If you’re looking for some positive economic news, check out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s recently released preliminary data on the commercial catches and values of salmon in 2021.

Published Monday by the Division of Commercial Fisheries, the preliminary data indicates that Alaska’s commercial salmon fishermen landed an overall harvest with a preliminary value of nearly $644 million this year.

That preliminary “ex-vessel” value paid to fishermen in 2021 is more than twice the $295.2 million value recorded during the previous year, according to department data.

“When compared to the long-term time-series (1975-2020), the 2021 all-species commercial salmon harvest of 233.9 million fish and 858.5 million pounds is the third highest on record for both total fish harvested, and total pounds harvested,” stated a department announcement. “Adjusted for inflation (CPI, 2021 prices), the 2021 ex-vessel value estimate of $643.9 million is also the third highest ex-vessel value reported since 1975.”

And how did Southeast Alaska fare?

Commercial fishermen in Southeast Alaska harvested salmon with a preliminary ex-vessel value of $132.2 million in 2021 — up from about $50.1 million in 2020.

 Southeast Alaska commercial fishermen landed more of each salmon species in 2021 compared to 2020, as well.  

 The commercial harvest of pink salmon in Southeast Alaska, for example, jumped from about 7.97 million fish in 2020 to 48.2 million this year.

The chinook salmon harvest in Southeast increased from about 200,000 fish in 2020 to about 216,000 fish this year; sockeye salmon from about 373,500 to 1.11 million; coho salmon from 1.10 million to 1.50 million; and chum salmon from 4.65 million to 6.98 million.

The ex-vessel average prices per pound increased for each salmon species in Southeast Alaska, also.

The department announcement acknowledges that the data is preliminary. The final values will be available at some point next year, “after seafood processors, buyers, and direct marketers report total value paid to fishermen in 2021.”

But even at this point, it’s clear that 2021 was a positive year overall for the commercial fishing fleets statewide and within the Southeast Alaska. And, a further parsing of the data will show the performance of specific areas and gear groups within Southeast.

For us here in Ketchikan, it’s exciting to see the upswing for the commercial salmon sector is 2021, especially after the largely dismal season in 2020. The industry has long been a mainstay of the local and regional economy, and this year’s robust season certainly helped offset some of the negative effects wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’re also encouraged that some parts of the commercial fishing sector continue nearly year-round. As shown by the page 1 feature photograph in Thursday’s edition of the Ketchikan Daily News, the commercial sea cucumber fishing season that began in October is continuing, as are the commercial dive harvest fisheries for geoduck clams and sea urchins, and the winter troll fishery for king salmon. The commercial pot shrimp fishery that started on Oct. 1 in Southeast Alaska proceeded quickly, with all but two harvest areas closed by Oct. 28.

All of this is positive economic news, indeed.