Upper Cook Inlet sockeye forecast edges up

An Upper Cook Inlet sockeye salmon forecast released in late November by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game calls for a run of 4.6 million reds, with a commercial harvest of 1.9 million fish.

That’s up slightly from the 2017 forecast for a run of 4 million sockeyes, and a harvest of 1.7 million fish.

Major sockeye systems in Upper Cook Inlet are the Kenai, Kasilof and Susitna rivers and Fish Creek.

The run forecast for the Kenai is approximately 2.5 million, which is 1.1 million less than the 20-year average run of 3.6 million. The Kasilof forecast is 866,000, 11 percent less than the 20-year average of 971,000 fish. For the Susitna forecast of 329,000 reds is 18 percent less than the 10-year average of 398,000 fish, and the Fish Creek forecast is 211,000 reds, 276 percent greater than the 20-year average run of 76,000 fish.

The 2017 Upper Cook Inlet commercial salmon harvest of 1.8 million sockeyes was approximately 18 percent less than the 2007-2016 average annual harvest of 2.9 million fish and also the smallest harvest in the last decade.

ADF&G noted that sockeye salmon prices varied during the season but that based on an estimated average price of $1.86 per pound, the total ex-vessel value of last year’s Upper Cook Inlet sockeye salmon harvest was about $19.6 million, representing 83 percent of the total ex-vessel value of salmon in that district.

The forecast of the 2018 commercial harvest of other salmon species in Upper Cook Inlet include 389,000 humpies, 177,000 chum, 203,000 coho and 7,400 Chinook salmon.

State biologists used the recent five-year average commercial harvest to forecast the harvest of chum, coho and Chinooks for 2018. The forecast for pink salmon is based on the average harvest during the past five even-numbered years.