Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series about Southeast Alaska’s major economic engines – maritime, seafood and tourism.
Southeast Alaska fishermen enjoyed a record year in 2013.
According to a new report by the Southeast Conference, the region’s seafood harvest weighed a whopping 479 million pounds last year—a 79-percent increase over the prior year. It marks the biggest year for the region as far as total pounds of fish caught. Driving the big surge was a massive return of lower-value pink salmon.
At $375 million, the 2013 catch marked the highest harvest value ever (although when adjusted for inflation it ranked just slightly behind 2011, the report found.)
In 2013, Southeast Alaska fishermen experienced the largest recorded salmon catch—112 million salmon—as well as the largest pink salmon harvest, of 95 million pink salmon. Southeast Alaska was the most valuable salmon fishing area in the state, with a salmon harvest value of $250 million.
Southeast Alaska’s salmon harvest in 2013 exceeded that of any other Alaska region for every species except sockeye. In the case of Chinook and Coho, the regional catch was higher in Southeast than for the rest of the state combined.
“Seafood is a very strong economic driver in the region. It accounts for 11 percent of all regional employment and nine percent of all regional employment earnings,” said Meilani Schijvens, the report’s author.
The Southeast Alaska seafood industry (including commercial fishermen & seafood processors) consisted of 4,250 average annual regional jobs in 2013. Those working in the region’s seafood industry earned $245 million in 2013, up five-percent from the year before
It was also a record year as far as pounds of seafood processed in the region. The report finds that shore-based seafood facilities in Southeast processed 300 million pounds of seafood in 2013, with a wholesale value of $624 million, a 53-percent increase in seafood processing value over 2012. Fisheries taxes for processing generated $4.3 million for regional communities.
“There’s a real bright future for seafood in Southeast Alaska and statewide. There’s a lot of interest in wild seafood in particular, seafood that comes from pristine places. As we like to say, Alaska has the highest-quality seafood from the cleanest environment,” said Tyson Fick, communications director for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
“Prices are increasing or stable. And when you look at the value of fishing permits, especially for salmon, they’ve gone way up. Salmon permit values have shot up over 250-percent over the last ten years. That’s a good indicator for us as to how value permits are and it tells us people are pretty bullish on Alaska seafood.”