Dutch Harbor-Unalaska held onto the title of the nation’s top fishing port for the 15th year in a row, with over 700 million pounds of fish and crab crossing the docks there last year, a 36 percent increase from 2010. New Bedford, Massachusetts remained as the priciest port with landings, mostly scallops, worth nearly $370 million at the docks. Dutch Harbor ranked second again for seafood value at $207 million, an increase of $44 million.
The numbers come from the annual Fisheries of the United States eport just released by NOAA Fisheries. Overall, the report paints a healthy picture of the nation’s fisheries. Landings of edible fish topped 10 billion pounds, a 17-year high and up 21 percent from 2010. This increase was led by bigger harvests of Alaska pollock and cod, as well as increases in shrimp landings in the Gulf of Mexico, and lobster and crab landings in the Northeast. The dockside value of the US catch also jumped to $5.3 billion, an increase of nearly $800 million.
In all, a dozen Alaska ports made the Top 50 ports list for either landings, values, or both. Akutan made a big debut on the charts ranking third for US seafood landings (431 million pounds, up from 302 million in 2010), and fourth for value at $114 million, a $30 million increase. Kodiak ranked fifth in terms of landings (372 million pounds vs. 325 million) and third for value at $168 million, an increase of $40 million from 2010. Other Alaska ports with top seafood landings include Sitka (No. 14), Petersburg (No. 15), Ketchikan (No. 16), Naknek-King Salmon (No. 19), Cordova (No. 20), Seward (No. 22), Kenai (No. 29), Juneau (No. 43) and Homer (No. 44).
Nearly 60 percent of all US seafood landings hail from Alaska, where last year deliveries topped 738 million pounds (down two percent), valued at almost $565 million (a 12 percent increase).
Other report highlights: U.S. salmon landings in 2011were 780 million pounds valued at $618 million — a one percent decrease in poundage, and 11 percent increase ($63.5 million) in value. Alaska provided 95 percent of the US wild salmon catch.
Pollock provided the most US seafood poundage; ‘crabs’ were the most valuable at $650 million, followed by salmon.
Seafood exports surged last year with US producers exporting 3.3 billion pounds, up 19 percent.
The average price paid to US fishermen last year was 53 cents, down from 55 cents. Alaska fishermen fared better, averaging 77 cents per pound across the board, up a dime from 2010.
U.S. per capita consumption of fish and shellfish in 2011 was 15 pounds, a drop of 0.8 pounds per person.
The fisheries report also includes recreational fishing. It’s a great read. Find it at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/09/09_19_12fisheries_of_the_us.html.
Catches of Alaska pollock, cod and other groundfish could climb higher next year if fishery overseers agree with the scientists. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will take a first look at the catch recommendations at its meeting next month and make the final decisions in December.
For Bering Sea pollock, the proposed catch of 1.2 million metric tons is just slightly above this year’s limit. Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Pacific cod could also see an upward tick to nearly 263,000 tons, a 7 percent increase. In the Gulf of Alaska the pollock catch could increase by nearly 8 percent to 125,000 tons; for cod, the proposed catch tops 68,000 tons, up 4 percent.
Also in October: The Council is set to make a final decision on a Halibut Catch Sharing Plan for charter and sport fishing. There’s a chance that 5 percent of the annual halibut allocation will be shifted from commercial fishing to those groups.
Bering Sea crab fisheries also dominate the agenda. The Council will discuss findings in a special report “as a first step in its consideration of a variety of measures to address issues related to share purchase opportunities for persons active in the crab fisheries, high lease payments in the fisheries, and the effects of those payments on active participants.”
The North Pacific Council meets October 3-9 at the Anchorage Hilton. If you can’t make the Anchorage meeting you can participate online at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/.
No town tops Cordova when it comes to touting their salmon, and this summer fishermen and processors took bragging about fish quality to a whole new level.
For the past two summers fishermen have partnered with the region’s nine processors to use strict handling guidelines to improve salmon quality even more.
“Everyone in the chain of custody agreed to participate in the project,” said Beth Poole, executive director of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association, operated and funded by over 550 salmon fishermen with a one percent tax on their salmon catches.
“Having nine independent processors working together on a project is pretty unheard of, and we are proud to have that support from all of them,” Poole added.
The guidelines require using short soak times, proper bleeding and chilling, proper sanitizing, delivering often and quick transport from tenders to shoreplants. The extra time and effort really pays off, said Gary Johnson, plant manager at Peter Pan Seafoods.
“The program exceeded my expectations quite a bit … there were very few fish we couldn’t fillet,” he said.
This year the program called out fishermen for their salmon quality by giving awards and recognition to the top producers.
“We asked each processor to track their fishermen over the season and at the end of the year to nominate their top quality harvester and their most improved,” Poole said. Along with the recognition, the fishermen get added bonuses for the higher quality salmon.
The first “Top Quality Harvester Award” went to Mike Webber on the F/V Amulet. See the complete list of winners at www.copperriversalmon.org.
Reports from the industry/agency crab plan team meeting in Seattle indicate the Bristol Bay red king crab quota may range between 7 million and 8 million pounds; for Bering Sea snow crab, the catch quota will likely be around 70 million pounds. Managers will announce the catch numbers in early October. There is no red king crab fishery in Southeast Alaska this winter.
Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska’s seafood industry since 1988.
Her weekly Fish Factor column appears in a dozen newspapers and web outlets.
Her daily Fish Radio programs air on 30 stations around the state. Laine lives in Kodiak.