Alaska’s salmon harvest has now surpassed the midpoint of the forecasted harvest. As of July 31, about 54% of this year’s projected harvest of 190 million fish had been caught, says Dan Lesh, a fisheries economist who compiles in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest reports for McKinley Capital Management on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
The total salmon harvest is now 10% above the year-to-date total for last year (using 2019 for pinks) and is 5% above the five-year year-to-date average. Most of the fish caught last week were pink salmon, which are continuing their early-season surge, particularly in Prince William sound (up 123% from 2019) and Southeast Alaska (up 22%). The pink salmon harvest usually peaks in mid-August.
Markets for Alaska’s commercial salmon catch remained strong in the last days of July as deliveries rose by millions of Alaska salmon, with sockeye and king harvests waning and a surge in the humpy harvest boosting the preliminary overall catch towards 95 million fish.
Markets are especially strong right now for all kinds of products, whether canned, fillets or headed and gutted, said Dan Lesh, a fisheries economist who compiles in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest reports for McKinley Capital Management on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
In the Arctic-Kuskokwim-Yukon region, growing pink salmon runs in recent years led to increased buying capacity in Norton Sound this year. Lesh notes that A-Y-K pink salmon harvests are up 176% from 2019, while keta fishing has been poor and this year’s harvest of keta salmon is down $89 from the region’s five-year average.
Weekly coho harvests are climbing steadily, but at a peace less than half of the five-year-average and similar to last year’s poor showing, he said. Typically, about one quarter of the year’s coho harvests have been delivered by this time, compared to just 14% this year. The peak of coho deliveries is typically in early September.
While there have been some supply chain issues due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, in general markets are very strong and it is a positive story overall for this summer, he said.
By Aug. 3 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary Alaska commercial harvest report showed some 105 million salmon delivered to processors, bringing preliminary totals to 51 million sockeyes, 47 million pink, 5.7 million chums, 539,000 cohos and 165,000 Chinooks.
“The news (for markets) has been increasingly positive over the last month,” he said. “The markets are strengthening, and especially strong in frozen products.” In Bristol Bay along, harvesters in the Nushagak district have now delivered nearly 18 million salmon, followed by 8.9 million fish in the Naknek-Kvichak, 8 million in Egegik and 5 million in the Ugashak. The overall Prince William Sound harvest included 31 million pinks, 2.5 million chums and 1.2 million sockeyes, while in the Alaska Peninsula the overall catch included six million sockeyes, 4.3 million pinks, 1.0 million chums, 87,000 cohos and 9,000 Chinooks.
At Kodiak the catch rose to 4.9 million salmon, with deliveries reaching 2.1 million sockeyes, 2.4 million pinks, 300,000 chums, 39,000 cohos and 7,000 Chinooks.
Statewide preliminary catch numbers stood at nearly 51 million sockeye, 37.6 million pink, 5.5 million chum, 164,000 Chinook and 429,000 coho salmon.
Sockeye harvests peaked in mid-July, but with a few weeks left in the season this year’s catch should easily beat the pre-season forecast of 46.5 million fish, Lesh said.