A seine crew lands chum and pink salmon during the 2023 fishing opener in Prince William Sound. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

Halfway through the Prince William Sound seine season, captains and crew are reacting to a dramatic drop in pink and chum salmon prices. The price updates came in the form of official letters and informal text messages from various processors this week.  

Grounds price for pink salmon hovers at $.23/lb with chum salmon prices following at $.20/lb. Rumors of chum price dipping below $.20/lb were also reported by fishermen.  

The seine fleet has seen a season patterned by frequent closures this year. Heather Scannell, fisheries biologist and seine manager at Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), said most of these closures were intended to create a more orderly fishery.  

“The more I can build wild stocks on that type of schedule the more area I can provide,” Scannell said.  

Scannell’s management style has been applauded by much of the fleet over the last few years. Scannell said she approaches the season management with a background knowledge of what it’s like to be in the fishermen’s boots.  

“I started fishing here, so Prince William Sound is near and dear,” Scannell said.  


Scannell said while market price is far out of her control, her goal is to allow for as much fishing opportunity and area possible while Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC) completes cost recovery.  

As salmon prices dropped in the marketplace in-season, Valdez Fishing Development Association (VFDA) and PWSAC needed to compensate for value with volume. The two salmon hatcheries in the region must make up their operational cost through salmon harvest before the surplus can be harvested by the fleet at large. With a low market price, cost recovery will need to take more fish. As of Tuesday, VFDA has completed cost recovery and PWSAC has completed 40% of their assigned pink salmon revenue goal.  

When asked about whether the low price affects decision making in season, many fishermen say low years are all part of the job.  

Jamel Lister is a seasonal deckhand who has returned to work in the fishery for his 17th year, this season aboard the F/V Gorbushka. Lister said although he does pay attention to salmon markets leading up to the season, a poor forecast or low price does not deter him from returning each summer.  

“You have to take the good with the bad,” Lister said of the job. “If you’re in, you’re in every season.” 

Vessel owners and operators are also adjusting to the updated prices. When low price updates were announced by processors this past week, many took to social media to voice concerns and speculate on the reasoning behind the seemingly sudden drop in value.  

Seafood News reported on Aug. 2 that Russia’s pink salmon harvest was expected to exceed expectations, with landings of wild fish up 46% year-to-date from 2021. This has caused an influx of pink salmon on the global market.  

Assessing and acting on global market changes can be a major challenge for processors in season. Ben Kirkenschlager, fleet manager for Ocean Beauty Icicle (OBI) in Cordova, says that communicating global market trends with the fleet locally is a part of his job that requires transparency.  

“It’s important to remember to pull emotions away from reality,” Kirkenschlager said of the situation. “I’d always rather give people news about what is going on. Fishermen are business owners, and they need to be up to speed with market information in order to make the right decisions and investments.”  

Fishermen in the region are not strangers to changes in the wild seafood market. Greg Gabrielson has been fishing in the region since 1973 and is currently the owner and operator of the F/V Miss Michelle. Gabrielson said that over years he has become used to the ever-changing salmon market, but was still surprised at the sudden shift in the pink salmon market.  

“I don’t think anybody saw price drops coming because there wasn’t a surplus of pinks early on like there was for sockeye,” Gabrielson said.  

Gabrielson said that he typically isn’t too concerned about low prices in season because of the possibility of off-season retroactive payment checks.  

“This season I am concerned because I don’t expect to see a price increase coming in the winter. Retros come at a good time to pay boat insurance and off-season costs spill over into next year,” Gabrielson said.   

As for how he will adjust his business model in light of this year’s price, Gabrielson said he won’t allow panic to affect his decisions in season.  

“The best thing to do is just to go and keep fishing through this short-term bump in the road and hopefully get back to a stable environment,” Gabrielson said. “My advice to captains and crew is to ride it out.”  

Some members of the seine fleet are interested in taking a proactive approach to the current market price. Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU) was scheduled to hold a meeting in response to the salmon market this week. The meeting, called by seine division co-chair Ken Jones, was intended to discuss potential future actions of the fleet, as well as how CDFU is organized to support broad fleet efforts.