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Alaskanomics's Blog: Fishing Industry Update


Distribution chart of Alaska's fishing jobs.

Image courtesy of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Alaska’s commercial fishing industry is very important to the health of Alaska’s economy. The industry has seen a decrease in jobs for the past two years. Even with the decreases the past two years, employment is still above the historic average. The preliminary numbers for 2017 look good, and suggest an increase within the salmon fisheries this year. Other catches appear to be down in 2017. This would be good news for a portion of the industry that has taken a hit in the past few years.
Salmon harvesting is the majority of commercial fishing jobs in the state and lost 6.4 percent in 2016. Groundfish (walleye pollock and Pacific cod) makes up nearly half of the state’s catch value and is the leader for poundage from Alaska fisheries. Even though groundfish poundage is high, salmon has a higher return per pound. In 2016, groundfish accounted for 88.3 percent of Alaska’s total catch, but only 48.2 percent of the gross earnings.
Crab fisheries were similar to salmon fisheries in that they saw growth through 2014 and have now declined in employment. It is currently at its lowest level since 2009 and below the 10-year average.
Southeast Alaska continues to have the highest percentage of fishing industry jobs in Alaska, followed by Southcentral. In 2016, Southcentral, which includes Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet, salmon fisheries and halibut recorded the second highest year for total employment.
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