Increased commercial harvest anticipated in 2017

If realized, this year’s statewide harvest would be 204 million salmon, up from 112.6 million a year ago

State fisheries biologists are projecting a statewide salmon catch of 204 million fish for 2017, including average size commercial harvests of 41 million sockeyes and 142 million humpies.

The new Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecast, issued on March 13, if realized would be considerably above the 2016 commercial harvest of 112.6 million salmon caught commercially in 2016, with an estimated value of $406.4 million.

The 2016 harvest, the fifth largest since 1970, including nearly 53 million reds worth $251 million and 39 million pinks, worth $38 million, was about 49 million fish less than the preseason forecast of 161 million, mostly due to unusually low returns of pink salmon.

ADF&G projections for this year’s commercial harvest include nearly 142 million pink, 41 million red and 17 million chum, plus 4.7 million silver and 80,000 king salmon.  Within Prince William Sound alone, the projection is for nearly 61,606,000 salmon, including 21 million from natural production and 40.6 million produced in hatchery production, including more than 36 million humpies.

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In its preliminary review of the 2016 Alaska commercial salmon fisheries, ADF&G noted that the 2016 Prince William Sound area commercial salmon harvest totaled 18.71 million fish, including 13.05 million pink, 1.99 million sockeye, 3.17 million chum, 484,000 coho and 13,100 Chinook salmon.  Of that total 13.34 million, or 71.3 percent were commercial common property fish, and 5.37 million, or 28.7 percent were hatchery cost-recovery and broodstock fish, the ADF&G report said.

For the Copper River District, the 2016 forecast was 21,000 kings, 1.62 million sockeye and 201,000 coho salmon, with the Gulkana Hatchery projected to contribute 169,000 reds to the commercial common property harvest.

The season opened on May 16 and through the end of July the commercial fishery was open 756 hours, 96 hours more than the recent 10-year average.

The harvest for Copper River same in at 1.18 million sockeyes, 21 percent less than the previous 10-year average harvest of 1.46 million fish, and the unweighted average sockeye’s weight was 5.04 pounds, the smaller on record, with the number of wild sockeyes in the Copper River CCPF harvest at 1 million fish, or 85 percent of the harvest. Hatcheries contributed some 158,000 reds, or 13 percent of the commercial harvest.

The CCPF harvest of 13,100 kings was below the previous 10-year average harvest of 18,000, while the season total harvest of silvers, at 369,000 fish, was nearly double the previous 10-year average harvest of 202,000 cohos.  The report also noted that the 2016 Chinook salmon inriver abundance point estimate from the mark-recapture program run by the Native Village of Eyak was 16,009 fish. After upriver fisheries harvests are subtracted, the total spawning escapement estimate will likely be close to half of the lower bound sustainable escapement goal of 24,000 fish, the report said.

The Prince William Sound 2016 chum salmon total run forecast was 3.3 million fish, with 2.87 million, or 87 percent, projected to be of Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. origin. Of these, 394,000 chums were expected to be harvested by the purse seine fleet at the Armin F. Koernig Hatchery. The chum salmon commercial harvest in Armin F. Koernig Hatchery’s special harvest area was 205,000 hatchery fish, or 48 percent below PWSAC’s 394,000 preseason forecast.

The complete forecast and summary of the 2016 season is online at 

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/SP17-08.pdf