Copper River fishermen gain another harvest

Evridge: It’s still too early to draw any conclusions

A fishing vessel approaches Cordova Harbor. (June 17, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Commercial harvesters keen on those Copper River salmon got a fifth shot at those prized Chinooks and reds on Thursday, June 18, in a 12-hour opener announced by Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials in Cordova.

Waters within the expanded Chinook salmon inside closure area were closed for the period.

It has been, in no uncertain terms a real slow start, with several of those openers already cancelled because of a very slow run. Through Tuesday, June 16, a total of 1,665 deliveries to processors from four 12-hour openers in the Copper River had brought in some 5,751 kings, 71,370 sockeyes and 1,056 chums, a total of 78,177 fish.

It’s not just the Cordova area that is hurting for fish.

“The 2020 Alaska salmon season is off to a slow start, but it is too early to draw any conclusions,” said Garrett Evridge, a fisheries economist with the McDowell Group. “In an average year less than 10 percent of the annual harvest occurs in May and June. Harvests typically expand modestly over the next two weeks before climbing sharply in early July.”

Evridge acknowledged that early season harvest figures are below historical averages.

“Prince William Sound is particularly slow with sockeye and Chinook landings down around 80 percent from the same time in 2019 and 70 percent lower than the 5-year average,” Evridge wrote in his first Alaska Salmon Harvest Update, a weekly report he compiles for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “Seine harvest of keta in PWS is running counter to this weakness with harvest roughly double the 5-year average. Cook Inlet fishing is slow compared to last year, but nearly equal to the 5-year average. Kodiak is also off to a slow start along with Alaska Peninsula & Aleutian Islands (Area M).”

Evridge notes that ADF&G is projecting a harvest of 132 million salmon in 2020, a level similar to other even-numbered years.

“The pink harvest is expected to be on the lower-end of recent even-numbered years,” he said. “The projected sockeye harvest is below the 5-year average but higher than the 10-year average. Anticipated keta and coho harvests are nearly equal to the 5-year average, and the expected production of 320,000 Chinook would represent a third year of increasing catch if realized.”

As of Tuesday, June 16, the estimated in-season commercial harvest report compiled by ADF&G showed an overall catch of 6,204 kings, 195,037 reds and 244,371 chum salmon harvested in Prince William Sound, in all six districts.

The highest chum catch, 132,999 fish, was in the purse seine fishery in the Montague district, and the largest sockeye catch, 104,928 fish, in the Eshamy Main Bay district.

Daily updates on the estimated statewide commercial salmon harvest are provided by ADF&G at adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyfisherysalmon.bluesheet.