OBI Seafoods will not process salmon at its cannery in Excursion Inlet this summer. The Haines Borough is preparing for a dramatic reduction in raw fish tax revenue as a result.
OBI Seafoods will continue to buy salmon from local fishermen for its plant in Petersburg.
Last year, weak salmon returns and the pandemic led to a quiet summer at the Excursion Inlet plant. This year, they won’t be processing salmon at all.
OBI Seafoods public affairs manager Julianne Curry said the decision was made based on forecasted salmon returns for this summer.
“The company took a really careful look at the State of Alaska salmon run predictions for the 2021 season and we made the really difficult decision to shut down salmon buying at our Excursion Inlet facility this year,” Curry said.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has forecast a return of 28 million pink salmon to Southeast Alaska. That’s a little bit lower than the 10-year average but better than the most recent years.
Salmon runs for other species are forecasted to be below average, particularly the hatchery chum targeted by many Lynn Canal gillnetters.
Curry said OBI Seafoods will still be purchasing salmon for their plant in Petersburg while the Excursion Inlet facility is not operating.
“Our fishermen who have long-term ties to the facility and the people there really aren’t going to notice much, if anything, in terms of service interruption,” Curry said. “Petersburg can handle all of the deliveries that people are looking to make when it comes to the summer salmon season this year. We’re planning on still having an incredibly high level of tender support and we’ve got some first-rate tenders.”
The Excursion Inlet cannery has provided a source of tax revenue for the Haines Borough for years. Raw fish taxes in Haines have averaged $231,000 each year over the past 5 years. With the suspension of salmon processing this summer, Haines Borough manager Alekka Fullerton expects only about $35,000 worth of raw fish tax revenue for the next fiscal year.
Curry said the suspension of salmon processing in Excursion Inlet is not a permanent decision. The company will re-evaluate at the end of the 2021 season.