Bristol Bay Fishermen Narrow the Sockeye Price Gap

Remote location and run timing remain challenges for legendary fishery

According to a study just released by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association Board of Directors, Bristol Bay’s salmon driftnet fishermen are improving their product quality and narrowing the traditional gap in prices paid for Bristol Bay sockeye compared to other Alaskan salmon fisheries. Last season, processors paid 14% less for sockeye in Bristol Bay than they did elsewhere, a significant improvement over the seven-year average spread of 39%.

“That’s a great result,” said Robert Heyano, president of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA). “All credit goes to the fishermen who have modernized their operations, but this is also an excellent example of why the Regional Seafood Development Associations were such a good idea in the first place. We would not have seen this kind of progress if Bristol Bay drifters didn’t vote eight years ago to contribute 1% of their catch to support and promote this fishery. Ever since then, we have focused on improving our prices by improving our quality; and this report shows that it’s working.”

The BBRSDA-sponsored study was conducted by the McDowell Group, a Juneau-based economics and market research firm. It is available for download at www.bbrsda.com.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • In 2013, the Bristol Bay harvest accounted for 31% of world sockeye production.
  • Frozen H/G and frozen fillets accounted for 49% of Bristol Bay’s 2013
    “first wholesale value.”
  • Higher demand for canned salmon also supported the narrowing price gap seen by Bay drifters. 42% of Bristol Bay sockeye went into the market as canned product in 2013.

The report also sought input and commentary from retail buyers, distributors, sales managers and other market-watchers. “Bristol Bay stakeholders and just about anyone else connected to Alaska’s seafood industry will find this report interesting,” said Beth Poole, the BBRSDA’s marketing coordinator. “One theme that comes through clearly is the need for constant consumer education about the fishery, its fishermen, and the amazing nutritional benefits of wild sockeye. We’re working to raise awareness about all of these issues through outreach and partnerships with retail and food service partners, where we’ve seen an huge amount of support and excitement around developing markets for Bristol Bay sockeye.”

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) represents the 1,850 commercial salmon driftnet fishermen who harvest the world’s greatest seafood – Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. Find them at bristolbaysockeye.org and bbrsda.com.

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