Southeast pink salmon harvest in the midrange

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002

PETERSBURG (AP) -- About 44 million pink salmon were harvested in Southeast Alaska this season, putting the catch in the midrange for the 10-year average, but prices were low.

About 280 boats, or about 100 less than average, made deliveries during the season.

''I did anticipate that the effort would be less, but I didn't think that we'd drop 100 boats,'' said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Regional Management Coordinator Scott Kelley.

Several processors reduced the size of their fleet this year leaving some permit holders without a market.

Prices for pink salmon ranged from 5 cents to 13 cents a pound.

Normally there are better returns of pink salmon in southern Southeast, but Kelley said not this year.

''The north end is going to end up maybe a couple hundred thousand higher than the south end, once the final numbers are tallied, so the catch of that 44 million is pretty close to 50-50 between the north and the south,'' he said.

Fishing grounds at Tenakee, Frederick Sound and the eastern Baranof shoreline were more productive than usual. This season Fish and Game changed it's management approach from two days on and then two days off to a four day on, one day off schedule.

The change was intended to help with the flow of fish coming into plants, provide fresher fish and allow buyers to stagger how their fleet fished.

Some processors say the new approach didn't make much difference.

''We couldn't figure out a way that the four on, one day off really worked with our group,'' said John Woodruff, Icicle Seafoods production manager, adding that the fleet would probably want to go back to two on, two off.

Early in the season it looked like there would be greater value in the roe than in the meat but apparently it turned out the other way around.

Norquest Seafoods found the same market conditions. Company President Terry Gardiner said the demand for salmon roe, also called ikura, unexpectedly dropped.

''The ikura market did not go where the industry was thinking it was going. Instead of going up, it instead actually slipped. There was just more carry-over ikura in the market than anybody was aware of.''

The salmon fishery at Hokkaido, Japan, also impacts the demand for Alaska's salmon roe. This year's fishery is producing more than expected, potentially hurting the market for product from Alaska.

It's not yet clear if additional pink salmon management changes will be proposed for the 2003 season. The Purse Seine Task Force plans to hold meetings this winter to review the 2002 season.

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