Study: Payrolls for salmon far below pollock numbers

Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- The salmon industry is the largest employer among Alaska's commercial fisheries, but the total payroll for the pollock industry is $200 million more. And for the fishing industry as a whole, paychecks for Alaska residents amount to less than 40 percent of the total.

Salmon fishing generated a payroll that totals only about 60 percent of what pollock industry workers earned, according to a study released by the Pacific Seafood Processors Association last week. The study was prepared by Anchorage-based Northern Economics, using data from the state, primarily from 2001.

That year, payments to labor by the seafood industry totaled an estimated $932 million. Alaska residents collected about $370 million.

The study is the first of its kind in a decade, said Patrick Burden, president of Northern Economics.

According to the data, about 53,900 people - processors and fishermen - worked the equivalent of 36,900 full-time jobs in the Alaska seafood industry overall. About half of those jobs went to Alaskans.

Salmon fishing and processing accounted for 15,200 of those jobs, or about 41 percent of the total. Pollock had the next-highest numbers, with fewer than 8,000 jobs in 2001.

But workers in the pollock industry collectively were paid more than $500 million, while workers in the salmon industry made just over $300 million.

Stephanie Madsen, vice president of the processors association, said those numbers are further evidence that the salmon industry has to find a way to increase its revenue.

The report also compared the value of various seafood harvests. Pollock accounted for about 30 percent of the total ex-vessel value in 2001. Salmon accounted for 14 percent. The ex-vessel value, what fishermen are paid for their catch, came to $974 million altogether for that year. Processors collected more than $2.3 billion in sales once the fish were processed.

The study found that fishermen from Washington state received 43 percent of the ex-vessel value of the 2001 Alaska harvest, while Alaska fishermen received 41 percent, mostly in salmon and near-shore fisheries.

The Washington fishermen's harvest was primarily in the Bering Sea groundfish and crab fisheries. The remainder of fishing was done by fishermen from California, Oregon, and other states and countries.

None of the figures presented much of a surprise, said Tom Gemmell, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, an umbrella group of fishing industry organizations.

Madsen said the study's purpose was mainly educational.

''We have experienced conversations at the policy level illustrating that people really don't understand our industry and the problems it's going through,'' Madsen said.

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