Story last updated at 4/23/2014 - 2:31 pm
Alaska salmon permits in many fisheries have tripled in value since 2002, and the upward trend continues.
An overview of April listings by four brokers shows Bristol Bay drift net permits are valued at nearly $134,000 by the state, and listed for sale at $150,000 to $170,000. That compares to $90,000 this past January.
In Southeast Alaska, seine permits are the priciest in the state at more than $300,000. That's an increase of $50,000 since January.
The asking price for Prince William Sound seine cards exceeds $200,000 - compared to the $140,000 range a year ago. After being stalled in the mid $30,000 range for years, Kodiak seine permits are showing a steady uptick and are now listing from $55,000 to over $80,000. Chignik permits are moving up from the $225,000 range; at Area M/Alaska Peninsula, drift permits were listed at $100,000, up from $90,000. At Cook Inlet, drift permits were listed at $100,000, up from $75,000 less than a year ago.
Looking at individual fishing quotas - halibut shares have hit a $50 asking price in Southeast, the only place where halibut catches have increased in the past two years. (Offers are in the $45 range.)
For the Central Gulf, the asking prices for halibut IFQs range from $28 to $42 per pound and $16 to $20 in the Western Gulf. That's an increase of about $6 in both Gulf regions since January.
Conversely, the prices for shares of sablefish (black cod) show a big drop in price from a year ago. Asking prices in Southeast of $22 to just over $30 are down from $28 to $34 per pound; likewise, in the Central Gulf sablefish shares are priced at $15 to $30, down from the same prices as Southeast.
The decline is likely due to a big drop in dock prices for sablefish over the past two years (after reaching a high of $9/lb for large fish), and a 25 percent drop in the value of the yen in Japan, where the bulk of Alaska's sablefish is sold, said Andy Wink, lead seafood analyst with the McDowell Group in Juneau.
The new Alaska Mariculture Initiative has a mission to create a plan "to grow a billion-dollar industry within 30 years." That would about double the annual dockside value of all Alaska seafood landings combined.
The ambitious project will be bankrolled by a $216,812 federal grant to the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, one of 10 award recipients out of a pool of 250 as part of NOAA Fisheries' national mariculture expansion policy.
"We see it as a real opportunity that has been kind of struggling in Alaska," said AFDF director Julie Decker, adding that the project will "broaden the concept of mariculture."
"We're not just talking about shellfish farming or aquatic plants, but also enhancement and restoration. It's a three-legged stool," she said. "When you start looking at the industry from that point of view, it's a much broader impact and involves many different sets of stakeholders.
Decker points out many parallels between the mariculture initiative and Alaska's salmon enhancement program, which the state backed with a $100 million low-interest, revolving loan fund so salmon hatcheries could get built and operate for several years. That gave them time to develop taxes and cost recovery programs to help pay back the long-term loans.
"It helps people see conceptually that Alaska can do this," she said. "Now we have hatcheries that have completely paid back those loans with interest, and are producing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of salmon every year. Alaska has done this and done it really well. And we developed something in rural Alaska where it is very difficult to make businesses work."
Mariculture was approved by the Alaska legislature in 1988; today 69 sites are permitted but only 28 growers are marketing shellfish, primarily oysters, with an annual value of half a million dollars per year. Alaska has two fledgling shellfish hatcheries - Alutiiq Pride at Seward and OceansAlaska at Ketchikan.
The initiative foresees Alaska growing geoducks clams, scallops, urchins, abalone, king crab, Dungeness and various plants. Starting this summer, Decker said AFDF will begin harnessing statewide support from state, federal and academics who are already active in the field, and include CDQ groups in Western Alaska.
"I believe there are things that can be grown out there, whether it's an enhancement program or private shellfish farming," she said.
The potential for well-planned mariculture is enormous - New Zealand's production of oysters, green mussels and king salmon, for example, is worth $400 million, and the value is predicted to top $1 billion by 2025.
Science made simple
Lifestyles of the small and toothy ... Not all waters are created equal ... whales as sentinels in changing marine environments ... salmon excluders for trawl fisheries ... economics of killer whale predation - these are just a few topics that people will learn about at this week's Kodiak Area Marine Science Symposium (KAMSS).
"This is a pretty unique gathering of folks who have been doing research in the Kodiak area that work for state, federal and academic entities - all getting together and bringing their science back to the people of Kodiak," said Kate Wynne, a marine mammal researcher at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center and co-organizer of the Sea Grant event.
Nearly 40 presentations are scheduled over four days covering research from the bottom up.
"From zooplankton to crab research, through birds and mammals and humans and seafood science and archeology - they are all related to marine science and we put them in an order that goes from the bottom of the food web to the top and human dimensions. They just flow together," Wynne added.
The topics flow quickly - each presentation is limited to 15 minutes and five minutes for questions. Wynne said there is one other rule: "That they are presented in a way that anyone can understand," she stressed. "Don't overwhelm them with scientific details that you might use in a scientific symposium to your peers. These are school kids, guys off the street, tourists, and others in the community who want to know what you're talking about."
Alaska Sea Grant has hosted similar "lighter side of science" symposia in other Alaska communities to highlight local research that touches people's lives. Wynne said a goal is to make science enjoyable and not to scare people away.
"We've actually had discussions about even using the word science in the symposium name. It can throw people off and be intimidating," she said. "We are trying to get past that because in a lot of cases these are just fun facts about things that apply to our lives."
The KAMSS event runs April 22-26 at the Kodiak Convention Center.