The 2023 Copper River Salmon season will be celebrating its 40th anniversary as a fishery with a fleet consisting of nearly 540 fishermen according to the Prince William Sound Marketing Association.
But this year will also be somewhat different from years past with Alaska Airlines phasing out its “Salmon Thirty Salmon” Boeing plane, effectively ending the life of the nearly 20-year-old flying icon and the longtime event of flying the first Copper River catches to Seattle chefs to open the season.
Instead early next week companies are planning to put on their own smaller events as a way to spread the word to US chefs that the fish that can sometimes cost up to $1,000 per fish, is finally available.
Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, the largest seafood company in North America, will be participating in a "similar" but "limited scale" event on May 16 to welcome the first salmon at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with Alaska Air cargo following the May 15 opening day, Trident Seafoods Vice President of Global Communications Alexis Telfer told IntraFish.
Some Trident top executives will be in attendance, as will celebrity chef Tom Douglas.
Copper River Seafoods is also working on a separate event in Alaska for its Anchorage "First Fish" event with Alaska Air Cargo this year.
Christa Hoover, executive director of Copper River Prince William Sound Marketing Association, told IntraFish this year she has been particularly focused on a history project delving into the long history of the fishery.
The micro-page built on the marketing association's main website details how the fleet pivoted from using the salmon in canneries to fresh fish, becoming one of the most sought-after fish by US chefs today.
Copper River's marketing story is one of the most notable successes in the US seafood industry.
Regardless of what type of plane will bring in the fish following the opening day, excitement among buyers is already starting.
John Weise, co-founder of Cordova's fishermen-owned 60 North Seafoods, told IntraFish the salmon from the first opener are likely to sell out no matter what advertising does or doesn't happen.
"We just have a dozen markets who want to buy the fish," he said. "We can send it anywhere."
Weise predicts that with the colder weather and ice not yet breaking up yet, the winter conditions in the fishery could make for a slower opening day.
"It needs to warm up a bit," he explained. "That's when the river level starts coming up, and that's when the run comes."