October 29, 2003



US' Alaska's Seafood Industry On The Boom Due To Potential Markets in Tokyo & Hong Kong


In a whirlwind trade mission to Asia, US' Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski met with top executives of several of the largest Japanese trading companies that import fish, and which offer good potential to increase purchases of Alaska wild salmon.


"Governor Murkowski has been working hard to revitalize the salmon industry," said Margy Johnson, Director of Trade and Development. "He has met with fishermen, as well as processors in Alaska. Now he is taking his program to Asia to meet with the end users."


Farmed salmon now dominate the market in Japan. As little as 5 - 10% of Japan's total salmon imports are from Alaska. Murkowski noted that the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) is doing well in Japan. But unfortunately, ASMI's total budget for Japan represents only 3% of the budget of Alaska's major competitor, the Norwegian government, which sells Norwegian farmed salmon.


"Most farmed salmon comes into Japan frozen, not fresh," Murkowski said. "I was concerned to learn that, while demand for salmon in Japan is still high, demand for Alaska wild salmon is low."


"As we have known for some time, the market for Alaska salmon has been neglected to a minor, niche market in Japan," said Bob Thorstenson, President of United Fishermen of Alaska. "Our mission is to change that."


"This trip has allowed us to meet with interested potential importers to find out more alternatives for our product, to capitalize on our niche market as wild, and explore new opportunities for marketing pink salmon products," Murkowski said.


The meetings included one with Nippon Suisan, which agreed to search for new product forms for wild Alaska pink salmon.


During his meetings and speaking engagements, Murkowski touted the benefits of eating salmon, such as lower cholesterol and general health benefits, high Omega-3 oils, and improved memory.


Tokyo was the selected location to held the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan relationship is being celebrated this year, U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker and his wife Nancy Kassebaum Baker, in a "Discover Alaska reception", hosted the Alaska group. Both Baker and Kassebaum served in the U.S. Senate with Murkowski.


"Asia is a tremendously fast-growing market," said Murkowski. "We are pleased to have you experience our Alaska seafood. There is a high degree of acceptability for canned salmon in China."


Murkowski met with Hong Kong seafood importers, including Alaska seafood supplier Sprintech Development Limited, wholesaler, agent and distributor Sun Wah Food Holdings Ltd., food importer Whole Sun, Ltd. and Van Yu Trading Company, Ltd., an importer of seafood.


Fishery advisor Alan Austerman, trade director Johnson and Thorstenson, UFA's president, also met with importers. Johnson and ASMI agreed to lead a delegation of seafood importers from Hong Kong to visit Alaska in the spring to experience firsthand the pristine beauty of Alaska and allow Alaska fishermen and processors to work one-on-one with Asian importers.


Murkowski added that there is also a growing interest in Alaska developing mariculture.


"With the building of a new Disney World in Hong Kong, plus growing use of seafood by airline, cruiseships and major hotel chains, Alaska seafood will be in an excellent position to grow the market," said Johnson.


In addition to the media tasting, seafood was also featured at a Discover Alaska Reception at the residence of U.S. Consul General James Keith on Victoria Peak, which Keith hosted for the Alaska delegation.


More than 80 Hong Kong seafood buyers and officials attended the event, in addition to forest product buyers who came in from mainland China to meet with the trade mission delegation.