Fish Radio
March 15, 2013

 Herring could be worth millions more to Alaska            

Herring haul at Sitka

Herring haul at Sitka

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Roe herring should begin this month at Sitka:  and big herring opportunities for Alaska. More after this   

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 The roe herring quota at Sitka Sound could drop by 60% this year to just over 11,000 tons if survey numbers hold true. That’s down from nearly 29,000 tons last March, although the actual catch was 13.5 thousand tons.  Also plummeting has been Alaska herring prices as virtually all the roe goes to Japan and that market has shrunk considerably.   Prices are reportedly ticking up slightly from the 58 percent decline in the dockside value  in 2011. For Sitka, that meant a drop from over $800 a ton to under $300 a ton.

 A new report by the Juneau-based McDowell Group points out that Alaska’s herring fisheries account for just 1 percent of global production. In Alaska the only true value comes from female fish, meaning fully half of the catch – the males – are worth next to nothing and are mostly ground into fish meal. In fact, that may actually cost processors and fishermen more than the fish meal is worth.

 It’s much different for the world’s leading herring producer – Norway, where harvests can top one million tons a year.  Fishermen there averaged  47-cents a pound this year as almost all of Norway’s herring are sold fresh or frozen, smoked or pickled into markets for people..   Frozen herring fillets can range from $1.04 to $1.35 per pound.  Some canned herring in Europe can fetch prices equivalent to that of canned Alaska salmon. McDowell says   if male herring from the Kodiak and Togiak fisheries were made into frozen fillets the wholesale value last year would have been about $15 million.  

 Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, celebrating 102 years of partnership with Alaska’s coastal communities.  In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.