The salmon situation

At last week's ComFish trade show in Kodiak, fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp delivered this important presentation, Trends in Alaska Salmon Markets.

It's a concise overview of the salmon industry's remarkable resurgence in recent years, and some potential trouble on the horizon.

Anyone seriously interested in this business should review the entire report — it's a fast-moving 101 pages.

Here are three key points Deckboss took away from it:

• Strong harvests and surging prices have nearly quadrupled the dockside value of Alaska salmon since the terrible 2002 season. But when adjusting for inflation, the value remains well below levels seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s (see the graphs on pages 47-48).

• Japan once was practically the only destination for frozen sockeye, the state's most valuable salmon species. Now the market is diverse, with a great deal of sockeye going to the Lower 48, the European Union and China (see graph on page 17).

• While long-term prospects for wild Alaska salmon are good, some recent developments don't bode well for prices this year. These include rapidly growing world farmed salmon supply, sharply lower farmed prices the past six months, and recent declines in foreign purchasing power.

"Both economic theory and past experience suggest that if farmed salmon prices fall and the value of the Japanese yen and the Euro fall, it will be difficult for wild salmon sellers to continue to sell wild salmon for the prices they could get in 2011," Knapp says.