The pricetag isn't surprising considering the entire seafood industry reported a strong year.

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The entire premise sounds a little like one of those logic puzzles that used to trip us up when we were kids, like the question about whether a ton of bowling balls weighs more than a ton of feathers. Instead, we're asking which is worth more: a single Alaska king salmon or two barrels of oil? 

According to the latest statistics from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, it's the fish. On February 3, the average troll-caught chinook salmon weighed around 11 pounds and was worth $116.16 at the docks, while two barrels of oil were worth $115.48 during that same time period. 

An Alaskan King Salmon
Credit: lightasafeather/Getty Images

That's not totally surprising, because salmon sales have increased significantly over the past year. The Alaska Daily News reports that overall sales of fresh seafood were up by 28 percent last year, while salmon sales alone jumped by 19 percent. "Pantry shelf" seafood sales also increased by 20 percent, and although tuna was the perhaps unsurprising leader of that category, sales of shelf-ready salmon products jumped by 30.3 percent. 

According to data from the National Fisheries Institute's Global Seafood Marketing Conference, the top 10 biggest-selling fresh seafood products were, in order, salmon, crab, shrimp, lobster, catfish, tilapia, cod, scallops, tuna, and trout. Fresh crab had an "unheard of" 62 percent sales increase last year, while other big gainers were lobster, snapper, crab/seafood cakes, and halibut. Sales within the frozen seafood category also grew by 35 percent last year, and shoppers were way into frozen raw shrimp, as sales soared by 48 percent. 

Although industry analysts feel optimistic that seafood-related categories will continue to see sales increases this year, they might not be quite as dramatic as the numbers that came out of 2020. A big part of that—especially when it comes to frozen seafood—is that as an increasing percentage of the population is vaccinated, Americans will start to go out to restaurants again. 

"Sales were so high in March and April [2020], many weeks saw sales increases of 50 to 90 percent over 2019 due to stock-ups and consumer panic, that we likely won't see that level again," IRI Senior Vice President of Protein Practice Chris DuBois told SeafoodSource. "As a result, companies might see [comparable store sales] versus 2020 down a lot even though they are selling a lot more than in 2019."

Retailers have also been encouraged to find ways to engage millennials, Gen Z-ers and those with household incomes that haven't hit six-figures yet (it would seem there's probably a fair amount of overlap between those categories). According to sales data, boomers are the most likely demographic to say "OK" to shelf-stable seafood, while frozen seafood buyers are more likely to have household incomes of $100,000 or more. "How do we engage more with younger consumers?" Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics asked. "How can we get [new customers] to experiment more and try cooking seafood at home that they have never cooked before?"