Alaska Plunging fish tax payments raise concerns for coming years, Southeast officials say KSTK by Sage Smiley - February 12, 2021 Wrangell will receive considerably less in its shared fish tax payments this year than the city expected, city manager Lisa Von Bargen explained at an assembly meeting on Tuesday. https://www.kstk.org/2021/02/12/plunging-fish-tax-payments-raise-concerns-for-coming-years-southeast-officials-say/ Norton Sound red king crab GHL set at 25,152 pounds Cordova Times - February 16, 2021 Federal fisheries managers have set the guideline harvest level for the upcoming Norton Sound commercial red king crab fishery at 25,152 pounds. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2021/02/16/norton-sound-red-king-crab-ghl-set-at-25152-pounds/ Alaska’s Statewide COVID Response Decreases, Unalaska Returns to “High” Risk with 81 New Cases SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - February 15, 2021 While Alaska’s COVID Emergency Declaration expired at midnight yesterday, Unalaska’s Unified Command raised the local risk factor to “High” last Friday due to 81 new positive cases in the area, 79 of which are from “multiple shore-based processors and vessels in port.” Meanwhile, Trident Seafoods issued a statement on Saturday indicating that a potential announcement for opening their Akutan plant could be coming this week. That plant, the largest seafood processing facility in the nation, was closed January 21 for three weeks, but further negative tests have delayed opening. In the past ten days, 29 workers at the temporarily closed plant in Akutan were placed in isolation after positive test results or symptoms, according to the company statement. While antigen tests of Akutan workers showed zero new positive cases, “more sensitive" PC tests from earlier this week revealed two recent positive cases, the company said. Workers who tested positive in January but have passed Alaska and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are now eligible to return to work, Trident said. “Employees who have tested negative to ate will be released from quarantine when we can be sure they have not been exposed to the virus for 14 consecutive days,” Stefanie Moreland, Trident’s vice president of government relations said. “We will continue testing every 2-3 days until are confident that the virus has been eradicated form our facility. Test results will drive our restart date, expected to be announced soon with continued diligence.” Trident is relying on company facilities in St. Paul, Kodiak, and Sand Point as well as the mothership vessel Independence to compensate for the loss of processing capacity on Akutan. “Additional employees who have been in a monitored quarantine in Anchorage are standing by to support Akutan’s restart as soon as testing confirms the virus has been fully contained,” the company said. The company is using "survelliance testing" at its Alaska plants, which has resulted “in a small number” of positive cases. “This approach, in combination with careful symptom screening and ongoing monitoring, will prevent future outbreaks. There are no signs of active virus at these locations, as positive tests from our early surveillance testing have been from individuals who reported having the virus prior to employment this winter,” the company said. The F/T Island Enterprise was unable to return to fishing on January 28 when two workers exhibited symptoms upon arrival in Dutch Harbor. Undercurrent News reported last week that the F/T Kodiak Enterprise also had some positive cases aboard. Those crews who tested positive will remain in isolation until they are cleared by health protocols, the company said. “Pending final testing and screening results, both vessels are scheduled to depart fo the Bering Sea this weekend,” it said. The state’s declaration of an emergency was allowed to expire by both the Legislature and the Governor. The Anchorage Daily News reported that the “January declaration expired at midnight Sunday morning after a dysfunctional Alaska Legislature failed to renew it. Dunleavy, who had said an extension was up to lawmakers, declined to issue a fifth declaration of emergency.” This makes Alaska the second state to lack a statewide COVID-19 emergency, with Michigan being the first. In that state however, “local officials and the state’s health commissioner have issued separate declarations of emergency to fill the gap, but much of Alaska lacks a local government with health powers, and the health commissioner here lacks the power to take widespread emergency action,” reported the ADN. Two of the biggest result of letting the emergency expire are 1) no mandatory testing at the Anchorage airport for visitors and 2) the state has lost a third of its $23 million monthly food stamp aid from the federal government. Voluntary testing, conducted and paid for by the state of Alaska, will still be available at the Anchorage airport. “With no disaster declaration, we have no authority to do the mandatory testing anymore,” Commissioner Adam Crum said about impacts at state airports. The state has hired testing teams under contract through June 30, and the state has been working on new instructions for those teams since Friday night, Crum told ADN. Heidi Hedberg, director of the Alaska Division of Public Health, told ADN’s James Brooks that it’s important that people take advantage of the optional testing so the state knows when and if new COVID variants arrive in the state. Those variants may spread more easily than older strains. “The importance of keeping these variants out of our state for as long as possible is really critical,” said Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer. https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1192002/Alaskas-Statewide-COVID-Response-Decreases-Unalaska-Returns-to-High-Risk-with-81-New-Cases National Fish Factor: CDC edict says fishermen must be masked Cordova Times by Laine Welch - February 16, 2021 Fishermen must wear masks while they are underway, even while sleeping, and the Coast Guard intends to enforce it. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2021/02/16/fish-factor-cdc-edict-says-fishermen-must-be-masked/ Federal Register Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2021 Harvest Specifications for Pacific Whiting, and 2021 Pacific Whiting Tribal Allocation A Proposed Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 02/16/2021 NMFS issues the proposed rule for the 2021 Pacific whiting fishery under the authority of the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Pacific Whiting Act of 2006, and other applicable laws. This proposed rule would allocate 17.5 percent of the U.S. total allowable catch of Pacific whiting for 2021 to Pacific Coast Indian tribes that have a treaty right to harvest groundfish, and implement set-asides for Pacific whiting research and incidental mortality in other fisheries. The proposed measures are intended to help prevent overfishing, achieve optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are based on the best scientific information available. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/02/16/2021-02814/magnuson-stevens-act-provisions-fisheries-off-west-coast-states-pacific-coast-groundfish-fishery Opinion The Winding Glass: U.S. Seafood Market Firing on All Cylinders Raising Global Market Share SeafoodNews.com by John Sackton - February 12, 2021 [The Winding Glass is the commentary and opinion column by John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews] All of us have been amazed at the strength exhibited by frozen food, and in particular frozen seafood during the pandemic. Rather than the collapse of foodservice leading to less consumption, American consumers used money they saved by not eating out to increase their share of higher end retail seafood purchases. This was dramatically evident in the retail demand for crab and lobster, and it has been reflected in pricing. But another interesting thing is happening in the industry. On a global scale, the US is increasing its overall market share for some species. Shrimp and salmon make up about 45% of American seafood consumption of all fresh and frozen seafood. Salmon consumption remained flat in 2020, as shipments from Norway, the UK, and Faroes were all curtailed due to transportation disruptions. Chilean shipments increased 14%. The net result was no real expansion in the salmon supply. For 2021, salmon production is forecast to grow around 3% overall, with 6% growth forecast in Chile. If this materializes, US imports should rise again in 2021. Shrimp, though, had a spectacular year. Shrimp benefited from the shift to frozen seafood more than salmon, since shrimp is traditionally sold frozen. Secondly, there was a significant increase in cooked and prepared shrimp as consumers bought seafood that was easy to prepare or was pre-cooked like cooked shrimp, crab, and lobster meat and tails. At the same time, prices of shrimp came down throughout the year, as the US imported more shrimp than ever before. For 2020, overall shrimp imports increased 6.3%. The net result is that the US significantly increased its share of global shrimp production in 2020. Global shrimp production has been on a strong upward trend, which was only temporarily halted by the pandemic. Production is expected to be down about 9% this year, but forecast to rebound by 7% in 2021. Major US trading partners fared differently. India saw a big disruption in production, and a decline in sales to the US. Ecuador, which was hit hard by the corona virus in the early days of the pandemic, managed to increase its shrimp production overall. And the disruption of the Chinese market meant more shrimp from Ecuador came to the US. Overall, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Vietnam all increased sales to the US, making up for a shortfall from India, Thailand and Mexico. Using estimates from Intracen’s trade data, US market share for global shrimp was around 27% in 2019 and increased to 31% in 2020. For the major consuming regions, only the US saw a significant increase in shrimp imports.
Seafood Datasearch Estimates based on Intracen trade data
It is likely that an increase in US global market share also occurred in both crab and lobster.
During the first six months of 2020, the US dollar continued to trade at a high level compared to a basket of currencies, but in the last six months it has weakened a couple by a couple of percent. So in 2021, the strength of the US dollar will not quite be the same as in 2020.
But the strength of US consumers and the transition to retail seafood has offset this, so there is no reason not to expect for the coming year the US will continue to maintain its higher market share of global production for some of these frozen seafood items.
In my previous column on January 28th I wrote that supply disruptions could occur in 2021. Supply disruptions can occur from both production and distribution issues. We are already seeing problems with A season Alaska pollock. New virus strains could also upend plans to normalize economic life in countries such as Chile and the UK.
When supply disruptions occur in a weak market, they are not as significant because they help stabilize pricing. But supply disruptions in a strong market can cause prices to overheat. Just like the broader economy can go from boom to bust due to overheating, so can our US seafood sector.
This expansion of US global market share for shrimp and crab does not insulate us from price shocks, but instead could lead buyers to overestimate their customers’ ability to absorb higher prices.
In the second half of this year we are likely to see a transition back to stronger foodservice sales, and prices that seemed affordable at retail when customers had essentially no entertainment or dining out budget may look quite different when they have the opportunity to spend again at restaurants and bars.
At the same time, in Europe and Asia countries that have been behind the US in terms of eocnomic recovery may begin to catch up. The Japanese are apparently increasing their crab purchases over 2020. So there may be a general increase in demand across all regions.
For that reason it is not clear that US global market share will continue to grow in the face of increased pricing pressure, and it makes us vulnerable to over confidence.
We have had a remarkable year, but that is no guarantee of a repeat.
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