Archives for August 2015

Sockeye salmon down 20-25% in all markets

Fish Radio

Salmon market down more than 20% for sockeyes

September 1, 2015

Sockeye Pie Chart Credit: Nature Conservancy

Sockeye Pie Chart
Credit: Nature Conservancy

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch  — It’s being called a ‘perfect storm’ for the sockeye market. More after this –

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Sales info for sockeye salmon is finally surfacing and the situation is bleak.  Wholesale prices for Alaska’s big money fish are down 20-25% on average across all markets.

A report by Undercurrent News calls it “a perfect storm” of rough market conditions. There’s a big supply of sockeye, the overall weight of the pack is puny – and the biggest driver: global currencies.

Overall the dollar is up anywhere from 11-45 percent or more versus the currencies of our buyers. And that makes it really difficult to maintain pricing because those buyers have to pay a higher price.  

Andy Wink is a Fisheries Economist with the McDowell Group in Juneau. Exports typically account for 60-70 percent of Alaska’s seafood exports. Last week the Euro was priced at $1.14, down from $1.32 the same time last year. And the Japanese Yen was at 84 cents, down from 96 cents.

So it gives you a sense of the dramatic shifts we’re seeing in the currency markets and it has thrown such a change into the different supply relationships and the normal price range. It’s been difficult.     

An abundance of small sockeye salmon also is a market drag.  Fully half of the Bristol Bay fish weighed in at just over five pounds.

Larger reds over six pounds were just 4-5 percent of the Bay pack this summer. Those are most in demand because they yield higher profit margins.  Undercurrent reports the large fish are wholesaling at $4.50-$4.75 a pound, down 16% from last year.

Mid-sized four to six pounders are selling at $3 a pound, down 15.5% from the $3.50 to $3.60  last year. And the smallest sockeyes have bottomed out, wholesaling at $2.25 a pound.

Another downward press on salmon prices is coming from farmed fish. Seafood.com reports that imports of fresh farmed Atlantic salmon to the US reached record monthly volumes for the first half of 2015.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch .

AK Supreme Court heard arguments to send setnet ban to voters

Alaska Dispatch News
by Suzanna Caldwell

August 26, 2015

Setnetting at Cook Inlet Credit: alaskainpictures.com

Setnetting at Cook Inlet
Credit: alaskainpictures.com

The state’s highest court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether a proposed ban on commercial setnet fishing in Alaska’s urban areas will be put to voters next year and had pointed questions about what the exact effects of such a ban might be.

At issue is whether the ban amounts to an allocation of state resources by popular vote, which is prohibited under the state constitution. Then-Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, with a supporting opinion from the state Department of Law, determined that was the case when he initially declined to certify the ballot initiative in 2014.

Backers of the initiative took the issue to court, where an Anchorage Superior Court judge overruled Treadwell’s decision. Opponents of the measure appealed.

In early August, the state Division of Elections certified the 43,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot for the 2016 primary election. But first, it must survive Supreme Court scrutiny.

Dozens of supporters filled the Anchorage courtroom Wednesday. Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance Executive Director Clark Penney estimated there were 75 supporters in attendance. United Fishermen of Alaska President Jerry McCune suspected there were at least 20 of his own commercial fishing supporters at the hearing. Even Justice Daniel Winfree noted the high turnout in his closing remarks.

“It’s a hot issue; it’s been going on for over 30 years,” Penney said in an interview after the hearing. “People are really passionate about it and that’s going to drive up the intensity and the focus.”

Supporters of the initiative, led by the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, contend that the measure is a ban on gear, with a focus on conservation. They argue that setnetting is an outdated catch method that indiscriminately targets salmon. While the measure would ban commercial setnets in all the state’s urban areas, it’s targeted toward setnetters on the Kenai River who fish primarily for sockeye salmon, but also catch some king salmon in the process.

Setnetters contend they have fished in the region for over a century and that the initiative is the latest in sportfishing interests’ attempts to force them out of the industry.

During the arguments, the justices worked to parse out where the line is drawn in terms of what constitutes an allocation of resources. The justices offered multiple comparisons to the attorneys, from hypothetically banning boats on the Kenai to previous court decisions on wolf snares versus traps.

Assistant attorney general Joanne Grace continued to assert the state’s position that the initiative would circumvent powers given to the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the Legislature. She argued that a vote to ban the gear would wipe out the entire Cook Inlet setnet fishery and push the fish to other, competing user groups.

Matt Singer, attorney for the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, argued that the ban isn’t an appropriation because the Fish Board and Legislature would still be able to maintain the commercial fishery, using other types of gear.

Opponents suggest that the initiative could create a cascade of bans on other resources if passed. Justice Joel Bolger asked Singer if a similar ban on setnets statewide would be constitutional. Singer told him that it would, though with some conditions.

“If there’s a geographic spot where setnets were the only method of harvest and removing nets would mean no fishing by one group, that might be an appropriation,” he told the court. “But we don’t get anywhere close to that with this.”

But in an interview following the hearing, McCune, of United Fishermen of Alaska, disagreed.

“This stretches far and wide,” he said after the hearing. “It’s not just Cook Inlet.”

Grace asked the court to consider the looming ballot measure dates when making their decision. Winfree said the court would consider it while making its ruling in the coming months.//