salmon industry currently faces many threats, termed
here as the triple whammy. Prices are declining, markets
are disappearing and costs continue to rise.
farmed salmon to blame?
set new quality standards
we have ignored
salmon has no surprises
farmers have set high quality standards that Alaska
cannot ignore if it is to regain markets at a high value.
Farm salmons consistent quality assures buyers
they will not have a mixed lot of fish. In the process,
farmed salmon increased consumption and that may prove
useful for Alaskas salmon industry down the way.
markets like farmed salmon
species and size grading
and declining prices
markets favor farmed salmon?
availability/Fresh year-round: Farm salmon is available
year round and it can be purchased fresh.
species and size grading/Consistent flesh characteristics:
The salmon are grown to the same size and grading under
their controlled production environment assures consistent
shrinkage: Low shrinkage refers to less waste for
the final seller who will need to remove rotting flesh
prior to sale.
and declining prices: As salmon farms gain in size
and production capacity, they have realized operating
efficiencies that are passed onto the buyers.
production: They produce products that the market
considerations: Salmon farms will accept delivers
on financing terms.
the market no longer favors Alaska salmon
the markets are rejecting Alaska salmon because the
supply generally occurs during the summer, they never
know what prices to expect, often different grades of
fish are in the same shipment, flesh quality is often
poor resulting in high shrinkage at the point of sale
and the production facilities are set, forcing consumers
to settle with whatever products the processors choose
markets like the quality of farmed salmon
- bright, no scale loss
- mild and some customers like this
- fresh 52 weeks a year
like the quality of farmed salmon. Since farms can control
their production cycles and raise similar species of
fish, consistency is achievable.
of quality loss
are a number of things that cause quality loss. They
might be lumped into categories like bacteria growth,
enzyme degradation, physical damage, dehydration, and
contamination. In the wild Alaska fishery, the industry
has each of these elements fighting against it. Farmed
salmon, on the other hand, has developed operations
that contain these problems.
and dealing with farmed salmon is easy.
Buying and dealing with Alaska salmon is not.
salmon has eliminated all the negatives
salmon quality is inconsistent
is still trying to "sell the pack"
seafood buyers, farmed salmon is just plain easier than
salmon is easier for buyers to deal with because it
has eliminated all the negatives that remain associated
with wild salmon. As mentioned before, farm salmon has
uniform pricing, year round availability, and good old
same is not the case with Alaska salmon. It remains
inconsistent and often times producers are focused on
trying to sell the pack. Wild salmon is
processed as it runs to the coast - in huge volumes.
This has lead to large packs of salmon inventory.
Once a pack was built up, it was the processors
job the rest of the year to sell it off. The easiest
way to sell these huge inventories was to do it through
big sales. This led to a sell the pack mentality,
where producers try to move product quickly without
great care to customer service or product development.
Even today, you will often hear that Alaska is trying
to sell the pack.
buy the entire catch
all qualities the same way with old technologies
sets the specs - not the market
to export H&G or canned to large volume buyers
sell by the truckload
it and forget it!
trained process workers
salmon in processed the Alaskan Way. Processors tend
to buy the entire catch, no matter what quality the
fish arrives in. All the fish is thrown together, good
quality or not, and processed with old technologies.
Grading specifications are set by the processors and
have been known to change from one year to another.
Huge volume sales of products with limited processing
save costs and are encouraged. Oftentimes, sellers will
not attach great customer service with their products.
And finally, there is great turnover in the workforce
leading to a poorly trained workforce.
not be the case that all sellers of salmon prescribe
to the Alaska Way or that they dont work hard
to address these areas, but discussions with buyers
in the market still indicate that salmon continues to
move as a detached high-volume, commodity business.
Alaskan Way worked adequately
prior to competition.
buyers wanted salmon:
came from Alaska;
was purchased, processed, and sold to Alaska specifications;
prices set by the Alaska industry - not the market.
farmed salmon, Alaska salmon producers could sell the
pack in the Alaskan Way. Practices and prices reflected
it was a sellers market.
a new day, a new business.
Now we need to ask ourselves...
is expected of Alaska fishermen and processors
that was not expected before?
who handle quality differently
Copper River salmon industry
(Cook Inlet, SE troll producers)
are a number of sellers and programs coming on line
that are taking a page from the farm salmon page book.
Each of these groups adhere to quality standards.
Fisheries is a troll-caught salmon producer that
adheres to strict quality handling procedures that includes
stunning fish, bleeding live, hand bleeding fish, immediate
and quick freezing practices.
River salmon industry is experimenting with a quality
handling practices program that includes tracking each
fish and utilizing a third party inspection program
with a quality seal.
Arctic Keta program was funded from 1996 - 2000.
It required participants to adhere to quality handling
Inlet fishermen and processors are undergoing a
branding campaign that includes a quality control component.
The Southeast troll caught producers also have similar
quality control criteria in their buying operations.
threads among these leaders
and processor handling guidlines
upon ASMI quality guidelines
inspection and verification
the preceding groups, each prescribed to common quality
control practices. These included handling guidelines
based on ASMI quality standards, third party inspection
and verification, and branding of the final product.