"Sockeye Market Analysis" Report Released

Mar 12, 2014

A new report shows that Bristol Bay produced 31-percent of the world’s commercially caught sockeye salmon last year. That’s down significantly from previous years. The new “Sockeye Market Analysis” report was prepared by the McDowell Group for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

The report shows that global sockeye production declined 17-percent last year down to 290-million pounds. Bristol Bay made up 31-percent of that total, which is down from the 45-percent from 2010 to 2012. The McDowell group notes that prior to 2013, Alaska typically accounted for 70-percent or more of the global sockeye production. Last year Bristol Bay produced 92-million pounds of sockeye. The new report shows that sockeye accounted for just 5-percent of the global salmon production last year. That includes wild and farmed salmon.

The McDowell Group acknowledges that it’s very difficult to discern exactly where Bristol Bay sockeye are sold but they believe that the U.S. domestic market remains the largest market for sockeye products from Alaska. Back in 2012, 44-percent of Alaska’s sockeye went into the domestic market. The 2012 data shows that Japan and the United Kingdom were the 2nd and 3rd largest markets for Alaska’s sockeye products. The market analysis shows that Seattle and Portland had the most sockeye sales per capita. Other cities in the top 10 include Denver, Kansas City, and the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area. Back in 2012, 49-percent of the first wholesale value of Bristol Bay’s sockeye was in the H&G and fillet product forms. Canned salmon accounted for 42-percent of the value. Roe accounted for 6-percent of the value, followed by fresh and smoked products, which each made up 1-percent of the value.

As part of the market analysis the McDowell Group interviewed many buyers, distributors, sales managers and others who follow the salmon markets. Those interviews showed some trends. For instance, several canned salmon wholesalers report that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain shelf space for canned sockeye due to declining sales and higher prices. The wholesalers note that tall cans from last year’s pack are projected to exceed $10-dollars a can in retail markets in the U.S.

The new analysis includes some detailed information on the prices paid to Bristol Bay’s commercial fishermen. The McDowell Group stresses that Bristol Bay fishermen typically receive the lowest ex-vessel price for sockeye compared to every other major production region in Alaska. The analysis shows that in 2012 Bristol Bay fishermen received about 31-cents less per pound that all other Alaska sockeye harvesters. That includes retro and bonus payments. The McDowell Group notes that the price difference is attributed to Bristol Bay’s remote location, intense run timing, and product mix. They point out that a larger percentage of sockeye caught in Cook Inlet and Southeast Alaska are sold into the fresh markets, which results in a higher average wholesale price. The Cooper River fishery is normally the first major sockeye fishery of the year, which helps account for a higher market price due to the demand for fresh product. The new “Sockeye Market Analysis” report is publicly available on the website of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. The Association represents all of the driftnet permit holders who fish each summer in Bristol Bay.

Setnets in Bristol Bay awaiting a push of fish.
Credit Celeste Novak