Industry sees stable returns despite large declines in the harvest of popular fish and seven percent decline in fisheries employment.
Oregon’s commercial fishing industry generated revenue in 2017 that was close to the 10-year average. But the stable returns disguise large declines in the harvest of popular fish, including salmon, shrimp and tuna. These declines were offset by revenue gains in crab and groundfish.
The salmon harvest fell in 2017 to 1.2 million pounds, less than 40% of the average of recent years, according to Oregon Employment Department research.
The decline is mostly due to drought in California, which has caused low water levels in the rivers of the central valley where most Chinook salmon migrate, says Eric Schindler, ocean sampling project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Drought in southern Oregon has also impacted salmon coming out of the Klamath Falls River Basin and the Rogue River Basin.
The salmon harvest from April to July this year is below what is was in 2017. But temporary favorable ocean conditions, which have enriched waters off the Oregon coast, have led to a spike in the number of salmon caught in the first week of August, says Schindler. This could boost the final harvest numbers for 2018.
Pink shrimp harvest also fell in 2017. Twenty-three million pounds were caught, a 35% from 2016 and the lowest since 2009. The decline results from persistent warm water conditions, known to reduce shrimp stocks.
RELATED STORY: SALMON DECLINE REVEALS WORRISOME TREND
On the upside, the Dungeness Crab harvest in 2017 totaled almost 19 million pounds, a 20% increase on the 2016 landing and a 55% jump on the 2015 harvest. Dungeness crab, Oregon’s most valuable fishery, generated $58.7 million in 2017, a 5% increase from 2016.
The amount of whiting caught, a close relative to cod, rose 78% in 2017 to 201 million pounds and accounted for about two-thirds by weight of all wild seafood landed in Oregon. Go to OregonBusiness.com for an in-dpeth look at the state salmon harvest.
Commercial fishing employment
The decrease in fish harvests led to an estimated 7% decline in commercial fishers in 2017. Approximately 1,330 commercial fishers operated in Oregon last year. Five coastal counties – Clatsop, Lincoln, Coos, Curry and Tillamook – accounted for 96% of total employment, though fishing is a small portion of overall employment in these communities.
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