The number of men and women going out fishing in Alaska fell by five percent from 2015 to 2016 to about 7,860 harvesters. The drop stems from some big fish shortfalls, primarily in pink salmon returns, as well as declines in crab catches.
Only Alaska’s Southcentral region showed job gains across the board. That’s the breakdown on commercial fishing jobs in the November Alaska Economic Trends by the State Department of Labor.
Salmon fishing, which accounts for most of Alaska’s fishing jobs, fell by 6.4 percent in 2016, a loss of 323 workers. The trend was similar in all other Alaska regions, except Southcentral.
That region includes the Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet fisheries, as well as fishing boats out of Homer, Seward and Kenai. All of Southcentral’s fisheries added jobs in 2016, even salmon, scoring the state’s second-highest total employment over the year.
Southeast Alaska had the state’s largest slice of fishing jobs in 2016 at 29 percent, or roughly 23-hundred fishermen. But that reflects a decline for the third straight year, and job losses were bigger than the year before.
Fishing jobs at Kodiak fell by 8.5 percent, reflecting a poor salmon season and slight drops in jobs setting out for pollock, cod and other whitefish.
Bristol Bay’s fishing jobs rely almost entirely on salmon and that region took the hardest hit last year. Only about 13-hundred permits fished, a drop of 9.5 percent.
For Alaska crabbers, fishing jobs were down by nearly 19 percent to 464, the lowest level since 2009. That’s due to low crab numbers and a called off Tanner crab fishery in the Bering Sea.
The crab cuts cost the Aleutians and Pribilof Islands more than 122 fishing jobs in 2016, a 7.8 percent decline.
Looking ahead, state economic reports indicate record catches and a nearly 67 percent higher payday for Alaska salmon fishermen this year, suggesting a resurgence in harvesting jobs for 2017.