Laine Welch: Dutch Harbor still the nation's top fishing port

Laine Welch

For the 16th year in a row, Dutch Harbor ranked as the nation's top fishing port with landings of 752 million pounds, valued at $214 million, last year.

No. 2 was Empire-Venice, La. The "Aleutian Islands" jumped to third place with 456 million pounds, and bumped Kodiak to No. 4 with 393 million pounds landed in 2012. In all, 13 Alaska ports made the Top 50 for poundage, according to the annual Fisheries of the U.S. report by NOAA Fisheries.

For catch value New Bedford, Mass., retained the lead for the 13th consecutive year at $411 million, thanks to high-priced scallops. Dutch Harbor ranked second, followed by Kodiak at $170 million and the Aleutian Islands at $119 million.

In all, U.S. seafood landings totaled 9.6 billion pounds last year, valued at $5.1 billion, down 2.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, from 2011.

Other highlights:

>  Alaska topped all other states with landings of 5.3 billion pounds with an overall value of $1.7 billion.

 > Alaska provided 55.5 percent of all seafood landed in the U.S. last year.

 > For value, the "crabs" category ranked first followed by scallops, shrimp, salmon and lobster.

> The average dock price paid to fishermen in 2012 was 53 cents a pound, compared to 54 cents the previous year.

> The fishing industry contributed $42 billion to the U.S. gross national product.

Fish watch

Alaska's biggest fishery, Bering Sea pollock, closed for the year on Nov. 1. The fishery will produce about 3 billion pounds this year. The Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery also ended for trawlers the same day, as did Pacific cod. Fishing for cod continues for other gear types in both the Gulf and Bering Sea; pot and jig fishing could last all year.

Crabbers at Bristol Bay had taken more than half their 8.6 million pound red king crab catch, with about 3.7 million pounds left to go.

Halibut longliners had taken 93 percent of their nearly 22-million-pound catch limit, with about 1.4 million pounds remaining. For sablefish, about three million pounds remain for harvest in the 28-million-pound quota. Both of those fisheries close Nov. 7. Homer will regain the title of the No. 1 halibut port, topping Kodiak by about one million pounds landed this year. Seward is the top port for sablefish.

In Southeast Alaska, the pot shrimp fisheries were wrapped up in most districts with a total catch of half a million pounds.

Divers continued combing the deep for sea cucumbers and giant geoduck clams.

Hat tip to highliners

Two Alaskans were selected as National Fisherman's Highliners of the Year. Robert Heyano of Dillingham is president of the fishermen-funded and -directed Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and skipper of the 32-foot drift gillnetter Lady Mindy. Jerry McCune of Cordova is president of the United Fishermen of Alaska and the Cordova District Fishermen United, longtime industry lobbyist and skipper of the 33-foot drift gillnetter Wudahad.

Robert Hezel of Clinton, Wash., also was selected. He is skipper of the Fishermen's Finest 185-foot Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawler U.S. Intrepid.

The Highliner Awards honor fishermen who uphold a standard of excellence in their fishing operations and advocacy on behalf of the industry.

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