The value of Alaska salmon permits is ticking up in two regions while toppling in others. The bellwether fishery at Bristol Bay is one of the uppers for drift permits.

Doug Bowen runs Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.

“Probably the lowest asking price out there right now is $170,000. Of course, the next big news here for the Bay would be the forecasts for next year, which are not out yet, and they could certainly have an influence on what people are willing to pay for those permits. But they have come up considerably from the low of $150,000 there before the season.”    

Kodiak was a bright spot for salmon seiners and those permits are on an upswing.

“And before the season, those Kodiak seine permits were probably worth around $35,000. In recent sales they’ve ticked up around $38,000 and we have them available on the market now at $40,000. So they’ve trended up a bit.”

Elsewhere, permit values have declined.

At Cook Inlet, yet another lousy season has pushed down the value to $20,000 or less, the lowest since farmed salmon caused a crash in the late 1990s.

 “Those Cook Inlet drift permits got up to as high as $240,000 or $250,000 at the high water mark there and then when farmed salmon came along, the entire salmon industry crashed and the permit values dropped by 90% or more. I remember selling Cook Inlet drifts for $10,000 at the bottom.”

The Copper River drift fishery also was a wash.

“The fish just did not show up on the flats there. Before the season those permits were around $140,000 give or take, and recent sales are around $105,000. They’ve dropped a lot. There’s not much movement there. Nobody wants to sell at those low prices.”  

Prince William Sound seiners did better, but those permits also have taken a dip.

“And those permits were $140,000, $145,000 before the season. But even though they had a halfway decent season there you could probably pick one up for $130,000 now, so they’ve trended downwards also.”

Bowen says the permit market reflects the disastrous salmon season at Southeast.

“The market for the drift and seine permits down there is about flat.  Just very little interest, very little movement in those Southeast permits. Before the season, you could have picked up a drift permit for $70,000. The lowest asking price out there now is probably $67,000 so I would imagine you could pick one up for somewhere in the $60,000 range.  In the spring of last year, Southeast seine permits were around $250,000; the asking price now is $175,000.”

 Nowhere in Alaska has a salmon permit value dropped more than at Chignik, once the most exclusive in the state.

 “They were probably the most expensive salmon permit on the market for a while there at about a half a million dollars. And there has been absolutely no activity in that Chignik seine permit market. The lowest asking price around is probably about $90,000. But there is zero interest there.”

Still, despite the downturns, Bowen says people are still optimistic about the salmon industry and boat sales are brisk.

 “I don’t think anything demonstrates confidence in the industry as much as buying a boat and it’s a huge investment and people are making them.”