Quality is Catching. Get On Board.
The Bristol Bay salmon fishery has experienced a remarkable transformation toward improved quality and value in recent years, going from just 24% of the drift boat catch being chilled in 2008 to almost 71% chilled in 2016. With an ever increasing market demand for premium quality product, quality handling and chilling bonuses at all-time highs, and the necessity for our fleet to uphold the premium image of the Bristol Bay Sockeye brand, the incentive for fishermen to adhere to quality handling and chilling practices is greater today than ever before. This trend is unstoppable.
A Market Trend towards Quality
During the 2016 season, Bristol Bay processors produced a larger volume of H&G Fresh and Frozen Fillet product than ever before. Processors are expected to prioritize these premium product forms again in 2017 in response to the growing US demand, a higher farmed salmon price and a lower 2017 global sockeye forecast.
H&G Fresh Increased 657%; Fillet Increased 52%
However, processors can only meet these market demands if they receive #1 quality product. Roughly handled, unchilled fish are not going to make the cut. In a 2012 study on handling practices, where best handling practices were implemented, 87% of the fish were categorized as #1. Where best handling practices were not utilized, only 46% of the product was categorized as #1. Quality in, delivers quality out.
Incentives, Incentives, Incentives
The principle motivation for fishermen to utilize best handling practices is a matter of simple economics; chilled, bled, floated fish command a higher price result in a bigger settlement check at the end of the season. Chilling incentives alone accounted for almost 30% of the average base price in 2015. Add to that additional incentives offered by most processors for bleeding, sliding and floating and the economic case for quality grows.
Processors offered an additional $0.15 - $0.25/lb for chilled/floated fish in 2016
Processors offered an additional $0.05 - $0.10/lb for bleeding and or sliding fish in 2016
Remember that these additional quality incentives (bleeding, sliding, floating) are contingent upon chilling.
Quality is becoming the norm, two major processors announced they will no longer accept unchilled fish in 2018. Without making some changes now, dry boats will face smaller and tighter markets for their catch.
Premium Fish for a Premium Brand
Our brand image, Wild Taste, Amazing Place, is built on the fishing grounds and our brand promise must be supported by a premium product if we are to secure long term customer loyalty.
The ability to drive up the demand for Bristol Bay Sockeye, Alaska's Sockeye Salmon, hinges upon our members' commitment to delivering the highest quality sockeye at every offload.
Our fishery is clearly moving in the right direction, but progress can always be made. It is up to each individual fisherman to determine if their operation maximizes the value of their catch by delivering the highest quality product possible, and if it does not, to make necessary improvements so this economic potential can be realized.