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Seafood Harvesting Jobs in Alaska Saw Decline in 2018


December 1, 2019

Seafood Harvesting Jobs in Alaska Saw Decline in 2018

Employment figures compiled by state of Alaska labor officials show that employment in the state’s seafood harvesting industry dropped 4.9 percent in 2018, erasing most gains of the prior year, with the Bristol Bay region being the major exception.

seafood harvesting jobs in Bristol Bay were at a decade high of 1,148, state labor economist Joshua Warren wrote in the November edition of Alaska Economic Trends, a publication of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

While some fisheries added jobs during the year, they weren’t sufficient to offset losses in the salmon fisheries, which represent the largest share of harvest employers in the state.

The total decline of some 407 average annual jobs brought Alaska’s harvesting employment down to 7,924 positions. Losses would have been greater, but for increased fishing in September and November, Warren wrote.

For some months, job levels were the lowest since 2001, when data collection commenced. While critical summer months were not the worst on record, July and August employment still hit decade lows.

salmon fishery jobs were down 7.2 percent or 328 jobs, from the year before, with fewer jobs every month and heaviest losses in the summer, and an overall employment drop to 4,249.

Employment in groundfish harvesting, which spiked the year before, dropped back 9.1 percent, or 120 jobs, to its previous level of about 1,195, but total employment still remained high relative to past years.

In the halibut fishery likewise the number of jobs grew in 2017 and decreased in 2018. After gaining 298 jobs in 2017, this fishery lost 38 positions in 2018, settling at 1,068. Halibut harvest employment still remained above its recent typical levels, which had not topped 1,000 in nearly a decade, the report said.

The herring fishery also saw a 7.1 percent loss of employment, but the fishery is so small at 79 annual jobs that it’s prone to large percent swings, Warren wrote.

Three fisheries added jobs in 2018, including crab, sablefish or black cod, and other shellfish fisheries. The crab fisheries saw employment growth of 19 jobs, or 5.0 percent, to 403, while employment in the black cod fishery rose 8.2 percent, or 54 jobs, to 713 annualized positions.

Other shellfish fisheries had a banner year, with jobs in miscellaneous shellfish harvests up by 14 jobs, or 7.0 percent, putting the yearly employment up to 213.

Regionally the Aleutians and Pribilof Islands took the biggest hit, with a staggering 30.9 percent job loss, lowering the total yearly employment to 1,199, due to less fishing.

At Kodiak, employment declined by 14.5 percent to 623 annualized jobs.

In the Yukon Delta, harvesting employment grew in 2018 after three years of losses. While not reaching historical highs, the Yukon Delta regained some lost ground, adding 23 jobs over the year, an 8.1 percent boost to an overall total of 307 jobs.

For 2019, the report noted, downward pressure was expected from the ongoing decline of Pacific cod stocks and corresponding reduced catches.


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