PWS salmon harvest nears 24M

Statewide deliveries of commercially caught fish hovering at 93.6M

The fleet returns to Cordova to deliver Copper River salmon after the third commercial opener on Monday, May 28, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

Commercial salmon harvests in Prince William Sound are edging closer to the 24 million fish mark, with the catch to date still way behind the season’s forecast.

Preliminary harvest results posted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game through Aug. 14 were up by about two million fish from a week earlier, with deliveries of some 19 million humpies, 3.3 million chums, 1.8 million sockeyes, 35,000 silvers and 7,000 Chinooks.

The bulk of the chum catch to date, 1.8 million fish, were captured by drift gillnetters in the Coghill District, and the bulk of the pink salmon – more than 10 million humpies – were taken by purse seiners in eastern Prince William Sound, followed by other purse seiners in southwestern and northern areas of the sound.

Purse seiners in eastern Prince William Sound have led the coho harvest with some 12,504 silvers, followed by other purse seiners in southwestern Prince William Sound, with 9,366 fish.

Drift gillnetters in Eshamy Main Bay led in the catch of sockeyes with an overall seasonal catch to date of 956,622 reds, and Copper River drift gillnetters had some 7,164 kings, far and away more than any other Prince William Sound district.

Still the overall harvest of sockeyes and Chinooks to date compared with a forecast of 1.8 million reds and 14,000 kings for the sound fisheries.

The catch of pink salmon so far delivered to processors, about 18,500 fish, compared to a forecast of 32,752 fish, but still exceeded the 2016 even year harvest of some 13,000 pinks.

The coho harvest of35,000 fish compared with a forecast of 408,000 silvers, and the chum harvest of 3,331 fish compared with a forecast of 4,000 chums.

Statewide deliveries of commercially caught salmon through Aug. 14 stood at 93.6 million fish, including some 48.6 million sockeyes, 31 million humpies, 12.4 million chums, 1.4 million silvers and 202,000 kings.

McDowell Group economist Garrett Evridge noted in his weekly report to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute that the pink salmon catch to date compared with a forecast of nearly 70 million fish and a 2016 even year harvest of 39.2 million fish.

The year-to-date salmon harvest is 5 percent behind 2016 and 40 percent below the 5-year average. With about three weeks left of fishing, year-to-date statewide pink volume is roughly equal to 2016, when the humpy harvest was declared an economic disaster, and more than 40 percent below the previous five even-year harvests.

Pink harvest in Prince William Sound and Kodiak are about double the year-to-date 2016 volume, while Southeast is two-thirds lower, Evridge noted. Due to the two-year life cycle of humpies, odd year harvests are usually much larger than those in even years. The keta harvest of 12 million fish so far this year is about 20 percent lower than the five-Year average.

Sockeye production continued to be struggling in Cook Inlet, Southeast and Chignik, among other areas, and the catch of some 202,000 kings is 14 percent lower than a year ago.