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Fishers face shorter fall season on top of lower prices for salmon

Boats docked in Kodiak’s St. Paul Harbor at sunset. (Brian Venua/KMXT)
Boats docked in Kodiak’s St. Paul Harbor at sunset. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Kodiak fishermen are disappointed by yet another setback to this year’s salmon season. Trident Seafoods announced over the weekend that they will pay just 20 cents per pound for chums – that’s less than half of last year’s price per pound – and will stop buying salmon altogether from most of the state starting in September.

Trident announced the price drop in a letter to its fleet on Aug. 5. In the same letter, the company said it will not participate in fall salmon fishing and will only purchase salmon from Petersburg and Cordova South starting Sept. 1.

Gerry Cobban Knagin has fished for Trident Seafoods for decades. She said seeing the price drop so low this year is frustrating.

“It makes it extremely difficult as a commercial fisherman to make expenses and even to make a profit, which is what we’re in it for,” she said. “Especially when the fuel prices have gone up and grocery prices have all risen, it’s taking away anything that we might be able to make.”

She said Trident claimed they would pay about 30 cents per pound earlier this season before lowering its base price.

Kodiak fishers have also faced lower prices for Tanner crab earlier this year. A lot of the island’s fleet also fishes for Bristol Bay sockeye, where processors announced significantly lower prices earlier this season compared to last year.

But lower prices aren’t the only issue. Late runs and fall fishing is usually Kodiak’s bread and butter and the island had a large pink salmon forecast. Cobban Knagin said she usually fishes into the fall, but now her season’s been cut short.

“Cutting it off about the first of September, that’s where we typically fish silvers,” she said. “Having that cut off date does impact our ability to earn more money because we could still be fishing until the 15th of September.”

Cobban Knagin said fall fishing is usually when they start catching fish to donate to the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s meal programs.

Trident said in the letter that the move is in response to Russian fishers flooding the market for salmon. A spokesperson for Trident emphasized global market conditions and had no further comment when reached by email.

Greg Smith is the communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. He said ASMI recently received more funding from the state legislature and they’re doing their best to move Alaskan salmon as fast as possible.

“We’re using that to reach out and do additional work promotions to increase market and demand at retail, food service and then direct to consumer,” he said. “We know there’s more work to be done and we’ll do that work to stimulate the market and stimulate demand.”

Cobban Knagin said she wouldn’t be surprised if her peers who fish for other processors receive similar announcements soon.

“There’s quite a few people that are impacted,” she said. “And what happens, the reality of what happens, is that when one processor puts out an announcement like that, typically, other processors follow that situation.”

In the meantime, she and others will just have to hope for the best out of the situation.