FISH FACTOR: Strong crab catches, prices seen in Southeast, Bering Sea
Salmon will always be the heart of Alaska’s fisheries. That’s why many people think of summer as “the fishing season.” But that’s not the case.
The deep of winter is when Alaska’s largest fisheries get underway each year. On Jan. 1, hundreds of boats with hook and line gear or big pots will begin plying the waters of the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska for Pacific cod, rockfish and other groundfish. Then on Jan. 20, trawlers take to the seas to target Alaska pollock, the world’s largest food fishery with harvests near 3 billion pounds.
Crab boats are also out on the water for golden kings along the Aleutians and snow crab in the Bering Sea, Alaska’s largest crab fishery.
Early March sees the start of the eight-month long halibut and sablefish seasons. March also marks the beginning of Alaska’s roe herring circuit at Sitka Sound, and those fisheries continue for several months all the way up the coast to Norton Sound.
And while fresh Alaska king salmon is available from Southeast trollers nearly year round, mid-May marks the official start of Alaska’s salmon season with the runs of kings and reds at the Copper River. Salmon fisheries take center stage all summer and into the fall.
Mid-October brings another of Alaska’s fishing highlights — red king crab from Bristol Bay... and so it goes, on through the end of each year, along with too many other fisheries to name.
Southeast crabbers ended one of their best fall/winter Dungeness fisheries ever. The fishery, which began in October, produced 1 million pounds for the season, even with less gear on the grounds.
“The last two years, the catch has come in at half that,” said Adam Messmer, state assistant shellfish manager for Southeast, adding that 87 permits fished for fall Dungies.
The price averaged $2.53 per pound, similar to last year, bringing the value of the catch to over $2.5 million. The Dungeness harvest from the fall and summer fisheries totaled 2.6 million pounds, well above expectations.
Switching to the Bering Sea — snow crab pots are being dropped earlier than usual. The fishery traditionally gets going in mid-January. Two reasons: crabbers want to avoid getting closed out by sea ice — and strong demand for less crab is pushing the highest prices ever.
Contract prices for snow crab on its way to Japan were reported at $5.50 to $5.60 for smaller sizes and $6.10 for large crab. Alaska’s total catch is 54 million pounds, down 20 percent from last year. Prices to crabbers were still being negotiated, said Jake Jacobsen of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, a trade group.
Your fishing photographs could help promote Alaska seafood around the world! The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is again calling for images from Alaskan fishing families and fans that showcase our people, scenery and seafood.
Winners will be selected via ASMI’s Facebook “likes” in seven categories: Best Family or Kids photo, Old-school or Throwbacks, Fish, Scenic, Boat, Humor and Best Action photo. Top winners receives an Apple iPad, and an overall grand prize “Fan Favorite” wins a trip for two anywhere Alaska Airlines flies.
ASMI hopes to use the photos in its marketing to provide an intimate glimpse of life in the Alaska seafood industry, and showcase the natural beauty of our state.
“Who better to capture this environment than those who are immersed in it?” said Tyson Fick, ASMI’s communications director.
The deadline to enter is Feb. 2; winners will be announced Feb. 17. Get more info and upload submissions at http://photocontest.alaskaseafood.org or contact ASMI at email@example.com or (800) 478-2903.
Fish business tally
NOAA Fisheries plans to survey all U.S. seafood processors and bait-and-tackle shops during 2014. Responses from mail-in surveys will be used to measure the economic impacts of these fishing businesses. According to notices in the Federal Register, more than 2,500 tackle shops and 2,000 seafood businesses will be surveyed.
Owners of tackle businesses will be asked to “characterize and quantify their operational costs and sales revenue, in addition to describing their clientele.” Seafood processors will be asked for “plant characteristics, plant ownership, operating costs, capital costs, labor and revenue.”