Market Demand, Rising Costs to Play Role in 2023 Bristol Bay Prices

Image: Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Market demand for sockeye salmon is strong, but rising costs for harvesters and processors are expected to influence the ex-vessel price during the 2023 Bristol Bay season, according to Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) Executive Director Andy Wink.

Wink said while there’s strong demand overall, the cost of everything — from financing and carrying costs to labor, insurance and shipping — keeps rising.

Wink made the comments during an April 11 “Lunch and Learn” program presentation offered on the Bristol Bay campus of the University of Alaska in Dillingham, hosted by Marine Advisory Program Agent Tav Ammu.

Wink said he wasn’t about to predict the prices to be paid to fishermen this summer in Bristol Bay, with that task being best left for processors to decide.

On the bright side, the competition from competing proteins, including farmed salmon and beef production are predicted to be down, and the weaker U.S. dollar over the past six months has been good for exporters, Wick said.

In general, the Bristol Bay driftnet salmon fishery has fared well compared to other Alaska salmon fisheries, he added. The bad news, he said, is that wholesale prices for sockeyes have been down recently and there’s an increased chance of an inventory carry over from the huge 2022 salmon harvest.

Along with rising costs in the supply chain harvesters and processors, consumers are becoming very sensitive to inflation and consumer spending is a bit softer as consumers brace for inflation, he said.

“We are behind the pace of sales through 2021 and would like to see fish caught in 2022 converted into dollars,” he said.

Wink also predicted there would be more excess processing capacity in 2023, but said whether the wholesale prices come back up and to what degree will depend on how much salmon is sold.

“The long-term outlook is bullish, but supply and lower prices will create future demand,” he commented.

BBRSDA program manager Frances Bursch also spoke during the “Lunch and Learn” session, noting that this fall Bristol Bay set netters would vote on whether to join the BBRSDA, now in its 16th year of operation. At least 30% of all eligible set netters must vote and the majority of those voting must approve membership, she said.

Set netters would also vote for two members to serve on the BBRSDA board, she said.