Led by salmon and pollock landings, North Pacific fishers earned more than $1.7 billion from the commercial harvest of 5.3 billion pounds of fish in 2012.
In 2012, salmon landings were worth $441 million, pollock was worth $343 million, crab was worth $275 million and Pacific cod was worth $191 million, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service report titled “Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012.”
Alaska’s harvest represents more than half of the seafood commercially harvested in the United States and about a third of the value. In 2012, the total commercial take in America was about 9.6 billion pounds, worth about $5.1 billion.
Those numbers drive the seafood industry in Alaska, which generated $4.2 billion in sales impacts, $1.8 billion in income impacts and more than 56,000 jobs in 2012, according to the agency’s economics report.
Despite leading in total catch and seafood value, however, Alaska’s seafood industry generates fewer jobs than other regions, and is not the largest portion of the jobs data. According to the report, the seafood industry in California and Massachusetts generate more than 100,000 jobs each compared to a national total of about 1.2 million jobs in 2012.
Total, 98 percent of the commercial fisheries revenue was generated by 10 key species groups: salmon, pollock, crab, Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, flatfish, Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, rockfish and sablefish.
The agency, or NMFS, recently released that report, along with the 2013 stock status report. In Alaska, the value of fisheries remains high, and stocks are generally considered healthy.
The overfished list for 2013 includes just one North Pacific stock: Pribilof Island blue king crab, which is in year 10 of a 10-year rebuilding plan in 2014. According to a March 2014 update on stock status, Kamchatka flounder was previously listed as overfished, but is no longer on that list.
The “overfishing” list is made up of stocks that are fished at a higher rate than the one that produces maximum sustained yield, but the stocks are not necessarily impaired. The “overfished” list, however, includes stocks that have a depleted biomass and are not necessarily being fished.
There are no North Pacific stocks on the overfishing list for 2013. In 2013, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Octopus complex was removed from that list.
Fisheries values on the rise
Landings revenue has increased since 2003, although there was a slight decrease in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the report.
Atka mackerel and flatflish had the largest increases in value, at 400 percent and 211 percent, respectively.
Salmon landings had an average value of $357 million from 2003 to 2012, the most of any species group, and increased about 163 percent over that time frame, the third highest increase.
Shellfish revenue also increased 68 percent, from $174 million in 2003 to $293 million in 2012, while overall finfish revenue increased slightly less — 66 percent from 2003 to 2012.
The rising value comes despite declining catches. The 2012 total catch of both shellfish and finfish was about 0.3 percent less than the 2003 catch, with finfish specifically decreasing about 1.3 percent from 2003, when the catch was 5.2 billion pounds.
In 2012, prices were above the 10-year averages for all seven of the primary species and species groups, according to the report. Atka mackerel increased about 379 percent compared to 2003 ex-vessel prices, salmon increased 171 percent, halibut increased 106 percent and herring increased 100 percent. Those increases do not account for inflation.
Recreational fisheries also play into economy
The economics report also includes information on recreational fisheries in Alaska.
According to the report, about 4,800 jobs were generated by recreational fishing, and more than $397 million was spent in the region by recreational anglers, with most of the impacts coming from hiring or renting boats. About 55 percent of total trip expenditures came from guided fishing activities.
Total, anglers spent 808,000 days fishing in 2012, down 6.9 percent from about 868,000 days in 2003, and also down from 2011, when there were about 811,000 angler days.
The report only includes a number for saltwater recreational anglers, of which there were 278,000 in 2012, but not freshwater. That was down from 2011, when there were 286,000 saltwater anglers in the state.
The decrease in angler numbers was driven by a decrease in non-resident anglers; in 2012 there were about 160,000 non-resident anglers, a 0.6 percent decrease from 2011 when there were 161,000 and a 5.6 percent decrease from 2003, when there were about 170,000.
Halibut, rockfish and silver salmon were the top three species harvested or released recreationally, representing about 74 percent of the total recreational catch.
Other economic impacts from recreational fisheries included equipment expenses — worth about $126 million 2012, or 32 percent of the total recreational expenditures for the region. Those purchases resulted in about 1,100 jobs in 2012, $125 million in sales impacts and $81 million in value-added impacts. That category included boat expenses, vehicles, second homes and fishing tackle.
From 2003 to 2012, recreational rockfish, halibut and lingcod catches increased, while sockeye and king salmon catches decreased, according to the report.
Both recreational harvest and release of kings decreased from 2003 to 2012, with about 63,000 harvested and 62,000 released in 2012 compared to 96,000 and 105,000 in 2003. Silver harvest and release numbers saw an even bigger decrease, from 263,000 harvested and 50,000 released in 2012 compared to 537,000 harvested and 156,000 released in 2003.
At the same time, more rockfish were harvested, although fewer were released, from 2003 to 2012.