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 Alaska salmon heads in China can fetch nearly $5 per pound!


Alaska’s seafood catches are valued at roughly $2 Billion at the docks and twice that when processors sell the goods to their customers.  But it could be worth millions more if so called “specialty” products were added to the mix.

“Whether that’s heads or guts or meal or oil or something else it should be held in high regard. These are products that are not the normal thing that we do so they are specialty things in a lot of cases serving niche markets.”

Andy Wink is a seafood economist formerly with the McDowell Group which compiled a specialty products analyses for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Alaska’s seafood wastes add up to nearly three billion pounds a year.  The report analyzes uses for fish heads, fish oil and meal, internal organs, crab products, herring fillets, arrowtooth flounder, spiny dogfish and skates.  Using them more fully could add an additional $700 million or more each year in value.

Alaska produces about one billion pounds of fish heads, for example, which account for most of the processing waste. Some are used in meal and oil production but most are ground up and dumped.   Just one percent is sold as frozen heads. Upping that could add about $100 million to first wholesale value.

For fish oils, the bulk is burned in plants as a diesel fuel substitute  or sold into lower value commodity markets. Producing refined fish oil for human consumption could  increase Alaska’s value to  well over $30 million each year.

Arrowtooth flounder, which has little market value because its flesh turns mushy when cooked, literally blanket the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska and competes for food with halibut.

“Every arrowtooth we can pull out of the water is one less fish eating food that could otherwise be eaten by halibut. 


It could be sold into the pet food market, Wink says, or select parts as a pricy sushi product.

“There is this line of frill meat around the edge of the fish and that is a very valuable sushi product called engawa – that can go for upwards of $10, even $20 per pound.”

The report points out the challenges in growing the specialty market, such as production costs, freezing and storage capacity and  transportation.  A solution could be a cooperative approach.

“Co-ops could be a way to bring the raw material together and share the investment costs and hopefully bring down the break even point   on a lot of these things.”

The goal of the project, Wink says, was to provide a trail that others can embark upon and broaden.

“Our goal was to make the production and value and market data more available and put this information in one place so people who want to push one of these products will have more information to work with and give themselves a better chance at success.”