Latest McDowell Group seafood report shows job growth

  • In this July 30, 2012 photo, workers clean fish as they move along a conveyor belt at Alaska Glacier Seafood Co., at Auke Bay. According to the McDowell Group, the seafood industry accounts for about 20 percent of Alaska’s 465,000 private sector jobs, with $2.1 billion in labor income and $138.6 million in taxes and fees paid to local, state, and federal government. Photo/Becky Bohrer/AP

Harvesting Alaska seafood ranks between oil and tourism in economic impact, according to a new report detailing on the commercial fishing industry.

The Juneau-based economics firm McDowell Group released an updated study on the economic impacts of the commercial fishing industry on Jan. 19. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a private-state collaboration designed to increase Alaska seafood’s worldwide value, contracted the report.

According to the report, seafood created 41,100 full time equivalent jobs and $2.1 billion in labor income between 2013 and 2014; 17,600 of the total were Alaska resident commercial fishermen, who took a total ex-vessel income of $735 million in 2014.

The report found a growth in seafood employment from 2010-14, with more resident fishermen, processors, and total earnings and harvest levels. In 2014, the state had 500 more seafood jobs than 2010, representing a $24 million payroll growth.

Alaska is the country’s largest seafood producer, and hauling in fish, as well as processing and selling them, creates the largest source of direct private employment in the state.

Fisheries data can be hard to nail down, with swings in employment and harvest from year to year. The updated report takes the yearly averages from both 2013 and 2014 to smooth the data.

The report did not examine the economics of sport fishing or subsistence fishing.

The North Pacific is home to some of the most verdant marine ecosystems in the world, and the proof lies in harvest statistics. Sixty percent of the nation’s seafood landings — more than every other state combined — come from Alaska waters. The state exports more seafood than any other product, renewable or non-renewable. If Alaska were its own country, it would rank sixth in the world for seafood exports.

Production continues to rise. The 2014 seafood harvest totaled $1.9 billion in dockside prices. The resulting processed products raked in $4.2 billion on the wholesale market. The rising value comes mostly from the fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, or BSAI.

“Harvest and wholesale values have risen substantially (27 and 24 percent, respectively) in the last five years in the BSAI region,” the reports reads, “by far the most of any region in Alaska. Without these increases, statewide values would be roughly flat over the time period.”

The revenue has benefits for the state.

“Commercial fishing and processing businesses pay substantial taxes and fees to operate in Alaska, including more than $138.6 million in 2014,” the report reads.

The large-scale fisheries output isn’t localized only in the Last Frontier. Supply chains and retails operations add up to a sizable national economic base resting on North Pacific fisheries. Alaska’s seafood industry creates 111,800 full time equivalent jobs nationally, with $5.8 billion in labor income and $14.8 billion in total economic output.

Salmon and pollock  run the show

Alaska’s salmon is the ocean’s North Slope, as far as economic impact goes.

“Salmon is still king in Alaska,” reads the report. “By all measures, salmon are responsible for the greatest economic impact (jobs, income, and total value) among all species in the Alaska seafood industry. Salmon’s total contribution to the national economy includes approximately 38,400 (full time equivalent) jobs and just under $2 billion in annual labor income.”

On the opposite end of the price spectrum is pollock, which lacks salmon’s fine dining appeal but compensates with versatility and sheer volume; the fish is the largest volume seafood harvest in the nation.

“As the largest single species U.S. fishery, by volume, Alaska pollock is a close second,” reads the report. “Much of pollock’s value is added through processing, which occurs both shoreside and at-sea. Pollock’s national economic impact includes an estimated 29,300 (full time equivalent) jobs and $1.5 billion in labor income.”

Salmon and pollock make up the bulk of Alaska’s seafood value, but the expensive delicacies carry their weight in spite of lower volumes harvested. Alaska crab, which commands high prices in both domestic and international markets, accounts for 14 percent of the harvest value. Another 10 percent of harvest value owes to halibut and black cod. 

Alaska’s top five seafood landings areas display the diversity of fishermen’s business operations.

Dutch Harbor, the highest valued area, landed $450 million in wholesale value of groundfish and crab in 2014. Kodiak’s crab, groundfish, and salmon-based landings came in second at $284 million, and the largely sockeye-based Naknek processors — situated in Bristol Bay, the world’s largest sockeye run — third with $254 million. Cordova and Sitka netted $174 million and $129 million, respectively, of those area’s primarily pink, chum, and sockeye salmon, halibut, and black cod fisheries.

Southeast Alaska has the largest private employment

Fishermen can take a moment to feel pleased that BP’s layoffs and the state hiring freeze don’t touch the seafood industry. Oil and gas employ more people than the seafood industry because of the massive secondary impacts, but seafood employs more people directly than any other private industry in the state.

One fifth of Alaska’s private sector economy is seafood-based, whether as crew for a fishing vessel, on a processor’s slime line, or at the retail level.

Because fishing jobs are mostly seasonal, McDowell Group economists use the metric “full time equivalent” jobs to measure employment.

In Southeast Alaska, fishing is the top job creator. In terms of workforce size – nearly 10,000 full time equivalent jobs – seafood is the largest private sector employer in the region. Southeast Alaskans own more commercial fishing vessels, and have more shore processors, than any other Alaska region. Salmon reigns in Southeast; 72 percent of the regions wholesale value comes from salmon.

Southeast has more direct employment from fishing, but Southcentral has more resident commercial fishermen. One-third of Alaska’s resident commercial fishermen live in Southcentral, more than any other region with 7,000 full time equivalent jobs considering secondary impacts. In Southcentral, 86 percent of the total wholesale fisheries value is from salmon.

Kodiak, which hosts 10 different processors for its diverse fisheries, is the third largest commercial fishing port in the U.S. by volume and ex-vessel value. 5,150 direct jobs in fishing, processing, and support come from the region, and 8,350 full time equivalent jobs total considering secondary impacts.

The Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands region holds 10,300 full time equivalent jobs, half of which are related to the processing. 53 percent of the region’s value comes from pollock

Bristol Bay totals 4,650 full time equivalent jobs, and is almost entirely dependent on salmon, with 96 percent of wholesale value in the region from salmon.

The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area, as one of the lowest density areas in the state, has only 860 full time equivalent jobs related to commercial fishing.


01/20/2016 - 1:57pm