State fisheries biologists are forecasting a big increase in Alaska’s 2021 commercial harvest of salmon harvests totaling over 190 million fish, including 269,000 Chinook, 46.6 million sockeye, 3.8 million Coho, 124.2 million pink and 15.3 million chums.
When compared to the 2020 commercial harvests, the projected upcoming commercial harvest would include 63.5 million more humpies, 203,000 more reds, 1.4 more Coho and 6.7 million more chums.
With the exception of Southeast Alaska, pink salmon forecasts are generally based on average returns from previous brood years, but forecasters caution that there is always a great deal of uncertainty in predicting pink salmon returns.
Also, with the exception of Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon fisheries and the South Peninsula June fisheries, Alaska salmon management will be based on in-season estimates of salmon run strength, since the primary goal is to maintain spawning population sizes.
The Alaska all-species salmon harvest for 2020 totaled 118.3 million fish, some 14.4 million fewer than the preseason forecast of 132.7 million fish. That combined harvest was composed of 272,000 Chinook, 46.4 million sockeye, 2.4 million Coho, 60.7 million pink and .8.6 million chum salmon.
The projection 2021 breakdown includes a forecast harvest of nearly 36 million salmon in the Bristol Bay fishery, including 34.6 million sockeyes, 1.2 million chum, 137,000 Coho, 31,000 chinook and 9,000 humpies.
The 2021 Copper River wild sockeye salmon run is estimated at 1,296,000 fish, compared to the recent 10-year average (2011-2020) run of over two million fish. The Copper River Chinook salmon run is estimated at 37,000 fish, compared to the recent 10-year average of 48,000 fish.
For Prince William Sound, the forecast predicts 59.7 million salmon, of which almost 55 million are pinks. For Upper Cook Inlet, the harvest projection is just over 2 million salmon, including 1.64 million sockeyes.
For the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, a separate forecast is produced by a U.S./Canada Joint Technical committee for the Canadian-origin run of Yukon River Chinook salmon, based on projections of brood year returns, sibling relationships and juvenile abundance estimates from marine trawl surveys conducted in the northeastern Bering Sea. The 2021 Canadian-origin Chinook forecast is for a run size of 42,000-77,000 fish. Direct commercial harvest of Yukon River Chinooks is not expected during the 2021 season.
The fall chum salmon run for the Yukon River is projected at approximately 652,000 fish, which is below average for odd-numbered year runs. State biologists note, however, that recent runs have fluctuated more widely and have produced runs as low as 252,000 fish in 2000 to as high as 2.2 million fish in 2005.
For the westward region, the forecast harvest is over 48 million fish, including 38 million pinks, 6.9 million sockeyes, 2.1 million chums, 887,000 Coho and 32,000 Chinook salmon.
Kodiak’s forecast is for over 25 million fish, including 14 million wild and 11 million hatchery fish. The anticipated pink salmon harvest alone is expected to include 11.6 million wild and nearly 11 million hatchery pinks.
For Southeast Alaska, the forecast is for a total harvest of over 40 million fish, including 31 million in natural production and 8.9 million fish of hatchery production, with the largest harvest being 28 million natural production and 288,000 hatchery humpies.
The complete forecast is available online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/SP21-07.pdf.