"We had a very good seafood year," says Tyler Maurer, Alaska Marine Lines Seafood Sales Manager. The 2021 fish season for Alaska Marine Lines and the supporting Lynden companies has been strong. Alaska salmon runs were 15 percent higher than projected, and the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run stunned scientists with a record 66.1 million fish, with a catch of approximately 40 million which was 90 percent of the record 44 million.
At Lynden, salmon season is an 'all hands on deck' event typically lasting from May through September. All Lynden companies were busy keeping up with the volume this year, prompted not only by larger returns, but by restaurants opening back up after pandemic closures and a change in consumer buying habits.
Each year, Lynden Air Cargo flies fresh fish from Naknek, Emmonak, Cold Bay, Sand Point and Dillingham to Anchorage where Lynden Logistics provides support for transloading to Alaska Marine Lines, Alaska West Express and Lynden Transport and ships seafood with other air carriers all over the world. LTI, Inc. trucks provide Seattle surface delivery support and provides transportation to locations in the Lower 48.
On average, Alaska Marine Lines moves 7,000 containers of fish each year from Alaska fisheries southbound to Seattle. "We moved over 11,000 containers this year," Tyler explains, "and we still have more frozen and canned product to clean out of Alaska for a few more weeks to come."
Alaska Marine Lines moves significant volumes of frozen and canned fish from all over the state departing Western Alaska, Prince William Sound and Southeast. "We also have a new facility in Kodiak and have started to move domestic fish from the island. We use Kodiak as a re-handle port for fish originating in Western Alaska," Tyler says.
To prepare for the push each year, Lynden asks its customers for projections so it can build realistic expectations for staffing and equipment. "We knew this would be a big year," Tyler says. "We just didn't expect it would be this big of a year with all regions having strong returns."
Equipment reliability is extremely important when moving a temperature-controlled, high-value commodity like fish, so reefer techs take on an even more important role during fish season.
"With Copper River Kings selling at $80 per pound to retailers in the Lower 48 states, to start the season, we must have everything in place and running well to deliver the fish in pristine condition," Tyler says. "We are sometimes pushed to the limit in the summer months, but we all get the job done safely. From top to bottom, it's a Lynden-wide group effort, and we all lean on each other to get the job done including our partners at Western Towboat, Bering Marine and Dunlap Towing."