Alaska salmon harvest 31 percent below forecast

Alaska’s statewide salmon catch is 31 percent below expectations and is unlikely to reach the preseason forecast of 147 million fish.

In what the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game is calling an “unusual season” in a wrap up announcement, they said that the shortfall stems from poor pink salmon returns to Gulf of Alaska regions.

ADF&G also cited unexpected run timing for sockeyes at several major regions, causing uncertainty for managers and lost harvest opportunities for fishermen. Bristol Bay’s Kvichak River saw the latest peak since 1956, over half of the Kenai River’s late-run sockeye returned during the month of August, which has only occurred once before, and Copper River sockeye salmon returned in three distinct pulses, the third happening in mid-July.

But “it is important to maintain perspective on historical salmon harvests,” ADF&G said, pointing out that the three largest Alaska salmon harvests on record occurred between 2013 and 2017.

The 2018 season has not been without bright spots, notably at Bristol Bay which experienced the second largest sockeye salmon harvest on record of nearly 42 million fish, and the fourth consecutive season with the harvest topping 35 million sockeyes. Norton Sound also is likely to exceed last year’s record coho salmon harvest and at Kotzebue, the chum salmon harvest will be among the top four on record.

Preliminary statewide total harvests and ex-vessel values by salmon species and area will be available by mid-October.

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Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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