Oregon Fisheries Net More Value in 2011 Harvest, prices were up for most commercial fishermen

By Terry Dillman

More seafood, far more value.


That sums up the 2011 season for most Oregon fisheries, according
to Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) officials and a consortium of
four Oregon seafood commissions. 
Nick Furman, director of Seafood Oregon – a consortium featuring
the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission (ODCC), Oregon Trawl Commission
(OTC), Oregon Salmon Commission (OCS) and Oregon Albacore Commission
(OAC) – said the state’s commercial seafood and fishing industry had an
outstanding year, in fact the best in 23 years, with overall harvest
value exceeding $145 million for all Oregon fisheries.
Both the amounts harvested (285 million pounds of fish and
shellfish, up substantially from 216 million pounds in 2010) and dollar
value were the best in nearly three decades. But the real key, at least
for fishermen’s economic survival, lies in the dollar value. 
“We remind fishermen that it’s not the pounds of fish that you
take to the bank,” Furman noted. “It’s the dollars you take to the
The influx gave the state’s struggling coastal communities a
much-needed boost, say ODA marketing experts, who have worked diligently
for years to promote Oregon seafood in various export markets. 
Among them are the researchers with the Oregon State University
(OSU) Extension Service, Oregon Sea Grant, and Hatfield Marine Science
Center (HMSC), the university’s campus for research, education and
outreach in marine and coastal sciences located in Newport’s South Beach
district. With its annual budget of almost $46 million, 300 university,
state and federal employees, and 150,000 visitors to the education
outreach and free-choice learning center, HMSC plays a key role in
Oregon’s coastal economy.
Much of the impact is in the seafood industry, where research
efforts aim to keep seafood harvested off Oregon’s shore fresh, safe,
plentiful and sustainable.
For example, food technologists developed a thin edible
protective film to coat fish fillets and keep them fresh much longer.
OSU researcher Jae Park has helped surimi – low-value fish processed
into a high-value seafood product used to imitate crab and scallops –
become an international commodity, which has helped revitalize fisheries
in Oregon and beyond. And the Community Seafood Initiative (CSI) in
Newport supports the commercial fishing industry and coastal communities
by providing access to applied research and capital via a non-profit
organization led by Executive Director Heather Mann and a nine-member
“We believe a knowledgeable industry is a powerful industry,”
said Mann. “Listening to and providing seafood industry representatives
and businesses with access to credible and accurate information allows
them to not only better position themselves competitively, it also
allows them to make proactive strategic decisions rather than
reactionary choices.”
Among other things, CSI helps preserve seafood-related working
waterfronts, offers value-added product development services, and
operates the FishTrax program – a pioneer effort that uses an electronic
fishing information system to deliver essential information to key
markets and consumers. 
Fishermen must still harvest and the prices must be right to make their efforts worthwhile.
Marketing experts consider the 2011 numbers even more impressive
given the fact that Oregon fisheries are harvesting seafood in a widely
recognized sustainable way. Four of those fisheries – Dungeness crab,
albacore tuna, pink shrimp and Pacific whiting – have earned
certification from the international Marine Stewardship Council,
indicating they are well managed and environmentally neutral, thus
ensuring sustainable harvests.
Many fishermen say Oregon’s territorial sea is the healthiest they’ve seen in years, perhaps decades.

“While the volume of fish coming in has increased, it hasn’t been
at the expense of healthy fisheries and the stocks available,” said
Furman. “All this speaks well for the health of the ocean, it speaks
well for the management schemes presently in place that ensure we have
sustainably-harvested stocks. The result is the increase in pounds of
fish harvested and dollar value.”
The $145 million gleaned in 2011 easily bested 2010’s $105
million, and stood about 44 percent above the annual average for the
past decade.
Most Oregon fisheries netted higher prices and had higher catches. 
Pink shrimp fishermen finished with their best season since 1992,
hauling in 48 million pounds of high-grade shrimp with a to-the-fleet
value of $24.6 million. While the catch benefitted the fishermen and
processors, it also supplied a growing demand for exports, bringing
added revenue to coastal communities. With about three months still to
go in the season, Dungeness crabbers have already netted $44 million as
export demand in Asia boosted ex-vessel prices to “unheard of levels,”
reaching a record-high average of $3.37 per pound, easily besting last
year’s $2.30 average, said Furman. 
“The big story right now is definitely price,” he added. “Oregon
is doing something right, and it is represented by healthy stocks, good
volume and prices that are going through the roof because of the global
economy and worldwide demand for seafood.”
Price also boosted the fortunes of the albacore tuna fishery,
which brought in an average haul of 9.5 million pounds, but fetched a
33-year high of $18.7 million as high demand drove market prices
Not everyone prospered.
At 2.4 million pounds, salmon landings were well below
expectations – even somewhat less than 2010, which was another dismal
year for salmon trollers. Prices were slightly higher than 2010, but
fishermen said they weren’t high enough to make up for lack of fish.

“Everyone was optimistic, but the fish simply didn’t show up as
much as expected,” Furman said. “Last year was the first time in several
years that trollers got to fish the Oregon coast for salmon.” This
year, he noted, looks more promising, with higher harvest quotas and
high fish numbers.
The sardine fishery also dropped, as Oregon landings were well
below the norm, bringing a harvest value of $3.2 million – well below
the $5.3 million in 2010. 
Overall, however, 2011 proved quite profitable for Oregon
fisheries ports and coastal communities, and Furman said they’re “seeing
evidence of the same level of activity” in 2012. 
Terry Dillman can be reached at tdwordwright@gmail.com