Alaska’s preliminary salmon harvest numbers are in, and the fleet put in a decent season with a five-species total of 220.10 million fish.

That’s up sharply from last year’s 113.56 million fish, and the uptick this year was led mainly by surges in the sockeye, pink and chum harvests.

Bristol Bay’s harvest of 40.35 million sockeyes came in just above the 2020 harvest of 39.79 million.

Other areas contributing to a grand total of 54.18 million sockeyes (116 percent of the preseason forecast) included the Alaska Peninsula posted a sockeye harvest of 6.77 million fish, which was more than double its 2020 harvest of 2.85 million.

Prince William Sound seiners, meanwhile, put in 64.86 million pinks, besting its 2019 harvest of 46.58 million. (The pinks return on a two-year cycle.)

In Southeast Alaska, seiners caught 45.37 million fish for a vast improvement over the 21.11 million fish they caught in 2019. Southeast and Prince William Sound also proved to be the dominant chum harvest areas with respective totals of 6,314,000 fish and 2,573,000 fish.

Like last year, communities held to covid protocols, but with increased availability of the vaccine, many added vaccination mandates for the fleet of fishermen and seafood workers. Alaska’s unemployment rate shot up to more than 13 percent during the 2020 season, hampering the capacity of processing crews and the support industries.

Last year, base ex-vessel prices for sockeyes in Bristol Bay began at 70 cents a pound but as volumes moved quickly through the product distribution chains, processors extended another 45 cents per pound as retroactive ex-vessel prices to fishermen.

At the retail end of the markets, in 2020 frozen seafood sales (all Alaska species) increased by 35 percent over 2019 while sales of fresh seafood grew by 24 percent. This season, base prices in the bay started out at $1.25 per pound as the fish went to markets that had been long depleted of product despite the large harvest last year.

Alaska’s pink salmon prices rose by a nickel per pound from 2020 to ’21 and averaged 35 cents per pound. Chum salmon prices averaged between 50 cents per pound and 85 cents per pound depending on harvest areas, beating out the 2020 average price of 43 cents.

Coho prices more than doubled at $2.50 per pound over last year’s $1.17 per pound. Troll-caught king salmon hit $6.73 per pound, besting out the average $5.07 of last year.

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Charlie Ess is the North Pacific Bureau Chief for National Fisherman.

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