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Alaska seafood led 2011 exports surge

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Stephen Nowers photo

Alaska exported more products in 2011 than ever before. That's according to the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

The total value of $5.2 billion was up a whopping 24 percent from the previous year. In just two years, Alaska exports are up 57 percent.

Leading the pack was a product Alaskans have been selling since well before statehood. Seafood accounted for nearly half of Alaska's exports, according to the story. The value of seafood exports was up 35 percent in a year.

"Alaska's sustainable seafood is reaching a wider variety of destinations in a wider array of high-quality product forms," United Fishermen of Alaska President Arni Thomson told the Journal of Commerce. “This directly benefits Alaska's communities that share in production.”

Another developing trend of note: China replaced Japan as the leading importer of Alaska goods. As evidence of China’s booming middle class, seafood exports to the country totaled $836 million. It’s the first time China topped Japan in importing Alaska seafood, and it blew past its Asian counterpart. Japan exported $589 million.

Seafood isn’t the only booming export to China. Total exports there have nearly tripled since 2009 to $1.44 billion.

A sharp decline in the value of the U.S. dollar against the yen allowed Japanese traders to buy much more salmon, crab, pollock and other seafood, the story noted.

Not every Alaska export soared. Hampered by the mothballing of the ConocoPhillips liquefied natural gas export facility in Nikiski on Cook Inlet, energy exports dropped 7.3 percent to $387 million. More specifically, LNG exports dropped 42 percent to $210 million, according to the story.

“The wealth of Alaska’s natural resources has translated into the highest export numbers ever for our state,” Gov. Sean Parnell said in a press release. “The strong international work by industry and by state agencies, like the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, are reaping benefits for Alaskans across the state.”