AK salmon market outlooks: an early peek

AK salmon compete in a global market. All signs point to good demand.

by | May 25, 2022

Markets look good as the season gets underway

Alaska salmon fishing regions

Weekly bulletins for Alaska salmon catches by region and species are available for free starting in early June. The bulletins are compiled by McKinley Research Group for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

At a glance, a teaser out this week shows 2021 dock price trends for fishermen (ex-vessel), prices for key products compared to previous years, 2022 harvest forecasts by area and more.

Here’s a sampler:

A swarm of Alaska pink salmon (humpies)

 Alaska’s pink salmon harvest in 2022 is pegged at 67.2 million fish, 9% below the average of the last five even-numbered years. That would be 94.2 million fewer pinks than were caught in 2021.

Weaker pink runs are expected statewide, except at Kodiak.

Alaska’s pink salmon production mix focuses on canning (52% of value), frozen H&G (28%) and roe (19%). 

The pink salmon price to Alaska fishermen in 2021 averaged $.37 down a penny from 2020.

Sockeye salmon (reds)

Sockeye is by far Alaska’s most valuable salmon species. The 2022 sockeye salmon forecast is expected to break records at 74 million fish! That’s nearly 17 million more reds than were caught in 2021.

“While fresh sales have increased in recent years, a run of this size will challenge processors and product mix could shift toward higher volume frozen H&G processing as well as max out canning line capacities in the state,” the Bulletin said.

Prices for all sockeye products increased in 2021 and export data suggests “continued very strong demand.”

Alaska fishermen averaged $1.34/lb for sockeyes last year, up from $1.12.

Coho salmon (silvers)

The 2022 coho salmon harvest forecast of 3.6 million fish would be 12% lower than the previous 5-year average and just slightly higher than last year.

Coho represent only around 4% of salmon wholesale value in Alaska, but dock prices are comparable to those for sockeye.

Most coho are sold frozen either as H&G (headed/gutted) or fillet, but a significant share is sold into the fresh market.

Frozen coho fillet prices hit $9/pound in 2021 – higher than those for sockeye fillets, and well above prices seen over the last decade. Export data in early 2022 suggests prices will remain strong, the Bulletin said. 

Coho prices to fishermen averaged $1.45 in 2021, up from $1.24.

Chum salmon (dog, keta) Credit: Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Assn

The 2022 catch forecast of 15.4 million chum (keta) salmon would be a 2.2 million fish increase over 2021 but still well below the levels considered normal before the very poor season in 2020.

Keta is largely sold to the reprocessing market in China, while Japan is the main export market for keta roe.

Keta roe prices increased dramatically in 2021 to over $23/pound. H&G and fillet prices also increased in 2021, up 30% and 13% over 2020, respectively. Alaska fishermen received $.77/lb for chums on average last year, compared to $.47/lb in 2020.

Chinook salmon (king) Credit: nps.org

The projected 2022 Chinook harvest of 310,000 fish would be the highest since 2016, but well below long-term averages.

Alaska’s Chinook are sold largely to the domestic market, with much of it going to restaurants and high-end retail. In 2021, wholesale prices were up for all products. Fishermen were paid an average of $5.82/lb for king salmon last year, up from $4.74/lb.

One thing to watch as Alaska’s salmon season gets underway: The US dollar is very strong compared to other global currencies. That makes imports cheaper and exports more expensive and less competitive on world markets.

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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