Alaska fishermen have rounded out the 2020 salmon commercial season with a catch of over 112 million fish. That total, along with the historical ranking of salmon harvests, still may improve slightly as final landings of the season are delivered over the next few weeks.
Based on the number of fish included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary harvest estimate, this year’s commercial harvest of all five species of salmon will rank 17th out of the 23 even-numbered years since 1975, says fisheries economist Garrett Everidge, of the McDowell Group, who produces the in-season salmon harvest reports for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
ADF&G data to date show that Alaska’s central region, including Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, delivered more than 68 million fish, with nearly 40 million salmon coming from Bristol Bay and nearly 25 million from Prince William Sound.
Another 31 million salmon were delivered in the state’s westward region, including the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak, and Southeast Alaska harvesters caught nearly 13 million salmon.
On a statewide level, the total sockeye harvest of 45 million fish ranks 15 percent below the five-year average, on par with the 10-year average and nearly 10 percent of the 20-year average. Everidge notes that the multi-year trend of a strong Bristol Bay harvest balancing weak sockeye production in other areas of the state continued this year. Were Bristol Bay’s catch excluded from the statewide total, the 2020 sockeye harvest would be the smallest since 1976.
The humpy harvest of nearly 58 million pink salmon lags behind by about 25 percent in the 10-year average of even-numbered years only. Still, the 2020 pink salmon harvest exceeded the 2016 and 2018 harvests by about 50 percent, and Kodiak’s harvest exceeded its preseason forecast by 74 percent, or nine million humpies.
The keta salmon catch of 7.5 million fish was the weakest since 1979, with the weakness felt in all regions of Alaska. The impact of the weak runs on Southeast and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area was particularly significant because of the importance of keta in regional fisheries.
While some additional harvest is expected over the next three weeks, Coho harvests appear to have declined to levels last seen in the mid-1970s, and Chinook harvests also are expected to end the season well below historical levels.