Hatchery operators are forecasting a total return of some 65.8 million fish this year, including 51.7 million pink salmon, 10.8 million chum, 1.9 million sockeye, one million coho and 95,000 Chinook salmon to hatchery projects.
That compares with 2020 hatchery returns of 34 million fish, which was lower than the 2020 forecast of 52 million fish. Returns of all salmon species were less than forecasted for 2020, coming in a 52% of forecast for chum, 57% of sockeye, 60% of Chinook, 71% of pink salmon 98% of forecasted cohos.
The forecasts are included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Alaska Salmon Fisheries Enhancement Annual Report.
For comparison, ADF&G biologists said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-ADF&G 2021 Southeast Alaska pink salmon commercial harvest forecast, which includes hatchery and naturally spawned fish, is 28 million humpies. The 2020 Southeast area pink salmon harvest, which was 14% hatchery production, was 7.5 million pink salmon and 63% under the 2020 forecast of 12 million humpies.
The report noted that possible causes for lower return than forecast are unknown but likely varied, and include lasting impacts of a 2014-2016 marine heatwave in the Gulf of Alaska, and the reduction in nutritional value of foraged fish.
The report is a review of hatchery production in Alaska based on information provided by hatchery operators, preliminary fish ticket data and reports from area managers. There are currently a total of 30 production hatcheries and one research hatchery operating in the state.