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Oregon’s Commercial Fishing in 2016

Oregon’s Commercial Fishing in 2016

by Erik Knoder

March 14, 2017

Oregon’s commercial fishing industry rebounded to about average in 2016. Harvests have been averaging $148 million per year since 2010 – after adjusting for inflation. Total landed value was $149 million in 2016. This was up from $118 million in 2015. The increase was mainly due to the recovery of the Dungeness crab harvest. The pink shrimp harvest declined, and the sardine harvest essentially vanished in 2016. Other fisheries had increases or decreases, but overall revenue and landed volume were up for the year.

Crab harvests in 2016 rose to 15.7 million pounds, the best harvest since 2013. A late start to the season and lower prices worked to offset some of the gain from higher populations, but the crab harvest was worth $55.7 million in 2016 versus $12.3 million the year before. Dungeness crab is usually Oregon’s most valuable fishery, and it was again in 2016.

Salmon landings fell sharply in 2016 to 1.8 million pounds. This was about 40 percent below the average of recent years. Prices increased to $4.51 per pound, but the total landed value was only $8.3 million, a drop of $3.5 million from the previous year.

The pink shrimp season was hit with a double whammy in 2016. The harvest was only 35.5 million pounds, a decrease of nearly 18 million pounds from 2015. On top of that, shrimp prices fell by five cents per pound, so total value landed dropped 38 percent to $25.1 million. Oregon pink shrimp was certified as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2007 and reassessed as sustainable in 2011.

The amount of whiting landed rose nearly 20 percent in 2016 to 113 million pounds. Whiting accounted for about half by weight of all wild seafood landed in Oregon. Prices stayed at eight cents per pound so total landed value for this fishery increased to $8.7 million total. Much of Oregon’s whiting is made into surimi for use in making artificial crab meat.

The value of groundfish landed increased 11 percent in 2016 to $32 million. The amount landed actually increased only 8 percent, but a rise in prices also helped boost revenue.

The albacore tuna harvest fell for the third straight year, but only slightly. The harvest fell about 4 percent, but the price climbed to $1.72 per pound, so the total value jumped by 36 percent in 2016 to $12.5 million. Albacore has become an important fishery in recent years, especially for smaller boats that depended on salmon.

Some smaller fisheries had notable changes. The anchovy harvest increased from $70,000 to $115,000. The sardine fishery remained closed in 2016. The hagfish (slime eel) harvest fell 15 percent to the lowest it has been since 2012. The clam harvesters had another good year, nearly $900,000 worth of clams were harvested, the most since at least 2003. Sea urchin and squid harvests were both down around 40 percent.

Employment

There were an estimated 1,433 commercial fishers in Oregon on an annual average basis in 2016. This was up from 1,361 in 2015, and was not too surprising given the increase in harvests.

Estimating employment in fishing is more difficult than measuring the harvests. Legislation in 1999 allowed most fishermen to be exempt from unemployment insurance coverage – the primary source of employment data. The Oregon Employment Department now estimates the number of fishers based on a combination of survey data and the number commercial fish landings made. This method was new for 2014 and resulted in a lower employment estimate than before.

The estimated number of fishers varied from a high of 1,930 in May to a low of 375 in November. The five coastal counties – Clatsop, Lincoln, Coos, Curry and Tillamook – had 94 percent of the total, based on where landings occur. Perhaps even more surprising is that some interior counties, such as Jefferson and Washington, had any commercial fishing employment. These jobs are often based on crayfish harvests.

The most important fisheries for employment are crab, salmon and albacore tuna. There are nearly 70 species that were commercially harvested in 2016.

Revenue

Although the number of fishing vessels has declined from historic highs, it has become more stable over the past decade. Fishing is slowly generating more revenue per boat, with plenty of fluctuations. There were 1,108 vessels with at least one landing in 2016, down from 1,165 in 2015. They averaged about $135,000 each in landed value in Oregon, up 33 percent from the previous year. Each vessel supported about 1.3 fishers on an annual average basis because many vessels have landings only part of the year.

In addition to direct employment, commercial fishing provides the resource for seafood processors. There were 31 seafood processors in Oregon that had employees in 2016, three more than in the previous year. The annual average direct employment for the entire industry was 1,140. Some processors also use temporary help firms to round out their staffing, but these employees are counted in the business services industry. The processing industry paid more than $36 million in wages in 2016, which clearly shows the benefit of adding value to raw natural products.