Early Harvest Numbers Are Mixed for Alaska’s Wild Salmon

Commercial fisheries for Alaska’s wild salmon are off and running for 2019, with the statewide total through June 18 at 6,712,000 fish, including 43,000 Chinook, 1,149,000 chum, 4,149,000 pink, and 1,371,000 sockeyes.

For the Copper River drift gillnet fishery alone, the harvest has reached 814,000 fish, including 16,598 kings, 779,048 sockeyes and 18,091 chum salmon, with totals still being calculated on the June 17 opener. Harvest reports are also coming in from several other areas of Prince William Sound, with the opening of the Coghill, Eshamy and Montague districts, the Prince William Sound general seine and hatchery fisheries. The preliminary total wild salmon catch for Prince William Sound was some 1.5 million fish.

In the Western Region of Alaska, the harvest is underway in the South Alaska Peninsula, with 130,000 chum, 4,058,000 humpies and 315,000 sockeyes delivered to processors, and at Kodiak, where the initial harvest was slow, with a total of 144,000 salmon.

Fisheries economist Garrett Evridge of the McDowell Group, notes in his first weekly salmon harvest update for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, that those early harvest numbers of mixed. Evridge said that while sockeye production in Kodiak, Cook Inlet and Chignik got off to a slow start, the Prince William Sound landings have been strong. Year to date statewide harvest of sockeye is more than three times the prior year, he said, and Chinook production is up 50 percent year-to-date with strength in Prince William Sound moderated by a slower Southeast Harvest. Keta volumes are roughly double those of last year at this time, led by harvests in Prince William Sound.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has forecast a harvest of 213 million salmon in 2019, which is 84 percent more than in 2018 and roughly equal with 2017. The humpy forecast is comparable to recent odd-year harvests. After a record sockeye harvest in 2018, this year’s production is expected to be 18 percent lower, but similar to the long-term average, Evridge said. Forecasted keta harvests of nearly 29 million salmon would exceed the previous record by about four million fish. Coho production is expected to match recent years, and Chinook landings are anticipated to improve slightly from a year ago, he said.