Alaska seafood showing ‘partial recovery,’ says state seafood marketing arm

Two crew members shoveling a deck full of fish on a large boat
Crew members Joe Johnson, left, and Derek Justice shovel a Bullock onto the Commodore’s deck while another crew member, Brian Hagen, grabs the hose. (Photo by Nathaniel Hirs/Alaska Bureau of Energy)

Things were looking up for the Alaskan seafood industry in many ways in 2021. More people around the world took to buying and cooking seafood at home and seafood prices were soaring statewide.

But the industry is still struggling with the problems it causes and has been exacerbated by COVID-19, such as supply chain issues and mitigation costs. That’s according to a new report from the Alaska Institute of Seafood Marketing, the state’s seafood marketing arm.

“Our industry still faces many of the challenges it faced at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and even earlier,” said Ashley Hempegner, director of communications at the institute.

She said this year’s report thoroughly examined the 2019 numbers, since 2020 was such an anomaly.

The report found that seafood created the third-highest number of jobs of any industry in the state that year, after oil and gas and tourism, and generated the second-highest labor income. Most of the workers were concentrated in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Bristol Bay area.

Fishermen in the Alaskan fishery generated total profits of $636 million in 2019. Alaska contributed 11% of the global salmon supply.

However, the report says farmed salmon outnumber wild salmon by 2.8 to 1.

The institute also analyzed raw industry data from 2021.

“In terms of differences between 2020 and 2021, we are seeing higher Alaskan seafood prices for all of our stakeholders,” Heimbigner said.

This was true for the Cook Inlet fleet last year, with fishermen making more salmon and higher profits than they did in 2020, despite the ongoing downward trend of salmon fisheries.

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