Report makes value of Bristol Bay salmon economy clear: $1.5 billion a year

In 2013, the researchers at the University of Alaska’s Institute for Social and Economic Research completed a study summarizing the far reaching economic impacts of the Bristol Bay commercial sockeye salmon fishery — the most valuable and largest salmon fishery in the world.

Bristol Bay’s sockeye fishery typically supplies almost half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon.  In 2010, harvesting, processing, and retailing Bristol Bay salmon and the multiplier effects of these activities created $1.5 billion in value across the United States. The total value of Bristol Bay salmon product exports in 2010 was equal to six percent of the total value of all U.S. seafood exports.

The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery also supported 12,000 fishing and processing jobs during the summer salmon fishing season.  Measuring these as year-round round jobs, and adding jobs created in other industries, the Bristol Bay salmon fishery created the equivalent of almost 10,000 year-round American jobs across the country, and brought Americans $500 million in income.

To read the executive summary, click here.

To read the full report, click here.

For further information, contact Sue Aspelund:

Meet the people behind the powerhouse Bristol Bay salmon economy.


Voices of the Bristol Bay economy

Meet the people whose livelihoods are tied to Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery and seafood industry, from fishing captains to CEOs.

Mark Palmer, President & CEO, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Seattle, Washington

“It’s good to have a report confirm what many of us have known – that the Bristol Bay salmon fishery is a vital industry that plays a huge role in the economies of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. We are proud to be part of an industry that’s been managed responsibly for more than 100 years, and to support the people who harvest delicious wild Bristol Bay salmon. We’re proud to provide jobs to process and deliver a healthy product which feeds people across the United States and the world.”

Mark Palmer is President and CEO of Ocean Beauty Seafoods, one of the largest seafood processors in the United States.  For more than 100 years, Ocean Beauty has delivered value-added, sustainable seafood products across the country. Based in Seattle, Ocean Beauty owns and operates nine factories, including a processing plant in Bristol Bay’s Naknek area, and eight distribution facilities in Alaska and the Western U.S., employing thousands.  More than 300 jobs at Ocean Beauty are directly tied to processing, canning, warehousing and delivering Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.


Johnathan Hillstrand 2

Captain Johnathan Hillstrand, Time Bandit, Deadliest Catch, Homer, Alaska

“For everyone who counts on the salmon industry to make a living, the Pebble project is the Deadliest Mine. The only people who want this mine don’t live in Alaska or even the United States. They’re foreign mining companies that want to sell gold and copper to the Chinese. I am deeply offended that we are even debating this topic anymore. Fishermen say no, Alaskans say no, how many times do we need to keep saying no?”

Johnathan Hillstrand captain’s the F/V Time Bandit with his brother Andy on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. The Time Bandit is frequently a tender in Bristol Bay during the summer months where the boat picks up salmon from the fishing boats and brings the harvest back to the processors. His boat is also responsible for getting fuel, groceries and mail to the fishing boats. Johnathan’s family has been tendering in Bristol Bay for over 30 years.


Tom Douglas, Chef and Restaurateur, Seattle, Washington

“As the owner of 13 Seattle restaurants that employ 800 people, I’m proud to support the whole economic chain around Bristol Bay sockeye, from the Alaskan and Washington processors that we buy our salmon from, to the fishermen who harvest it. Nearly $10 million, or 20 percent of my business’ annual sales, is generated by salmon, which is the most popular choice on our menus. I hope that the Obama Administration and Congress protect Bristol Bay’s salmon industry and the businesses that depend on it.”

Seattle Restaurateur Tom Douglas has been active on the campaign against the proposed Pebble Mine because so much of his business is dependent on the wild, abundant and pristine salmon resource from Bristol Bay, Alaska. Tom is the chef-owner of 13 of Seattle’s most exciting restaurants including:  Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, Palace Kitchen, Lola, and Brave Horse Tavern. With 30 years in the biz, Tom has earned national recognition by cooking global cuisine with regional and seasonal ingredients—especially salmon.  In fact, the media has often described Tom as the chef who put Seattle on the culinary map.  In 2012, Tom was awarded Outstanding Restaurateur by the James Beard Foundation.


Reid Ten Kley, Fisherman and Wholesale Business Leader, Portland, Oregon

“This report shows that more than 2,100 jobs in Oregon exist because of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, which produces $17 million in income for Oregon residents. Our entire family business is based on fishing, wholesaling and selling Bristol Bay sockeye, so we know firsthand the importance and value of this fishery. It must be protected from any major threats, including mega mines.”

Reid Ten Kley is a third generation Bristol Bay fishermen who is based in Oregon in the off-season. Reid’s grandparents came to Alaska to homestead on the shores of Lake Iliamna, and began set-net fishing for sockeye in Bristol Bay from a double-ended sailboat. Two generations later, the fishery is still the center of the family’s life and work, operating as a family cooperative. The family sells directly to chefs on the West Coast and in New York, and to consumers in both markets through a Community Supported Agriculture subscription model. Customers appreciate the sustainable and healthful wild fish.


Bob Waldrop, Anchorage, Alaska

“This report demonstrates that the Bristol Bay salmon fishery is an absolute jobs and revenue powerhouse, producing more than $1.5 billion in a recent year and supporting 12,000 fishing and processing jobs. We’re proud of the hard professionals in this industry who’ve invested their time, sweat and money to build a thriving American commercial fishery that’s been operating for more than 120 years. We have no intention of sacrificing this hard work or the healthy habitat that makes it all possible to the Pebble Mine — planned as North America’s largest open-pit mine.”

Bob Waldrop is the former executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, a nonprofit organization supported by Bristol Bay’s drift net fishermen. Prior to his work with the BBRSDA, Bob worked as vice president of Sales and Marketing with Norquest Seafoods in Seattle, and also served as a natural resource advisor to former Alaska Gov. Jay Hammond. He is the founder of Wilderness Alaska, the state’s oldest wilderness guiding service.


Pat Pitsch, Strongback Metal Boats, Bellingham, Washington

“The numbers in this report aren’t just statistics – I built my family business and working life around the salmon of Bristol Bay.  I live on these economic numbers and contribute to them every day. These salmon help feed the world, and I’m proud to build the boats that pull them out of the water. In Washington there are dozens of small businesses like my own that directly support hundreds of skilled labor jobs.  I’m glad to see that this report reflects how important and powerful the Bristol Bay fishery is. Our industry and this fishery deserves respect and protection.”

Pat Pitsch is a boat builder and entrepreneur who has worked in the Bristol Bay salmon industry for over 30 years.  Pat founded All American Marine in Bellingham, Wash., in 1987, and built over 50 boats for the Bristol Bay salmon industry before expanding his design and build operations to catamarans and passenger ferries.  When Pat sold All American in 2012 his company employed over 50 full-time employees.  Today, Pat is the principal behind Strongback Metal Boats, a family company that constructs gillnet and seine vessels for Bristol Bay and other fisheries in Alaska.


John WoodruffJohn Woodruff, Icicle Seafoods, Seattle, Washington

“Icicle has been vigorously active in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery since 1979, working with thousands of fishermen on the grounds and employing thousands more people in our Bristol Bay production facilities.   All of these folks have depended on the fish harvested in the pristine watershed area that is Bristol Bay and many more will depend on it well into the future.   Icicle has continued to invest in Bristol Bay because we have seen and continue to see a bright future here.   This economic report highlights the economic significance of the Bristol Bay resource and shows how fishermen, Icicle and companies like it rely heavily on this unique area and its fishery resources.”

John Woodruff is the Vice President of Operations for Icicle Seafoods Inc and has been with the company for 33 years.  Based in Seattle, Icicle Seafoods is a primary processor of wild Alaska salmon, pollock, herring, crab and other seafood. With three state-of-the art floating processors and five land-base facilities, Icicle is one of the largest seafood processing companies operating in the state of Alaska. Icicle boasts the largest fleet of Bristol Bay fishermen delivering their product to the company. Throughout its operations, Icicle employs thousands of people across Washington, Alaska and abroad.



Robin Samuelson, Bristol Bay Fisherman, Dillingham, Alaska

“Alaska should be proud of the incredibly valuable and productive salmon runs in Bristol Bay. People across the state need to start recognizing how important this industry is to the Alaskan economy and that it shouldn’t be risked in any way. This fishery is so powerful that it’s the most valuable salmon fishery in the world, supports a strong regional economy in the Pacific Northwest, and generates jobs across the country in retailing, restaurants and other businesses.”

Robin Samuelson was  board president of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation in Dillingham, where he led efforts to establish several scholarships and programs to support students in achieving their collegiate education goals. He is known for his passion for fisheries, evident in his service on the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the National Pacific Fishery Management Council. Throughout his life, Samuelson has been an advocate for the betterment of Alaska Natives and communities across Bristol Bay.


Glenn ReedGlenn Reed, President of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA), Seattle, Washington

“The economic significance of Bristol Bay cannot be overstated – for over 100 years Bristol Bay’s commercial salmon fisheries have provided thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars for Alaskans and the nation. Bristol Bay represents the roots of Alaska’s fishing industry, and the world can’t get enough of our sustainable renewable seafood. This new report illustrates the importance of this resource locally, regionally, and nationally as well as economically and culturally.”

Glenn Reed is the President of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA), which represents seafood processors including Peter Pan Seafoods Inc., Alaska General Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods, and UniSea, Inc.. In 2011, PSPA released its first position in opposition to a specific development project since the group’s existence in 1914. In PSPA’s Position on the Pebble Mine Project, the Association concluded that, “the level of risk posed by the Pebble mine is simply too high… we can see no way that it can be developed, operated, and concluded without – at some point – causing irreparable harm to the watersheds.” PSPA represents the interests of the Alaska and Pacific Northwest seafood processing industry. Well over half of America’s fisheries resources are harvested and processed annually in this region. The Association is involved in state and federal legislative and regulatory arenas through offices in Seattle and Olympia, WA; Juneau, Alaska; and Washington, D.C. PSPA supports the sustainable and wise use of our renewable natural resources.


Mayor Alice Ruby, Dillingham, Alaska

“Commercial salmon fishing is an element of every facet of city services and the day to day lives of our residents. More than 50 million pounds of fish are shipped across the Dillingham dock and over 1.5 million pounds of freight, mostly fish, are shipped out of the region through our airport each year. Commercial fishing in the Nushagak District annually contributes $830,000 in direct municipal support to our city, helping to support important services.”

Alice Ruby is mayor of Dillingham, Alaska, one of the key ports in the Bristol Bay fishing economy. Dillingham is located the Nushagak Bay and with a population of more than 2,300, is the largest single community in the Bristol Bay region.


UntitledJoe Nagle, John Nagle Co., Boston, Massachusetts

“Bristol Bay sockeye is an important part of delivering healthy, sustainable fish to our customers in Boston and New England. The Bristol Bay sockeye run sets the market for both fresh and frozen sockeye all year long, and we hire additional staff to handle and distribute it during its peak season.”

Joe Nagle is part of the fifth generation of The John Nagle Co., a family-owned and operated wholesale seafood company that has been sourcing seafood products locally and from around the world since 1887.  The Nagle family has been selling fresh and frozen wild Sockeye Salmon for over fifty years, much of which comes from Bristol Bay Alaska. Each summer, the company ramps up its workforce in order to meet demands and support the volumes of the popular Alaskan Sockeye product. The Nagle family ensures all their seafood meets the highest standards of quality and freshness and is deeply committed to protect and promote the rich and renewable Alaskan Sockeye resource for years to come.


Matt Luck, Bristol Bay Fisherman, Ketchum, Idaho

“I earn a significant portion of my annual income from Bristol Bay, and employ three crew members ever year. Fishing in Bristol Bay has afforded my children the opportunity to learn the value of hard work while saving their hard earned dollars to help put themselves through college. The wild salmon resource in Bristol Bay is a national treasure and the economic driver of the entire region. It is no surprise that Bristol Bay generates up to $1.5 billion dollars annually. The Bay’s economic impact only begins with revenue generated by the 30 million average sockeye salmon harvested by 1,400 boats every year. Beyond that there are thousands of seafood processors, distributors, restaurants and retailers, equipment suppliers and all of the associated infrastructure that relies on this world-class, sustainable natural resource.”

Matt Luck first came to Bristol Bay in 1978 as a crewman on a drift boat. Today he owns and operates F/V Meg J, his daughter’s namesake He has served as a board member of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association since 2011.  Matt’s fishing experience also includes longlining for halibut and black cod, seining salmon and herring in Southeast, Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Togiak, and drifting for salmon on the Copper River. He has served both on the general board and executive committee of the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation, held the position as chair of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Alaska Department of Fish and Game Advisory Committee, and served on the board of the Cordova District Fishermen United. Matt has two children, both of whom have fished in the Bay. He lives with his wife in Ketchum, Idaho.