Bristol Bay 2013 Sockeye Salmon Run Forecast Drops to 26 Million Fish

State fisheries biologists are predicting that Bristol Bay’s
famed wild sockeye salmon fishery will have a run of some 26 million reds in
2013, with a harvest of 16.59 million fish. That’s down from the 2012 forecast
of a run of 32 million reds and a harvest forecast of 21.76 million fish.
The prediction is 33 percent lower than the previous 10-year
mean of total runs of 37.61 million fish, with a range of 24.1 million to 46.60
million. By district, that would mean 10.61 million reds to the Naknek-Kvichak
district, 6.02 million to Egegik District, 3.53 million to the Ugashik District,
5.25 million fish to the Nushagak District, and 0.59 million to Togiak
Norm Van Vactor, general manager for Leader Creek Seafoods,
said he was personally expecting a downturn, so it’s not much of a shock.
“Processors are eternally optimistic and the last thing you want to do is
underestimate production,” said Van Vactor. “You still gear up for processing
24 hours a day.”
Bob Waldrop, director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood
Development Association, said the industry is used to these up and down run
cycles. “It’s like the weather,” Waldrop said. “There is very little we can do
about it.”
He’s also leery about making price predictions, because
there are so many factors to consider. “It’s not just scarcity that drives the
price,” he said.
“We are fortunate,” said Waldrop, to have the abundance we
have (in Alaska). That’s why we have had 130 years of commercial fishing in
Bristol Bay. It predates the gold rush.”
Historically the total runs of sockeye salmon to Bristol Bay
have been highly variable. The 2013 forecast of 26.03 million fish is below the
long-term historical average of 32.38 million fish from 1963 to 2012, and the
more recent historical average of 39.06 million fish from 2003 to 2012. For
seven consecutive years, from 2004 to 2010 the total run was close to or
exceeded 40 million sockeye salmon.
In 2011 the total run dropped to 21.91 million reds.