Alaska salmon boasts Marine Stewardship Council label as a marketing tool

PHOTO/Rob Stapleton/AJOC

Alaska’s salmon industry could get a boost in domestic and world markets from several new and exciting fronts. Alaska salmon is the first U.S. fishery to get the nod from the Marine Stewardship Council, meaning it can boast a showy eco-label from that major environmental group.

The label assures consumers that Alaska salmon are harvested in a sustainable way from a healthy environment, and many businesses and chefs already are touting the label as a selling tool. Alaska salmon and other species may soon be able to boast the organic label when new standards are released, perhaps by the end of the year.

Market analyst Bill Atkinson said wild salmon is gaining in popularity at retail counters in Japan, where new labeling requirements now show whether the product is fresh or previously frozen, wild or farmed, and the area where it comes from.

"In viewing sales activity, consumer preference for wild salmon has become evident," Atkinson said.

Marketing coups

The marketing savvy surrounding Copper River salmon and Arctic Keta (chums) has scored high- end, niche markets that now account for 1 percent of the volume, and a whopping 10 percent of the statewide salmon value at the docks. Salmon fishermen and processors elsewhere are striving to mirror those successes by creating "branded" identities for top quality fish from their regions. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is again offering grant money to help those kinds of efforts.

Another innovative economic success that bears watching is Alaska’s Community Development Quota program. Since the inception of CDQs in 1992, almost 1,000 jobs have been provided annually for the residents of the 62 rural villages included in the program, with total wages topping $30 million.

"The total assets and number of people employed will continue to grow. Most of the groups have accrued enough assets to bring it home, and they’ve made the foray into local processing and marketing opportunities," said Kate Troll, fisheries specialist with the state Department of Economic Development.

The bigger picture

If Alaska were a nation, it would rank among the top 10 world seafood producers. No matter how badly fish politics and lawsuits gum up the works, Alaska’s seafood industry will continue to be one of the biggest players on our planet. That’s why it’s important to always look "beyond the docks" -- to take a longer-range, global view of the dynamics driving our industry and our markets.

Marketing consultant Howard Johnson believes it’s simply a matter of seeing it as "an ocean half full, or half empty." In his eighth annual "Report on the United States Seafood Industry," Johnson said that after crunching all the numbers, it appears likely that there are still growth opportunities for the U.S. seafood industry.

"A modest recovery of domestic capture fishery production, coupled with increases in aquaculture and net trade (more imports than exports) should maintain pace with population growth. ... The future looks promising for continued supplies to the U.S. market," Johnson predicted.

Any declines in capture fisheries will be offset by continued increases in aquaculture production, the report concluded.

11/06/2016 - 10:20pm