32 Million Sockeye Forecast for Bristol Bay

State biologists are forecasting a run of 32.3 million wild Alaska sockeye salmon returning to Bristol Bay in 2012, and a harvest estimate of 21.76 million fish. Biologists say a run of 32.2 million sockeyes can potentially produce a total harvest of 22.83 million fish. The projected harvest includes 21.76 million fish in Bristol Bay and 1.07 million fish for the South Alaska Peninsula fisheries.

In 2011, Bristol Bay produced a harvest of 21.9 million reds, with a preliminary value to harvesters of $135.7 million.

For the Naknek-Kvichak District, the run forecast is 14.96 million fish, including 6.48 million to the Kvichak River, 1.90 million to the Alagnak River, and 6.22 million to the Naknek River.

Biologists predict a run of 3.09 million reds to the Egegik district, 3.09 million to the Ugashik district, 0.78 to the Togiak district, and 6.76 million to the Nushagak district, including 4.64 million to Wood River, 1.40 million to the Nushgak River and 0.72 million to the Igushik River.

Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, noted that sometimes the forecasts are right on, while at other times expectations are different than the reality. “It’s important that (forecasts) be done, but also important that we understand that we really don’t have the funding to completely understand what’s going on in the salmon systems.

“Expectations are just that,” he said. “They are as informed as we can make them.”
Forecasters anticipate the 2012 run will be dominated by age 1.3 sockeyes, at 41 percent, followed by age 2.2, at 26 percent, age 1.2 at 19 percent, and age 2.3 at 13 percent.

Historically, total runs of red salmon to Bristol Bay have been highly variable, the researchers said. The 2012 forecast of 32.30 million fish is above the long-term historical average of 30.63 million fish from 1956 to 2011, but below the more recent historical average of 40.50 million fish from 2004 to 2011.