Alaska's Fishing Industry
For several decades, Alaska has been heralded for the high quality and abundance within its commercial seafood fisheries. Alaska seafood contains low levels of contaminants and fisheries are managed to ensure healthy harvests over the long haul.
Specialties from Alaska include five species of salmon - including fresh Copper River salmon - and halibut, king crab, pollack, cod, and black cod.
By the Numbers
The industry behind supplying the world with Alaska seafood is immense. Alaska itself is larger than all but eight countries in seafood production. In 2007, over 60 percent of the United States commercial seafood harvests came from Alaska, with over five billion pounds of fish and shellfish harvested annually.
Alaska produces roughly 80 percent of the sockeye, coho, and king salmon in the world. The sockeye run each year may be Alaska’s most important commercial fishery because it is usually the first of the year and due to the premium price consumers are willing to pay for it. The state of the sockeye run into the Copper River often dictates the economic quality of that entire fishing season. The pink salmon fishery, which has the largest number of fish harvested each year, averages around 100 million fish, most of which becomes a canned salmon product.
Alaska pollack harvests make up the largest commercial fishery in the world with harvests amounting to more than 800,000 metric tons in some years.
The annual halibut catch routinely provides over 75 percent of the U.S. Pacific halibut commercial fishery, while the crab caught in Alaska supplies one-third of the total U.S. consumption.
Alaskan pink salmon are harvested in big numbers - try 113 million in some years. Plus, in one recent year the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimated harvests of 38 million sockeye, 18 million keta, five million coho, and 427,000 king salmon. Halibut harvests often approach 50 million pounds, while Alaskan blackcod harvests yield 25 million pounds of fresh fresh for U.S. and international markets.
The seafood industry is a huge part of the Alaska state economy. The commercial Alaska seafood industry accounts for nearly one-fifth of the total state employment. In 2007, the industry included nearly 80,000 jobs and was valued at six billion dollars. The town of Dutch Harbor is annually one of the leading U.S. fishing ports. In 2007, its seafood harvest was valued at $174 million, second nationally only to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Because the seafood industry is critical to the Alaska economy, it is the only one of the United States to include conservation laws in its constitution. The various catch methods, from gillnetting, purse seining or crab potting, along with the regulated fishing seasons, are all designed to maintain healthy, sustainable fisheries for years to come.
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