PWS salmon harvest tops 16M

Commercially caught Prince William Sound salmon deliveries to processors now exceed 16 million fish and the count keeps growing, as the red salmon catch keeps pace with the forecast and the humpy harvest lags behind.

Preliminary harvest data compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game put the overall harvest from the Sound at 16,323,000 fish through Tuesday, July 23, with deliveries of 9.1 million humpies, 4.8 million chum, 2.4 million sockeyes, 18,000 kings and 2,000 coho salmon. The most significant increase was in pink salmon harvest, which rose from an estimated 7.4 million fish a week earlier, followed by the chum harvest, which rose by nearly 500,000 fish over a seven-day period.

For the Copper River driftnet fishery alone, the catch stood at 1.3 million fish, including 1.2 million sockeyes weighing in on average at 5.5 pounds. The Coghill district drift gillnet catch reached 1.6 million fish, including over 1 million chum, 367,000 red and 183,000 pink salmon. The Prince William Sound general seiner fishery catch rose to 8.3 million fish, including 7.4 million pink salmon.

Statewide deliveries to processors meanwhile exceeded 84 million fish, including over 49 million sockeyes, 26 million humpies, 8 million chum, 198,000 Chinook and 402,000 coho.

The year-to-date harvest through July 20 was slightly ahead of the long-term (odd year) average of 75 million fish, noted fisheries economist Garrett Evridge, who produces the weekly commercial salmon harvest updates for the McDowell Group, on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Year-to-date sockeye production is strong, but other species are lagging, and as the Bristol Bay harvest winds down, the statewide focus is shifting to humpies, he said.

The sockeye catch is now 6 million fish above the ADF&G forecast of 42 million. With Bristol Bay past its peak, statewide production of red salmon should drop quickly over the next two weeks.

Kodiak, Cook Inlet and other regions will continue to produce modest sockeye volume and there is hope that Chignik will see improvement before this year’s run ends, he said.

Pink salmon production has slowed over the past two weeks to an overall pace that is 6 percent lower than 2017, but similar to the long-term average. Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands harvests are on track, Evridge said.

Meanwhile Cook Inlet volume is about 27 percent less than 2017, Prince William Sound is down 40 percent and Southeast 87 percent, he said.

Keta production remains about 25 percent behind 2018. Keta harvest-to-date is about 8 million fish, 27 percent of the 29 million fish forecast. Prince William Sound continues to be the only bright spot for keta, as other areas of the state are behind 2018, he said.

In the state’s Westward region, harvesters in the Alaska Peninsula have brought in over 14 million fish, including 10.4 million pink and 2.8 million sockeye salmon, 805,000 chum, 151,000 silver and 24,000 king salmon. At Kodiak the catch stood at over 20 million fish, including over 15 million humpies, 3.7 million reds and one million chum salmon.

In the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, the keta harvest stood at 413,000 fish, of which 264,000 were harvested in the Lower Yukon, 97,000 in Norton Sound, and 52,000 in the Kotzebue area.

Meanwhile, although coho and Chinook harvests lag behind the 2018 pace, production of both species has improved from a week ago, he said.