Commercial salmon harvests in Alaska soared by over 20 million fish over the past week, boosting the estimated catch to 72.7 million fish, according to the latest Alaska Department of Fish and Game preliminary salmon catch report.
The report showed harvesters in Bristol Bay had an overall catch of over 38 million salmon through Tuesday, July 20, Prince William Sound had 19.6 million salmon and the Alaska Peninsula had nearly 10 million salmon.
In Bristol Bay alone, harvesters in the Nushagak district have now delivered nearly 18 million salmon, followed by 8.2 million fish in the Naknek-Kvichak, 7.7 million in Egegik and 4.6 million in the Ugashak. The overall Prince William Sound harvest included 16 million pink, 2.3 million chum and 1.1 million sockeye, while in the Alaska Peninsula the overall catch included 5.4 million sockeye, 3.4 million pink, 933,000 chum, 26,000 coho and 7,000 Chinook.
At Kodiak, the catch rose to over two million salmon, with deliveries reaching 1.2 million sockeye, 651,000 pink, 196,000 chum, 10,000 coho and 4,000 Chinook.
Statewide preliminary catch numbers stood at nearly 47 million sockeye, 21 million pink, 4.5 million chum, 133,000 Chinook and 108,000 coho salmon.
Dan Lesh, who compiles the in-season commercial salmon report for McKinley Research Group in Anchorage on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, noted that the largest salmon harvests of the season so far took place last week, although the cumulative harvest to date was down 13%.
Last week’s early season surge of pink salmon was driven by the Prince William Sound region, where pink salmon harvests are up 21% year-to-date from 2019, Lesh said. In other regions of Alaska, pink harvests are currently well behind the 2019 pace.
Sockeye harvests peaked the week before last, 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. As of July 17, 99% of that pre-season forecast had been caught. While numerous, size remains an issue in Bristol Bay average size of sockeye is 4.5 pounds this year, down from 5.1 pounds in 2020. Bristol Bay sockeye currently represent 82% of the sockeye and 56% of all salmon harvested so far across Alaska.
Keta salmon are in short supply, with cumulative harvests up a bit from 2020, but still at less than half of the typical harvest at this point in the summer, Lesh noted. The five-year average harvest through week 29 is 9.7 million keta compared to 4.4 million keta harvested so far this year.
Among those missing keta are those from the Yukon River, where no commercial fishing has been allowed this season.