Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Seafood Added $5.6 B to Alaska Economy in 2017–2018


March 1, 2020

Alaska’s seafood industry added $5.6 billion in economic output to the state economy in 2017/2018, employing nearly 59,000 workers in harvesting, processing and other industry jobs who earned $1.7 million in wages.

The 5.7 billion pounds of seafood worth $2 billion that was harvested annually in those two years was turned into 2.8 billion pounds of seafood product worth $4.7 billion.

Those are just some of the findings of the McDowell Group in Juneau, in its latest report on the economic value of the state’s seafood industry for the Alaska seafood Marketing Institute, a public-private partnership of the state and the seafood industry. The national economic impact also includes $8.0 billion in multiplier effects generated as industry income circulates through the country.

McDowell economists compile the report with consideration only for the commercial seafood industry, and do not address the additional multi-million-dollar economic impact of recreational, charter and subsistence fisheries in Alaska.

Some 29,400 commercial fishermen employed in harvesting fish each year come away with earnings of over $1 billion. The more than 9,000 vessels who comprise the commercial fleet would, if lined up bow to stern, stretch over 64 miles. Regardless of vessel size or involvement, each fishing operation represents a business generating new income from a renewable resource, the report said.

The processing sector alone employs an average of 26,000 workers at 166 shore-based plants, 49 catcher-processor vessels and about 10 large floating processors. The industry also supports more than 40 different occupations, including vessel builders, shipyard workers, machinists, engineers, electricians, cooks and laborers.

In fact, the seafood industry directly employs more workers than any other private sector industry in Alaska, and is the foundation of many rural communities, the report said.

Since statehood in 1959, Alaska’s commercial fisheries have produced over 181 billion pounds of seafood, or 12.9 billing servings, enough to feed everyone in the world at least one serving, McDowell economists said. Exports of about two thirds of Alaska seafood in sales value in 2018 went to 97 countries, with the other third sold in domestic markets.

Regional economic trends in the seafood industry documented by the report show that the number of resident commercial fishermen has declined from 3,489 in 2012 to 2,590 in 2018, while the gross earnings of those harvesters rose from $19 million to $20 million. The value of regional harvests rose from $11 million to $13 million and first wholesale value rose from $13 million to $17 million for those years.

In Bristol Bay, home of the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon run, alone in 2017/2018 commercial fisheries directly employed 13,500 people and generated $235 million in labor income. salmon harvests in Bristol Bay have been at record setting levels in recent years, with production about 40 percent higher than the 20-year average in 2017 and 2018. An additional economic note is that Bristol Bay fishermen have invested millions of dollars to improve fish quality through onboard chilling systems, and over the last decade, salmon deliveries chilled by refrigerated sea water or slush ice have increased from 38 percent to 79 percent in the Bay.

The bering sea and Aleutian Islands accounted for 57 percent of the industry’s first wholesale value in 2018, and those fisheries generated 10,500 full time equivalent jobs and $789 million in income to workers. Dutch Harbor maintains its title as the nation’s top seafood port by volume and second largest in terms of ex-vessel value. In 2017, the port of Dutch Harbor took in 769 million pounds of seafood, an average of 14.8 million pounds a week.

Residents of western Alaska also benefit from the Community Development Quota program developed by the state, which allocates about 10 percent of all BSAI groundfish and crab quotas to the CDQ program. The CDQ groups have significant ownership interests in vessels and fisheries of the BSAI and collectively hold about $1 billion in net assets.

The Kodiak region employed some 6,100 people, including 2,400 in commercial harvesting, 2,700 in processing and 1,000 in management and other jobs, resulting in a total economic impact of $505 million. In Southcentral Alaska an overall economic output of $928 million resulted from employment of some 6,800 people in commercial fisheries jobs, 4,200 in processing and about 500 in management and related duties. In Southeast Alaska the economic output came to $802 million from 10,700 people employed in 5,300 commercial fishing jobs, 4,300 others employed in processing and 1,100 in management and related fields.

While the bulk of Alaska’s consumer freight is northbound, shipping of seafood on southbound routes provides backhaul revenue for shippers, making for more competitive rates on northbound freight, the report said. The seafood industry ships approximately one billion pounds of processed products southbound each year, or the equivalent of some 23,000 containers.


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