Multiple Buyers Turn Norton Sound’s Commercial Fishing Season Around

Chum salmon leaping near Cold Bay, AK. Photo: K. Mueller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After the Norton Sound Commercial Fishery canceled its chum season due to record low chum runs, a promising run of pinks turned the summer around.

While this isn’t the largest run of pinks in recent memory, this season’s harvest still promises to be the best in decades, Nome’s Fish and Game Area Manager Jim Menard said.

“Looks like we’ll have the best commercial harvest since the 1990’s for pink salmon. And that has to do with that we have buyers now who are going to buy pink salmon,” Menard said.

Buyers include Norton Sound Seafood Products, the traditional buyer for Norton Sound’s commercial pinks, and a new buyer: Icicle Seafoods. The Washington-based seafood company expressed an interest in buying Norton Sound pinks summer 2021 after record breaking high runs in the past few years. They currently are on site for their first season as partners with Norton Sound Commercial Fishery.

Norton Sound Seafood Products will purchase pinks for 40 cents a pound and deliver them to in-state locations such as Dutch Harbor. From there, the pinks will be exported.

It is unusual to have two buyers interested in Norton Sound’s commercial harvest, Menard said. Their investment makes a huge difference.

 “I think this is the first time that we’ve had more than one buyer in the 2000’s, trying to remember if there was ever a second buyer here. And because of the buying capacity they can buy a lot more fish,” Menard said.

Thanks to this increased capacity, the commercial fishing season is operating in several locations such as Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Elim, Golovin and Norton Bay. Gillnetting fishing is currently open for 12-hour periods, but that can change depending on the needs of the buyers.

The pink commercial fishing season is expected to fade out towards the beginning of August. The Commercial Fishery has yet to see whether or not the silver runs will be strong enough for commercial silver fishing, Menard said.

Image at top: Salmon leaping out of the river. Photo courtesy of K Mueller, US Fish and Wildlife Service.