Report: Alaska tops nation in total fishing volume for 20th year

  • With a near-record harvest of 3.4 billion pounds of pollock, Alaska topped the national landings for the 20th straight year according to the annual report from National Marine Fisheries Service. (Photo/Molly Dischner/For the Journal)

The annual report detailing national and regional economic impacts of U.S. fisheries totaled $9.6 billion in value in 2016 with Alaska as usual producing more than the rest of the nation combined.

Alaska produced 58 percent of all landings and for the 20th straight year brought in the highest volume, according to the 2016 Fisheries of the United States report by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The top spot for all ports in the nation went to Dutch Harbor, which brought in 770 million pounds with Alaska pollock accounting for 89 percent of that volume. Dutch Harbor also produced the second-highest value in the nation at $198 million, behind New Bedford, Mass, which reeled in 77 percent of its overall catch in sea scallops to account for its No. 1 spot in the nation at $327 million in value.

The Aleutians, where Trident Seafoods operates the largest processing plant in the nation on Akutan, was the second-ranked port by landings in the nation with 508 million pounds for $105 million. Kodiak was ranked No. 4 in landings with 417 million pounds and a value of $109 million.

The report on landings of Alaska pollock, 3.4 billion pounds, increased from 2015 numbers. That fishery brought in 336.2 million pounds more than the previous five-year average.

By volume, the nation’s largest commercial fishery remains Alaska pollock, which showed near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds. That represents 35 percent of the total U.S. commercial and recreational seafood landings.

Alaska led all states in volume with landings of 5.6 billion pounds. The lineup shows Alaska was followed by Louisiana, 1.2 billion pounds; Washington, 551.9 million pounds; Virginia, 363.3 million pounds; and Mississippi, 304 million pounds.

Alaska led all states in value of landings with $1.6 billion followed by: Maine, $633.6 million; Massachusetts, $552.2 million; Louisiana, $407.2 million; and Washington, $321.0 million.

Under the review of major species, the count of Pacific cod landings was 708.6 million pounds, an increase just more than 1 percent from 699.1 million in 2015 to 708.6 million in 2016. Rockfish landings were down by 12 percent between the two years at the catch of 42.3 million pounds and valued at nearly $16.8 million, down by nearly 13 percent from 2015.

Halibut landings in the Atlantic and the Pacific were 25.2 million pounds valued at $127 million, an increase of 3 percent or 627,000 pounds over 2015.

The Pacific halibut accounted for all but 285,000 pounds of the 2016 total halibut catch. It brought in 6 percent higher value at $5.05 per pound, compared with $4.86 in 2015.

Alaska brought in 97 percent of all U.S. commercial salmon landings, but the catch volume was down by more than 47 percent, a decrease of 505 million pounds compared with 2015.

By salmon species, there was a decrease of nearly 2.8 million pounds of sockeye; chinook salmon decreased by 6.2 million pounds; and pink landings were down by 79 percent at 477.2 million pounds less than 2015. But coho landings had increased by 20 percent or 5 million pounds. Average prices per pound increased to 70 cents in 2016, almost 30 cents higher than 2015 prices.

The 2016 pink salmon numbers widely missed the forecast and Gov. Bill Walker sought and received an economic disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce, but so far Congress has not appropriated any funds for it.

Julie Speegle, the public information officer for National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region in Juneau said Alaska had a 7.5 percent decline in salmon landings overall by volume from a record 2015 harvest.

“Much of this decline is accounted for by the expected large decline in the cyclical pink salmon harvest in 2016,” she said.

Other highlights from the report show Alaska landings were almost 542.6 million pounds valued at almost $380.5 million. This was a decrease of 498.2 million pounds, or 48 percent, and almost $32.7 million less, or nearly 8 percent, in value compared with 2015.

Salmon catches and prices rebounded in 2017, with a catch of 213 million fish, beating the state forecast by 9 million. The state sockeye catch was more than 50 million fish for the 10th time in state history and Alaska saw one of the best chum salmon harvests ever at 22 million fish.

Under stocks of interest, the Pacific herring harvest of 52.3 million pounds was valued at $5.5 million but that fishery saw a decline of 24 percent overall in 2016. Alaska accounts for 99 percent of the Pacific coast herring catch and saw a decrease of 16.6 million pounds or 24 percent compared with 2015.

In the employment sector, there were 9,788 jobs at 160 processing plants in Alaska.

Among recreational anglers in Alaska, 319,000 people took more than 632,000 trips in 2015 and caught a total of 2.6 million fish. Catch included halibut, rockfish, Pacific cod, lingcod and salmon. Coho and chinook salmon were the most abundant in the catch numbers.

Economic impact numbers will be released by NOAA in an upcoming economic report, available at


Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected].

11/08/2017 - 10:32am