kings and sockeye, troll-caught kings delivered fresh from the Panhandle to restaurants around the world throughout much of the year are the most valuable of Alaska fish and unique in pricing. Most of the state’s commercial fishermen would kill for $7.34 per pound.
The average price per pound of all Alaska salmon for 2015? About 40 cents.
Yes, you read that right. Forty cents, meaning the average 10-pound Alaska salmon was last year worth about $4. That’s a fraction of the cost of a barrel of oil even at today’s deflated prices.
Overall, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the nearly 1.1 billion pounds of salmon landed in Alaska in 2015 was valued at $414 million. Specialty fish — troll-caught winter kings, first-of-season Copper kings and sockeyes — bring high value, but most Alaska salmon don’t.
The Copper season opened this year with sockeye going for $5.15 a pound, making the average 6.5-pound fish worth about $33.50. But by season end, the average price for the year was down to $2.01, making the average Copper River sockeye worth about half as much as a barrel of oil.
Still, compared to other Alaska salmon, that was a great price. The reality was that the average salmon was worth about one-fifteenth the price of a barrel of oil. At the average 2015 salmon price, the average commercially caught salmon would need to have weighed 62.5 pounds to be worth as much as a barrel of crude at $25. Salmon of that size are rare.
Alaskans can only wish that the prices paid for troll-caught salmon in Southeast Alaska during the winter were the norm for the state’s salmon fishing industry. If the $73.40 fish were representative, the state could start to tax fish like oil and help close the $3.5 billion budgetary shortfall facing its oil-financed government.