Harvest numbers are mixed as season gets underway

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)

Prince William Sound landings of wild Alaska salmon have been strong, as the fishery gets under way. Meanwhile sockeye production in Kodiak, Cook Inlet and Chignik is off to a slow start, fisheries economist Garrett Evridge says in his first harvest report of the season.

“Year-to-date statewide harvest of sockeye is more than three times the prior year,” said Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group, who produces the weekly salmon harvest updates in season on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Preliminary harvest reports provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game through June 15 showed some 5,952 deliveries in 10 openers in the Copper River fishery, with deliveries to processors at upwards of 81,600 fish. ADF&G data showed that through the ninth opener Chinook salmon weights were averaging 18.3 pounds, sockeyes 5.5 pounds, chums 6.5 pounds and cohos 6.2 pounds.

First preliminary figures on the eighth opener released by ADF&G indicted that sockeyes for that period averaged 3.5 pounds, but that figure was later updated to show that the red salmon on average for that period were 5.6 pounds.

Statewide, through June 15, over 4 million wild salmon had been delivered to processors, according to data compiled by ADF&G.

Chinook production is up 50 per cent year-to-date with strength in Prince William Sound moderated by a slower Southeast Alaska harvest, and keta volumes are roughly double those of last year at this time, led by harvests in Prince William Sound, he said.

AD&G has forecast a 2019 harvest of 213 million salmon, which is 84 percent more than the 2018 harvest and roughly equal with that of 2017. The humpy forecast is comparable to recent odd-year harvests. After a record sockeye harvest in 2018, Evridge notes, this year’s production is expected to be 18 percent lower, but similar to the long-term average. Forecasted keta harvests of nearly 129 million fish would exceed the previous record by about four million fish.

Coho production is expected to match recent years, and Chinook landings are anticipated to improve slightly from a year ago, Evridge said.