The salmon industry is the largest employer among Alaska's commercial fisheries, but its laborers collectively earned only about 60 percent of what pollock industry workers earned, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.
The study was prepared by Anchorage-based Northern Economics, using data from the state, primarily from 2001. The study is the first of its kind in the state in a decade, said Patrick Burden, president of Northern Economics.
According to the data, about 53,900 people - processors and fishermen - worked the equivalent of 36,900 full-time jobs in the Alaska seafood industry.
The salmon industry accounted for 15,200 jobs, or about 41 percent of the jobs in the state's seafood industry. Pollock had the next-highest numbers, with fewer than 8,000 jobs in 2001.
But workers in the pollock industry collectively were paid more than $500 million, while workers in the salmon industry made just over $300 million.
Stephanie Madsen, vice president of the processors association, said those numbers are just further evidence that the salmon industry has to find a way to increase its revenue.
The report also compared the total ex-vessel value of various seafood in 2000. The ex-vessel value is the price processors pay fishermen for their catch. Pollock accounted for about 30 percent of the seafood harvest's total ex-vessel value in 2001. Salmon accounted for 14 percent of the total value, which was $974 million.
The study found that fishermen from Washington received 43 percent of the ex-vessel value of the 2001 Alaska harvest, while Alaska fishermen received 41 percent, mostly in salmon and near-shore fisheries. The Washington fishermen's harvest was primarily in the Bering Sea groundfish and crab fisheries. The remainder of fishing was done by fishermen from California, Oregon, and other states and countries.
None of the figures presented much of a surprise, said Tom Gemmell, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, an umbrella group of fishing industry organizations.
Madsen said the study's purpose was mainly educational.
"We have experienced conversations at the policy level illustrating that people really don't understand our industry and the problems it's going through," Madsen said.
Masha Herbst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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