Humpy harvest in PWS grows to near 36 M

Statewide catch through Aug. 15 climbed to nearly 160 M

Commercial harvests of pink salmon in Prince William Sound rose to 35.8 million fish through Aug. 15, up from 28 million a week earlier, while the statewide preliminary catch reached 86.4 million humpies. 

Adding in harvests to date of 5.3 million chum, 1.4 million sockeye, 70,000 coho and 13,000 king, the total commercial salmon catch in the Sound has reached 42.6 million fish, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game data. 

Within the general seine district, the catch of 34.6 million salmon includes 32.1 million pink, 2,3 million chum, 114,000 sockeye and 58,000 silvers. 

The Coghill district’s catch has reached 2.9 million salmon, including 2.2 million chum, 596,000 pink, 112,000 red and 3,000 cohos. 

The Prince William Sound hatchery has a harvest of 2.7 million pink and 724,000 chum for a total catch of 3.4 million fish. In the Eschamy District some 613,000 red, 311,000 pink, 119,000 chum and 3,000 silvers add up to over one million fish. While for the Copper River, harvesters have now delivered 661,000 salmon, including 565,000 sockeye, 65,000 pink, 13,000 king, 12,000 chum and 6,000 cohos. 

The latest in-season summaries posted online by ADF&G note that for the Prince William Sound purse seine fisheries waters were open for commercial fishing on Aug. 4, Aug. 6, Aug. 8 and Aug. 10 in the Eastern, Northern, Coghill,. Northwester, Montague and Southeastern districts. 

Valdez Fisheries Development association began egg takes on Jul 31 and through Aug. 9 had collected 54 million, or 21 percent of a 250 million egg take goal. VFDA officials said they had secured sufficient broodstock at Solomon Gulch Hatchery, but had not established a surplus to finish cost recovery.  VFDA meanwhile had collected about 95 percent of the assigned pink salmon revenue goal through Aug. 9. Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. had collected about 68 percent of its assigned pink salmon revenue goal at Armin F. Koernig Hatchery through Aug. 8, and was continuing to work at AFK and Wally Noerenberg Hatchery. 

In Southeast Alaska, meanwhile the preliminary total catch of humpies through Aug. 15 was 20.7 million fish. 

Andy Piston, an ADF&G fisheries researcher at Ketchikan, said it is still too early to say how the harvest will end up, but based on what has been seen so far, the humpy harvest in Southeast Alaska is likely to come in in the low 30 million range. 

“Hopefully this week will see an increase in catches,” he said. 

The recent 10-year average for odd year pink salmon harvests in Southeast Alaska has been about 56 million fish, “so we are way below the recent odd year average,” Piston said. Still from 1960 through 2016, the overall pink salmon harvest average for all odd and even years was about 22 million fish, he said. 

Why the harvest of pink salmon in Southeast Alaska is coming in below forecast remains a mystery. 

”Things happen that really are hard to figure out,” Piston said. Those things include changes in predators, water temperature, and more. “Countless things could affect it and nobody knows what combination of factors in the ocean is influencing pink salmon survival, in localized areas especially,” he said. 

In the westward region of the state, harvesters have delivered to processors more than 42 million salmon, including 28.5 million pink, 9.5 million sockeye, 3.9 million chum, 482,000 silver and 18,000 Chinooks. 

More than 22 million of those fish come from the Alaska Peninsula, where harvesters brought in 13.4 million pink, 6.9 million red, 1.9 million chum, 317,000 coho and 9,000 kings. 

Kodiak processors saw delivery of 12.2 million pink, 1.8 million sockeye, 1.6 million chum, 122,000 coho and 6,000 kings, for a total of 15.8 million fish. Chignik’s harvest of 4 million salmon included 2.8 million pink, 770,000 red, 461,000 chum, 43,000 silver and 3,000 kings. 

In the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, deliveries of chum salmon made up the bulk of the harvest at 1.4 million fish, including 677,000 keta salmon from the Lower Yukon River alone. 

The Bristol Bay fishery total stood at 39 million salmon, compared with about 4 million for all of Cook Inlet.  

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at mbauman@thecordovatimes.com.