Alaska salmon shortage pushing prices up

The total Alaska salmon harvest is coming up short this season, with lower than anticipated supplies of sockeye, kings, and pinks. The shortage is expected to drive up salmon prices for the remainder of the season.

As of 7 July, fishermen netted 20.93 million sockeye (red salmon), or 61 percent of this season’s forecast, according to consulting and strategic planning company and Northwest Fisheries Association member, Nickinovich & Associates.  Kings are coming in at 44 percent of the season’s forecast so far, at 165,000 fish as of 7 July, while pinks have reached only eight percent of the season’s forecast at 9.52 million, coho have reached two percent of the forecast at 88,000, and chum is at 33 percent of the 2013 forecast with 7.4 million fish landed.

“We will once again see reversal of pricing fortunes as soon as wild starts to dwindle,” Harry Mahleres, director of purchasing for Seattle Fish Co., told SeafoodSource.

“Unlike last year, prices have stayed firm. The difference this year is that there is no frozen stock of sockeye. The EU canning market is strong, and there is not downward pressure from farm-raised fish,” Mahleres said.

In addition, most major U.S. retailers are running promotions on Alaskan salmon in July, as are numerous restaurant chains — driving up demand.

However, higher prices have not filtered down to dock prices for fishermen to date. Prices in the Southeast region average USD 4.49 (EUR 3.44) per pound for chinook, USD 1.29 (EUR 0.99) a pound for coho and USD 0.61 (EUR 0.47) per pound for chum, according to the ADF&G.

“The thing we haven’t seen yet as fishermen, is the spike in the market that we are supposed to get. The season is still going, but it is winding down quickly and no one is talking about a huge spike in the ground price,” a fisherman that did not wish to be named told SeafoodSource.

While salmon supply is coming up short in many regions of Alaska, the Copper River is yielding higher supplies than anticipated.

“At this point, we have landed 1.5 million pounds of sockeye. The forecast was for 1.3 million pounds, and we have a couple more weeks of the sockeye harvest,” Jeremy Botz, area management biologist for the ADF&G, told SeafoodSource.

Around 8,600 pounds of king salmon have been landed from the Copper River and the total forecast is around 13,000, according to Botz. “Kings are lower than expected, but we should make our escapement goal this year,” he said.


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