Record Copper River king prices celebrated at annual seafood event

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, holds a 45-pound Copper River king salmon May 19 at the Alaska Airline Cargo Hanger. To her right, Scott Blake, CEO and president with Copper River Seafoods helps balance the hefty fish. At left is Copper River Seafoods supporter Margie Johnson, wearing a vintage mermaid costume. (Photo/Rosanne Klouda/For the Journal)

Restaurants from Seattle to New York City paid about $50 per pound — a new record — for the Copper River king salmon sold direct from Cordova fishermen on May 19.

A representative 45-pound Copper River king was the royal guest at a public seafood event celebrating spring’s famous run in Alaska on May 19.

About 100 people turned out for a five-star restaurant sampling as part of the festivities featuring the king on square white paper plates.

The salmon, held between U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Copper River Seafood CEO Scott Blake, was caught aboard Pete Blake’s FV Dakine on May 18 in the Copper River opener.

It was flown to Anchorage May 19 in time for the 2:30 p.m. event.

Chefs from Orso and 49th State Brewing Co. fired up the grill to treat folks to signature appetizers. Orso Executive Chef Rick Griffin created a strawberry-spring salad drizzled by a sweet balsamic dressing and topped by a king wedge.

The 49th State Executive Chef Todd Podborny combined a couple of appetizers from the Denali 49th State Brewery and the Anchorage restaurant: micuit with orange zest tarragon and citrus cured salmon sided with tapenade arugula crème.

Each year, Copper River Seafoods celebrates the first fat-laden kings taken from its famous home waters. At the Alaska Airline Cargo hanger, discussion about this year’s prices was part of the celebration. At $50 a pound market price per pound for the king, what would an entre at 49th State cost?

About $33.99 for a plate of blueberry barbeque salmon, said Ellen Maloney, the restaurant’s marketing promoter.

At Orso, an entre dinner featuring Copper king, grilled asparagus, roasted fingerling potatoes, pesto and grape tomatoes was going for $48.95 while sockeye salmon in similar presentation goes for $34.95.

“Strong pricing for the fishermen and aggressive marketplace prices mean a real range,” said Marin Weiser, chief development officer at Copper River Seafoods. “At Pike Place Market (in Seattle) you’ll see it go for $65 pound and at Costco, they may see it as low as $12.99 pound.”

Copper River Sockeye wholesales at $27 per pound to restaurants for now, but as the season progresses, the price on both species will drop as the supply becomes more abundant.

The preliminary harvest estimate from the 12-hour opener on May 18 was 1,900 Chinook and 36,000 sockeye salmon said Cassandra Squibb, chief marketing officer for Copper River Seafoods. This compares to an anticipated harvest of 37,200 sockeye salmon for this period.

Managers are closely watching the king salmon harvest because of a forecasted run of just 29,000 kings compared to a minimum escapement goal of 24,000. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasted a commercial harvest of just 3,500 kings, but that had been exceeded in just two periods after another 1,700 were caught in a 12-hour period on May 22 for a total of 3,617.

No additional fishing periods had been scheduled as of May 24.

“All of the kings we processed were pre-sold,” Squibb said. “Demand for Copper River King Salmon is at an all time high; we have more demand than we have fish to supply.”

Fishermen earned $11 a pound for Chinook and $8 a pound for sockeye from the Copper River, she said.

Updated: 
05/24/2017 - 12:46pm

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