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

Two crew men shovel a deck full of fish on board a large boat
Crew members Joe Johnson, left, and Derrick Justice shovel pollock on the deck of the Commodore as another crew member, Brian Hagen, holds the hose. (Photo by Nathaniel Herz / Alaska’s Energy Desk)

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

But the industry is still struggling with problems brought on and exacerbated by COVID-19, like supply chain issues and mitigation costs. That’s according to a new report from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the state’s seafood marketing arm.

“Our industry is still facing a lot of the challenges it faced both at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and even before that,” said Ashley Heimbigner, communications director for the institute.

She said this year’s report scrutinized numbers from 2019, since 2020 was such an anomaly.

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

Fishermen in Alaska’s fisheries earned a gross $636 million in earnings in 2019. And Alaska contributed 11% of the global supply of salmon.

Still, the report says farmed salmon outnumbers wild salmon 2.8 to 1.

The institute also analyzed preliminary industry data from 2021.

“In terms of differences between 2020 and 2021, we are seeing the price of Alaska seafood increase for the value of all of our stakeholders,” Heimbigner said.

That was true for the Cook Inlet fleet last year, where fishermen reeled more in salmon and higher earnings than they did in 2020, despite a continuing downward trend for the salmon fishery.

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