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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
To many, the name “Ketchikan” has become synonymous with three things: Rain, cruise ships, and salmon.
The later is so enshrined in the economic lifeblood of the area, that nearly every tourist has a photo taken in front of Mission Street’s iconic sign proclaiming Ketchikan “The Salmon Capital of the World.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week released a report touting American fisheries as being strong economic drivers across the board. Overall, the government says the state of the domestic fish industry is doing well.
The report also includes data on the volume and value of fish landed at prominent U.S. ports in 2016. The report indicates that the Ketchikan fishing industry has continued to decline in both volume and value of fish landed since an unusually bountiful year in 2013.
The report shows that in 2016, Ketchikan was ranked #14 out of all U.S. ports in terms of overall quantity of fish hauled, a volume totaling 65 million pounds. The First City was a little farther down the list in 2016 regarding total value, though, coming in at #31 ($36 million in revenue). This represents a six-spot drop from the previous year.
Overall, Ketchikan has seen a steady decline in both volume and value of fish since its recent peak in 2013. That year saw Ketchikan saw a dramatic haul of 144 million pounds of fish and $76 million in revenue — coming in at #12 and #11 in the U.S. for both volume and value, respectively.
In just three years, Ketchikan’s volume of fish has dropped by 54.9 percent (144 million pounds to 65 million pounds) and the overall value of fish being brought into the community dropped concurrently at a rate of 52.6 percent ($76 million to $36 million).
Although, in a decline locally, the report notes “commercial and recreational fisheries remain a strong contributor to the United States economy.”
Alaska itself has also led the way in the commercial fishing industry.
“By volume, the nation's largest commercial fishery remains Alaska walleye pollock,” the report reads, “which showed near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds (up 3 percent from 2015), representing 35 percent of total U.S. commercial and recreational seafood landings.”
The report also notes that Dutch Harbor has, for the 20th consecutive year, led the U.S. in seafood volume, hauling in a whopping 770 million pounds of seafood.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross trumpeted a general expansion of the aquaculture industry as part of the annual report.
"With the United States importing billions of pounds of seafood annually, and with so much of that seafood foreign farm-raised, the numbers in this report underscore the untapped potential of aquaculture here at home," Ross said. "Expanding our nation's aquaculture capacity presents an opportunity to reduce America's reliance on imports while creating thousands of new jobs."
The report also included some interesting facts on the amount seafood that lands on American’s plates across the country, although the average Ketchikanite likely puts those numbers to shame.
“The average American ate 14.9 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2016, a decrease from 15.5 pounds the year before,” the report reads. “U.S. dietary guidelines recommend 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood species per week, or 26 to 39 pounds per person per year.”
The NOAA report is a reminder of Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska’s strong ties to the commercial fishing industry.
Other Southeast Alaska communities in the 2016 top port rankings include:
• Sitka: 56 million pounds; $55 million dollars.
• Petersburg: 41 million pounds; $37 million dollars.
• Juneau: 16 million pounds; $23 million dollars.