The magnitude of economic opportunity within Alaska’s commercial fishing industry and the contributions it makes to both the state and the nation are extraordinary. As Gov. Bill Walker continues to emphasize trade of Alaska commodities with Asian countries, the seafood industry is poised to become a key player in this expansion, which bring massive opportunity for local economic and business growth.

According to research by the McDowell Group, in a 2015 – 2016 average, Alaska’s commercial fishing industry created 36,800 full-time jobs and an economic output of $5.2 billion. When considering multiplier effects from income generated throughout the nation due to the stimulus provided by the industry, the results are even more astounding. In that same period, an estimated 99,000 jobs and an economic output of $12.8 billion were created nationwide by Alaska’s commercial fishing industry.

Seafood is Alaska’s best renewable resource, and there are plenty of fish in Alaska’s seas. In 2015, the state produced 12.9 billion servings of seafood. The continued growth and success of this industry through the years represents an incredible opportunity for business growth, particularly as the industry looks to increase exports of the commodity to high consumer-demand regions, such as China.

In May of this year, Walker led a coalition of Alaskans to China for a focused discussion on increasing trade exports to China, particularly in the tourism and seafood industries. Initial reports from the trip, including from Bill Popp, AEDC President and CEO, indicate that the trip was incredibly productive and the delegation was received with significant enthusiasm from Chinese government officials and business owners.

Among the delegation was Alaska-based Trident Seafood Corporation, the largest vertically integrated seafood company in North America. Though Trident has been exporting Alaskan seafood to China for more than 20 years now, its recent visit to China represents an increased effort to get Alaskan seafood into new markets in China– in particular, direct to consumer. Currently, Trident is in talks with Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com to expand its direct reach to Chinese consumers through one-click ordering that would allow fresh Alaska seafood to be delivered right to the consumer’s doorstep.

Another Alaska business traveling with the delegation was Golden Harvest Alaska Seafood, a groundfish and crab processor based out of Adak, an island community at the far end of the Aleutian chain. Golden Harvest is actively working to expand Alaska seafood air trade to China, beginning with direct-to-Shanghai live crab air shipments that began in September of this past year. Since opening, the processor reports it has harvested and shipped millions of pounds of Pacific cod, halibut, and crab out of Adak. Because of the nature of crab harvesting and where most golden crab are situated in the sea, unlike red king crab, golden king crab have been an extremely stable, high-dollar seafood source these past 15 years. A cursory look suggests that this high-dollar industry might be worthy of even further expansion.

As the dynamic, high-dollar Alaska seafood industry looks to continue to grow and expand internationally, the time is ripe for local businesses to get on board and be ready to be a part of the economic boom these expansions will bring to the state.