Run of 51.28 M sockeyes expected in Bristol Bay

A total of 51.28 million sockeye salmon are forecast to return to Bristol Bay in 2018, with a commercial harvest of 37.59 million reds in the Bay and 1.49 million fish in the South Peninsula.

That’s nearly 10 million sockeyes over last year’s forecast of a run of 41.47 million reds, and a catch of 27.47 million fish in the bay and 1.53 million fish in the South Peninsula.

Preliminary season summary data on the 2017 salmon season in the bay showed a harvest of 37.7 million sockeyes valued at $209,898,218, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Overall preliminary harvest data showed an overall harvest of 39.8 million sockeye, king, chum, pink and coho salmon valued at $214,638,805, ADF&G officials said.

The 2018 forecast is 18 percent higher than the most recent 10-year average of runs in the bay and 41 percent higher than the long term mean of 33.78 million fish.

The forecast is a sum of individual predictions of the Kvichak, Alagnak, Naknek, Egregik, Ugashik, Wood, Igushik, Nushagak and Togiak rivers and four age classes, including ages 1.2, 13, 2.2 and 2.3, plus ages 0.3 and 1.4 for the Nushagak River.

Assuming the run comes in at 51.28 million sockeyes, that would allow for a potential total harvest of 39.08 million fish, 37.59 million fish in Bristol Bay and 1.49 million salmon in the South Peninsula. A harvest of this size in Bristol Bay would be 35 percent larger than the most recent 10-year harvest of 28.91 million, which has ranged from 15.43 million to 38.81 million, and is 87 percent greater than the long-term harvest average of 20.85 million fish between 1963 and now.

By district and river system, the run forecast is as follows: 16.64 million to Naknek District (8.36 million to the Kvichak River, 4.41 million to the Alagnak River, and 3.87 million to the Naknek River); 9.12 million to the Egegik District; 2.87 million to the Ugashik District; 21.79 million to the Nushagak District (12.31 million to the Wood River, 7.36 million to the Nushagak River, and 2.13 million to the Igushik River); and 0.86 million to the Togiak District.

State biologists said they are forecasting the 2018 run of 18.43 million age 1.2 fish (36 percent of the total run); 6.03 million age 2.2 fish (12 percent of the total run; 22.55 million age 1.3 fish (44 percent of the total run) and 4.13 million age 203 fish (8 percent of the total run).

Sockeye runs into the Bay have been highly variable, with the total run averaging 33.78 million fish from 1963 through 2017, and averaging 42.71 million fish during the most recent decade.

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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.