Strong global and US demand for sockeye salmon pushed prices to near record highs and increased fishermen’s paychecks.
A few weeks ago, Silver Bay and Peter Pan Seafoods increased their base prices for fishermen to $ 1.45 a pound, a 20-cent increase from the summer, and other Alaskan businesses should follow suit. This compares to a final price in 2020 of just $ 1.06.
“Obviously, the base price is announced earlier in the season. Now that we can see where the sales are going and really have a confident look, we are excited to celebrate this with our fleet, ”said Abby Frederick, spokesperson for Silver Bay, at KDLG in Dillingham.
The total Alaskan sockeye catch in 2021 was 57 million fish, with a preliminary value exceeding $ 361 million, or more than 56% of the total Alaska dockside value.
More than 42 million reds came from Bristol Bay, worth more than $ 248 million to fishermen before final settlements are paid out next year.
Most of Alaska’s fish come to market frozen, headed and gutted, and strong demand from global buyers has pushed wholesale prices for Bristol Bay sockeye this summer to $ 4.37 per pound, up $ 1.07 from last summer. Sockeye salmon fillets were wholesaling at $ 6.61 a pound and averaging $ 12.94 at retail counters this fall, up nearly a dollar from a year ago.
The market is tight, which points to increased demand, said Andy Wink, director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
The Bristol Bay sockeye comeback this year set a record, exceeding 71 million fish. The comeback is expected to be even greater in 2022 and could mean a capture of 60 million fish.
“It’s the biggest we’ve ever planned,” said biologist Greg Buck of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Wink told SeafoodSource: “If you line these fish nose to tail, that’s enough to circle all of Lower 48 twice.”
Fish Profile – Bycatch will continue to grab headlines as more Alaskans and lawmakers engage like never before. Much of the increased awareness can be attributed to a man of Homer.
“If we don’t take action and keep an eye on this now, who will?” It seemed like all of Alaska’s resources were endless for such a long time, but now we come to where the fishing is closed. It’s either step up or move away, ”said David Bayes, a longtime charterer who said waste and habitat damage from trawlers had caused him to step up.
Bayes used social media to educate more Alaskans via a Facebook page called “STOP Alaskan Trawler Bycatch” founded a year ago by Jody Mason of Whittier, who calls Bayes “an encyclopedia.”
“David Bayes helped move the bycatch discussion from one of the closed-door and buried information to Facebook posts and dinner-table conversations,” said Maddie Lightsey of Alaska Boats and Permits in her weekly report. Fish Ticket.
In 2020, the trawl industry in Alaska caught 92 million pounds of various species as bycatch, according to data from NOAA Fisheries.
Bayes is using numbers from NOAA’s fisheries managers on bycatch and excess fishing to make his case.
“Every week they’re updated and you can click and see what the new information is,” he said. “But I don’t think a lot of people did. Because once we started releasing these numbers, we ran into some trawl captains and crews and NPFMC affiliates who would say I was crazy. These numbers are too huge. And then you show them and say, well, these are your numbers.
Bayes also discussed how the numbers of excess catches are juggled and often do not add up.
“In the Bering Sea, for example, a fleet of processor trawlers exceeded its quota of Pacific cod by about five million pounds. You can see that progression over the year, these guys have gone over their cap, but they’re adjusting the quotas. And then, a few weeks ago, NOAA reallocated and simply erased this surplus on paper, ”he explained.
It was Bayes who pointed out this fall that trawlers in the Bering Sea are entitled to more crabs as bycatch than the crabbing fleet can take, even in the red king crab fishery which is closed for the first time. times in 25 years.
“It’s happened over and over again where the North Pacific Council system said, okay we’re going to shut down the directed fishery but the trawlers can’t help it because of the gear type and they have to have it. this quota, “he said. “It does so much to keep stocks from bouncing back. They’ve closed the directed fishery, but the trawler fleet continues to hammer it down and the little local boats just sit there, twiddling their thumbs and waiting.
The STOP platform has its detractors.
Heather Mann, director of the Oregon Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, said the site “has welcomed bomb threats against individual decision makers, fishermen using gear they don’t like and more misinformation on a very difficult subject that we have never seen ”. She added that the platform “has actively harbored and encouraged hatred for fisheries, groups and individuals. It is the antithesis of civilized discourse.
Dennis Moran is president of Fishermen’s Finest, the bottom trawl fleet that, starting in 2023, will have to cut its catch of millions of pounds of halibut bycatch for the first time.
[Fishery council approves new restrictions on Bering Sea trawl fleet’s incidental take of halibut]
Moran added, “The Facebook page had several posts calling for violence against the trawlers. If you speak on the page to share the truth and provide accurate sources of information, you are stuck. What Bayes publishes is either deliberately taken out of context or blatant misinformation and rhetoric. They allow personal attacks on Council members and others. Let’s really talk about bycatch and how it happens in every fishery and every type of gear.
Those criticisms are all wet, says State Representative Kevin McCabe of Big Lake, who calls Bayes an “honest broker.”
“He takes care to post links to his data and has often provided additional information,” McCabe said. “The discussion is complicated by the actors and powerful who seem determined to discredit any news or information provider that does not match the narrative they are trying to sell.
“I find ‘following the money’ to be the best way to determine the veracity of claims. When a fleet feels like it can waste $ 8 per pound of halibut on other fish that are worth pennies, it shows the level of money involved.
McCabe added, “They come to Alaska for basically Alaskan fish, they go after us so they don’t have to pay the very small landing tax required, and then throw out five times more fish than we’re allowed.” to be kept in state fisheries? And regulators seem to be colluding in hiding the real data and analyzing it to the public in different metrics.
“Half of the management board has ties to the trawler fleet that would make their participation in a state council a violation of state ethical laws. This level of Alaskan anger is not going to go away just because 20 boats docked in Seattle want it. “
Bayes said he knew the trawling industry was “not going away” but believed it was time to “hit the brakes”. Stakeholders must find better fisheries solutions as other states and countries have done, he said, before it is too late.
McCabe, who said he was also motivated by “the total waste of the resource,” added: “I can and will work with anyone to fix problems. But the first step in fixing any problem is to recognize that there is. I’m not sure the trawler fleet thinks there is a problem.
Correction: The column of the last week incorrectly indicated some catch limits and has been updated. The 2022 cod catch in federal waters of the Gulf of Alaska increased nearly 40% to 54 million pounds; pollock catches increased to 310 million pounds, an increase of 26%.