JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Pink salmon are credited for creating Alaska's largest salmon harvest ever, according to new figures from an organization that promotes Alaska seafood.
Preliminary 2013 figures from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute count 272 million fish caught. Of those, 219 million were pink salmon, also known as humpbacks.
The institute is a nonprofit partnership between the state and the seafood industry.
The salmon season last year was valued at an estimated $691 million. That's second only to the $724 million harvest of 1988, the Juneau Empire (http://is.gd/vDqYNf) reported Monday.
The pink-salmon catch buoyed the 2013 numbers despite low figures for king salmon across the state, said area biologist David Harris with the state Department of Fish and Game.
"Often you'll have a super-good return in one of the areas (of the state.) But I think we had a pretty good run across all the areas," he said. "What really drove the record harvest was the number of pink salmon."
Tyson Fick with the seafood marketing Institute said the hefty harvest will be a financial boost for fisherman and Alaska's seafood industry as a whole.
Fick said product diversification has led to increased uses of pink salmon, which is not only canned but now it is often frozen, filleted and packaged into convenience meals.
"If you go back 10 years ago, 80 percent of pinks went into a can," Fick said. "Now, it's less than 50 percent."
Fishermen have caught increasingly more fish since the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, which greatly expanded Alaska's fishable waters, Fick said. In 1976, for example, Alaska fishermen caught about 25 million salmon, he said.
Salmon also have increased in value over the years, Fick said. Consumers in the past decade have been willing to pay more each year for salmon, especially pinks.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com