Early reports suggest resurgence in salmon fisheries

Total seafood industry employment fell by 5 percent from 2015 to 2016

Early reports on the 2017 Alaska seafood harvest show record catches and large value increases for salmon harvests, suggesting resurgence in salmon fisheries that saw an employment drop of 6.4 percent in 2016.

Other catches, such as cod, appear weaker so far, according to a report on the state’s commercial fisheries in the November edition of Alaska Economic Trends, a publication of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Salmon harvesting employment, which represents the majority of commercial fishing jobs in the state, saw a loss of 323 jobs in 2016, as salmon fishing jobs declined in most regions, but grew slightly in Southcentral Alaska.

Overall salmon employment went from just over 5,000 total jobs in 2013 to 4,714 in 2016.

Meanwhile, noted state economist Joshua Warren, groundfish harvests that had spiked in 2014, subsided to typical levels in 2015 and remained at that level in 2016, except for Kodiak, where groundfish employment fell by 8.3 percent. Groundfish, mainly walleye Pollock and Pacific cod, lead the state’s fisheries for poundage and nearly half of the state’s catch value, and its share of both rose in 2016, the Trends’ article noted.

State labor economists get final employment data on the salmon harvest for the previous year in July of the following year and then process it for inclusion in the latest Trends update.

While the percentage of groundifsh in the state’s total catch grew from 78.5 percent in 2015 to 88.3 percent in 2016, salmon harvests have higher value per pound. Groundfish made up just 48.2 percent of Alaska seafood’s gross earnings, up slightly from 47.8 percent in 2015.

Groundfish harvesting represented 1,163 jobs in Alaska in 2016, compared to 4,714 jobs for salmon harvesting.

Crab harvest employment, which has grown in recent years, declined to 464 jobs in 2016, with fewer crab permits fished overall. Crab fisheries were down by 107 jobs, a loss of 18.7 percent. It was the lowest employment in that fishery since 2009 and below the 1d0—year average, with fewer crab permits fished overall.

Southeast Alaska lost fishing jobs overall for the third straight year in 2016. That region’s harvesting employment declined by 53 jobs to a total of 2,275 jobs, the report said.

Southcentral Alaska, including Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet salmon fisheries and a halibut fleet, saw the state’s second highest total employment in 2016 and was the only region to gain fishing jobs over the year.