Commercial Salmon Catch Rises to 103.6M

With the sockeye season slowed, and the humpy harvest near its peak in early August, preliminary commercial fishery catch data showed the overall commercial harvest of wild Alaska salmon at 103.6 million fish and growing.

As of Aug. 6, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary harvest blue sheet noted the harvest of 52,968,000 red, 39,553,000 pink, 10,118,000 chum, 798,000 coho and 211,000 Chinook salmon.
The pink salmon harvest year-to-date is one third lower than year-to-date 2017. Now based on historical data, Alaska is unlikely to produce the 25 million fish per week needed to reach the 138 million fish forecast by the end of the season, says Garrett Evridge, a fisheries economist with the McDowell Group. Humpy production slowed statewide last week in most areas, with Prince William Sound and Southeast well behind the recent odd-year pace, Evridge said. If Kodiak can match 2017’s production through the end of the season, that area is on track to meet its forecast of 27 million fish, he said. Prince William Sound and Southeast are 47 and 73 percent behind the YTD 2017 harvest, respectively.

Unseasonably warm water and drought conditions are to blame in Prince William Sound for the slow humpy harvest, says Charlie Russell, seine area management biologist for ADF&G in Cordova. Openers on wild stock pinks were halted on June 20 due to a lack of sufficient escapements of pinks into area streams, a big concern for management biologists. This week would typically be the peak of the wild pink run in the Sound.

Alaska’s overall year-to-date harvest figures meanwhile showed the red salmon catch up 10 percent, while silvers were about one third behind and ketas were 20 percent behind, he said.

The sockeye harvest is supported by landings of over 43 million reds in Bristol Bay, 3.5 million fish in the Alaska Peninsula, 2.5 million fish in Prince William Sound, and 1.5 million fish in the Kodiak area.

The keta harvest included nearly 5 million fish in Prince William Sound, 2 million fish in the Southeast Region and 1.4 million for all of the Westward Region. With about a month and a half left in the keta season, the harvest of 10 million fish is 20 percent behind YTD 2018. Evridge noted that harvesting will have to rise significantly to meet the forecast of 29 million keta. While Prince William Sound has already exceeded its forecast, nearly all other areas in Alaska are below expectation of keta by 75 percent, early all other areas in Alaska are below expectations for the species.

On the Lower Yukon River, famed for its oil-rich keta salmon, small boat harvesters had delivered 276,000 chum salmon, and the catch for the Kotzebue area had reached 135,000 fish.

Evridge also noted that while coho volume is about half of the five-year average at this point in the season, at least eight weeks of harvest remain.