Fish Radio

Salmon season faces lower supplies

April 19, 2016



This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Some shifts in supply and demand for salmon. I’ll tell you more after this —

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A downward shift in supplies of salmon could boost demand for Alaska fish. If that basic rule holds true, prices could move out of the basement.

  So the starting point if you want to see what’s happening with fish prices look at supply and demand. But lots of things are always going on with supply and demand which makes it complicated.  So if you want to know what’s going on with supply you have to look at how much was produced in Alaska and how much our competitors produce.

Gunnar Knapp is a fisheries economist and director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska/Anchorage.

What happens in commodity markets, whether it’s salmon or oil, a small imbalance between supply and demand can cause a big change in price. Especially if the amount that people want is not that price sensitive. If the world only wants a certain number of sockeye salmon fillets or canned sockeye salmon in half pound cans and you overproduce then the price can fall a long, long way quickly before things come into balance, or vice versa.

Some balance appears to be in the offing. Alaska’s projected salmon harvest of 161 million fish is down 40 percent from last season due to an off year for pinks.

Bristol Bay’s sockeye forecast of just under 30 million is well below harvests of the past two years. That helps remove backlogs of reds, which are moving briskly through markets. A prime example: Sockeye exports to Japan, which is enduring local fishery failures, surged 320 percent at the end of last year and demand is expected to remain strong.

US West Coast salmon fisheries will be practically non-existent this year.

In terms of farmed salmon supplies from Chile, our  largest importer   – a toxic algae bloom had killed 25 million fish at 45 farms by late March and production is way off expectations.

And Norway, the world’s biggest fish farmer, is dealing with fish losses from lice. Sea lice costs the farmed fish industry a half billion dollars each year.

Here’s another reason to choose wild salmon:  the FDA has just ruled that nations using certain banned lice killing chemicals (azamethiphos) can now send their fish to US markets. It comes after  years of pushing by the Fish Vet Group, bankrolled by Benchmark, a lice treatment producer.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.