It was slow going for the May 15 opening at Copper River, which marks the official start of Alaska’s summer salmon season. Just over 3,000 fish crossed the docks (1,491 sockeyes and 1,646 kings) by 337 deliveries in the 12-hour opener.

Prices tanked for the famous “first fish” that usually fetch the highest prices of the year. Fishermen reported a base of $3/pound for sockeye salmon and $6/pound or slightly higher for kings for starters. That compares to record prices in 2019 of $10 and $14/pound.

Instead of the usual diners at high-end restaurants getting the first tastes, front line workers at Seattle’s Swedish Hospital were the first to be treated to the prized fish the day after the fishery.

A partnership of Seattle chef Tom Douglas, Alaska Airlines, Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association provided 200 salmon meals to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals.

On May 17, the same group organized a Grilling for Goodwill event in Ballard, featuring a special $45 Copper River salmon meal for pick up with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to Food Lifeline.

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

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