The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a generally low salmon forecast by historical standards, but still well above the poor 2020 harvest of 118 million fish, according to a weekly salmon report prepared by the McKinley Group.

As of Saturday, June 12, Alaska’s statewide harvest of 1.2 million salmon is about half of the total harvest by the same week in 2020, according to the McKinley report. However, economist Dan Lesh notes, historically less than 2 percent of the harvest is documented by the 24th week of the year.

In the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands region (Area M) and Prince William Sound, early season openers mark higher harvests than last year but still historically slow.

Area M has seen harvests of 339,000 sockeye, a big jump over 2020 and above long-term averages. 2021 is expected to be comparable to the 10-year average for sockeye salmon, driven by strong sockeye projections for Bristol Bay. But harvests for the other four salmon species are forecast to be below 10-year averages.

Pink salmon returns in Area M are bearing out that prediction so far. Pinks are being harvested at a significantly lower rate (by more than six times at 414,000 so far) than in 2019, the last odd year. Pink salmon returns tend to run big every other year.

Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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