Alaska’s Commercial Salmon Catch Swells to Nearly 38M Fish

A pair of sockeye salmon. File photo.

A surge of salmon returning to Bristol Bay has boosted the harvest of the famed sockeye salmon fishery to nearly 27 million fish and the statewide preliminary catch estimate to nearly 38 million salmon, including 33.6 million sockeyes.

The overall catch through Tuesday, July 5, stood at over 30% ahead of the year-to-date 2021 (2020 for pinks) harvest, driven by the large, early sockeye harvest in Bristol Bay, noted Sam Friedman of McKinley Research Group in Anchorage, which produces in-season commercial salmon harvest reports on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

For the period ended July 2, nearly 18 million sockeye salmon were caught in Alaska, including over 16 million in Bristol Bay. This is larger than last year’s peak of 17 million fish, and there is still another week until the peak in most years.

While the industry welcomes large salmon runs so many fish caught in such a concentrated time window creates challenges for both harvesters and processors, Friedman noted.

While sockeye harvests have been larger than usual for this time of year, harvests are down year-to-date for keta and Chinook salmon. Peak pink and coho salmon harvests do not usually occur until August so lower-than-usual June harvests do not say much about season totals for these species Friedman said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary commercial salmon harvest blue sheet for Tuesday, July 5 showed the Nushagak District of Bristol Bay with a catch to date of 12.9 million fish, including 12,715,000 sockeyes, 252,000 chums and 2,000 Chinook salmon., followed by the Egegik District with 7.9 million sockeyes and the Naknek-Kvichak District with over four million sockeyes.

The commercial catch for the Alaska Peninsula rose to 6.8 million fish, including over five million sockeyes, 1.1 million humpies 531,00 chums and 4,000 Chinooks salmon. Kodiak area commercial harvests have brought in an estimated 564,000 fish to date, including 457,000 sockeyes 89,000 chums, 15,000 pinks, 2,000 kings and 1,000 coho salmon.

No commercial or subsistence fishing is allowed for the Yukon River communities in 2022 because of poor run returns.