Alaskan Pink Salmon economic recovery largely down to aquaculture

PWSAC Hatcheries produced nearly half (46%) of the Alaska Pink Salmon harvest in 2010, forecast strong for 2011
April 6, 2011

Alaskan Pink Salmon economic recovery largely down to aquaculture
Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation [PWSAC] recently released findings from an economic report that examines the impact of its hatchery program on the pink salmon market. PWSAC played a critical role in the recent economic recovery of the Alaska salmon industry. Since 2006, PWSAC has produced one in four of Alaska's commercially caught pink salmon. Large harvests of PWSAC pinks have provided the industry with the volume and economies of scale needed to fulfill demand.

The largest ocean ranching program in the state, established to bolster the variable returns of wild salmon, PWSAC operates five hatcheries in the Prince William Sound/Copper River region.  These hatcheries generate millions of pink, chum, coho and sockeye salmon for the common property commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fishermen.

Consumer Trends Increasing Demand for Wild Pink Salmon
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, an influx of imported farmed salmon and growing inventories of canned salmon drove down prices for pink salmon. The industry has since rebounded by creating new products, balancing supply and demand of existing products, and capitalizing on favorable market conditions.

•PWSAC is a key supplier of Alaska pink salmon.  During the past five years, Prince William Sound has produced 43 percent of the statewide pink salmon harvest.

•The pink salmon product-form shift from canned to frozen production had a major impact on the wholesale value of pink salmon products, which in turn increased the ex-vessel price for pinks.  The wholesale price of frozen pinks climbed 37 percent to $1.27 per pound.

•The increased volume of pink salmon harvested and canned from Prince William Sound enabled other regions to efficiently focus on frozen production. 
•More health-conscious consumers are turning to wild salmon to meet their needs for alternative sources of protein.

•New consumers have entered the market, due to widely available and inexpensive farmed salmon, driving up demand for all sources, including Alaska wild caught salmon.

•Consumers are more aware of the environmental impact of their spending choices – the state's emphasis on responsible and sustainable resource management satisfies these requirements.

•The recession increased demand for budget-friendly salmon choices. Over 50 new value-added products featuring pink salmon, such as salmon burgers, helped to fill the void.

The 2010 season produced the largest run of pink salmon in the history of the fishery, said Dave Reggiani, PWSAC general manager. "More than 50 million fish were caught and processed in just three weeks, underscoring PWSAC's importance as both an economic driver for the state and a commodity source for global markets. Increased demand for Alaska seafood and value-added salmon products boosts the demand for the enhanced salmon fisheries," Reggiani said.  "This makes reliable and sustainable returns even more critical."

PWSAC: An Economic Engine
Aquaculture continues to drive the state's economy, says Jim Kallander, Mayor of Cordova.  "PWSAC is Alaska's largest aquaculture program, contributing millions of pounds of salmon to both fisherman and processors from the North Gulf and Southeast Alaska.  PWSAC continues to deliver strong harvests, resulting in job creation and future prosperity in our region and beyond."

The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation is a private nonprofit corporation established by the legislature in 1973 to produce hatchery-born, ocean-raised wild salmon for the commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries in the Prince William Sound region. PWSAC operations are financed through the sale of hatchery fish to processors and a salmon enhancement tax paid by commercial fishermen.