Processing Alaska pollock, Alaska’s largest catch


Alaska’s seafood industry is driven by over 9,000 fishing vessels including about 100 large catcher processors and 100 large shoreside plants.

Alaska is home to six of the nation’s top ten ports by value and the industry generates more than $150 million in public revenue annually. Seafood accounts for the largest manufacturing sector in the state.

That’s according to an end of year industry update compiled by the McDowell Group. Other findings:

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Alaska’s seafood industry puts 58,700 people to work and generate $2.1 billion in wages and $5.6 billion in economic output. Nationally, the seafood industry accounts for 101,000 jobs, $5.6 billion in wages and $13.8 billion in economic output.

Alaska’s biggest catch is pollock and its most valuable is salmon.

The volume of Alaska’s catches averaged 5.8 billion pounds for 2017 and 2018 with Alaska pollock contributing 58%, followed by salmon at 14%. Flatfish and rockfish comprised 13% of the catch volume and cod at 12%.

The dockside value of Alaska’s catches totaled $2 billion with salmon accounting for 33% of the value. Halibut, sablefish and crab combined for 24%, Alaska pollock was at 23% and cod accounted for 11% of the total harvest value.

The first wholesale value, meaning what processors sold the fish for, was $4.7 billion. Salmon led all others at 37%, with Alaska pollock at 31% and cod at 11% at first wholesale.

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In terms of products, 85% of Alaska’s seafood is sold frozen. Headed and gutted whole fish make up 41% of the product value, with fillets making up 20%. Only three percent of Alaska’s seafood goes into cans.

About 80% of AK seafood is exported, and export value fell 4% in 2018

Wild caught seafood is still leading global production at 52% and aquaculture at 46%. Alaska produced just 2% of the world’s seafood in 2017.

Some highlights show that Alaska’s 2019 salmon catch is one of the five most valuable ever. And Alaska’s 3.4 billion pound pollock catch last year was worth $1.5 billion to fishermen last year.

Some lowlights show that cod supplies are at a 20 year low and declining, red king crab harvests are at a 50 year low. Alaska accounts for just 10-15% of global red king crab supply and less than 10% of snow crab supply.

Sablefish prices are down 25% since 2017 and export value is down 30%.

Current harvest levels for halibut are just 20% of catches in the early 2000s.

The biggest uncertainties facing Alaska’s seafood industry stem from changing ocean conditions and ongoing trade disputes.