NPAFC Says 2020 Salmon Harvests Were Lowest in Four Decades

A new report from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission says preliminary North Pacific-wide total salmon harvests in 2020, as reported by member countries, were the lowest recorded since 1982, as indexed by aggregate commercial catches.

Member countries portions of that catch include 48 % by Russia, (292.7 thousand metric tons), 41% by the United States (245.7 thousand metric tons of which 241.1 thousand metric tons was caught in Alaska), 10% by Japan (61.1 thousand metric tons), about 1% by Canada (7.1 thousand metric tons) and less than 1% by South Korea (139 metric tons).

The majority of the total commercial catch, 46% by weight, was pink salmon, followed by chum, 27% and sockeye salmon 23%. Coho comprised just 3% of the catch. Chinook salmon, cherry salmon and steelhead trout were each less than 1% of the catch by weight.

NPAFC officials said pink and chum salmon dominate Asian catches with their overall harvests generally declining since 2011. Pink salmon harvests reached a high of 516.9 thousand metric tons in 2018, but declined to 178.2 thousand metric tons in 2020.

The total North American catch of 252.7 thousand metric tons was the lowest since 1988. The 2020 chum salmon catch in Alaska, 28.1 thousand metric tons, was the lowest since 1989. In Canada, pink, chum and sockeye salmon were the most abundant species caught. Even as catches remain historically low, harvests of sockeye, pink and chum salmon rose compared to 2019. In Washington, Oregon and California Chinook, chum and coho salmon are typically the most abundant species harvested.

Particularly low catches of chum and sockeye salmon in 2020 resulted in the lowest total catches of salmon on record, 4.5 thousand metric tons in the NPAFC database for those three states combined, the report said.

Hatchery releases of salmon and steelhead from NPAFC member countries have remained stable since 1993, with some five billion fish released annually. Hatcheries in 2020 released 2,002 million fish (39% of the total) in the United States, 1,593 million, or 31% in Japan; 1,287 million, or 25% in Russia, 209 million, or 4% in Canada, and 8 million (about 1%) in South Korea.

The NPAFC, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, met virtually in late May. Member nations continued to support efforts of the International Year of the Salmon. The commission plans to launch a multi-vessel expedition in the winter of 2022, a collaborative international effort to send multiple research vessels to survey the winter ecology of Pacific salmon across the entire North Pacific Ocean.