Alaska Diary | Fish factor: Opening of the cod and redfish season in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea
Wow, there is a lot of fishing in Alaska!
Salmon is at the heart of Alaska’s seafood industry, but winter is when the fishing really begins.
Hundreds of boats are on the water on the first day of every new year, kicking off a predictable pace for the seafood industry as millions of pounds of fish begin rolling through docks around the clock on seafronts. Alaskan Sea. Here is a sample:
Beginning Jan. 1, boats drop traps and baited lines for cod, redfish and other whitefish in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea.
Alaska pollock, the nation’s largest subsistence fishery, opens to trawling on January 20.
A Tanner crab fishery opens Jan. 15 in Kodiak, Chignik and the southern peninsula with a combined catch of 1.8 million pounds.
The Tanner Crab and Golden King Crab fishery opens in Southeast Alaska on February 11. A Tanner crab fishery also opens in Prince William Sound on March 1.
Bering Sea crabbers fish for tanners and golden king crabs and will start setting traps for snow crab this month.
Southeast divers wrap up sea cucumber harvest of nearly 1.9 million pounds; divers also continue to dig up geoduck clams in some areas.
Trollers are hauling in chinook salmon in a fishery that will close on March 15. So far, they’ve taken 6,219 Winter Kings, each worth $122.43.
Halibut Watch – Pacific halibut catches for 2022 will be announced at the annual meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission to be held online Jan. 24-28, and anglers are hoping for another year of increased catches when the fishery opens early March.
Last year, the coastwide catch limit was 39 million pounds for fisheries from California and British Columbia to the far reaches of the Bering Sea.
Alaska still gets the lion’s share and in 2021 anglers holding catch shares caught 93% of their limit of 18.5 million pounds when fishing closed on December 7, one more month than usual. Homer, Seward, Kodiak and Juneau and Sitka were the main ports for halibut landings.
The average price paid to Alaskan fishermen for halibut in 2021 was $6.40/lb, bringing the value of the fishery to $109,129,240, according to NOAA data. This compares to a dock price of $4.12/lb in 2020 and a fishing value of $61,778,449.
COVID Ketchikan Cans – The Covid pandemic has derailed the AK Fisheries Council meeting which was scheduled to meet in person Jan. 4-15 in Ketchikan.
The Council oversees the management of Alaska’s commercial, sport, subsistence, and personal-use fisheries in state waters out to three miles.
The meeting, which was to address 157 Southeast and Yakutat fisheries issues, has been “postponed to a future date and location to be determined” according to Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner of the department of fish and game. Alaska in a press release.
“Cases in the southeast are increasing in almost every community. With the increase in cases after the holiday season, key personnel have already contracted COVID-19 and cannot participate. Additionally, the country and Alaska face severe transportation challenges as weather and the pandemic seriously impede short-term travel,” BOF Executive Director Glenn Haight said in the announcement.
Adding to the challenge is the resignation of new BOF member Indy Walton of Soldotna, whom Governor Dunleavy appointed last September. Walton cited “medical issues and his busy schedule as considerations in his decision.”
Walton was appointed to the BOF by Governor Dunleavy nearly three months after a legal delay, and he has yet to be approved by the Alaska legislature. He fished salmon commercially for nearly 40 years in Kodiak and Bristol Bay and also owns a fishing lodge on the Kvichak River.
Nominations for Walton’s seat will be accepted until Dunleavy names his nomination, deputy communications director Jeff Turner said. The appointee must then be approved by the Alaska Legislature.
Good global outlook – “A rising tide” for seafood sales is predicted by the US Export-Import Bank (EXIM) in a report that outlines performance and opportunities.
The driving force behind this push is that people around the world are recognizing the health benefits of seafood, said Jane Lemons, business development specialist for the Office of Small Business at EXIM, an independent federal agency whose mission is to to “support American jobs by facilitating American exports”.
Seafood consumption is now growing faster than beef, chicken and pork; in 2018, the global per capita average was 45.2 pounds per year, and it is expected to reach 47.4 pounds in 2030.
As populations – and popularity – continue to grow, EXIM predicts that global seafood sales will reach nearly $140 billion by 2027 (up from $113.2 billion in 2020).
US-based fisheries exported $4.5 billion worth of seafood totaling nearly three billion pounds in 2020. (Of that, 2.2 billion pounds came from Alaska. The fruits seafood have been Alaska’s top export for decades, averaging $3.3 billion a year — more than half of the state’s annual total export value.)
The top international buyers of American seafood in 2020 were Canada, China and Japan. Top-selling products were live lobster, Alaska pollock surimi, frozen fish fillets and roe, and frozen sockeye salmon.
“As the world continues to emerge from the pandemic and consumer demand continues to evolve, the potential remains for increased export sales in the future,” Lemons wrote. China, for example, cannot meet the demand of its 1.4 billion people and “this misalignment will only increase over time, providing substantial opportunities for export sales”.
Southern European countries such as Spain, Italy and France are excellent trading partners because, in addition to their high consumption rates, they are also the main European countries for processing and re-exporting to other destinations.
“Fisheries would be wise to consider well-located trading hubs, including Hong Kong, which re-exported more than 40% of all agricultural products, or the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, which act as a gateway to ‘gateway to the rest of continental Europe,’ says the lemons.
She also featured Canada as the United States’ largest export market for agricultural and related products, including fish and seafood. “The open trade border between the United States and Canada provides opportunities for cross-border business collaboration and as a result, the two countries have the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world,” the EXIM report said.