The world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery at Bristol Bay is breaking records for chilling fish.
Last year nearly 40 percent of Alaska’s total salmon value came out of Bristol Bay. When fish there fetch a higher price, it ripples throughout the industry.
“The size of the Bay harvest has a big impact on salmon prices elsewhere. Typically, it’s 35-40 percent of the global sockeye supply.”
Andy Wink is Senior Seafood Analyst with the McDowell Group.
The chilling news was part of the annual processor survey done each year by Northern Economics, Inc. of Anchorage for the drift fishermen-funded and operated Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
Last summer’s Bay harvest of 37 million reds was the second largest in 20 years. The region’s 12 major processors said that 71 percent of the drift fleet’s nearly 14-hundred fishermen delivered a record 123 million pounds of chilled sockeye, a 40 percent increase from the previous year. Chilling for 858 Bristol Bay setnetters dropped by three percent.
Last year also saw a big shift away from putting red salmon into cans, focusing instead on higher value fillets and headed/gutted fish whole fish. The canned pack dropped to just 27 percent, while H&G fresh increased eight-fold to 14 million pounds. Sockeye salmon fillet production doubled to 50 million pounds.
Bristol Bay fishermen averaged $.76 a pound for their sockeyes last summer and chilling bonuses increased a nickel to $0.16 a pound. All signs point to higher prices this year and a rising tide lifts all boats. Andy Wink –
“When the base price in 2015 was 50 cents at Bristol Bay and they had a large harvest, sockeye prices in other areas fell and we also saw coho prices come way down. It’s a market moving fishery and that is why it affects so many other Alaska fishermen.”