Report: Increase in Alaska commercial fisheries landings despite nationwide decline
A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a slight decline overall in the United States’ commercial fishing industry, but one state – the Last Frontier – stands far ahead of the rest.
The NOAA report, which include 151 pages of data on commercial fisheries landings nationwide for 2015, says there was an increase in pounds of fish landed across the United States by about 2.4 percent. However, there was a decrease in value of those fish by about 4.5 percent.
But in Alaska, it’s a different story. The Last Frontier led all states in both volume and value, with a 6 percent increase in the former and a 3 percent increase in the latter.
"It speaks both to the health of our resources in Alaska, where generally, most of our fish resources are healthy and in good shape," said Forrest Bowers, Div. of Commercial Fisheries Deputy Director. "I think it's overall an indicator of the general status of fisheries around the state."
Dutch Harbor remains a top commercial fishing post across the country, with 787 million pounds worth $218 million landed in 2015.
U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.7 billion pounds of seafood valued at $5.2 billion, NOAA said in the report.
“Continuing to maintain high commercial fish landings and values is good news for fishermen, fishing communities, and for the Americans who want sustainable, healthy U.S. seafood,” the report said. “We are seeing that responsible management is helping us ‘turn the corner’ toward more sustainable and profitable commercial fisheries.”
The top five states by volume of landings in 2015 included Alaska leading with 6 billion pounds; Louisiana in a distant second with 1.1 billion pounds; Virginia with 410.3 million pounds; and Washington and Mississippi with 363 million and 304.1 million pounds, respectively.
In value of landings for 2015, Alaska also takes the top spot with $1.8 billion; Maine follows with less than a third of that, at $588.3 million; Massachusetts took in $588.3 million in landings, while Louisiana saw $339.8 million and Washington recorded a mark of $274.1 million.
"It's overall an indicator of the general status of fisheries around the state," Bowers said.
But what does all of this say about the fishing outlook for 2017? Though the report came out only days ago, not much, according to Bowers.
"You know, it is older data, it's a couple years old," he said, "so not reflection necessarily of what's happening right now, but I think it does provide a good benchmark for comparison."
Still, Bowers said, most outlooks for this year are good. Certain salmon runs could be within the top five in volume as compared to decades past. Notably, salmon runs in Cook Inlet appear as though they will take a hit this year with a relatively significant decrease.
Last year's all-season salmon harvest for 2016 totaled 112.5 million fish, about 49 million less than the preseason forecast of 161 million. Compared to 2016, the projected 2017 commercial harvests are expected to be as follows, according to the Dept. of Fish and Game: 102.7 million more pink salmon; 12 million less sockeye salmon; 778,000 more coho salmon; and 1.2 million more chum salmon.
To view outlooks for specific areas across Alaska, head over to the Dept. of Fish and Game's website and check out the
which also includes a review of the 2016 season.
To view the original reports from the year 2015, including the NOAA report referenced above, click
Data is sourced from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Fishermen of Alaska.