Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 31 March 2011
This week we look to the West again, to Alaska and Japan, keeping an eye on the future of Alaska's fishing markets.
It remains to be seen what effect the fallout in Japan will have on Alaska's fishing industry. But for now, Alaska seafood businesses are doing all they can to help the citizens of Japan, the state's largest trade partner.
Last year, Alaska's seafood exports to Japan were valued at $523.4 million, including blackcod, king crab, sockeye salmon and, of course, herring roe.
As the herring seiners prepare to launch on Sitka Sound in what is predicted to be a strong year, they can't help but wonder if their 2011 product will create a glut.
The Japanese reportedly have about 3,000 tons of herring roe in cold storage from last year. In a typical year, the nation consumes 6,000 tons of the sac roe, which is incorporated into kazunoko, a delicacy reserved for gifts and special occasions.
So the question remains, will the Japanese be splurging on delicacies this year, when some of their basic needs are barely being met? And if so, will their distribution system have recovered well enough to guide the products to market?
The bright spot for those Sitka boat owners who have diversified permits is that Alaska's salmon season is predicted to be the strongest since 2007 at 203.5 million salmon, a nearly 19 percent increase over last year's 171.2 million.
With a global shortage of farmed salmon and the American economy slowly scratching its way out of the downturn, this could very well be an effulgent season for wild salmon.
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