By Don Ehrlich :: February 25, 2021
Disruptions we saw last year aren’t unheard of, though we don’t get many perfect storms of trouble as we felt in 2020. This year, salmon producers are working to ensure their communities have been vaccinated, going so far as to allow non-Alaskans to be vaccinated in Alaska, so the plants can remain open to seasonal employees who arrive to work for the duration.
As we move ever closer to the opening of the salmon season, our resident experts are fielding questions about what we can expect this year as more information becomes available from salmon-producing regions. At CFI, these aren’t just commodities and foods; they’re an entire ecosystem of jobs, sustainable communities, and small businesses that prepare for their harvests to provide for local and international distribution. From the small families of dockworkers and fishermen to the large dynamics of packing and shipping, each link in the chain has a very particular purpose and unique expertise that keeps the machine moving.
What do you think this salmon season will look like?
We all try to plan for the coming months by looking at what has happened before and how are we setting up now.
Well, the forecasts for salmon runs are putting the expectations at not much better than 2020; the year when Copper River Kings and Sockeyes were few and far between. We had less than a handful of short openings hoping to catch anything. The fishermen left the area for Bristol Bay early in the hopes of salvaging a disastrous season. Bristol Bay is expected to be a little better than last year, but no promises.
The Yukon run was miserable compared to past seasons.
How are we seeing the Seafood Processing companies handle this?
· Vertical integration.
· Keeping their harvest in-house to produce the value-added products promised to Food Service and Retail markets.
· Look to what is happening with fresh cod so far this year for planning
We should expect that to continue into the salmon season?
After considering the above, let’s throw on a heaping dose of Covid-19 and isolation protocols. Again we can only look to this current start of the cod season to see plants closed for weeks on end and fishing boats tied up to docks while crews quarantine. The same will continue as more people come into Alaska to work the salmon plants. Thank goodness the Governor of Alaska has opened up vaccinations to non-Alaskan residents so that vessel operators and processors can get their staff shots when they are allowed. That will be a big help, but we know Covid-19 will still be a major issue concerning public health and industry costs.
So the question remains, what do you think the coming salmon season will be like?
I think more of the same.
Hoping for better, but it is all up to the fish.