Final price information won’t be in from processors, buyers and direct marketers until next spring, but Alaska fisheries officials are already out with a preliminary ex-vessel estimate of $603 million for the 2011 commercial salmon season.
That makes the 2011 harvest the third most valuable one since 1975, behind the 1988 harvest that paid fishermen $724.6 million and 2010 harvest worth $605 million. Analysts are already expecting the 2011 harvest value to surpass that of a year ago.
Geron Bruce of the state’s Division of Commercial Fisheries notes that while the 176 million salmon harvested in 2011 – ninth largest since 1960 – came in short of the 203 million fish forecast, that high prices for all species pushed the value of the harvest to an extraordinary level.
The pink salmon harvest set an all time record with a value of over $170 million. Chum salmon fetched $93 million, the third highest value ever recorded. Sockeye salmon were worth almost $296 million, gaining a respectable sixth place among historic sockeye harvests. The Chinook and coho harvests, at $20 million and $23 million respectively, fell more toward the middle of their historic ranges.
Southeast Alaska took first place regionally in value, with its salmon harvest worth over $203 million, including $92 million from pink salmon and $65 million from chum salmon. Bristol Bay, which is usually the most valuable salmon fishery in Alaska, placed second with a harvest valued at $137 million. Prince William Sound placed third with a harvest worth $101 million, mostly from pink and sockeye salmon netted.
Strong returns of red salmon also made Cook Inlet and Chignik valuable fisheries, at $55.6 million and $23.8 million respectively in preliminary ex-vessel value.