As predicted, Alaska fishermen are getting higher prices for their salmon this year.
It's good news following a 2016 season that saw lackluster catches in all regions but Bristol Bay, a failure of pink salmon runs, and paltry paychecks nearly across the board.
Prices paid to Alaska salmon fishermen depend on the region, species, fishing gear, and most importantly, global market conditions. Salmon prices also reflect bonuses for iced fish, dock deliveries and other agreements between a buyer and seller.
As a fishing season unfolds, details can be sketchy as buyers watch the strength of the salmon runs. Until the fish are actually sold at the wholesale level, prices are in flux, and it is tough to determine what the final outcome will be.
It all adds up to a lot of uncertainty, making it tough for sellers and buyers to pencil in a bottom line. That said, a canvassing of fishermen, processors and managers shows that early indicators are good.
Bristol Bay started the optimism when Copper River Seafoods in late June posted a price of $1.35 a pound for top quality sockeyes. Bay reds averaged 93 cents a pound last summer. No word yet from other buyers as the sockeye run blows past the forecast of 27 million fish with no end in sight.
At Kodiak, sockeye prices were posted at $1.40 for bled and chilled fish, compared with an average of 96 cents last year.
Chums, which are arriving in record numbers at parts of the island, were posted at 40 cents a pound for bled and chilled fish, up from 29 cents on average at Kodiak last year.
For early Kodiak pinks, a price of 35 cents was on the board for bled and chilled fish, a 20-cent increase from 2016.
Icicle Seafoods at Kodiak's Larsen Bay has chums posted at 55 cents a pound for bled and chilled fish and $1.40 for sockeyes.
Troll-caught kings from Southeast is four-day July fishery fetched nearly $7 a pound according to fish tickets, up $2 from last summer is average. Trollers now have switched to coho salmon and†are averaging $1.40 a pound.
Other Southeast fishermen also are seeing some record chum catches. Chums are fetching 80 cents a pound compared with just 25 cents, on average, last year. So far, gillnetters have caught nearly five times as many chum salmon this year as last year. Similar chum prices were reported from Prince William Sound, up from 32 cents.
It is the demand for roe that is driving the interest in chums, most of which goes to Japan. After a decade of declines in Japan is local fishery, which normally accounts for 70 percent of the total chum roe supply, prices have soared 30 to 40 percent since last year.
Seafood.com reports that salted chum roe is selling at Tokyoís Tsukiji Market for $30 to $35 a pound, the highest prices in 30 years.