Why the Price Increase in Canned Alaska Salmon

Two boats fishing in front of a setting sun.
Pure Alaska Salmon Company, LLC, greatly regrets the need for our price increases. The increases honestly reflect our increased costs, and these increased costs are due to a substantial shortfall in the 2018 Alaska salmon catch. Contributing to this shortfall is an ever increasing global demand for fresh or frozen Alaska salmon.

We are sorry on many levels. We are concerned about the health of wild salmon resource; what caused so few fish to return to their natal streams? Secondly, we are worried about the health of the commercial fishing fleet, including our family, as it takes a lot of capital to maintain a fishing boat, and lastly, but not least, we are concerned about the availability of this great food resource for people to enjoy. Canned wild Alaska salmon is such a great and affordable food choice, and we hate to see that accessibility diminished.

Erratic things do happen in nature, so we have learned not to jump to conclusions, but this season’s shortfall is undeniably troubling. It was such a dramatic decline and there are patterns in the way the salmon returned that are unusual.

We are not biologists, but as a fishing family we do listen with special attention to these issues. There are reported to be two deleterious forces at work; less precipitation to support the salmon streams and less food in the ocean for the migrating salmon. Both phenomena would seem to stem from a changing climate.

This summer, for instance, Southeast Alaska, site of one the world’s great rain forests, where the abundant snow and rain has made for the thousands of streams that support millions of salmon and the critters that eat those salmon—it was drought conditions. Without water in the streams, salmon cannot spawn and therefore do not reproduce. Mature salmon will tread water outside those dry streams waiting for adequate water and the longer they must wait, if the rainfall ever comes, the more the returning salmon lose strength to reproduce. The upper northern latitudes are warming at far more rapid rates than the rest of the globe.

Not only are spawning conditions more challenging, but for those salmon that do manage to make it back out to the ocean for the migratory phase of their existence, there has been less food available.

The so-called Warm Pacific Blob of 2013-14 moved through the North Pacific and greatly upset the food column. Warmer waters are not as fertile as colder waters. Warmer waters may have more varieties of fish, but colder waters support much larger volumes of fish. It was reported that in some areas of Alaska what few salmon returned, were severely under weight. Fish are coldblooded and the warmer water increases metabolism rates, hence increasing nutritional requirements. A less fertile ocean combined with fewer and hungrier fish is not a good combination.

With one very striking exception, the Alaska salmon catch for the 2018 season, fell far below the already mediocre predictions. Bristol Bay, the exception, had a record run of sockeye this year, but the rest of Alaska produced less than half the prediction. This shortfall was especially acute with pink salmon. In 2017, the pink salmon catch total was 135 million fish— in 2018, it was a mere 38 million. The sockeye catch appears to be more robust, but only because certain rivers in the vast Bristol Bay region produced super abundances. The sockeye catch for the rest of Alaska was very poor. Bristol Bay sockeye largely goes to the fresh and frozen market, so canned product inventory is very slim.

In summation, these are the reasons that we know why the cost of canned salmon has increased so sharply. It is our hope that mankind takes in these troubling signals, sets aside politics and starts to do what we can do to minimize whatever our impact on natural cycles may be. It is simply the smart and right thing to do.

One thing remains the same—wild Alaska salmon is one of the most healthy and delicious proteins you can eat and even at these prices we would argue that it is still a great nutritional value.

P.S. The ‘Warm Pacific blob’ seems to be regrouping this fall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.