Salmon Update: PWS season’s catch nears 56 million fish

Statewide harvest now tops 201 M salmon

A fisherman steers toward Cordova Harbor. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

Prince William Sound drift gillnetters headed out for a 60-hour harvest period on Monday, Sept. 23, on the heels of a 60-hour period on Sept. 16 that brought in 16,100 coho salmon in 166 deliveries reported.

With results of the latest catch still to come, the preliminary Alaska Department of Fish and Game harvest report on Monday, Sept. 23, showed that Prince William Sound harvests for the season had reached 55.8 million salmon.

Both the Copper River and Bering River district fisheries remained closed to drift gillnetters due to below weekly escapement targets, and the next salmon fisheries announcement was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25.

Statewide preliminary data compiled by ADF&G showed an overall harvest of 201 million fish, including 124.8 million pink, 55.3 million sockeye, 17.3 million chum, 3.4 million coho and 273,000 Chinook salmon.

With the addition of some 100,000 fish last week, the 2019 Alaska commercial salmon season is nearly complete, noted Garrett Evridge of the McDowell Group, who compiles weekly commercial salmon reports in season on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The season total of slightly over 200 million fish will rank eighth largest on the harvest record. Historical data indicate a few hundred thousand additional salmon are usually harvested over the next two weeks, Evridge said.

About 94 percent of the 2019 ADF&G harvest projection has already been realized. Sockeye production exceeded the projection by 33 percent, or 14 million fish. About 91 percent of expected pink salmon production was achieved and Chinook production met its mark too. Keta Production came to 59 percent of its forecast, representing nearly 12 million fewer fish than anticipated. Coho production also lagged behind, down about 25 percent from the anticipated harvest of 4.6 million fish.

Evridge notes that the sockeye harvest of over 55 million fish is the fourth largest on record, measured in numbers of fish. Bristol Bay harvesters brought in 78 percent of that total, followed by the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, with 7 percent and Prince William Sound, with 5 percent. Kodiak and Ook Inlet each added 4 percent and Southeast, Chignik and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim provided the remainder.

ADF&G’s Bristol Bay salmon season summary notes that the 2019 harvest was the most valuable on record and the second largest harvest measured in pounds landed.

The pink salmon harvest of about 125 million fish is the eighth largest on record. Prince William Sound contributed the most of any region with 38 percent of the total, while Kodiak’s harvest was about 26 percent. The Alaska Peninsula, and Aleutian Islands and Southeast brought in 16 percent of the total and other areas of Alaska caught the other 4 percent.

The Keta Salmon harvest was the 16th largest on record and nearly equal to the five-year average, Southeast accounted for 42 percent, followed by Prince William Sound with 31 percent, the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands with 8 percent and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim with 7 percent. Bristol Bay at 6 percent and remaining areas took the rest of the keta harvest.

The current year-to-date pace of the coho harvest is 22 percent behind the five-year average Southeast has produced nearly 40 percent of this year’s volume. Prince William Sound and the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands each account for 15 percent. Kodiak has 11 percent of the coho harvest, Chignik 6 percent and other areas brought in the rest.