Summer salmon harvest among most valuable in history

The 2011 statewide salmon harvest is currently the third most valuable since 1975, according to a report Monday from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The estimated value of this summer’s catch of 603-million dollars is third behind 1988 and 2010. But Commercial Fisheries Division Assistant Director Geron Bruce says it won’t stay that way for long.

“We expect that once we get the final price information in from processors and buyers – and we’ll get that next spring – that it’ll actually become the second highest,” says Bruce.

While harvest volume varied from area to area and species to species, prices were strong throughout the state, particularly for pink and chum salmon. In Southeast, for instance, pinks averaged 42 cents a pound and chum averaged 81 cents. Bruce looks at this year’s good prices as the continuation of an upward trend over the past decade.

“The recognition in the marketplace that Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries are sustainable; that it’s a wild, natural food, I think those have been important programs. And also the collapse of the Chilean salmon farming industry due to a virus a few years ago – they’re still recovering from that – played a part as well,” Bruce says.

Southeast Alaska’s combination of big harvests and high prices produced the most valuable salmon harvest for any region in 2011 – estimated at 203 million dollars. Nearly half of that came from a big pink harvest of 59 million fish. Bristol Bay is usually the most valuable fishery in the state, but catches there fell short of projections this summer. Bristol Bay had the second-highest value at 137 million dollars. Prince William Sound had the third most valuable catch at an estimated 101 million dollars.

In total, Alaska commercial fishermen landed 176 million salmon in 2011. That was the 9th largest catch since 1960, but well below the preseason forecast of 203 million fish.