The first wholesale price for salmon gives the best indicator of how well it should sell in world markets. And prices in 2011 show nice increases so far, nearly across the board.   

In its Annual Salmon Price Report (ASPR) the Alaska Department of Revenue Tax Division provides average wholesale prices for salmon as it sells throughout the year. The report is broken down by Alaska region and covers six product forms: canned, fresh/frozen whole, fresh/frozen fillets and roe. The reports are compiled from prices submitted by processors that sold at least 1 million pounds at wholesale. The ASPR covering sales from January through April shows that prices were up substantially in almost every salmon category.

By far, most of Alaska’s salmon pack goes out as H&G frozen, and chinook averaged $4.12 per pound, compared to $3.31 last year. Frozen sockeye averaged $3, an increase of 17 cents per pound. For chums, an average of $1.78 is an increase of 41 cents. No frozen pink sales were listed through April; in 2010 the pink average was 91 cents per pound. The only decrease in frozen H&G salmon was coho salmon, which averaged $2.37, down from $2.49 during the same time in 2010.

Frozen salmon fillets also showed nice price increases through April, with chinook fillets fetching $8.75 per pound, up from $2.40. Sockeye fillets wholesaled at $6.29, compared to $5.18. Cohos averaged $5.13 per pound, up from $4.61; Pink fillets were at $2.69 per pound, and frozen chum fillets averaged $3.34, an increase of 91 cents from the same time last year.

The only other drop in price through April was for fresh H&G chinook — $9.23 a pound, compared to $10.11 during the first four months of last year.

Canned salmon, which makes up the second largest part of the annual pack, also showed strong price gains. For cases of talls (14.75 ounces, 48 cans), canned sockeye averaged $144.88, up from $113.64; canned pinks were at $78.60, compared to $77.81; canned chum salmon averaged $66.27 per case, compared to $55.60 last year. Sales of canned coho salmon also made the 2011 list, averaging $89.66 per case.

Wholesale prices also increased for canned halves (7.5 ounces): Cases of canned sockeye salmon sold for $78.71, compared to $67.31; and canned pinks averaged $47.22, up from $45.39.

Some of the biggest wholesale price increases through April were for salmon roe. Sockeye roe was listed at $7.01 per pound, compared to $2.07 for the same time last year. Coho roe averaged $6.87, up from $4.87 per pound. The price for pink salmon roe nearly tripled at $9.94, compared to $3.78 last year. Chum roe jumped to $13.62 per pound, up from $10.50.

Find the complete ASPR at


Poached crab anyone? 

Bids are being accepted by the federal government through July 19 on 248,144 pounds of illegally caught king crab taken in Russian waters. The crab was seized via NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, which is selling the lot to the highest bidder.  

If it is illegal, how can it be sold? That’s the question buzzing through the industry.

“The Food & Drug Administration does not resell rejected product; the U.S. doesn’t sell seized drugs. We think NOAA should explain the rationale for selling ‘illegal’ fish,” wrote John Sackton, editor of “The auction sale will put more king crab into a very tight market, possibly penalizing legitimate sales.”

“It doesn’t make sense,” posted an anonymous seafood importer. “The U.S. government seizes (allegedly) illegally caught king crab and then puts it up for auction for the marketplace … worldwide. And that means, it seems to me, that our government is a participant to the sale of contraband ‘downstream’ to food businesses and thereafter to the consumers?”

Industry veteran Robert George said the crab should be donated to “food banks, charities and people who suffered disasters the past few months.” He added, “So now our government is getting into the seafood business.

“How can they seize illegal crab from Russia and then sell it in the U.S.? I think the entire U.S. seafood industry, especially the Alaskan crab industry, should be outraged!!”   

Jim Stone, a longtime Bering Sea crab fisherman, called the government auction “lunacy,” adding, “This crab has a value close to 2.5 percent of the U.S. king crab catch, and now our product must compete with seized crab? We applaud the U.S. and other governments for the crackdowns on IUU (illegal, unregulated, unreported) crab and other fisheries, but to see it sold after confiscation seems like a counterproductive way to help the negative effects on our crab market.”

Scallop fishing again

One of the world’s most delectable seafood delicacies is scallops, and the biggest and best come from Alaska. Each July a fleet of just three to four boats fish for weathervane scallops in waters ranging from Yakutat to the Bering Sea, with most of the catch coming from around Kodiak.  

Weathervanes are the largest scallops in the world, with a shell diameter averaging 10 inches. Scallop boats drop big dredges that make tows along mostly sandy bottoms of strictly defined fishing regions.The fishery is closely monitored by onboard observers, at a cost to the boats up to $400 per day. 

“We accept that in order to go into the areas and make sure our bycatch and impact are minimal,” said boat owner Jim Stone.

The boats catch, process, package and freeze the “meats” at sea (the muscle that holds the shells together), and can remain out until Thanksgiving. Scallops are wildly popular in the U.S. and Europe and can pay fishermen $7 to $8 per pound or more.  

State managers keep a close eye on the stocks, and Alaska catches have held steady at about half a million pounds for many years. Compare that to East Coast catches that can top 50 million pound of shucked meats a year.


Bring ’em back alive

The man overboard video is now live on the NIOSH YouTube channel. Find it at

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