A report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund concludes that the value of commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay ranks in billions of dollars.
Researchers at Portland, Ore., based Ecotrust concluded that the value of fish harvested in Bristol Bay averaged $2.2 to $2.9 billion annually from 2005-2008, supporting at least $4.1 billion in annual economic activity. The study was released in late December.
"The economic value at each step of the value chain is comprised of the direct value added to the commercial fishery input plus the additional economic activity that it supports," said study authors Sarah Kruse, Kristen Sheeran and Taylor Hesselgrave.
The study aims to estimate the commercial fishery's value at distinct steps in the process: harvest, processing and wholesale and retail.
The estimated wholesale value of commercial harvests from the base study region ranges from $1.1 to $1.4 billion annually, the study found. As seafood is processed, it supports secondary economic activity. The total economic output associated with fisheries wholesale and processing may be as high as $2.9 billion each year, the authors concluded. "It is … the value of the total economic activity created as fish are harvested, processed and sold wholesale," they said.
The National Marine Fishery Service value-added model employed by the researchers allocates 49 percent of the wholesale value of seafood to retail services, such as restaurants, caterers, schools, hospitals and other institutional food service provides, where the estimated retail mark-up is 182 percent. It apportions 50 percent of the wholesale value to retail stores, including supermarkets, grocery stores and seafood specialty shops, where the mark-up is 33 percent.
Using the landings value as the starting point, the total retail value of seafood harvested from Bristol Bay is estimated by these researchers at $2.9 billion.
The direct value of the fishery at every step along the value-chain supports secondary economic activities, researchers said. For example, the fisherman sells his catch to processors/wholesalers to pay for his crew and supplies. The processor/wholesaler sells his product to retailers to cover the cost of supplies and employees. Retailers sell their seafood to consumers to pay for labor and other inputs.
Commercial fishermen, processors, and retailers have downstream suppliers who benefit indirectly from sales; these backward-linked economic activities constitute the indirect secondary impacts of commercial fishing.
The report goes on to say that healthy and productive fisheries in the base study region generate economic activity equivalent to $4.1-$5.4 billion annually.
"These estimates provide strong economic support for protecting Bristol Bay's unique and valuable ecosystem," researchers said.
"The economic impacts of Bristol Bay fisheries extend widely; permit holders reside outside of the base study area and in other states; the catch is processed inside and outside of Alaska; and final products are sold to consumers across the U.S. and abroad. The future of Bristol Bay's fisheries, therefore, is of significant national and global importance," the study concludes.