Alaska Fisheries Report
KMXT by Jay Barrett – January 26, 2017
Coming up this week, a disaster is declared, a meeting is held, and what could the new president mean for the future of the Pebble Mine project? All that, and we meet a 100-year-old fisherman from Wrangell. We had help from KFSK’s Joe Viechnicki in Petersburg, APRN’s Liz Ruskin in Washington D.C., and KSTK’s Aaron Bolton in Wrangell.
Strong Fresh Salmon Prices, Alaska’s Historically Poor Pink Run Send Frozen Market to Record Level
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh – January 26, 2017
Prices for imported frozen salmon from Chile are now at all-time record high levels in January according to Urner Barry. This is a function of more limited farmed production from both Chilean and European suppliers, in addition to Alaska’s historically poor pink salmon run in 2016.
Average frozen salmon fillet prices for Chilean portions and fillets in the US market reached $6.56 per pound last week according to Urner Barry calculations. This is over a dollar higher from this item’s previous record high price, which was set in 2014.
Our chart shows both fresh and frozen salmon prices in the US trending in record high territory. The spread between the two markets is about $0.65 per pound. It’s just the second time in the last tens years that frozen prices have reported such a spread over fresh prices at the same time that both markets were trending at record levels. In most other cases the frozen market would incur similar premiums when the fresh market dipped.
But high global demand for salmon and a decline in farmed output in 2016 has continued to put upwards pressure on fresh salmon prices in the US market.
We’ve previously reported how a toxic algae bloom in Chile from the first quarter of 2016 cut the industry’s farmed output. This has been evident all year with imports to the US market down. Total fresh salmon imports from Chile are down about 4 million pounds through November.
Meanwhile, production issues in Norway and Scotland mostly from sea lice have also limited farmed production and availability.
But US demand for fresh salmon is strong and overall fresh salmon imports to the market are actually up about 10 million pounds compared to 2015. This has enticed farmed salmon producers in Chile to pump their limited production into the fresh sector.
At the same time, Alaska’s pink salmon run in 2016 was historically bad. Even though it was supposed to be a down year for Alaskan pinks, the wild run fell way short of its 90 million fish projection. The lack of Alaskan pinks pinched frozen salmon supplies and forced buyers both in the US and in other major markets, like Russia to seek an alternative in frozen Chilean product.
This explains why frozen Chilean salmon prices are trending at far a higher level in 2017. Fresh salmon demand has limited the available supply to produce more frozen product. This happened at the same time that Alaska’s pink salmon run was a major bust, which forced buyers to use Chilean salmon to fill their need for frozen product.
Pink salmon fishery declared federal disaster
The Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman – January 26, 2017
Nine commercial fisheries nationwide, including the pink salmon fishery in the Gulf of Alaska, have been declared a disaster by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, clearing the way for disaster relief assistance from Congress.
Pacific salmon market may remain unaffected by sea lice
They’re not being affected by the current epidemic
SeattlePI.com by Zosha Millman – January 25, 2017
The cost of Atlantic salmon is about to go up, thanks to a drastic rise in sea lice. Pacific salmon, meanwhile, probably won’t see the same.
B.C. government says Ottawa’s cuts left fish habitat unprotected
Vancouver Sun by Peter O’Neil – January 25, 2017
OTTAWA — Spending cuts since 2012 have left B.C. with “almost no” federal oversight of activities by corporations, municipalities and individuals that could damage or destroy sensitive fisheries habitat, the B.C. government has told MPs considering changes to the federal Fisheries Act.
Tumultuous Dungeness Crab Season Leads to Abundant Supply
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Susan Chambers – January 26, 2017
Calling the recent West Coast Dungeness crab landings a glut is too simple. Crab was everywhere: stacked in totes, chilled on vessels, stored in live tanks, cooked and frozen. Processors couldn’t keep up.
Deliveries spiked during nice weather immediately after a price settlement of $2.875 a pound between fishermen and processors in early January, when fishermen from California to Washington went fishing all at once. That was before a series of recent storms kept fishermen in, a de facto release valve that let the abundance of supply move through processing and shipping channels.
“I don’t know how many pounds (were landed),” Hallmark Fisheries Manager Scott Adams said. “It was a huge amount of pounds. Nobody in this industry could keep up with the onslaught.”
More than 8.8 million pounds have been landed so far in Oregon, with fish tickets still coming in, according to state managers. That’s led to a total value of more than $26 million and an average ex-vessel price of $2.91 per pound.
Some fishermen said they waited more than two days to unload, keeping the crab in their live tanks on the boats. Others used some chilled seawater and an abundance of ice. At the time, much of northern California, Oregon and Washington was in the middle of a cold snap.
“That saved our bacon,” Adams said. “It was so cold, the crab were asleep and not dead. Not a flake of ice melted; they were in a kind of suspended animation.”
Though a limited supply of live crab is getting to China — one of the most lucrative markets in the past that accepted quite a volume of live Dungeness — complications this year have stalled most shipments. Now all that volume is dumped on the domestic market. Processors said a lot of the crab is going to the freezer.
“Everyone started at once this year because of the strike, so they didn’t have enough totes to go around from coast to coast,” Dave Hubbard, captain of the fishing vessel Katrina, said in a Daily Astorian news story last week. “Westport (Washington) ran out of totes. Newport ran out of totes. We had to wait to offload because they didn’t have totes for us.”
Hubbard said the wholesale price of crab started at $3 last year and increased to $6 based on the demand of the Chinese, who he added bought about 35 percent of the catch on the West Coast. This year, he said, fishermen will be lucky if the Chinese buy 10 percent of the crab, meaning an increase in prices is much less likely.
“Boats that deal with live buyers – they don’t have any markets,” Adams said.
On top of perfect weather that enabled small and big boats to fish and crab pots loaded with crab, buyers in Westport, Washington, lost power for almost a day, Adams said.
Ocean Gold’s Al Carter said the power did go out for several hours but the company was able to get two generators running to keep the cold storage plant going and the processing facility as well.
“We were down to five totes on the dock,” Carter said, “with double shifts all the way through (the month). … It’s the best crab season I’ve seen.”
“Everyone’s jammed up,” Steve Fick, owner of Fishhawk Fisheries in Astoria, said last week in the newspaper.
On a recent morning, Fick said, he bought several thousand pounds or crab off a fishing boat that usually goes to Bornstein Seafoods, part of the way processors in friendly competition try to help each other and fishermen. With the amount of crab on the market, he said, processors might not do too well, either.
“Sales are tough,” Adams said, “but people are finding the right price point,” noting he’s trying to get in between opilio and other crab species. Most processors are still giving Dungeness away, he said, up and down the coast.
“After the strike, the weather was perfect,” he said. “Everybody went fishing. Everybody got crab. Normally you don’t see that.”
Carter, at Ocean Gold in Washington, said some of the bigger boats already have been out two or three days; he expects another big push of crab deliveries to arrive over the next week.
Marine Mammal Research News for January 2017
North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium – January 9, 2017
A Window to the Wild, Immense Gamble, Unique Collaboration, Critical Research
Labeling and Marketing
RFM report on Alaska salmon awaits comment
The Cordova Times – January 27, 2017
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute says the Alaska RFM certification craft assessment report for re-certification of the Alaska salmon fishery is now available for registered stakeholder comment.
Harvesting flatfish in the Last Frontier
Alaska Dispatch News Presented by Groundfish Forum – January 26, 2017
Docked in Seattle a few days after Thanksgiving, the F/T Constellation is still filled with the smell of coastal Alaska waters; briny ocean and fresh fish. It wafts up from the lower levels and covers the deck. The vessel has been scrubbed and scoured, but the aroma is impossible to shake.
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