In a year woefully down on commercial salmon harvests, the Copper River catch proved the second lowest in 100 years, while the statewide catch of 605.1 million pounds ranked 34th in the 1975-2018 time series.
Warm water was a fairly big driver for what happened in the Copper River, along with forage availability, distribution of zooplankton and competition with other fish for food, said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist at Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Some systems in the upper Copper River also had large escapements in the parent year, so there were more fish competing for food in the freshwater environment, Botz said. While we may want to attribute that low harvest to one thing it was the cumulative effect, he said.
Preliminary commercial harvest totals put the Copper River sockeye salmon catch at about 44,000 fish and the Chinook catch at 7,200 fish, with the overall Prince William Sound harvest coming in at 29.19 million salmon.
Forecasts for the 2019 season returns and the fishing season outlooks will be coming out from ADF&G in coming weeks, state biologists said.
ADF&G officials this past week put the 2018 Alaska commercial salmon fishery harvest at 114.5 million fish with an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $595.2 million, a 13 percent decrease from last year’s value of $685 million.
Red salmon worth $349.2 million accounted for 59 percent of the total value and 44 percent of total harvest at 49.9 million fish. Chum salmon, the second most valuable species, made up 21 percent of the total ex-vessel value at $125 million and 18 percent of the total harvest with 20.1 million fish. Humpy harvests, valued at $69.2 million and 12 percent of the total value, produced 40.7 million fish or 36 percent of the total harvest. Cohos accounts for about 6 percent of the total value at $35.5 million and 3 percent of the total harvest with 3.6 million fish. The Chinook catch of some 234,614 fish had an estimated preliminary value of $16.3 million.
ASF&G noted that those values are based on preliminary ex-vessel prices and do not include any post-season adjustments received by fishermen.
Statewide the chum harvest ranked 8th for the 1975-2018 time series, sockeyes ranked 13th, silvers 31st and humpies 39th for the same years, and the Chinook harvest was the lowest since limited entry began in 1975.