Alaska salmon: second only to Russia?

Alaska is the second largest salmon harvester in the North Pacific, topped only by Russia, and leads all other nations for releases of hatchery-reared fish.

That’s according to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) which revealed last month that salmon catches reported by its member countries — Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the U.S. — remain at all-time highs.

Since 1993, the Commission has tracked the abundance and origins of chum, silver, pink, sockeye, king, cherry salmon and steelhead trout in the North Pacific, Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Salmon abundance is based on the aggregate commercial catches of the five nations which in 2016 totaled nearly 440 million fish, just slightly below previous years.

Russia ranked No. 1 for total salmon catches at 51 percent (967 million pounds), U.S. fleets took 33 percent at 617 million pounds — and all but 19 million pounds of the U.S. catch came from Alaska!

That was followed by Japan at 13 percent (245m pounds), three percent from Canada (47m pounds) and less than one percent of the North Pacific salmon catch was taken by Korea.

Pink salmon made up 41 percent of the total catch by weight, with Russia hauling in 75 percent of the pink pack. That was followed by chums at 33 percent, sockeyes at 21 percent, silver salmon at three percent and king salmon made up one percent of the North Pacific catch.

Hatchery releases of salmon from NPAFC member countries topped 5 billion fish in 2016 (38 percent of the total salmon catch), similar to numbers over the last three decades.

The U.S. released 37 percent of the hatchery fish (1,898 million fish), followed by Japan at 37 percent (967 million), Russia at 19 percent (282 million) and Canada at six percent (22 million fish).

Sixty-five percent of the hatchery releases were chum salmon, followed by pinks at 24 percent. King, sockeye and silver salmon releases were five percent of less.

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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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