Norton Sound resident fishermen and fisherwomen are on pace to see one of the strongest seasons in recent years due to robust salmon and crab catch rates coupled with favorable seafood markets. Payouts to salmon fishermen are well ahead of prior years, and crab fishers are again on pace to harvest the quota in a matter of weeks. As of mid-July, and with plenty of fishing to go, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC) had paid out more than $1.7 million to residents involved in the Norton Sound salmon, red king crab, halibut and herring fisheries.
“Across the board we have seen our dock prices either go up or remain high this year,” said Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP) Operations Manager Middy Johnson. “King crab prices remain near record highs. Salmon markets are stronger this year, and our halibut price has gone up over past seasons.”
Chum Harvests Paying Off
As of July 12, Norton Sound commercial salmon fishermen and fisherwomen have already caught more than 100,000 pounds of chum beyond what was harvested in all of 2016. Deliveries of chum are nearly on pace with those of 2015, which saw the most chum commercially caught in Norton Sound in more than 30 years. With higher dock prices this year, by mid-July salmon fishermen had already earned more than double what they received for all chum deliveries in 2016. In total, salmon fishermen have earned in excess of $200,000 more than they did at this point last year for all species.
NSSP expects strong chum harvests to continue and favorable coho salmon returns and harvests later in the season.
More than $1 Million Earned by Crabbers in Three Weeks
For the third summer in a row, Norton Sound commercial crabbers started off on a fast and furious season as catch rates in the first three weeks tracked well ahead of the seasons prior to 2015. In these three weeks of fishing, commercial fishermen had harvested more than 64 percent of the 419,000-pound quota. Crab markets continue to remain very strong, allowing NSEDC to provide one of our highest summer dock prices ever to resident fishermen. As of July 10, NSEDC had paid out nearly $1.3 million to crab fishermen for their catch.
Jobs for Residents Return with the Fish
In addition to fishermen, a large number of residents benefit from NSSP’s regional seafood operations though employment opportunities in NSSP’s regional seafood plants, salmon buying stations and tender vessel fleet. As of mid-July, NSEDC had paid more than $380,000 to 144 seasonal employees who make our regional seafood operations possible. These jobs are important when employment opportunities are often hard to come by in Norton Sound communities.
“We are very aware of just how important and critical our short commercial fishing seasons are for our residents who fish and work in our regional seafood operations,” said NSEDC Board Chairman Dan Harrelson of White Mountain. “Our operations strive to provide strong markets and opportunity for our fishermen. Working together, our seafood operations and fishermen create an impact that is felt throughout our communities.”
With Norton Sound halibut fishing just getting started, the remaining crab quota waiting to be caught, and salmon fishing running into early September, NSSP looks forward to several more weeks of activity.
For more information on Norton Sound Seafood Products, please contact Middy Johnson at 907-624-3014.