Alaska processors are paying fishermen up to 65 cents less per pound so far this season for Bristol Bay sockeye, with dismal foodservice sales worldwide and ongoing issues with coronavirus outbreaks at major processing facilities.

This week Trident Seafoods posted a base price of $0.70 (€0.61) per pound for sockeye. The posted sockeye base price is 48 percent less than last year’s average in Bristol Bay, which was $1.35 (€1.18), not including future price adjustments or bonuses.

North Pacific Seafoods also matched that price per pound for sockeye, the Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association President David Harsila confirmed with IntraFish. Peter Pan Seafoods has also matched that base price, and is offering $0.15 (€0.13) more per pound for chilled fish and an additional $0.05 (€0.04) per pound for its "premium chilled incentive."

"I am disappointed. Hard not to be," Tom Rogotzke, who catches and sells the Alaska salmon through his Minnesota-based company, told IntraFish. "We turn out a great product after working our tails off for a month and in return, we are told our efforts aren't worth as much as the previous years."

Factors that have shaped this year's shaky season include an overly-productive 2019 season with high prices paid to fishermen bumping up against the coronavirus creating strange market conditions for US seafood this season.

Andy Wink, president of BBRSDA voiced disappointment at the downturn, in a market where he sees demand "in pretty good shape."

"BBRSDA and Bristol Bay fishermen are surprised and disappointed with the recent price announcements from processors, he told IntraFish. "Together with processing and support workers, the fleet faced great uncertainty and danger from COVID to successfully provide the world with another big harvest of wild sockeye salmon."

It is a confusing dynamic.

Harvest volumes of sockeye will probably end up somewhat lower in Bristol Bay, and harvests have been sharply reduced in other fishing areas: "We could be looking at a decline of 100 million pounds (roughly 25 percent) or more in global sockeye supply this year," said Wink. Meanwhile, retail prices for fresh sockeye promotions have increased in each of the past three years. "Demand for both fresh and frozen seafood at retail is booming since the pandemic hit in March 2020," said Wink. "And yes, restaurant traffic has slowed considerably, but sockeye are much more prevalent in the retail space. So it's very confusing why we are seeing this extraordinary decline in the dock price... Frankly, this sounds like a year when buyers might want to take a more active approach for their programs to ensure supply."