2020 commercial salmon catch, value took a dive

Final value of the fishery will be determined in 2021

Drift gillnetters line up in Egegik to deliver their 2020 catch of wild Alaska sockeyes to Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ tender M/V Baroness. The Bristol Bay catch was nearly 40 million fish. Photo by Shawn Dochtermann

Commercial salmon harvests proved challenging for the 2020 season, challenged by a global pandemic of the novel coronavirus, with the overall fish catch and its value down considerably from a year earlier.

Data released on Monday, Nov. 9 by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the all species harvest has an approximate value of $295.2 million, down 56 percent from $673.4 million in 2019. Fishermen delivered some 116.8 million fish, a 44 percent drop from the 208.3 harvested a year earlier, the report said.

Sockeye salmon accounted for about 59 percent of the total value of $174.9 million and 40 percent of the harvest at 46.1 million fish, with nearly 40 million coming from Bristol Bay.

Pink salmon accounted for some 21 percent of the value at $61.8 million, and 51 percent of the harvest at 59.4 million fish. Chums made up 9 percent of the value at $25.9 million and 7 percent of the harvest at 8.7 million fish, while cohos accounted for about 6 percent of the value at $18.2 million and 2 percent of the harvest at 2.3 million fish.

The Chinook catch, nearly 260,000 fish had an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $14.3 million. A total of 6,461 individual permit holders made deliveries in 2020 down an estimated 11 percent from 7,256 permit holders in 2019. Some permit holders chose not to fish during the 2020 season because of the higher cost of doing following required mandates, including protective gear and COVID-19 testing. Others opted out for the season because they were considered at high risk of catching the virus because of their age or medical conditions.

ADF&G fisheries officials said that when compared to the long term, 1975-2019, the 2020 commercial salmon harvest of 116.8 million fish is the 13th lowest on record. The all-species salmon harvest of 517.5 million pounds is the eighth lowest all-species salmon harvest recorded since 1975. When adjusted for inflation, the 2020 ex-vessel value estimate of $295.2 million is the lowest ex-vessel value reported since 2006.

ADF&G officials noted that these are preliminary estimates of the harvest and value of the catch in 2020. Dollar values provided by the state agency are based on estimated ex-vessel prices and do not include post-season price adjustments.

The final value of the 2020 fishery will be determined in 2021, after seafood processors buyers and direct marketers report the total value paid to harvesters.