Shipping vans for sockeye salmon at Naknek, AK                                   Credit:  Alaska Business Magazine


Alaska’s seafood industry puts 60,000 people to work, meaning $1.5 billion in earnings for fishermen on more than 9,000 vessels and workers at 87 large shoreside processing plants.

The seafood industry supports at least $150 million a year in taxes and fees.

And here’s why state budget watchers should care about fish prices:  In 2017, for example, the average dock price per pound for all Alaska seafood was 41 cents. If it had increased by one penny, it would have added $1.8 million more in fish taxes.

Those are just a few take-aways in a snapshot report at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s spring board meeting provided by the McDowell Group.

Other highlights:  Nearly 6 billion pounds of seafood worth about $2 billion were the industry averages for 2016 and 2017.

Pollock accounted for 57 percent of the volume caught and 22 percent of the value.

Salmon ranked second for volume at 14 percent but was tops for value at 34 percent.

Cod was third for catch volume at 12 percent and 11 percent of value. Halibut, sablefish and crab each accounted for one percent of the total catch volume and 12 percent of the value.

The U.S. is usually the largest market for Alaska seafood, followed by China, Japan, South Korea and the EU.

Export value over the past decade has averaged $3.3 billion, making seafood Alaska’s largest export by far. The top exports are pollock surimi and fillets, followed by frozen H&G sockeye salmon.

Exports to China, which in 2018 added up to 32 percent of Alaska’s seafood volume and 23 percent of the value, was down 20 percent due to trade tariffs.

Alaska salmon sales were down 54 percent, crab was down 49 percent and cod sales to China dropped 29 percent.

In another trade hit:  Imports to the U.S. of Fresh Atlantic halibut from Canada have nearly doubled since 2012 to 8.8 million pounds last year.

Looking at 2019, harvests of salmon, crab, halibut, sablefish and pollock are expected to increase, with decreases for cod and rockfish catches.

The U.S. dollar is strengthening, meaning Alaska seafood will be less expensive at home but pricier for overseas customers. Ongoing trade disputes also are a threat. And recent reports say buyers are starting to push back against strong salmon prices.