Alaska seafood marketers are ramping up promotions and bankrolling a $1 million global media blitz to counteract a tough sockeye salmon market.
Sockeyes are by far the most valuable salmon catch, often worth two-thirds of the value of Alaska's entire salmon fishery. But last summer's unexpected surge of reds left lots of inventory in freezers, and record U.S. imports of competing farmed salmon from Chile and Norway combined with the prospect of another big run at Bristol Bay make for a sockeye sales squeeze.
Alaska's approach will be patterned after the $1 million canned pink salmon campaign when the record catch in 2013 plugged that market, said Tyson Fick, communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing institute.
"We're targeting in particular the U.K., Japan and Canada with canned sockeye, and domestically with retailers to the tune of 6,000-7,000 individual stores to run sockeye promotions through the spring, as well as a joint promotion with Chateau St. Michele that will reach another 10,000 or so stores," Fick said. "And then in food service we're working through Sysco with a Lenten promotion that will run from February through April, specific to frozen sockeyes."
The campaign will also advertise in overseas media and, as with pink salmon, work directly with retailers and distributors to move product and "move the needle on awareness."
"We look to take advantage of some of the larger food trends -- knowing where your food comes from, local seafood, clean waters, things like that," Fick said.
It's a good strategy, but he admits there are many factors over which the industry has no control.
"Currency exchanges, international global politics and whatnot. But the whole idea of this marketing operation is to buffer that and to at all times have a preference for Alaska out there," Fick said. Referring to the pink campaign that has kept sales steady, he added: "All of the data coming back indicates it's working pretty well."
New products debut
The Alaska Symphony of Seafood attracted 17 new products for its 22nd annual competition. The contest showcases new seafood items in retail, food service and smoked categories with top winners getting a trip to the Boston Seafood Show.
This year the Symphony added a Beyond the Plate category for fish parts, which attracted five entries: Baltica Style Fish Broth by Ed's Kasilof Seafoods, 54 Degrees North Omega-3 Oil by American Seafoods Company, and three pet treat products -- Alaska Naturals Wild Seafood by Trident Seafoods, Wild Catch for Pets Salmon Sticks by Copper River Seafoods and Yummy Chummies by Arctic Paws.
Other new seafood entries include Trident's Alaskan Whitefish Burger, Copper River Seafoods Zesty Grilled Cod Portions, Kodiak's Pickled Willies with Smoked Black Cod Tips, and several offerings from C&H Classic Smoked Fish and Tilgners Specialized Smoked Seafoods of Ninilchik, last year's grand prize winner.
A notable thing about the annual Symphony is it includes seafood producers ranging from the very small to the majors.
"No matter what size you are or whether you're trying to get into a niche market or competition on a global basis, winning the Symphony of Seafood really makes you stand out. And it showcases what the industry does all the way to the final product on the plate," said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, host of the event.
Dates of the competitions and tastings are Feb. 15 in Seattle, Feb. 17 in Juneau and Feb. 21 in Anchorage.
One good thing that came out of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was laws creating citizen councils to oversee oil industry activities and regulators.
Since 1990, the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council (CIRCAC) has promoted environmentally safe transportation and oil facility operations in the region, which includes downstream.
The council has several seats set to expire, including a commercial fishing seat on its board of directors.
"Those seats belong to certified aquaculture associations and commercial fishing groups, and the Cities of Kenai, Homer and Kodiak," said Lynda Giguere, CIRCAC Public Outreach Director.
"If something happens upstream, they are definitely in our area of concern. And our role is to continue to bring local voices and communities to the table," she added.
Cook Inlet is home to a patchwork of 16 fixed platforms tapping into about 250 oil and gas wells and 1,000 miles of pipeline. Giguere said people are surprised to learn that the citizen's group does much more than oil spill prevention and response programs.
"We have a biological and chemical monitoring program, and we have taken the scientific lead for Alaska on a contaminant study for the Western Gulf including Kodiak," Giguere said. "We also introduced the Alaska shore zone mapping project, which has since expanded to include the entire state."
Add to that habitat mapping, studying winter prey for beluga whales, and working with the Coast Guard to create an area-wide harbor safety committee.
Names for CIRCAC seats are being accepted now. Contact the Kenai office at 800-652-7222 or visit www.circac.org/
Fish eyes on Juneau
Fisheries and the environment is the focus of a new weekly publication covering the legislative goings-on at the state capitol. Called Juneau Resources Weekly, it aims to fill the void left by the death last year of legislative uber-watchdog Bob Tkacz, said JRW founder Dave Theriault.
Theriault has a law degree, has served for two years as a legislative staffer, as a legislative conduit for conservation groups for the past four years, and began commercial fishing last summer at Bristol Bay.
"I'm hooked on fishing and learning more about the industry," Theriault said in a phone interview.
Along with reports about bill hearings, committee actions and the budget, Theriault said the publication will include fast moving updates and a blog. Juneau Resources Weekly is available by subscription and will be delivered via email every Friday starting Jan. 23 and continuing through the legislative session. Special sign-up rates are available. Call 907-723-9944 for more information.
Paine & Partners of San Francisco has internally announced the sale of Icicle Seafoods. Pacific Seafoods is seen as a front-runner for buying Icicle, reports Undercurrent.com. The bankers handling the process also are contacting Community Development Quota (CDQ) groups to assess their interest. Along with a fleet of 11 vessels, Icicle owns shore plants in Petersburg, Seward, Egegik at Bristol Bay, Larsen Bay at Kodiak and near Dillingham.
Former Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell has been named CEO of Siu Alaska Corporation, a subsidiary of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (a CDQ group). Siu is involved in seafood harvesting, processing and product development.