Fish Radio

Salmon season slumps for all but sockeyes

August 18, 2016

Pink Salmon Frenzy Credit: detlaphiltdic.com

Pink Salmon Frenzy
Credit: detlaphiltdic.com

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – A bleak Alaska salmon season, except for sockeyes.  Some market outlooks after this –

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Sockeye is the one bright spot in a season that’s run low and slow for other salmon.

Boy, given what’s happened in the other species sockeye is really going to have to carry the load in terms of value because there’s a lot of misses elsewhere.  

Andy Wink is a fisheries economist with the Juneau-based McDowell Group. How bleak  is it?  Through August 15 weekly tracking shows the pace of the Chinook salmon harvest is down 42 percent versus last year, cohos are down 20 percent, and the chum catch   is down 25 percent. For pinks, the catch is down 63 percent compared to the 2014 even year run, and even the 52 million  sockeye catch so far  is 3 percent off   last year’s pace.

This looks like the worst pink harvest in over 20 years even with what we’ll add over the next few weeks. As far as chums go, we’re probably looking at the second worst harvest in the past 10 years.  

Fresh and frozen sockeyes have been moving well, Wink said, and Japan is buying up lots of smaller, two to four pound reds. Their currency this year also is more favorable for buying Alaska.

Another major thing is the 20 percent shift in the yen in our favor this year is also really helpful. The Euro hasn’t done much and neither has the Canadian dollar. But Japan is a big trading partner and the fact that their purchasing power is increased that much should be helpful.   

Fresh was the market focus going into the season due to shortfalls in farmed salmon from Chile.

A lot of people were trying to access that fresh market and I think going into the year and having people being aware of that and processors trying to game plan for getting as much fresh out as they could. Hopefully that transfers to some overall better value because the more wholesale value you have the more capital there is available for future years.

The farmed salmon price index is up 33 percent across the U.S. this year, going from $3.79 on average in January to $5.03 today.  Wink says a rising tide floats all boats.

Yes, moving that kind of tide is really helpful and it makes our product that much more attractive. Conversely, when farmed prices are really low, it’s a much tougher sell.  

In terms of the salmon fishery’s value, any gains from sockeyes will be offset by low prices and a no show of pinks. The statewide catch is at 34 million on a 90 million forecast with most run peaks now passed. Pink prices to most fishermen were in the 20 cent range.

It’s a loss on both sides. Fishermen and processors both have a lot of costs going into the season and making investments based on hopefully getting more fish than they have. That’s unfortunate – less supply should have some upward price pressure.

Wink says shortfalls in pink and chum roe could see a price boost from the stronger yen. Watchers now will be tracking how Alaska salmon in its various forms moves through the global market.

We’ll definitely be looking at volumes. It’s another big sockeye harvest so can we get the sales volume pushed through the market so it doesn’t back up in the spring. That’s a situation we want to avoid. Hopefully we’ll see canned prices stabilize and sales volumes come up. Those are the things we’ll be looking at as through-put and watching prices – are they hanging in there or going up.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.

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