By Jenny Neyman
As the push-pull of allocative arguments continue to churn in Cook Inlet fisheries, the Alaska Salmon Alliance has released an economic report to support its position that commercial fisheries are a significant part of the Kenai Peninsula economy, and so should have a place in the water and at the regulatory table.
The “Cook Inlet Drift and Set Net Salmon Fisheries” report, prepared for ASA by Northern Economics, based in Anchorage and Bellingham, Wash., was released this month, and estimates the 2011 ex-vessel value of the Cook Inlet salmon fishery — including drift- and set-net salmon fisheries as well as purse seine and hatchery cost-recovery fisheries — at $56.4 million, which exceeds the estimated 2011 value of all Lower 48 salmon fisheries combined.
“There’s just been a lot of speculation about the value of Cook Inlet commercial fisheries. And as it turns out it’s rivaling the Bering Sea’s crab fishery, which is substantial. There’s major preoccupation with sport and personal-use fisheries in this Cook Inlet region and we felt that we needed to get the word out that we’re an important part of the overall economy of the Kenai Peninsula. That comes out loud and clear,” said Arni Thompson, ASA executive director.
A five-year average ex-vessel value for Cook Inlet salmon fisheries was estimated at $32.1 million, with a low of $15.3 million in 2006 and the high of $54.2 million in 2011. For comparison, the five-year average of Lower 48 salmon fisheries was pegged at $37.2 million, the West Coast shore-based trawl fishery at $45 million and the Hawaii tuna fishery at $53.8 million.
The cumulative harvest value of the Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries between 1980 and 2011 was estimated at $2.15 billion. Sockeye were noted to be the predominant species harvested in inlet commercial salmon fisheries, accounting for 78 percent of landings between 1980 and 2011, and 88 percent of that $2.15 billion.
The report notes that in 2010 and 2011, Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries ranked fourth in ex-vessel value among the major salmon fisheries in the state, behind Southeast, Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, and ahead of Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and the statewide troll fisheries.
The wholesale value of all species and products produced by processors of Cook Inlet salmon was found to exceed $212 million in 2011, according to the report.
“Then when you add in the economic multiplier for indirect and induced service and purchases from various industry suppliers it goes up to $350 million. That’s using a very conservative multiplier. I don’t want to try to reach out for a bigger one because you can’t really verify it right now. But we’re planning to go to the next phase with an analysis to pretty accurately estimate what the real indirect value is. And it’s very likely that value will grow to over $400 million,” Thompson said.