Laine Welch: Commercial fish harvest was 9.9 billion pounds in 2011, report says

Laine Welch

The just-released "Fisheries Economics of the U.S." by NOAA Fisheries covers the commercial and recreational fishing industries from 2002-2011 and is loaded with seafood industry stats by region.

The report tracks the economic effects, price trends, payroll and annual receipt information for fishing-related businesses, from the dock to dinner plates. The effects are reported in terms of employment, sales and value added.

Some highlights: Commercial fishermen harvested 9.9 billion pounds of fish/shellfish in 2011, earning $5.3 billion for their catch. Pacific salmon ($618 million), followed by sea scallops ($585 million), shrimp ($536 million) and American lobster ($423 million) contributed the most to total revenue.

Pollock (2.8 billion pounds), menhaden (1.9 billion) and Pacific salmon (780 million) accounted for more than half of pounds landed in 2011.

Prices per pound for seven of the key species were above the average annual price for the decade. When comparing 2011 dock prices to 2002, and accounting for inflation, the largest changes occurred in Atka mackerel (378 percent increase), salmon (114 percent increase), Pacific halibut (109 percent increase) and sablefish (80 percent increase).

Of the top 10 key species, sea scallops paid the highest price per pound in 2011 ($9.90), followed by Pacific halibut ($4.98) and sablefish ($4.56). Pollock was the lowest at 13 cents.

For Alaska, the seafood industry generated $4.7 billion in sales, $2 billion in income and more than 63,000 jobs in 2011. Seafood processing and dealer operations contributed 26 percent to in-state sales for Alaska businesses, with more than $1.2 billion generated in 2011.

More than 286,000 recreational anglers spent nearly 811,000 days fishing in Alaska in 2011, with 56 percent of them non-residents.


State salmon managers are looking for a contractor to help solve the problem of disappearing Cook Inlet king salmon. The Inlet's waters are home to one of Alaska's largest salmon fisheries, with mixed harvests of all five species of Pacific salmon.

The project includes attaching acoustic telemetry tags to salmon in the lower Inlet, aims to try to "identify differences in the migration patterns of Chinook and sockeye salmon" in the eastside setnet fishery, and "determine potential alternative management strategies to reduce Chinook harvests."

Test fishing has shown that most sockeye salmon migrate northward near the center of the Inlet but it is not known if Chinook salmon follow the same pattern. The research contract is worth $693,000. Email Tom Taylor at


Check out my new website for all kinds of information about Alaska's fishing industry. It provides links to public comments, surveys, meetings, catch stats, fish prices, openings and closures, reports, etc. It's a work in progress but please visit

Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state.

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