Bristol Bay – Alaska’s highest profile salmon fishery – had a banner year, and yet everywhere in the global market Alaska salmon fisheries look to be in more and more trouble over the long-term.
A $2 to $3 dollar per pound commodity in the 1980s ($4 to $6 when corrected for inflation)Bristol Bay sockeye is today a $1 per pound commodity, and there is no sign the pricing is going to get much better. It could actually get worse.
Chilean farmed salmon production is again on the rise and production costs in South America are falling.
“AquaChile lowered costs by 13 percent in the first quarter of 2017, in line with other competitors,” Reuters reported from Santiago in mid-July. “The company’s shares rose 60 percent in 2016 and 13 percent in the first half of the year to 323 pesos and could rise another 25 percent, Guillermo Araya, analyst at local brokerage Renta 4 Chile said.
“‘According to technical indicators, this stock I see easily at 400 pesos,’ he said. ‘(AquaChile) isn’t the only one that looks good, the whole industry does.'”
“Lower costs” and an industry that “looks goods” are about the worse news possible for the Alaska fishing business given that University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research economist Gunnar Knapp in a 2004 report observed that the “costs of farming, processing and distributing Chilean coho salmon to the Japanese wholesale market are about $1.63, and that future costs are likely to stay at about this level.”
The 170-page report is full of charts that show farmed salmon production costs and global salmon prices trending steadily downward for two decades. The news out of Chile would indicate the trend is continuing.
Why does it matter?
Chile is number two in global salmon production with an output of close to 400,000 metric tons. Norway is number one at about 1.2 million metric tons. Alaska, in a good year, can challenge Chile for production, but generally ranks number three overall.
And it lags way behind Chile in production of the premium product – fresh and frozen filets.
William Heard, a scientist with the National Marine Fisheries Service who has studied Alaska salmon for decades and led some of the pioneering hatchery work that allowed for an explosion in ranched-salmon production in Prince William Sound, estimates the state’s maximum sustained yield of wild and hatchery fish at about 318,000 metric tons per year over the long term, but only 183,000 tons of that is high-value Chinook, coho, sockeye and chum salmon to be cut into steaks and filets.
One Norwegian company – Marine Harvest – now produces more than twice as much high-value salmon per year. Japan’s Mitsubishi – with salmon farms in Norway, Chile and Canada – produces almost as much.
Scotland believes it could be in the range of 300,000 to 400,000 tons per yer by 2030, according to an industry outline, Aquaculture Growth to 2030 – A Strategic Plan for farming Scotland’s seas.
The Scots, the Norwegians, the Chileans, the Canadians and a growing number of Americans, farm Atlantic and coho salmon, the filets of which compete directly with Alaska sockeye, chum, coho and Chinook in the market place.
The latter four species comprise the most valuable half of the Alaska harvest. The rest is regularly made up of lower quality pink salmon, which are largely canned like tuna.
Alaska pink salmon prices averaged 25 cents per pound last year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. At that price, a fisherman has to catch a lot of pinks to make fishing pay.
Seiners can do that in Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska, but even there it has proven difficult. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2011 organized a $13 million plan to buy back about 15 percent of Southeast seine permits.
The buyback reduced to about 315 the number of seine permits in the region. That now appears to be about the number of commercial seiners the Panhandle can support. Some seine permit owners, about half of whom live in the Lower 48, can make a living fishing. Those who work crew jobs on the seiners cannot.
The result is that seining pink salmon is good for only about 160 full-time job equivalents in the region.
The numbers of job for Alaskans look better in gillnet and power-troll fisheries, where about 80 percent of the fishermen are Alaskans, and the market situation there is better as well. Southeast trollers were doing well on Chinook at an average price of $4.88 per pound last year, and gillnetters – in those areas where they could catch large numbers of fish – were doing OK at an average of $1.05 for sockeye and $1.18 for coho, according to Fish and Game data.
With both troll-caught Chinook and coho salmon bringing good prices, primarily in fresh-fish markets, and the troll season running for about 11 months, the 800 or so Alaskans who hold troll permits can also make a living fishing. The situation is much different in other fisheries.
There are now more losers than winners in the Alaska fishing industry, and that is only likely to get worse going forward.
The Cook Inlet fishery at Anchorage’s doorstep is but one example. The Cook Inlet commercial salmon harvest was valued at $22.3 million last year, according to Fish and Game. About 1,000 of the people holding limited-entry permits to fish the Inlet participated in the fishery. They averaged $22,300 per fishermen for the season before they paid any crew.
The 2016 poverty line for an Alaska family of four was $24,300. Thankfully, a lot of Cook Inlet commercial fishermen are hobbyists. They are school teachers and businessmen and doctors and lawyers with jobs that support them; they commercial fish for fun and extra income.
Only a handful of people make a living off commercial fishing in the Inlet, and many of them fish multiple permits. Over the decades, as Inlet fishing permits have been bought and sold, there has been a trend away from fishermen dependent on the resource to the hobbyists.
The professionals still in the fishery are sometimes at odds with the hobbyists, but all are well united on one important issue: continuing to harvest the maximum number of fish going forward to make up for the comparatively low prices paid for Alaska salmon.
Alaska sockeye are trading today for between $1.00 and $1.50 per pound. Norwegian salmon are bringing $3.15 to $3.17 per pound at the farm. Part of the reason the price isn’t higher in Alaska is that the price to fishermen get doesn’t reflect the high costs of processing and transportation.
Norwegian salmon farms are near processing facilities that operate year round and are sized to match farm production. Alaska fish are delivered to processing plants that must be large to handle the summer’s large volume of fish, but spend most of the year in mothballs, the plants not the fish.
The whole system puts Alaska at a disadvantage, and neither this nor world marketing trends are going to change. Global salmon markets are now working against Alaska, and they appear destined to continue working against Alaska.
The cowboys of the sea are being replaced by the farmers of the bays much as happened on land.
Technology is transforming the fishing business the way it transformed the cattle business. With the development of the refrigerated rail car just before the start of the 20th Century, the years of free-ranged cattle and long-distance cattle drives were numbered. Increasingly cattle were fenced in and ranched. Feed lots followed, and soon the cowboys were history.
Wild is better
Alaskans like to believe that because our salmon is wild it can stop the historic forward march of industrial agriculture. Wild is better than domestic, we believe – better tasting, better for the environment, and better for one’s health.
This view is not universal.
“By going wild, you’ll get a firmer, less fatty fish,” writes Carina Storrs at Health.com “While it is still just as healthy as farmed, (Purdue University food toxicologist Charles) Santerre says the wild variety is a slightly gamier-tasting fish.”
Health devoted a whole article to the subject of which salmon to buy – farmed or wild.
The conclusion? “Nutritionally, they are just as good…,” the story said.
The Washington Post subsequently taste-tested farmed versus wild.
“Read a story about salmon, and the odds are good that, somewhere, it’ll tell you that wild salmon tastes better than farmed,” the Post’s Tamar Haspel wrote. “But does it? We decided to find out in a blind tasting, and assembled a panel that included noted Washington seafood chefs and a seafood wholesaler.
“The judgments were definitive, and surprising. Farmed salmon beat wild salmon, hands down.”
Farmed salmon didn’t just win; it won “hands down.”
The state of Alaska is now helping Alaska fish processors based in Washington state fund a multi-million dollar public relations and advertising campaign to sell Americans on the idea Alaska wild salmon is better than farmed salmon.
The idea is to attract a premium price for Alaska wild salmon in a market where Alaska salmon have become a minority player. About 70 percent of the salmon not in a can now comes from salmon farms. The salmon farmers, some of whom are connected to the same processors the state is helping fund, are also trying to push their product.
When the dominant market force is selling a product that the national media says tastes better and costs less, and a bit player is pushing a product that is supposedly better because it is wild, who is likely to win the marketing battle?
Organic chicken – aka “free range” – is pitched as having many of the same attributes as wild Alaska salmon – tastes better, healthier, better for the environment. Organic chicken attracts a premium price. And it represents about 1 percent of the $30 billion per year chicken market.
Organic chicken is a classic niche product. There is every reason to believe Alaska salmon is on a journey to the same destination.
“I can often find farm-raised Atlantic salmon for about $6.99 a pound, while the wild-caught salmon may be nearly twice as expensive,” writes Julie Corliss, executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. “Salmon and other fatty fish are the main dietary source for omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower the risk of heart disease.
“It turns out that you probably won’t shortchange your heart if you choose the less-costly farmed salmon, as both types seem to provide similar amounts of omega-3s per serving. But that’s likely because farm-raised salmon tend to have more total fat — and therefore more omega-3 fat — than wild ones.
“Bottom line: Don’t stress too much about your salmon selection. Follow the American Heart Association’s advice to eat two servings of fish a week, letting affordability and availability guide your choices. As for me, I often opt for farmed salmon for dinner once a week or so, but I’ll splurge on wild salmon if it looks especially good. ”
Alaska can spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising trying to counter this kind of press, but it won’t help. Price is a very real issue for American consumers, and if the lower-priced farmed fish is anywhere near as good as the wild, the farmed fish, sad to say, wins.
“‘Best value’ and ‘lowest prices’ are the first and third most important factors in choosing a grocer,” according to a consumer survey by Bain & Company and ROI Consultancy. The study was aimed at helping grocers compete in an increasingly competitive market, but it well reflects the general attitude of consumers.
Second on their list between best value and lowest prices was “highest quality or freshest groceries.” Alaska wild salmon can clearly compete, even better farmed salmon, in the quality department, but Alaska salmon are generally destined to be losers in the “freshest” category.
The farmers can provide fish fresh to grocers on a daily basis. Alaska salmon is available fresh for only a very brief period of time each summer. Most of Alaska fish has to be frozen to preserve it, and then, too, there are quality concerns with eating fresh wild salmon.
The Centers for Disease Control earlier this year published a study noting the dangers of tapeworms in wild salmon. Freezing will kill that parasite, but once frozen, the fish really isn’t fresh.
Fish farmers have their own parasite problems, mainly sea lice. The lice are common on wild fish and no threat to people, but too many of lice on young fish can cause all kind of problems – unsightly lesions, infections and even death for the fish. Some farmers have responded by chemically treating the fish, which raises contamination issues.
A Canadian group – “Farmed and Dangerous” – backed by commercial fishermen and some environmental groups – have been using the threat of chemical contamination to try to drive back salmon farms. Unfortunately for the cowboys of the sea, farmers have a rich history of finding technological solutions to their problems.
The American Dustbowl was stopped with technology. So to an impending global food crisis in the 1960s.
The Norwegians, the leaders in salmon harvests, are already working on a wide variety of ways to not only protect their farms from lice but to grow healthier farmed salmon.
“Norway understands that safeguarding the environment and fish stocks for the future is the only way it’s aquaculture industry can remain sustainable,” says Norge, the voice of the Norwegian Seafood Council, in an intro to an explanation of fish-farming practices in that country. “They also understand the importance of transparency.”
Norwegian quality claims have led to a jump in prices for the country’s salmon.
“Despite (a) decline in volumes sold, the higher prices have boosted profits at the (Norwegian) salmon producers,” Emiko Terazono reported in Financial Times earlier this year. “Marine Harvest reported record operational earnings before interest and tax for the fourth quarter at 259 million euros, while net profits more than doubled from the year before to 211 million euros. As with its other peers, the company’s share price has mirrored the salmon price, rising about 30 per cent in 2016.
“‘It’s fantastic to make money, but long-term we need to continue to grow volume wise,’ Alf-Helge Aarskog, Marine Harvest’s chief executive said at the North Sea Atlantic Forum conference.”
The farms keep growing
The words “we need to continue to grow volume wise” coming out of the mouth of the leader of the globe’s biggest fish farming business ought to send a shiver up the spine of anyone involved in the commercial harvest and sale of Alaska salmon.
But possibly most troubling is the alliance between fish farmers and the World Wildlife Fund, the globe’s leading environmental organization.
“Salmon is a priority commodity for WWF,” the group says, “because it has significant potential for negative impact on the places and species we seek to protect. We are leading the way in ensuring that key environmental impacts associated with open-pen salmon farming are significantly and measurably reduced.
“We help move salmon farms toward responsible production. We also provide a framework for responsible growth in an industry that has tremendous potential to feed more people with fewer resources than required for other protein sources.”
“Responsible production” and “responsible growth” in salmon farming might be good for the environment and good for consumers, but they are not good for the Alaska commercial fishing industry which is likely to see continued price stagnation, even as inflation slowly grinds on.
Couple this with ever-increasing competition in high-end markets as farmed-fish quality continues to improve, toss in the natural limits capping wild salmon production, and it would appear to be inevitable that Alaska commercial fishing businesses appear fall victim to the much the same market conditions that seriously decreased the value of Alaska oil business.
Production goes up; prices go down; profits fade.
It’s not a pretty picture. The Alaska salmon industruy clearly needs to change to succeed in the market of tomorrow, but the industry is controlled by vested interests that don’t want to change.
They could well render Alaska the biggest loser.
Duhh. Inefficient boats & greedy locals go out and get the fish and bring them back to where they are already going. Mafias form when they can’t beat a market
Efficient in river fish traps can be managed by biologist by the minute and manage in river stock.
Of course corrupt narcissist AK fishermen will make buggies long after the model T is in full production. AK government will subsidize it too in a losing battle. Again
I was just trying to answer your question about why Medred did not use petmit values to assess the industry. I fished in the Bay and in PWS in the eighties. Seine permits in PWS were going for nearly $200k at some point then. Using relative purchasing power of the dollar then and now as an indicator of value it seems quite clear that permit values are way down just about everywhere.
As to non resident ownership of permits, true there has always been a component of that in our fisheries. But it has been increasing to the point that well over half the permits are owned by non residents. That is important because many of the watershed residents no longer participate.
An income tax on commercial fishing receipts would hardly make a dent in the budget and might be wishful thinking. Not going to happen imo. But a seasonal sales tax might help. And a tax on the extraction of the fish might help as well. We tax oil and to a much less extent minerals. Why not pollock, P cod and salmon.
I already set forth my argument for managing the fishery to enhance the revenue from sports and charter fishing. Let’s start managing for the many instead of the few permit holders.
I’m sure that Craig appreciates your attempt to answer for him!
Who said anything about an income tax on commercial fishing receipts? You do know what a “strawman” is, right? I agree that an income tax on salmon income would not make much of a dent in the budget but that was not what I suggested. An income tax would, however make a dent in the budget, and also work towards getting some value out of non-residents participating in our fisheries.
I believe that Jay Hammond’s position was that all of our natural resources should be taxed, to some extent.
Your snarky remark did not go unnoticed. And it was not useful. But, what difference does it make who answers your question. I assume that you have no facts to dispute the conclusion that by using permit values, over the last thirty or more years, as a measure of the value of the industry that it is clear that it has been in decline for sometime. The same can be said about the earnings by permit holder reported by CFEC.
A lot of people did not like non fat milk when they started drinking it. Now it is a staple in many homes where you will not find whole milk. The same can be said about farm reared fish. People get used to it and like it more than wild fish, which are too expensive for most people anyway.
You talk like there is only one answer here!!!??? What snarky remark?
Anyway, permit values are extremely complex and are only part of the situation (along with boat values) that go into a relative value of particular subsets of our salmon industry. A salmon seiner able to fish PWS today would cost in the neighborhood of half a million and they could be had for much less back in the 80s, for a lot of reasons. Also, PWS gillnetters today cost in the neighborhood of $250k and up with 80s boats priced much less, also for a lot of reasons. Both of these fisheries have been influenced much by quality product and thus require more expensive boats to provide that quality but even BB is being geared towards a better product.
Your conclusion about the decline of the industry has not been proven (by you or anyone else). What is a concern, of many, is the huge cost to enter these fisheries today that makes it difficult for new (especially Alaskans) entries. Were your conclusion to hold water, it would suggest that these entry costs would be going down (not up). Any look at the cost to enter one of these fisheries has to include more than just permit values and total costs are necessary to get a feel for the value of the industry IMO.
Keep telling yourself that people prefer farmed fish! I don’t eat it and neither do most Alaskans (who know their fish). Seattle has voted with their pocketbooks, when it comes to salmon, and my guess is that those there, who know salmon, don’t eat farmed fish, either.
I suspect that folks eat more nonfat milk for reasons other than taste, however those health conscious consumers prefer wild salmon IMO.
70% of permits are held by alaskans. Also nobody seems to mention the embargo of our fish to Russia ( second largest buyer of Alaskan salmon). Also if you truly fished in the eighties in P.W.S then you would know that foreign buyers were aloud to come and buy directly off there prossessing vessels. That is why the price is stagnant. Their is no outside competition to bid the fish up. Again Craig likes to pick and choose his facts for his FAKE NEWS articles. Maybe he should spend some time on a commercial boat and meet the families that he likes to spread hate against.
Thomas, I remember in the 80s the processor-buyer Aleutian Dragon that bought fish and processed at sea and also the company High Tide Fisheries that processed at sea and paid cash. I did not fish in the early 80s when the Coghil River produced over a million sockeye catch (of wild fish before hatcheries) so I can’t say if there were foreign buyers during that time.
Fish prices have really never been stagnant IMO although they seem to be somewhat stable these days. 80s and 90s saw some real extreme price changes (high to low) and folks on here tend to use the 80s prices to compare to today to try to show that the prices are in the toilet today. Try doing that with the 90s prices (chums 10 cents and pinks 3-4 cents) and today’s pricing will look pretty good.
There could be some pressure on processors to keep from the losses that occurred in BB due to lack of processing capacity, this year. Talk will come about allowing foreign processors but local processors will push-back against that IMO.
Much of what you’ve written is true, in a sense Craig, but has been somewhat true for a lot of years (farmed fish is competition for wild fish) yet commercial salmon fishing is still alive and well IMO. Also though, the farmed fish industry has brought on tremendous demand for salmon that hadn’t existed prior and that increased demand has helped wild fish, too. And the price thing has been an issue since the 90s with chums priced @ 10cents/lb and pinks for 3-4 cents in the early 90s. This was a real eye-opener for me, as pinks had sold on the grounds for 80 cents/lb in 1988 and a lot of gillnetters made their seasons picking pinks that year. Fishermen tend to be flexible and have tended to weather price issues rather well, although the value of salmon permits vary with these issues.
Is there some reason you don’t use permit values as an indicator of value for certain salmon permits?
Permit prices vary mostly because of projected runs and price. You may remember how BB permits went up to $275K in the late 1980s when fish were sold for cash on the grounds at $2.40 a pound. It would require a price of more than $6.00 per pound today to be the same. When the price per pound dropped to less than a dollar a few year’s later, permit prices fell off the cliff.
If permit prices were used to determine relative value of Alaska’s salmon industry, it is quite clear that, given the purchasing power of today’s dollar against it thirty years ago, the value of the industry is far lower. And with the product leaving the state any value added to it has little benefit to Alaska. As do the dollars earned by the large number of non resident permit holders. Something needs to change. And soon!
You are comparing today’s value with a 1988 price issue that did not hold up even the next year (with the EXXON oil spill greatly responsible). Further, values of permits vary greatly depending on where they fish-for example, BB permit values dropped significantly due to those fishermen filing a lawsuit against the mostly Japanese buyers and those buyers voted with their feet. During this same time PWS permits held their value and later increased four-fold as those Copper River reds and kings became famous with those who knew the difference.
Part of the 1988 price issue had to do with Japanese Yen value that changed, too.
Anyway, your look at BB permits might support your position about value of Alaska’s salmon industry but clearly PWS permit values don’t work for it. And salmon product has always left the State, so nothing has changed there as well as the dollars earned by non-resident permit holders since non-residents have always been part of this industry (there was a jump after Bolt decision in WA as many of those permit holders bought into Alaska fisheries).
While you may feel that something needs to change, you’ve not given reason for such feelings IMO.
Frankly, an income tax would go towards getting some value out of non-resident permit holders, who tend to reside in WA where they pay no income tax at all. But that is getting pretty far afield from this salmon industry value.
bill – define “well.” i agree the business is alive and plugging and doing its best to survive. but it looks to be old, badly overweight and in need of a lot of daily drugs. farmed fish have gotten more people eating salmon. farmed fish have also brought down price. they will continue to bring down price. we’re never going to see 80 cent per pound pinks, which would be $1.69 per pound pinks at today’s price corrected for inflation. we’re now at a quarter which would equal a 1988 price of 12 cents a pound, which is the point i was trying to make. the price from here on out, because the farmers control the market, is going to stay steady or even creep downward, and because of inflation the value of our wild fish is just going to keep going down, down, down. and in some places, Cook Inlet being the prime one, we are trying to save commercial fishermen from this fate by giving them the maximum number of fish possible even if the result is that it screws upstream sport fisheries in which those fish are orders of magnitude more valuable. the economic word for this would be stupid. we may actually have reached the point – and i’d love to see a study on this – where a salmon caught in the Kenai dipnet fishery, something of which i’ve never been a big fan because i always assumed it to be the least valuable fishery on the Kenai by far, is worth more than a fish caught in the Cook Inlet commercial fishery. we’re way past time we have a discussion about how to manage Alaska fishery resources for maximum value, and God forbid, that might even suggest revisiting the fish farm issue. that business has changed. it’s not nearly the environmental threat it was, and even when we banned it the state studies were saying it wasn’t much of an environmental threat.
The industry is alive and well, Craig because of the entry price to get into many of its fisheries. Were it not so that entry price would be coming down, rather than going up.
There is some talk about ways to make this entry price affordable for Alaskans but nothing has worked, so far. There are barriers to this, namely not allowing business to own permits and allow others to fish them, but I’m hearing talk of perhaps changing this somewhat.
That price of 80 cents for pinks was an outlier, clearly, but remember that all pinks used to be eaten by the Brits and they could only take about 40 million (price would drop significantly with catch of over 40 million). Nowadays, Alaska can occasionally produce 200 million pinks and the market has changed. Hatcheries are responsible for much of this, of course, and the harvesting of them has changed as well. These are mostly seine fish and the price issue has been replaced by volume. Essentially the issue is rather complex and all salmon fisheries are not doing well.
Many small fisheries don’t have good markets, for various reasons (including quality issues), and their permit values have plummeted. Certainly those fisheries dependent on king salmon have suffered but even they could recover if the king salmon recover IMO.
Craig, the above article suggests the industry is “alive and well!”
market realities aren’t about hate or love. they’re markets. price is stagnant because of supply and demand. the availability of farmed salmon – now the by far biggest source of salmon in the market – is capping prices. that isn’t going to change. the costs of producing farmed salmon will go down over in real dollars over time, too; just as the quality of farmed salmon will creep upward. those are the tech realities of the global food market. i’vespent time on commercial boats. i like commercial fishermen. that doesn’t change the economic realities.
yes, Bill; it was a comparatively good season for Alaska. that doesn’t change market realities. they’re not dictated by year to year ups and downs; they’re dictated by trend lines. and the trend lines are obvious. farmed fish have taken over the market and will only continue to grow their market share. that will keep downward pressure on price. Alaska will continue to have good years when production is high and bad years when production is lower. Bristol Bay, which accounted for about a third of the ex-vessel value in the fishery, had a killer year. most of that value goes almost immediately Outside because about two-thirds of the BB permits, as you know, are owned by Outside fishermen. meanwhile, because Alaska harvest techniques are so inefficient, a huge amount of BB value went up the rivers when fishermen were put on limits. the Alaska system just isn’t very efficient. the farmed system is very efficient. what history tells us is that efficiency inevitably, whether we like it or not, tops inefficiency. and that’s why, as the headline on this story said, Alaska is in a losing battle. the cavalry won a skirmish. we should all be happy. but that doesn’t change fundamental realities. the Savoia Cavalleria at Izbushensky was a great victory in World War II as well, but the handwriting was already on the wall for horse cavalry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Savoia_Cavalleria_at_Izbushensky
one can’t stop technological evolution. now, excuse me, i have to go change the ribbon on this typewriter….
The future for salmon in Alaska is the up and coming tourism demand for it. And I don’t mean just eating the fish. Far more sport fishing licenses are sold to non residents than to residents. The majority of them are used to catch salmon. These sport fishing tourists pour money into the state in many ways. Airline tickets, hotels, restaurants, locally purchased fishing gear, charters, guides, fly out trips or boat trips, processing, shipping and many other expenditures in Alaska add up to a billion $$ dollars and more. All due to the desire to catch a salmon or other sports caught fish. A King Salmon caught by a tourist in the Kenai River is worth in the area of a couple thousand dollars while one caught in a commercial net just out side of the river is sold for three dollars a pound. The money spent in the state by tourist fishers is multiplied many times and has far greater impact than the original dollars spent by an outsider buying net caught fish. When a salmon is sold by a commercial fisher it is very likely to be shipped out side where very little added value benefits Alaska.
Yet, even after times have so dramatically changed, salmon management set by the Alaska Board of Fish and the Commissioner of Fish and Game overwhelmingly favors the commercial fishery industry often at the expense of the sports anglers, resident and non resident. Things have to change. A new Governor who understands the economics is needed. That Governor can appoint a commissioner and Board of Fish members that understand that changing times require changes in Fish policy.
Alaskans first – you just played the oldest trick in the book: You compared the wholesale bulk price of King salmon (with no economic multipliers or any consideration for the added value of processing and retail), with the retail value of sport caught salmon including many economic multipliers. Since it’s clear you are not interested in a fair comparison – and that a true evaluation of the economic impact of both industries is pretty tough to do considering how intertwined they are into our local economies – why don’t we all just agree that both industries are important, and hope/plan for their mutual success?
I understand your concern. The UCI commercial fisheries are flailing inspite of the efforts of the Commissioner of fish and game and the Board of Fish efforts to favor it with increased fish at the expense of Anchorage and the Mat Valley. But, even so, by all metrics, Sports, charter and dip fisheries are on the upswing when it comes to economic impact to the State. At the same time Commercial
Fisheries are falling behind. How have you been doing economically as a set netter recently compared to years ago in terms of dollars after inflation? What is your permit worth now compared to set net permits 30 years ago. Even with Stacking they do not have the same value in terms of purchasing power. Rather amazing that while commercial fisheries account for 95 % of the salmon caught in Alaska, other uses account for almost as much economic impact with only 5 % of the fish. And going up all the time. It has been well documented that other uses in UCI contribute far more $ to Alaska than the net fisheries, no matter how you compute it. Far more $ get multiplied from sports fisheries than from Commercial fisheries. The State in a neutral study has shown that to be a fact. Studies done by UCIDA and supported by your organization kPFA are biased to the point that no person other than from those organizations believes in them.
No one has said that commercial fishing is not important Todd. Only that it is in trouble and is having a problem competing in the world market.
Great column but where do we go from here?
I think the answer to that question is pretty clear to anyone willing to spend extra on free range chicken over pen raised blobs of goo. Premium frozen market. Local as possible. You’d be surprised even how many Alaskans are willing to buy fresh fish from their neighbors. It’s a valuable resource. Craig always seems to be betting on failure. Here’s to hoping it and we keep proving him wrong. Go Wild for Wild Salmon!!!