Alaska Commercial Salmon Catch Reaches
29.4 Million Fish

The Nushagak district of Bristol Bay is the hot spot in an Alaska commercial salmon fishing season that is otherwise falling far below last year’s harvests for king, sockeye, chum and pink salmon catches.

Some 698 drift gillnetters were fishing in the Nushagak district on July 10 and Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) officials said they expected that number to rise to 725 boats by July 12.

The harvest in the Nushagak is to date the third highest on record, setting a new single day harvest record of 1.69 million sockeyes, which state biologists expected to be exceeded by July 11. A new record for single day escapement was also set for the Wood River at 1.13 million salmon on July 2, with the Nushagak district marking three straight days of harvests in excess of one million reds.

Preliminary commercial harvest reports compiled by ADF&G show that through July 10 Bristol Bay fishermen delivered nearly 20 million salmon to processors, including 18.9 million sockeyes, 985,000 chums, and 38,000 kings.

Although the Bristol Bay fishery is robust, the overall pace of the statewide fishery is slower than expected. Statewide harvest has reached 29.4 million salmon, with an estimated 22 million reds, over 6 million chums, 1.2 million humpies, 111,000 kings and 51,000 cohos. The forecast calls for 51.6 million sockeyes, 21 million chums, 69.7 million humpies, 4.9 million silvers and 218,000 kings.

A report by the McDowell Group for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute notes that the statewide sockeye harvest is 31 percent below 2017 year-to-date due mainly to weak returns in Prince William Sound, Chignik, and Kodiak, although similar to the five-year average. Statewide keta harvests are about one quarter lower than a year ago, with particularly slow production in Southeast Alaska.
Year-to-date pink salmon harvest slow production is anticipated to increase as Prince William Sound and Southeast harvests begin. Some 100,000 kings have been harvested so far in 2018, compared to roughly 180,000 kings by this time a year ago.

Mainly due to slow pink and keta production, the overall year-to-date harvest of Alaska salmon is about one third below that of 2017 and about 40 percent below the adjusted five-year average, the McDowell group noted.