ALASKA'S FISHING INDUSTRY
BACKGROUNDFACTSLINKS
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Fisheries

BACKGROUND

With over 3 million lakes, 3,000 rivers and 34,000 miles of coastline, Alaska is one of the most bountiful fishing regions in the world, producing a wide variety of seafood. All five species of Pacific salmon, four species of crab, many kinds of groundfish, shrimp, herring, sablefish, pollock, and Pacific halibut are all harvested from Alaska. The fisheries of Alaska are recognized as some of the best-managed fisheries 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. 

Alaska’s constitutionally-mandated commitment to sustainable management practices ensures that all Alaska commercially harvested seafood species in Alaska are sustainable for future, as well as current generations.

Alaska is the only state to have coastlines on three different seas: Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Over half of the nation’s commercially harvested fish come from Alaska, nearly four times more than the next largest seafood producing state. Eight of Alaska's ports consistently rate in the top 30 U.S. ports in terms of volume or value of seafood delivered. The City of Unalaska – Port of Dutch Harbor has ranked as the top port in the nation for 28 years in terms of seafood pounds harvested. 

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.

Fishing is the core economy for much of coastal Alaska where fish harvesting and processing often provide the only significant opportunities for private sector employment and where fisheries support sector businesses provide property and sales tax as the largest source of local government revenues. 

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FACTS & ECONOMIC IMPACT

  • Approximately 36,800 people worked in the seafood industry in 2018. There were nearly 25,000 processor workers in Alaska – 7,400 Alaskans and 17,450 non-resident.

  • The  seafood industry contributes more than $250 million in taxes and fees to the State, municipalities and a wide spectrum of state and federal agencies. 

  • More than 9,000 vessels are home-ported in Alaska and deliver fish to 87 shoreside processing plants.

  • There were 21,671 commercial crew licenses purchased in 2017 – 10,710 Alaskan residents and 10,534 non-residents.

  • Total 2018 harvest accounted for more than 61 percent of total U.S. seafood harvests.

  • In 2017, harvests of nearly six billion pounds of seafood worth $2 billion occurred. Pollock accounted for 57 percent of the volume caught and 22 percent of the value. Salmon ranked second in volume at 14 percent and was top in Alaska seafood value at 34 percent. Cod ranked third and accounted for 11 percent of the value while halibut, sablefish, and crab each accounted for one percent of the total volume and 12 percent of the value.

  • The U.S. is the largest market for Alaska seafood, followed by China, Japan, South Korea and the European Union.

  • Seafood has been and remains one of Alaska’s top export commodities. 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). 

  • 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 ongoing trade war. That included a 54 percent drop in Alaska salmon exports and a 49 percent decrease for crab sales to China. 

  • In 2019, Alaska harvests of salmon, crab, halibut, sablefish, and pollock are expected to increase, with declines for cod and rockfish.
     
  • All geographic areas of the state benefit greatly from the fact 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.

  •  Alaska’s state fish, the King salmon, can weigh up to 100 pounds.

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WEB LINKS

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SOURCES

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

 

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