AD Main Menu

Only 5 countries earn more from seafood exports than Alaska

Margaret BaumanThe Cordova Times
Pollock aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson. The groundfish make up 53 percent of Alaska fish harvest last year. Kathy Hough, NOAA photo

From a global perspective, Alaska, with $3.28 billion in seafood exports to 125 countries, ranked first in 2012 among all of the United States, and sixth internationally, behind Norway, Russia, Vietnam, Chile and Canada.

In value alone, these exports compared with $9.5 billion from Norway, $4.5 billion from Russia, $4.2 billion from Vietnam, $3.9 billion from Chile, and $3.7 billion from Canada, said seafood economist Andy Wink of Juneau's McDowell group.

The total 5.5 billion pounds of seafood harvested in Alaska in 2012 accounted for 56 percent of all domestic commercial fisheries production, Wink told participants at the ComFish 2014 meeting in Kodiak. The bulk of that harvest, 53 percent, was Alaska pollock, with another 30 percent being Pacific cod and other groundfish.

Salmon comprised 12 percent, followed by crab (2 percent), herring (2 percent), and halibut and black cod (1 percent), Wink said, in his presentation on Alaska seafood economics and market trends.

Based on ex-vessel value alone, McDowell Group estimated the breakdown was salmon, 29 percent; Alaska pollock, 25 percent; Pacific cod and other groundfish, 16 percent; crab, 16 percent; halibut and black cod, 13 percent, and herring, 1 percent, based on data provided by federal and state fisheries agencies.

The economic impact on Alaska included the creation of jobs for an estimated 40,000 residents, including employment of one in every four residents of Western Alaska at some point in the year. Adding the multiplier effects, a total of 77,400 jobs for workers were created, the commercial seafood industry directly accounted for 7 percent of all resident income in the private sector, and backhaul lowered freight rates by as much as 10 percent, Wink said.

On a national scale, the Alaska seafood industry created jobs for an estimated 165,800 Americans, with an economic output of $15.7 billion, including $6.4 billion in labor income.

Looking ahead to the fast approaching fishing season, Wink said some key issues for the short term for salmon include increasing sales of the large canned pink salmon inventory, while retaining the value of canned red salmon. Demand for keta salmon, meanwhile, has been improving, he said. Long-term issues include differentiation of domestic and export markets and shifts in product form.

For the Alaska pollock market, key issues will include MSC certification of Russian pollock, the future of the Japanese pollock roe market and the stagnant overall value, Wink said.

Demand for Pacific cod is improving, but there is still a large supply on hand and the Brazilian Bacalao (salt cod) market is getting more competitive, he said.

For Alaska shellfish markets, the McDowell Group report noted that the outlook for Russia's illegal, unreported and unregulated harvest is down for 2014, but that Russian king crab total allowable catches are up, and there is a new Russian snow crab fishery. Another issue is the impact of weaker Japanese yen.

Looking further into the future, challenges will include continuing to develop markets, and new products, and boosting prices for about 80 percent of the seafood, which has a wholesale value of less than a dollar a pound, he said.

McDowell Group also produced a lengthy report on the economic value of Alaska's Seafood Industry for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute in July 2013.

That report can be viewed here.