2018 salmon season among highest in value

Smaller overall catch earned fishermen nearly $600M

Alaska’s 2018 commercial salmon harvest, excluding 2016, was the smallest in 34 years, but the seventh most valuable since 1975, earning harvesters $595.6 million.

That’s according to a report issued on Nov. 19 by the McDowell Group in Juneau on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, based on preliminary data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which will be revised in the coming year.

The statewide sockeye salmon harvest was the second most valuable in 26 years and the chum harvest the third most valuable since 1975, said Garrett Evridge, an economist for the McDowell Group.

For Prince William Sound harvesters, 2018 proved a challenging year, with a catch of 29.19 million fish, including 8,100 Chinook 1.30 million red, 509,000 silver 23.94 million pink and 3.44 million chum salmon. Of that total, 85 percent, or 24.90 million fish were commercial common property fish and 15 percent, or 4.29 million, were hatchery cost recovery and broodstock fish.

The drift gillnet ex-vessel harvest value for Prince William Sound was estimated at $35.83 million, with average permit earnings of $70,400. Setnetters’ harvest value was an estimated $2.41 million, with average permit earnings of $77,700, and purse harvests were estimated at a value of $38.32 million, with average permit earnings of $156,000.  Revenue generated for hatchery operations was about $15.47 million.

Statewide the amount paid to harvesters proved comparable or higher than 2017 value, Evridge noted

Average ex-vessel value per fish in 2018 was $5.20, significantly higher than the $3.05 value per fish in 2017 Average king salmon weighing 11.6 pounds brought fishermen nearly $70, while the average sockeye was valued at $7.

Bristol Bay harvesters brought in 41.3 million sockeyes worth an estimated $275 million, a record for both volume and value. For 2018, ADF&G biologists are anticipating a return that is 10 percent lower than the 10-year average and about 16 percent above the 55-year average.

Excluding Bristol Bay, Alaska’s sockeye harvest was about 40 percent lower than the 10-year average, and in Prince William Sound, the harvest was nearly 50 percent lower.

The Cook Inlet harvest was 60 percent lower and Southeast was 45 percent lower.

In Chignik, the catch of 128 red salmon compared to nearly 900,000 a year earlier.

Still the largely unanticipated late season harvest of chum salmon in Southeast Alaska included some three million fish caught at Crawfish Inlet. There was more good news in Norton Sound’s record $4 million salmon harvest, and the chum and coho harvests on the Yukon River were the fourth largest by volume on record.