Southern Southeast Alaska Hatcheries Boosting Region's Economic Impact
October 1, 2018
A new economic study released in mid-August documents the importance of hatchery-produced chum salmon, which comprised the bulk of volume and value of the multi-million-dollar commercial salmon fishery in Southern Southeast Alaska.
The study on the impact of the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association’s (SSRAA) efforts to enhance salmon stocks in Southern Southeast Alaska from 2013 through 2017 found that annual harvests of SSRAA salmon in common property fisheries averaged 22 million pounds with an average ex-vessel value of $16.8 million. Chum salmon accounted for 89 percent of the volume and 75 percent of the value of SSRAA’s contribution to commercial fisheries during these years, according to the report completed by the McDowell Group in Juneau for the SSRAA. Coho and Chinook production are also important to that region’s troll, seine and gillnet fleets, the report said.
Fish from SSRAA hatcheries are credited for over half of the chum harvests in Southern southeast Alaska commercial salmon fisheries, as are 39 percent of Chinook harvests and 31 percent of coho harvests, the report said.
Of the cumulative wholesale value of SSRAA salmon of $239 million from 2013 through 2017, $49 million was from sales of cost recovery salmon and $190 million from common property fish. First wholesale value annually averaged $48 million for the study period.
By species, chum represented 79 percent of the wholesale value of SSRAA fish, Chinook 14 percent and coho 7 percent, the report said. Chum roe is a major driver of the value of SSRAA production, typically representing just under half of SSRAA-generated wholesale value.
Study data show that since 2008, SSRAA contributed more than 210 million pounds of salmon worth an ex-vessel value of $175 million to common property fisheries and that during the record year of 2012, SSRAA hatcheries contributed nearly 40 million pounds in ex-vessel volume. The value of those hatchery salmon to the region’s commercial fisheries has increased over the past decade, due to higher prices, particularly for chum roe, and increased production and returns, the report said.
Harvester earnings during the study period attributable to SSRAA fish totaled $84 million, for an annual average of $16.8 million. The high point was $18.6 million in 2015 and the low was $13.8 million in 2013. During the study period an estimated 46 percent of the value of the commercially harvested hatchery fish went to seiners, 32 percent to gillnetters and 21 percent to trollers. Alaska residents were identified as the primary beneficiaries of SSRAA-produced salmon, earning three-fifths, or $9.9 million of the average annual ex-vessel value during the study period.
Processors also benefitted from stable chum returns. While wild stock pin salmon returns fluctuate significantly from one year to the next, hatchery-bred chum provide a stable source of income for processors as well as harvesters, the study noted. After the cost of fish, processors earned an estimated gross margin of $134 million on SSRAA salmon during the study period.
SSRAA employed an average of 60 workers last year whose wages totaled $3.3 million. SSRAA’s total economic impact in 2017 was estimated at 680 jobs and $32 million in labor income, including related commercial fisheries, seafood processing, nonresident sport fishing and the SSRAA’s own spending and employment.
SSRAA operates seven hatcheries and seven additional remote release sites throughout southern southeast Alaska. The association’s longest running hatcheries are at Whitman Lake in Ketchikan; Neets Bay, some 40 miles north of Ketchikan; Burnett Inlet, 25 miles south of Wrangell; and Crystal Lake, 20 miles south of Petersburg. These hatcheries raise Chinook, coho and chum salmon for on-site releases, and for transfer to several remote release sites.