Alaska’s seafood industry directly employs more workers than any other private sector industry in the state, according to a new report released this week.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute released an updated “Economic Value of Alaska’s Seafood Industry Report,” compiled by McKinley Research. The research documents that the seafood industry employs 62,200 workers annually, statewide, and contributes $5.7 billion to Alaska’s economy.

Economic Value of Alaska’s Seafood Industry Report

Of that total, 31,000 jobs worth $1.01 billion were in commercial fisheries, including 8,900 fishing vessels and 52 catcher-processors.

“Alaska’s seafood industry continues to play a vital role in supporting Alaska’s economy,” said ASMI Executive Director Jeremy Woodrow. “The economic value of Alaska seafood stretches well beyond the docks and is spread across Alaska’s communities and throughout our nation.”

Unlike previous years, the economic impacts are calculated solely on 2019 data, as opposed to averaging two years of data — this report has been published on a biennial basis, starting in 2013, with updates in 2015, 2017, 2020.

“In 2020 the industry suffered from widespread covid-19 impacts and other factors in several key fisheries,” said Jim Calvin, vice president of McKinley Research Group (formerly McDowell Group). “While the report includes some 2020 data, averaging 2019 data with the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season would not produce an accurate picture of the seafood industry’s economic impact in Alaska. Preliminary 2021 data reflect a partial rebound, further indicating 2020 as an outlier.”

The report demonstrates seafood continues to deliver value for Alaskans:

  • Approximately 5.7 billion pounds of seafood worth $2.0 billion was harvested in 2019. Processors turned this harvest into 2.8 billion pounds of product worth $4.7 billion.
  • The seafood industry directly employs 62,200 workers in Alaska each year, including over 31,300 skippers and crew and 27,100 seafood processing employees.
  • The Alaska seafood industry directly employed an estimated 26,400 Alaska residents in 2019, with over 19,800 resident fishermen and over 6,500 resident processors.
  • Seafood is Alaska’s largest international export by volume and value. Export markets typically account for two-thirds of sales value, with the U.S. domestic market buying the remaining third.
  • Seafood processing accounts for 70 percent of Alaska’s manufacturing employment in 2019, making it the largest manufacturing sector in Alaska. The sector employs 27,100 workers in 160 shore-based plants, 52 catcher-processors and approximately 30 floating processors.
  • Residents own 6,550 fishing vessels, and each fishing operation represents a business generating new income from a renewable resource.
  • Seafood is the economic foundation of many rural communities, and seafood processing facilities are integral to many coastal economies of Alaska.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 16 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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