ILWACO — Signaling a return to more normal ocean conditions after the nutrition-poor “Blob” disrupted the northeast Pacific between 2013 and 2015, Washington’s overall commercial fisheries strongly rebounded in 2016, according to the definitive annual federal report on U.S. fisheries released last week.
However, salmon and some other species have yet to recover from the freakishly warm seawater that eventually descended to a depth of more than 1,000 feet.
Washington state’s total commercial catch in 2016 was 552 million pounds valued at $321 million, an increase of 52 percent by volume and 17 percent by value from 2015, according to “Fisheries of the United States 2016,” published last week by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Washington’s 2016 landings set an all-time record.
Oregon’s commercial landings were also up, though by not as much. Its annual total in 2016 came to 209.5 million pounds — a 7.2 percent increase — valued at $151.7 million, a 31 percent increase. Oregon’s record year for landings was 2013, with 339.6 million pounds.
How ports compare
Westport in Grays Harbor County came in 10th for U.S. landings in 2016 with 108 million pounds, surging ahead of Astoria — the nation’s 12th place port — where landings came to 94 million pounds.
In 2015, Astoria was ahead with 92 million pounds, compared to 84 million pounds in Westport. Still, Astoria stayed ahead of 14th place Newport. When it came to the value of commercial landings, Astoria was further down the list, contributing only $42 million compared to Newport’s $48 million. New Bedford, Massachusetts, was at the top of the list with $327 million.
Landings in Ilwaco and Chinook dropped slightly to 13 million pounds in 2016 from 15 million in 2015. However, thanks to high-dollar Dungeness crab, the value of Ilwaco-Chinook landings increased to $22 million in 2016 from $15 million in 2015.
The Pacific Coast area that includes Washington, Oregon and California accounts for 10 percent of total U.S. commercial landings and 13 percent of value.
As recently as 2012, Lower Columbia River ports’ percentage of the nationwide catch was 1.764 percent. From there, it slid to 1.6 percent in 2013, 1.3 in 2014 and 0.947 in 2015, before recovering to about 1.12 percent in 2016.
Landings in the lower 48 states are dwarfed by Alaska. Dutch Harbor, Alaska continues to be the nation’s biggest fishing port, with 770 million pounds in 2016, compared to 787 million pounds in 2015 and 762 million in 2014. Alaska led all states in volume with landings of 5.6 billion pounds, followed by Louisiana, 1.2 billion pounds; Washington, 551.9 million pounds; Virginia, 363.3 million pounds; and Mississippi, 304.0 million pounds.
Alaska also led all states in value of landings with $1.6 billion, followed by: Maine, $633.6 million; Massachusetts, $552.2 million; Louisiana, $407.2 million; and Washington, $321.0 million.
Oysters are among Pacific County’s most important economic sectors; the county accounts for most oyster production on the U.S. Pacific Coast.
“Thriving shellfish industries can be found in all coastal regions of the United States, however the Atlantic and Pacific Coast states produce more oysters, clams, and mussels by value ($112.4 and $95.9 million, respectively), while the Gulf states produce more by volume (24.9 million pounds),” according to NMFS’s report.
The Pacific Coast region as a whole produced 7.5 million pounds of oysters in 2016, up from 5 million pounds in 2015. West Coast oyster production in 2016 was 22 percent of the U.S. total, up from 18 percent in 2015. The nationwide average ex-vessel price per pound of oyster meat was $6.52 in 2016, a 16 percent decline after several years of gains.
Dungeness crab landings were 64.2 million pounds valued at $222.6 million — an increase of over 40.2 million pounds (almost 168 percent) and $110.6 million (99 percent) compared with 2015. California landings of almost 26.7 million pounds (up 760 percent from 2015) led all states with almost 42 percent of the total landings. Washington landings were 19.1 million pounds (up almost 28 percent) or nearly 30 percent of the total landings. Oregon landings were 15.7 million pounds (up nearly 590 percent) and Alaska landings were nearly 2.7 million pounds (down 25 percent).
The average ex-vessel price per pound was $3.47 in 2016 compared with $4.68 in 2015.
Shrimp are an increasingly important commercial species on the West Coast, but 2016 was a troubled year for shrimpers. In the Pacific region, Oregon had landings of 35.3 million pounds (down 34 percent compared with 2015); Washington had landings of nearly 14.8 million pounds (down 65 percent); and California, almost 4.2 million pounds (down 53 percent).
Once the largest fishery on the West Coast, the commercial salmon catch in Washington and Oregon is a small fraction of what it once was. Here are the latest details:
Washington salmon landings were nearly 15.8 million pounds valued at $26.1 million — a decrease of 4.8 million pounds (23 percent) and $780,000 (nearly 3 percent) compared with 2015. The biennial fishery for pink salmon went from nearly 2.8 million in 2015 to 0 pounds in 2016. Washington landings of chum salmon were 8.8 million (down almost 8 percent); followed by Chinook, 4.2 million pounds (down more than 42 percent); coho, nearly 2.7 million pounds (up almost
360 percent); and sockeye, 130,000 pounds (down more than 67 percent).
The average ex-vessel price per pound for all species in Washington increased from $1.30 in 2015 to $1.64 in 2016. It was $1.38 in 2014.
Oregon salmon landings were 1.8 million pounds valued at almost $8.3 million — a decrease of 1.3 million pounds (nearly 42 percent) and almost $3.6 million (30 percent) compared with 2015.
The average ex-vessel price per pound for Chinook salmon in Oregon increased from $3.94 in 2015 to $4.93 in 2016, compared to $3.79 in 2014.
Other Pacific species
Landings of Pacific cod were 708.6 million pounds — an increase of more than 1 percent from 699.1 million in 2015, but the price paid for that cod fell to $171.4 million in 2016 from $257.7 million in 2015. The Seattle Times reported Sunday that a preliminary survey of Alaska cod stocks this year shows a sharp drop-off in cod biomass, perhaps due to lingering aftereffects of the “Blob” in northern waters.
Pacific hake (whiting) landings were 558 million pounds (up more than 67 percent) valued at $46.6 million (up 85 percent) compared to 2015.
Landings of rockfishes were over 42.3 million pounds (down almost 12 percent) and valued at nearly $16.8 million (down nearly 13 percent) compared to 2015.
The Pacific sardine fishery is in its third year of closure, through at least June 30, 2018. There was by-catch of 1.1 million pounds in 2016, down from 8.4 million pounds in 2015 and 51.1 million in 2014 and a recent annual average of 104 million pounds. “After reaching a recent year peak of about one million metric tons [2.2 billion pounds] in 2006, the sardine biomass has dropped to an estimated 86,586 metric tons [191 million pounds] in 2017,” the Pacific Fishery Management Council said. The fishery won’t reopen until biomass increases to at least 331 million pounds.
In 2016, Pacific Coast marine recreational anglers took 3.8 million trips and caught nearly 13 million fish. Almost 92 percent of the trips were made in California, followed by almost 5 percent in Oregon, and almost 4 percent in Washington. The most commonly caught non-bait species (in numbers of fish) were
Pacific (chub) mackerel, kelp bass, black rockfish, barred surfperch, and lingcod. By weight, the largest harvests were lingcod, black rockfish, albacore,
Pacific halibut, vermilion rockfish and yellowtail.
Washington’s recreational catch in 2016 was an estimated 505,000 marine fish weighing a total of nearly 3 million pounds, down from 586,000 fish totaling nearly 4 million pounds in 2015. Fishermen in Washington waters released about 94,000 fish in 2016 compared to 131,000 the year before. There were about 138,000 angler trips in 2016, down from 173,000 in 2015.
The popular albacore tuna fishery declined to 1.57 million pounds and 88,000 fish in 2016 from 2.23 million pounds and 121,000 fish in 2015 nationwide. The catch was only about 700,000 pounds in 2014.