PWS humpy harvest late, compressed but strong

Likely culprit is record heat wave, drought conditions

Copper River Seafoods and Carrs-Safeway are promoting Copper River’s silver salmon harvest in the supermarket chain’s Anchorage stores through the end of August. Rachael Goldberg-Pride, a culinary arts student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, prepared samples of the fresh seafood for tasting on Friday, Aug. 16, at the Carrs-Safeway Huffman seafood department, where fresh coho fillets were on sale for $9.99 a pound to club members. Photo by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times
Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association and Carrs-Safeway are promoting Copper River’s coho salmon harvest in the supermarket chain’s Anchorage stores through the end of August. The supplier was 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage. Rachael Goldberg-Pride, a culinary arts student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, prepared samples of the fresh seafood for tasting on Friday, Aug. 16, at the Carrs-Safeway Huffman seafood department, where fresh coho fillets were on sale for $9.99 a pound to club members. Photos by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times

Commercial harvests of humpies in Prince William Sound rose to over 34 million fish through Tuesday, Aug. 20, up nearly 12 million fish in seven days, while the overall salmon harvest for the Sound rose from 30.5 million to nearly 42 million for the same period.

Still the pink salmon harvest remains late and compressed for wild stocks and the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. run, said Charlie Russell, seine area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Cordova.

“The most likely culprit is the record heat wave and drought conditions that have affected much of Alaska,” Russell said. “They are still hanging out at the mouth of rivers. There is no rain. Until it rains the fish are in a holding pattern waiting at the creek’s mouth. This run is so late that it doesn’t follow a historical run timing curve,” he said.

“We are seeing a lot of die-offs before the fish are successful in spawning,” he said. “Usually on this date we are 90 percent complete with the harvest in Prince William Sound, but obviously it seems like we are just getting started. Typically, we catch about five million fish after this date and we are going to catch a lot more,” he said.

Preliminary salmon harvest data released by ADF&G showed the Sound’s Chinook harvest unchanged at 18,000 kings, the chum harvest up from 5 million to 5.2 million, the sockeye harvest up from 2.526 million to 2.546 million and the silver harvest up from 15,000 to 50,000 fish. The latter catch coincided with the start of a wild Alaska coho salmon promotion in Carrs- Safeway stores in Anchorage by Copper River Seafoods.

Fisheries economist Garrett Evridge of the McDowell group noted that the strong pink salmon harvest in Prince William Sound last week pushed the year-to-date statewide total to over 83 million fish. The current season is 20 percent behind the 2017 pace, 43 percent slower than 2015 and nearly equal to 2011, he said.

About 36 percent of the year-to-date pink harvest came from Prince William Sound. Kodiak contributed 23 percent and the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands are credited with 20 percent.  While most areas will be challenged to achieve the ADF&G forecast, Kodiak is still on track, he said.  The Southeast year-to-date harvest is the third smallest since 2008, including both even and odd numbered years.

The keta salmon volume of about 12 million fish is 17 percent lower than year-to-date 2018 and 19 percent blow the five-year average, and if 2018 is repeated, Southeast Alaska may see a late-season improvement in keta production, Evridge said.  The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region meanwhile has been disappointing after a strong season last year.  The region is nearly 50 percent behind this date a year ago and 34 percent lower than the five-year average.

Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association and Carrs-Safeway are promoting Copper River’s coho salmon harvest in the supermarket chain’s Anchorage stores through the end of August. The supplier was 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage.
Photos by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times
Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association and Carrs-Safeway are promoting Copper River’s coho salmon harvest in the supermarket chain’s Anchorage stores through the end of August. The supplier was 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage.
Photos by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times

According to Evridge, who produces weekly salmon harvest updates for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute in season, while last week’s harvest of 265,000 coho statewide was the season’s strongest weekly volume, year-to-date production is 27 percent behind last year and 42 percent lower than the five-year average.  All areas are continuing to produce modest volumes of silvers, with the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands and Chignik exceeding last year’s year-to-date total, Evridge said.

The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim’s production of cohos year-to-date is about half the five-year average, he said.

Chinook harvests meanwhile are approaching parity with last year’s pace. Southeast periodically sees a late-season uptick in harvest volume around statistical week 33/34. Last year some 32,000 fish were harvested over this two-week period or 20 percent of the region’s annual harvest, he said.

For the Kodiak area, the harvest hit 23,556,000 fish, according to preliminary figures compiled by ADF&G through Aug. 20. Deliveries to processors for the season to date included 21,132,000 humpies, 468,000 chum, 1.8 million red, 138,000 coho and 6,000 kings. For the entire westward region, the year-to-date catch through Aug. 20 included 39,267,000 pink, 6,152,000 sockeye, 1,858,000 chum, 547,000 silver and 36,000 kings for a total of 47.9 million fish.

Editor’s Note

Correction: A photo on page 10 of the Aug. 23 issue of The Cordova Times and photos in this story online incorrectly identified a Copper River coho salmon marketing promotion at a Carrs/Safeway supermarket in Anchorage on Aug. 16. The salmon supplier was 10th and M Seafoods and the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association was responsible for the sampling and marketing partnership with Carr’s/Safeway. The cutline incorrectly identified Copper River Seafoods and Carrs/Safeway as the promoters.

The Cordova Times is committed to accuracy. If you suspect an error, please email editor@thecordovatimes.com.