The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) contracted with Northern Economics, Inc. to conduct a survey of processors who operated in the 2014 Bristol Bay salmon fishery. This report summarizes the results of the study.
As with the 2008 through 2013 surveys, the survey instrument consisted of a series of questions about processor operations in Bristol Bay. The 2014 survey captured raw product data, fleet information, current and expected ice production volumes, and respondents’ opinions of trends and priorities within the fishery. The operational questions focused on processors’ purchase of chilled product and the distribution of their production among the four major product forms (i.e., canned, Head and Gut [H&G] frozen, H&G fresh, and fillet). All of the processors who have traditionally responded to the survey responded this year.2
The 2014 Bristol Bay sockeye run was 17 percent above the average run over the last 20 years and 53 percent above the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) preseason forecast. ADF&G estimates the total Bristol Bay salmon harvest at 170.3 million pounds (MMlb) for 2014, 71 MMlb more than in 2012 (ADF&G 2014). Meanwhile, respondent processors reported processing 160 MMlb of raw (round weight) product from all sources (drift and set permits) in 2014.
This year’s primary conclusions include:
- Harvest in 2014 was the seventh largest in the last 20 years and harvesters, both set and drift, responded by chilling the largest amount of raw product ever in the history of the fishery. Product chilled prior to delivery reached 78.8 MMlb in the aggregate fishery and 67.3 MMlb in the drift net fishery. While both of these numbers are records and the drift net fleet chilled 48 percent more sockeye than in 2013’s anemic run, the setnet fleet increased its chilled raw product amounts by 145 percent over 2013.
- The size of this year’s run forced the overall percent of raw product that is chilled below 50 percent for the first time since 2011. However, drift fleet chilled product was 51 percent. This percent is down substantially from the 2012 high of 59 percent on a harvest of 109 Mlb.
- The amount of raw product flowing into all product forms increased, but the split between canned product (44 percent), H&G frozen product (38 percent), and fillets (17 percent) remained largely the same. ADF&G data indicate that in the first wholesale value per pound of each of these product forms was $5.36, $3.94,3 and $6.88 (frozen fillets)/$3.31 (fresh filets).
- The rapid conversion of permit holders from those who do not regularly chill their product to those who do regularly chill their product has stopped. The conversion rate seen over the last two years has been quite small and there remains a substantial portion of the fleet, greater than 35 percent, which chills their product less than one-quarter of the time. The study is beginning to conclude that further progress will take focused incentives or programs as forward progress under the current system is slowing or has stopped.
- The ice barges’ extra efforts to sell to tenders greatly boosted slush ice users this year, who saw their production of chilled raw product nearly double. This increase is in comparison to RSW users whose chilled raw product production increased by just under 50 percent.
Additionally, processors indicated during the survey that the deficit in canned salmon supplies seen in 2011–2012 has been eliminated, and currently both the canned and frozen H&G markets are well supplied. We encourage our members to download and review the full report.