First Copper River salmon: low catches, high dock prices

Some say over-hyped Copper River salmon prices may have hit a ceiling.

by | May 18, 2022

Filed Under Catch Updates | Markets

But starting prices to fishermen are lower than last year

Alaska Airlines brings the first Copper River salmon to Seattle Credit: The Business Journals

Fresh Copper River kings and reds enjoyed the usual media hoopla after Monday’s first 12-hour opener. The first fish made headlines as it arrived to awaiting chefs in Seattle on Tuesday.

The fishery produced low catches of 24,000 sockeyes and 4,000 Chinook salmon.

Prices for pre-orders set records at various retail outlets – $899.99 for a whole Copper River king and $199.95 for a whole sockeye at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Pre-orders for fillets were priced at $129.99/lb for Chinook and $74.98/lb for sockeyes.

But advance prices to fishermen were down from last year’s first opener. Harvesters reported getting $11.50/lb for reds and $16.50/lb for kings. That compares to starting prices in 2021 of
a record $12.60/lb for sockeye and $19.60/lb for Chinook salmon paid by Peter Pan Seafoods.

Credit: Cartoonmovement.com

Fishing veterans said some local processors are seeing resistance to the exorbitant prices and are having trouble selling the salmon at first wholesale.
“It seems like Copper River salmon may have finally found the ceiling,” said one who has been fishing there for over 50 years.

The Copper River fishery is expected to reopen for a second round tomorrow/Thursday. But a glitch with sonar counters could cause unanticipated delays.

Sonar station at Lower Copper River Credit: PWSSC

SeafoodNews.com’s Peggy Parker reports that “the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Prince William Sound Science Center each operation sonar counters in the river — ADF&G’s is upriver from the delta-placed PWSSC’s counter, and has been in operation for several decades. Currently the monitor is stuck in shore ice and not yet operational. That is expected to change in the coming days, giving management biologists a more full picture of this year’s return.”

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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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