The 2020 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon forecast, issued on Nov. 8, anticipates a total run of 48.95 million fish, which would allow for a potential harvest of 34.56 million. Those figures are higher than this past season 26.11 million fish forecast but lower than the actual 44.5 million harvest.
Should the 2020 run come in as anticipated, it will be 6 percent larger than the most recent 10-year average of Bristol Bay total runs (45.9 million) and 29 percent greater than the long-term (1963-2019) average of 34.6 million fish.
The annual forecast is the sum of individual predictions of nine river systems, all of which are expected to meet their spawning escapement goals. The 2020 forecast accounts for 19.97 million salmon to the Naknek-Kvichak District, 10.75 million to Egegik, 4.67 million to the Ugashik, 12.63 million to Nushagak, and 0.93 million to Togiak.
Actual 2019 harvests by district included 11.4 million salmon from the Naknek-Kvichak, 15 million from Egegik, 1 million from the Ugashik, 15.7 million from the Nushagak, and 1.3 million from Togiak.
Biologists also estimate that 19.14 million (39 percent) of the total run would be age-1.2 fish; 7.06 million (14 percent) age-2.2; 21.04 million (43 percent) age-1.3; and 1.68 million (3 percent) age-2.3.
According to state biologists, the impact of abnormally high water temperatures in Bristol Bay and other Alaska fisheries during the 2019 summer, as well as drought conditions that caused a thermal block in many rivers and streams which led fish to die before getting to spawning grounds, will not be determined until the summer of 2023.
The ADF&G 2020 forecast acknowledges that individual river forecasts always have greater uncertainty than bay-wide predictions. Since 2001, on average, biologists have under-forecast river returns to the Alagnak (33 percent), Togiak (12 percent), Kvichak (22 percent), Wood (17 percent), Nushagak (20 percent), Ugashik (0.5 percent), and Naknek (14 percent) and over-estimated returns to the Igushik (13 percent) and Egegik (14 percent).
ADF&G extended thanks to the Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative (BBFC) for providing $750,000 in funding assistance in 2019. The BBFC was established in 2016 as part of an agreement between ADF&G and the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute (BBSRI) to work together with stakeholders to restore a world-class fishery management system and raise funds to support and maintain management.
The agreement has support from ADF&G, BBSRI, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, set net fishermen, processors, municipalities, villages, support industries and other stakeholders. A complete list of participants is available online at https://www.bbsri.org/bbfc.