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Economic Value Reports Highlights Seafood Industry’s Impact in Alaska

May 1, 2024 | Fisheries, News

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The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) is updating its biennial report The Economic Value of Alaska’s Seafood Industry to illustrate the contributions of the fishing industry. Since the last report in 2022, ASMI counts more than 48,000 workers directly employed by the seafood industry in Alaska, averaged over the year, and more than $6 billion contributed to Alaska’s economy.

“Alaska’s seafood industry is a critical pillar of Alaska’s economy,” says ASMI Executive Director Jeremy Woodrow. “The economic benefits of the seafood industry are felt by all Alaskans.”

Larger Harvest Than All Other States’ Combined

Among the findings in the report:

  • The Alaska seafood industry harvested 5.8 billion pounds of seafood, worth $2 billion, in 2022.
  • Processors turned this harvest into 2.3 billion pounds of product worth $5.2 billion, adding $3.2 billion in value.
  • Seafood processing is the largest manufacturing sector in Alaska, accounting for 66 percent of the state’s manufacturing employment in 2022.
  • Of the 48,000 seafood workers in Alaska, about 17,000 are Alaskan residents living in more than 142 communities.
  • Total Alaska labor income was $2.3 billion, including multiplier effects.
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The seafood industry further helps anchor Alaska’s economy by contributing to the economic stability of communities:

  • In 2022, 53 percent of the industry’s skippers, active permit owners, and crew were Alaskan residents, a total of about 13,000 fishermen.
  • The industry paid more than $161 million in taxes (mostly to state and local governments), fees, and self-assessmentsin 2022. The seafood industry was the largest source of municipal tax revenue for eleven municipal governments in 2022.
  • For many rural Alaska communities, the seafood industry is among the largest sources of employment, wages, and tax revenue.

Alaska’s seafood industry contributes to the global seafood supply and is also a vital source of economic activity for the nation:

  • Alaska harvest is about 60 percent of the total US seafood harvestmore wild-caught seafood than all other states combinedand 1.3 percent of the global seafood harvest, including wild capture and aquaculture.
  • Alaska seafood contributes $15.8 billion to the US economy and creates 81,100 full-time-equivalent jobs nationally.

Despite the strength of these numbers, which relies largely on data from 2022, present-day global market pressures are having significant impacts on all Alaska fishermen, fishing families, and fishing businesses.

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Demand Drops, Industry Hurts

A combination of factors, from local to global, contributed to lower prices for many Alaska, US, and global seafood species in 2023:

  • In 2023, lower consumer demand led to US seafood retail sales volumes falling below pre-pandemic benchmarks, reversing substantial gains earned in 2020 and 2021; consumers cite cost concerns as a primary reason they have moved away from seafood.
  • The US dollar was strong in 2023 compared to currencies of key Alaska seafood importers (especially Japan), making Alaska seafood prices less competitive.
  • Carryover of 2022 product inventoryincluding sockeye salmon, white fish, and king crab from Russiamade wholesalers and retailers less motivated to buy 2023 products.
  • Global harvest increased supply for many key Alaska seafood products, such as Alaska pollock and pink salmon in 2023, including Alaska harvest and competing harvest from Russia.

Even with these challenges, Woodrow notes, the Alaska industry is strong.

“The brand of Alaska Seafood is cherished among consumers. The variety and superior quality of products Alaska has to offer is unmatched. Research shows that consumers strongly prefer wild seafood to farmed, they want to add more sustainable seafood to their routines, and they place a high value on the health benefits of seafood. Alaska has the most passionate fleet behind this industry and we will weather this storm together and come out stronger on the other side,” says Woodrow.

Originally published in 2013 and updated in 2015, 2017, 2020, 2022, and 2024, The Economic Value of Alaska’s Seafood Industry report is prepared by McKinley Research Group for ASMI. The report is available online at alaskaseafood.org.

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The track of oil and gas development in Alaska shows the footprints of bold companies and hard-working individuals who shaped the industry in the past and continue to innovate today. The May 2024 issue of Alaska Business explores that history while looking forward to new product development, the energy transition for the fishing fleet, and the ethics of AI tools in business.

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