Seafood is Alaska’s top export by far and strong global demand for sockeye salmon has pushed prices to near record highs.  It’s also boosted paychecks to fishermen.

A few weeks ago both Silver Bay and Peter Pan Seafoods increased their base prices to fishermen to $1.45 per pound, a 20-cent increase from the summer and even more for top quality fish. That compares to a final price in 2020 of just $1.06.

Abby Frederick is a spokesperson for Silver Bay speaking to KDLG.

“Obviously the base price comes out or it’s announced earlier in the season,” Frederick said. “Now that we can see where it’s at, where sales are going and really have a confident look we’re excited to celebrate that with our fleet.”

Alaska’s total 2021 sockeye catch was 57 million with a preliminary value topping $361 million – more than 56% of Alaska’s total dockside salmon value. Over  42 million of the reds came from Bristol Bay, worth more than $248 to fishermen.

Most of Alaska’s fish goes to market in frozen, headed and gutted form and strong demand by global buyers pushed wholesale prices this summer to $4.37 a pound, up $1.07 from last year.

Bay sockeye fillets were wholesaling at $6.61 a pound.

The increase was reflected at seafood retail counters this fall where the fish were averaging $12.94 a pound, up nearly a dollar from a year ago.

The market is tight which underscores increased demand, said Andy Wink, director of the fishermen run and funded Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Bristol Bay’s sockeye run this year was a record, topping 71 million fish and it’s projected to be even bigger in 2022. That could mean a catch of 60 million sockeyes.

Wink told SeafoodSource: “If you lined those fish up nose to tail, that’s enough to encircle the entire lower 48 twice.”

                                                              Represents exports sold during the harvest year running from June through March of the following year.    Source: NMFS trade data
Credit: SeafoodSource for the chart