Pinks credited for Alaska’s 
largest salmon harvest

Last modified: Thursday, March 06, 2014
Pink salmon are credited for creating Alaska’s largest salmon harvest ever, according to new figures from an organization that promotes Alaska seafood.

Preliminary 2013 figures from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute count 272 million fish caught. Of those, 219 million were pink salmon, also known as humpbacks.

The institute is a nonprofit partnership between the state and the seafood industry.

The salmon season last year was valued at an estimated $691 million. That’s second only to the $724 million harvest of 1988, the Juneau Empire (http://is.gd/vDqYNf) reported Monday.

The pink-salmon catch buoyed the 2013 numbers despite low figures for king salmon across the state, said area biologist David Harris with the state Department of Fish and Game.

“Often you’ll have a super-good return in one of the areas (of the state.) But I think we had a pretty good run across all the areas,” he said. “What really drove the record harvest was the number of pink salmon.”

Tyson Fick with the seafood marketing Institute said the hefty harvest will be a financial boost for fisherman and Alaska’s seafood industry as a whole.

Fick said product diversification has led to increased uses of pink salmon, which is not only canned but now it is often frozen, filleted and packaged into convenience meals.

“If you go back 10 years ago, 80 percent of pinks went into a can,” Fick said. “Now, it’s less than 50 percent.”

Fishermen have caught increasingly more fish since the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, which greatly expanded Alaska’s fishable waters, Fick said. In 1976, for example, Alaska fishermen caught about 25 million salmon, he said.

Salmon also have increased in value over the years, Fick said. Consumers in the past decade have been willing to pay more each year for salmon, especially pinks.

Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

Hawaii’s longline fishing boat owners expect their sales of ahi will drop by millions of dollars under an agreement in which the United States will reduce its longline tuna catch for three years starting in 2015.

U.S. longline fishing boats in the western and central Pacific must cut their catch of bigeye tuna by 10 percent, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/1d56Ya3 ). That will amount to at least a $10 million drop in bigeye tuna sales by 2017.

The catch limits were agreed to by the 27-member Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission last month in Cairns, Australia. The commission, of which the U.S. is a member, is a multinational group formed to promote sustainable fishing in the Pacific.

U.S. representatives to the commission argued for a higher limit but agreed to the reduction because it was in the best interest of the country, said Russell F. Smith, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for international fisheries.

Smith, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the measure helps to ensure that tropical tunas, including bigeye, are better managed by the commission.

Each of the major developed countries’ longline fleets agreed to a 10 percent reduction in their bigeye tuna catch, he said, except for China, which agreed to a 25 percent reduction.

China agreed to a larger cut to make up for reductions it was supposed to take in earlier years, observers said.

Longline vessels string a line in the ocean, ranging from one mile to 50 miles long, to catch fish. Nearly 90 percent of the bigeye caught by U.S. longline vessels is caught by Hawaii boats.

Hawaii Longline Association President Sean Martin, who was part of the U.S. delegation at Cairns, said he was disappointed with the commission’s decision.

Fishing industry officials said the U.S. has complied with ongoing conservation and management measures set forth by the commission through strict monitoring and enforcement agreements, a number of other nations either exceed quotas or do not monitor catches to the same level as the U.S.

Martin said in 2008 the commission set a limit of 204 for the number of purse seine vessels — which are large industrial ships that use giant nets to surround and capture schools of tuna — in the Western Pacific, but there are now more than 300. The U.S., he said, has kept its number of vessels to the 40 as agreed to in the 2008 measure.