Ron Rogness, GAPP Economic and Industry Advisor , April 26, 2022

Successful 2022 Wild Alaska Pollock Fishing Season Nears Finish Line

 

Each year, a remarkable event occurs in nature when Wild Alaska Pollock return to the Bering Sea waters near Dutch Harbor and Akutan and the Gulf of Alaska waters between Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula to spawn, thereby ensuring future generations of fish.  At the same time, the fishermen that fish for them “gear up” to harvest that portion of the annual quotas in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska that are allowed to be taken during the spawning season.

Following two years of operational disruptions caused by Covid-19 and some occasionally difficult fishing conditions, the entire Wild Alaska Pollock industry worked hard to ensure a smooth season and hoped for good fishing. And, by most measures that is exactly what they got. Fish size were reported to be very good and roe content and quality was some of the highest seen in recent history. The numbers certain bear that out. With data for the week ending April 16 now in hand, the A season quotas in the Bering Sea have largely been fully harvested, processed and products are now already enroute or already in markets in the U.S. and around the world.

2022 started with just over 17% lower quotas in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska combined after scientists reduced quotas in the Bering Sea to protect the fish stocks after Covid prevented the usual stock assessment surveys from being conducted. In 2021, The combined A season catch was 637,741 mt. In 2022, the catch as of April 16 was 528,572 mt with 10,589 mt of quota unharvested. If that quota is taken, then the 2022 catch will be down about 15.5% from the previous year.

One way to compare the productivity of this year’s A-season vs. last season is to look at the amount of frozen production relative to the overall catch. In 2021, the frozen yield was 28.14%. This year, the frozen yield was 11 percent higher at 31.4%. This was not a result of an increase in headed and gutted which would also increase yield, but more likely an indication that fish size was very good for making frozen products.

The product mix was also very interesting, as clearly the industry responded to the incredibly high demand for fillets and fillet blocks and the shortfall in fillet and block production in 2021. Despite the lower quota and lower catches this year, as of April 9, the industry has already exceeded last year’s A season PBO production by 3,570 mt. If the full quotas are taken, that increase will be more than 4,000 mt. Note also that deep-skinned fillets, which are so important to the quick service restaurant sector is projected to be almost exactly the same as last year.

Each year we wish the fleet “good fishing” when they head out for the season. Clearly this season was “good fishing” indeed.

The full production comparison is shown below.

 

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