Peter Pan Seafoods Co. LLC is continuing to boost prices to harvesters in Alaska, this time with its announcement of a base price of $1.10 a pound for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.
Response to the announcement at a fleet picnic in Dillingham on June 19 was “overwhelmingly happy,” said Jon Hickman, vice president of operations for Peter Pan, a vertically integrated seafood firm which since January is under new ownership in Alaska.
“They are extremely pleased to have a number before they go out fishing,” Hickman said, adding that quality incentives for chilling and bleeding the salmon also remain in place.
Peter Pan said that the company posted the price early “to put the fleet at ease that they will receive a fair price for the long hours and hard work they are about to endure participating in the world’s largest sockeye fishery.”
This is the first time in many years that a major processor has posted a price this early in the season, with most waiting until the majority of the Bristol Bay harvest has been completed, the company said in a statement.
The Bristol Bay fishery officially opens in June, but the surge of millions of sockeyes into the Bay traditionally comes around the 4th of July. Other commercial salmon fisheries in Cook Inlet, plus the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak in the Westward region were also delivering in June.
Veteran Bristol Bay gillnetter Fritz Johnson of Dillingham said Peter Pan’s early price announcement was a positive step and that it was very bold of the company to announce the price at that date. Last year, with the novel coronavirus spreading throughout Alaska, driving the cost of doing business up for harvesters and processors alike, the base price was 70 cents a pound. Johnson also noted, however, that in 1988 Bristol Bay harvesters garnered $2.40 a pound for their sockeyes, and nothing has gotten any cheaper since then.
“It costs $10,000 to $15,000 just to float a boat,” Johnson said. “Flying crew in, feeding them, insurance, the inevitable repairs we have to deal with every year, and nets. Look at the price of lumber and steel. Everything is skyrocketing.”
Hickman said Peter Pan is also making a string of commitments after coming under new ownership in January, working to be a foundation for all fishermen, communities and the market.
In May, Peter Pan offered prices as high as $12.60 a pound for reds and $20 a pound for chinooks in the Copper River Flats fishery, and other processors promptly matches that price at the docks. By mid-June, Copper River sockeye fillets were selling quickly at Fred Meyer supermarkets in Anchorage for $27.99 a pound, but a week later the price for fresh Copper River red fillets at Costco in Anchorage was down to $15.99 a pound.
Hickman said Peter Pan’s new strategy includes producing more value-added products and exporting less work outside the U.S.