Driven by large harvests of pink salmon, Alaska fishermen harvested just over 230 million salmon (919.7 million pounds) this year, a 43 percent increase over last year's harvest.
The pink salmon catch in odd years is generally much higher because of the lifecycle of the species.
But while fish were abundant, the value of this year's overall salmon harvest in Alaska plummeted to $398.6 million (€377.3 million) a nearly 45 percent decrease from last season.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) published its preliminary harvest numbers Tuesday, noting that international market conditions that significantly impacted ex-vessel and wholesale salmon prices caused the decrease.
A major downturn in salmon prices this year, driven by high inventories and weak consumer demand, has put Alaska processors in precarious financial waters this year.
The 2023 all-species commercial salmon harvest was the fourth highest on record for total fish harvested, and the seventh highest on record for total pounds harvested. Adjusted for inflation (CPI, 2023 prices), the 2023 ex-vessel value estimate of $398.6 million was the sixth lowest ex-vessel value reported since 1975.
Sockeye value suffers
Sockeye salmon accounted for approximately 45 percent of the total value at $181.1 million (€171.4 million) and 23 percent of the harvest at 51.8 million fish.
The bulk of Alaska's sockeye salmon is harvested in Bristol Bay, where just over 40 million fish were caught this year, a nearly 33 percent drop from the previous year's record catch of more than 60 million fish. At $116. 8 million (€110.5 million), Bristol Bay's sockeye harvest value this year is nearly 67 percent less than last season.
The value of sockeye salmon harvested in Prince William Sound--often the priciest fish and the first to come on the market at the start of the season-- declined by 5 percent from the previous year to $18.8 million (€17.8 million), with harvests up from last year.
A pink salmon year
Pink salmon comprised approximately 29 percent of the value of state's salmon fisher at $113.7 million (€107.6 million), and 66 percent of the harvest with 152.4 million fish.
Chum salmon accounted for 19 percent of the value at $74.6 million (€70.6 million) and approximately 10 percent of the harvest at 23.5 million fish.
Coho salmon accounted for approximately 4 percent of the value at $14.4 million (€13.6 million) and 1 percent of the harvest at 2.3 million fish.
Chinook salmon harvest was estimated to be just under 235,000 fish with an estimated preliminary exvessel value of $14.7 million (€13.9 million).
The number of permit holders that made commercial salmon landings in 2023 also decreased by 9 percent to 5,577 individual permit holders.
ADF&G said the preliminary harvest and value estimates will change as fish tickets are processed and finalized. The final value of the 2023 salmon fishery will be determined in 2024 after seafood buyers and processors report the total value paid to fishermen in 2023.
- OBI Seafoods CEO Mark Palmer: Alaska's sinking salmon market 'keeps me up at night'
- This company thinks it has the road map for fixing Alaska's ailing salmon processing sector
- Major US seafood financial advisor on Alaska salmon price crisis: 'The industry will have to find a way to address some of its inherent risks'