Laine Welch: Report details Alaska seafood industry's impact on US

Laine Welch

What is likely the most comprehensive, user-friendly report ever done on Alaska's seafood industry by region was just released by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Entitled "Economic Value of the Alaska Seafood Industry," the report was compiled by the Juneau-based McDowell Group, and it includes all of the direct and indirect economic effects of the industry for Alaska, Washington and the nation.

Here are some highlights:

The seafood industry directly employed more than 63,000 people in Alaska in 2011, meaning one in eight workers earned at least part of his annual income from seafood. The industry accounted for 9 percent of all private-sector resident earnings.

Residents account for 58 percent of the commercial fishing work force in Alaska. The other 42 percent come from all over the U.S. and abroad.

The Alaska seafood industry created an estimated 34,500 jobs and nearly $2 billion in labor income for Washington residents in 2011. In fact, Alaska fisheries directly employ more Washington residents and generate more direct labor income than Washington's fishing or logging industries.

Nationwide, the Alaska seafood industry puts 94,000 people to work. For every Alaska fisherman, processor or direct support worker, an additional 1.24 U.S. jobs were created by the Alaska seafood industry.

Alaska accounted for 56 percent of the total U.S. commercial catch and 36 percent of total U.S. seafood value at the docks in 2011.

Although Alaska produces 95 percent of all salmon caught in the U.S., it represents only about 23 percent of the total U.S. salmon supply. Nearly 80 percent of all U.S. seafood is imported.

Salmon is Alaska's most valuable species, worth 31 percent of the total dockside value in 2011. Alaska pollock is by far the largest fishery by volume, and the second most valuable. Halibut and black cod combined make up the third most valuable species, followed by crab, Pacific cod and flatfish.

Alaska's commercial fishing fleet included 32,000 fishermen on roughly 8,600 fishing boats in 2011. The three largest seafood processing companies in Alaska are Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

Farmed fish fanfare

The farmed salmon industry has big plans to polish its image. Only 25 percent of consumers believe that farmed fish is the same quality as wild fish, according to a study by the London-based Mintel Group.

The National Fisheries Institute's Salmon Council, which formed earlier this year to promote all wild, farmed, domestic and imported salmon products, is touting a $60,000 study on salmon consumption in the U.S.

Council chairman Rick Speed of Icicle Seafoods said the study gives a "clear and targeted picture of how to effectively market salmon in the U.S."

Inaugural members of the Salmon Council include Icicle Seafoods, Inland Seafood, King & Prince Seafood Corp., Marine Harvest USA, Mazzetta Co., Morey's Seafood, The Norwegian Seafood Council and Seattle Fish Co.

Also newly launched this summer is the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI), composed of 15 salmon farmers who provide 70 percent of the world's production. The group pledges that 100 percent of its products will be certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council by 2020, and will measurably reduce the effects of fish farms on ecologically important regions.

Salmon watch

This year's total Alaska salmon catch was nearing 261 million fish by Friday. Of that, 210 million were pink salmon, almost 78 percent over the forecast.

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

Laine Welch