Spring is traditionally the busiest time for those in the buy/sell/trade business for Alaska salmon permits.
But that’s not the case this year.
Values had ticked up for most permits after a blockbuster salmon fishery in 2017. But they have remained fairly stagnant since the fall.
“And that sort of summarizes the salmon permit market. There is not a lot of excitement about any of them.”
Doug Bowen heads Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.
A lackluster forecast for the upcoming salmon season – down 34 percent – isn’t helping.
Even at the big bright spot at Bristol Bay, where another great sockeye run is expected, the value of drift permits has stalled in the $150,000 range.
“So the price isn’t going up very fast there. Sometimes before the season we see the price go up and up until the season begins. This year it just seems like it’s a calmer market and the price actually slipped. We’ll see where it goes from here.”
A big issue in the Bay, Bowen says, is a new rule for chilled fish.
“The issue there is majors are not taking any unchilled fish this year so there has been a scramble for folks to get RSW installed or get a boat with RSW and actually that issue I think has calmed the market down for drift permits.”
There’s not a lot of action for Southeast drift permits, which have slipped to $85,000 to $90,000, and almost no movement for Southeast seines.
I would think you could pick one up for under $200,000.
Bown said there has not been a sale of a Chignik salmon seine permit since 2016. At one time, that exclusive permit was the most expensive in the state, selling for $500,000.
Dock Street Brokers has a Chignit permit valued at $140 with no listings.
In fact, Bowen says there’s little interest in seine permits anywhere in Alaska.
“The forecast isn’t great for seine fisheries anywhere in the state this year and you can see that in the permit markets . There’s just not a lot of interest in seine permits this year.”
Cook Inlet drifts have stalled at around $45,000 where they’ve been pre-season last year.
One permit exception is at Area M on the Alaska Peninsula. Several good salmon years has piqued interest in that fishery and boosted drift values to over $160,000 with listings few and far between.
Overall, Bowen says, business is chugging along despite the humdrum mood.
“Boats are still selling well and permits are selling and quota is selling too. It’s just that there’s definitely some dark clouds out there. I think In general it is going to be a skinnier year for the industry.”