ALASKA'S FISHING INDUSTRY
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Fisheries

BACKGROUND

With over 3 million lakes, 12,000 rivers, 6,640 miles of coastline, and 47,300 miles of estimated tidal shoreline, Alaska is one of the most bountiful fishing regions in the world, producing a wide variety of seafood. With a coastline longer than all other states combined, Alaska is the only state to have coast on three different seas: Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. It also boasts over 40% of the nation’s surface water. Overall, Alaska produces more than 60% of the nation’s commercial fisheries – a vast array of seafood, including all five species of Pacific salmon, four species of crab, Pacific cod, various types of groundfish, shrimp, herring, sablefish (black cod), pollock, and Pacific halibut are all harvested from Alaska.

The fisheries of Alaska are recognized as some of the best managed in the world, providing tens of thousands of seasonal and full-time jobs and a vital, long term economic engine for Alaska communities and the state. The seafood industry is one of the largest employment and economic drivers in Alaska, directly employing 56,800 people, creating an additional 10,000 secondary jobs, and producing more than $5 billion in economic activity in Alaska every year. 

Five of Alaska’s fishing ports consistently rank in the top 10 ports in the country in terms of volume of seafood landed. Dutch Harbor/Unalaska has taken the number one spot every year since 1996, landing 769 million pounds in 2017. In addition, Akutan, Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula (False Pass/Sand Point), Naknek, Cordova, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Petersburg are all in the top 20 for pounds landed in the U.S.

In terms of value of U.S. seafood landed, Alaska also holds 6 of the top 10 spots in the U.S., with Dutch Harbor/Unalaska consistently at second, with a value of $173 million in 2017. In addition, Naknek, Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula (False Pass/Sand Point), Akutan, Sitka, Cordova, Bristol Bay, and Seward are all in the top 20 for value of seafood landed in the U.S.  

Alaska’s success over time is due to its constitutionally mandated commitment to sustainable management practices, which ensures that all Alaska commercially harvested seafood species are sustainable for future, as well as current generations. Fishing resources are renewable due to responsible management, and it is the mission of both state and federal fishery management agencies to sustainably manage and maximize the economic benefits from these resources for generations to come.

Commercial fishing permit holders live in over 210 communities throughout the state and seafood is the core economy for much of coastal Alaska where fish harvesting and processing often provide the only significant opportunities for private sector employment. In addition, commercial fisheries provide the largest source of local government revenue in most fishing communities through state and local fish taxes, not to mention property, business, and sales taxes paid by processors, fishermen, and fisheries support sector businesses. Shoreside processors are typically the largest property taxpayer in a rural community. 

Alaska’s seafood industry directly and indirectly employs tens of thousands of individuals producing billions of pounds of seafood for Alaskans, the U.S., and the world. Commercial fishing permit holders and vessel owners are primarily small and family-owned business, supporting dozens of other service businesses such as hardware and marine suppliers, fuel distributers, air and water travel, barge lines, shipping, boatbuilders, hatcheries, restaurants, grocery stores, scientists, accountants, educators, and administrators. The seafood industry provides Alaskans and the public with critical access to local seafood through restaurants, grocery stores, and seafood markets. 

In addition, the volume and diversity of Alaska’s seafood make it a high quality, healthy, and desirable option for the world’s seafood consumers. Seafood is Alaska’s largest export, making up more than half of all export value. Investment in value added products, full utilization, and marketing serve to expand both domestic and foreign markets for Alaska seafood, which increases the value overall.The vast fishery resources of Alaska are of much importance to the economies of the state and the nation. These resources are self-renewing if properly managed, and it is the mission of both state and federal fishery management agencies to sustainably manage and maximize the economic benefits from these resources for generations to come.

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FACTS & ECONOMIC IMPACT

  • Alaska’s seafood industry creates $5.2 billion in economic value for Alaska annually and generates an additional $7.6 billion in value as industry income circulates throughout the U.S. economy. 
  • The seafood industry directly employs more workers than any other private sector industry in Alaska, with rural areas the most economically dependent. The seafood industry directly employed approximately 56,800 people and created an additional 10,000 secondary jobs in 2016. About 23,000 Alaska residents were directly employed by the industry in 2015/2016. Annual labor income generated by the seafood industry is $2 billion.
  • Over $146 million in commercial fishing taxes, fees, and self-assessments were collected in 2016. This resulted in more than $58 million being paid to state government, $46 million to over 50 Alaska local/municipal governments, $30 million to salmon hatcheries and $13 million to the federal government. 
  • Direct seafood industry jobs, 56,800:
    • Fishermen jobs, 29,200
    • Processor jobs, 24,500
    • Management & other jobs, 3,100
  • Seafood harvesters live in over 210 communities throughout the state. 
  • Seafood generates over 5 billion dollars in economic activity in Alaska annually.
  • More than 9,000 commercial vessels are home-ported in Alaska. 
  • There are more than 120 shoreside processing plants throughout the state. 
  • Seafood processing is the largest manufacturing sector in Alaska, accounting for 72% of Alaska’s manufacturing employment.
  • Total 2017 seafood harvest in Alaska was 6.4 billion pounds, accounting for more than 60 percent of total U.S. seafood harvests. This resulted in a harvest value (ex-vessel revenue, the price paid to fishermen at the dock) of nearly $2 billion to harvesters, and a first wholesale value of approximately $4 billion.
  • Salmon accounts for the majority of the value of Alaska seafood, while pollock represents the majority of the volume harvested.  
  • The U.S. is the largest single market for Alaska seafood, followed by China, Japan, Europe, South Korea, and Canada.
  • Seafood has been and remains Alaska’s top export, comprising over half of Alaska’s annual export value.  The export value over the past decade has averaged $3.3 billion annually. Alaska’s top exports are pollock, surimi, and fillets – a combined $845 million – and frozen sockeye salmon ($313 million). 
  • Alaska’s seafood industry has been disproportionately impacted by the ongoing trade war with China. Exports to China, which in 2018 accounted for 32 percent of Alaska’s seafood sales and 23 percent of the value, dropped 20 percent due to the ongoing trade war. That included a 54 percent drop in Alaska salmon exports and a 49 percent decrease for crab sales to China. 
  • In 2018, Alaska seafood maintained the No. 1 ranking for the third consecutive year as the most commonly named protein brand called out on restaurant menus, followed by Angus Beef.
  • The seafood industry provides an important “back haul” for shippers that otherwise primarily bring goods and supplies north to Alaska. One major shipping company has estimated freight rates to Alaska would be 10 percent higher without the back haul of seafood shipped out of Alaska. The majority of Alaskans are impacted by this important benefit. 
  • Alaska’s state fish, the king salmon, can weigh up to 100 pounds.
  • The tidal shoreline (at low tide) is estimated to be 47,300 miles. 

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WEB LINKS

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SOURCES

  • Alaska Department of Fish & Game
  • Alaska Department of Labor
  • Alaska Department of Natural Resources
  • Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
  • McDowell Group

 

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