PWS salmon harvest estimate rises to 2.7 M fish

A delivery of wild sockeye salmon from the Kenai Peninsula on June 2 kept filleter Sang Ounthauang busy at 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage. (Photo by Margaret Bauman/The Cordova Times)

Prince William Sound’s commercial harvesters delivered an estimated 2,687,658 salmon through June 2, including 1,868,059 chums, 810,906 sockeyes, 7,755 Chinooks, 778 humpies and 160 silvers.

The Coghill and Eshamy districts opened to commercial fishing for 36-hour periods on June 25 and June 28 respectively.

The bulk of the chums to date, some 1,223,766 fish, were harvested in the Coghill district, along with 89,290 red, 3243 kings and seven cohos.

Drift gillnetters in Eshamy Main Bay, delivered an estimated 649,150 sockeyes, 104,554 chums, 118 humpies, 101 kings and eight silvers, while the drift/set harvesters brought in 14,741 sockeyes and 32 chums.

Purse seiners in the Prince William Sound Southwestern District had some 254,253 chums, 28,258 reds, 146 humpies, 37 kings and 17 silvers, and purse seiners in the Montague District had 282,482 chums, 3,491 sockeyes, 483 humpies, 137 kings and 127 silver salmon.

The Copper River district remains closed to commercial fishing, with the catch to date including some 26,000 sockeyes, 7,137 Chinooks and 2,972 chum salmon.

The Copper River’s salmon harvest is the second lowest harvest to date in the past 50 years, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Coghill District chum salmon and Eshamy District sockeye salmon harvests meanwhile are tracking ahead of the anticipated 933,000 chum and 570,000 sockeye salmon, respectively.

State fisheries biologists note that Copper River water levels are extremely high for this date. To meter sockeye escapement into the river, the commercial fishery remained closed through July 1, to allow four weeks of continued run entry since the last commercial opener. Biologists said that while daily passage is increasing, Miles Lake cumulative sonar passage continues to be well below the minimum in-river passage target and if that low level of abundance continues, it will likely be a strong driving force in commercial fishery management decisions for the remainder of the upriver sockeye salmon run.

Prince William Sound purse seine fisheries meanwhile have had 12-hour openers for the Armin F. Koernig Hatchery Terminal Harvest Area and special Harvest Area in the Southwest District, and 36-hour openers for the Port Chalmers Subdistrict of the Montague District.

Tito Marquez of 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage says wild sockeye salmon being delivered from the Kenai Peninsula were weighing in on average at six pounds.
(Photo by Margaret Bauman/The Cordova Times)

The 2018 combined pink salmon forecast for Prince William Sound is 34.35 million fish, of which 28.31 million will be available for commercial common property fishery harvest. That total includes 16.93 million Valdez Fisheries Development Association fish, 15.40 million Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatchery fish and a commercial common property fishery forecast of 2.02 million wild fish. About 18 percent, or 3.03 million of the projected 16.93 million humpy run to VFDA’s Solomon Gulch Hatchery will be needed for cost recovery and broodstock, leaving 13.90 million for the commercial harvest, state biologists said. In addition, some 3.01 million or 20 percent of the projected 15.40 million pink salmon run to the PWSAC hatcheries will be needed for cost recovery and broodstock, leaving some 12.39 million PWSAC pinks available for commercial harvest. The wild pink salmon commercial forecast is 2.02 million fish.

The chum salmon forecast is for a total run of 3.45 million fish into Prince William Sound. About 89 percent, or 3.06 million fish are from PWSAC hatchery production, with 450,000 fish returning to the Armin F. Koerning hatchery area and another 150,000 fish returning to the Port Chalmers Subdistrict. The 2018 wild chum salmon commercial forecast for Prince William Sound is 391,000 fish.

With more areas of Alaska open for commercial salmon harvests, the preliminary statewide harvest total calculated by ADF&G has grown to a total of 15,482,000 fish, including over 11 million sockeyes, 4 million chums, 356,000 humpies, 81,000 kings and 3,000 cohos.

The state’s westward region, including Kodiak, and the Alaska Peninsula, has delivered 2.1 million fish, including over 1 million sockeyes, 692,000 chums, 348,000 pinks and 6,000 Chinooks.

Lower Cook Inlet harvesters have caught some 255,000 sockeyes, 6,000 chums and 2,000 kings, while in the central district of upper Cook Inlet just 76,000 reds, 4,000 chums and 1,000 kings have been delivered to processors.

In the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, small boat fishermen om the Lower Yukon have caught 158,000 chums and 4,000 pinks, and in Norton Sound, the commercial harvest stood at 32,000 chums and 1,000 humpies.

In Southeast Alaska an estimated 393,000 salmon harvests have been recorded, including 345,000 chums and 36,000 kings, plus 7,000 sockeyes, 3,000 silvers and 2,000 humpies.

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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