Humpy harvest in PWS surges to exceed 12M fish

Keta landings are down considerably from a year ago

Brent Olsen pilots a vessel through Cordova Harbor. (Aug. 4, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Harvests of over 9 million pink salmon over the past week have pushed Alaska’s yearly total to over 25 million fish, including upwards of 12 million humpies caught in Prince William Sound.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game finfish area management biologists in Cordova said the cumulative pink salmon harvest in the Sound through Aug. 1 alone was estimated at 10.5 million common property fish and 1.5 cost recovery fish.

Preliminary commercial salmon harvest data compiled by ADF&G through Tuesday, Aug. 4, put the total commercial salmon harvest in Prince William Sound at 11.2 million fish, including 12.3 million pink, 1.9 million chum, 902,000 sockeye, 4,000 coho and 4,000 king salmon.

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. began its cost recovery sales program July 24 and through Monday, Aug. 3, had collected about 59 percent of the assigned pink salmon revenue goal. Sampling of cost recovery pinks from Monday, Aug. 3, resulted in an average weight of 3.75 pounds per fish.

Aerial surveys of all districts in Prince William Sound were being conducted later in the week, weather dependent, to further assess the strength of wild stock returns throughout the Sound.

Area management biologists Jeremy Botz and Charlie Russell at the ADF&G Cordova office said it is anticipated that future fishing opportunity directed on wild stocks would be limited to two days a week. Time and area for future commercial fishing periods targeting wild pink and chum salmon will be dependent on escapement, harvest and effort, they said.

Due to concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic all PWSAC facilities are closed to the public until further notice.

On a statewide basis, this week and next will be dominated by pink salmon production, said Garrett Evridge, of the McDowell Group, who compiles the weekly in-season commercial salmon harvest update on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Landings for the species will need to improve significantly to meet the ADF&G harvest projection of 61 million fish, he said.

Nearly 44 million red salmon have been harvested year-to-date, a level similar to the long-term average, with about 1.3 million sockeye added just last week. Bristol Bay contributed about half of this total, followed by the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands region and Kodiak. Chignik continued to suffer from low escapement, limiting commercial harvest, he said.

Along with Prince William Sound, other contributors to the humpy harvests were Kodiak with 4 million pinks last week, double the five-year average, and the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands’ year-to-date harvest, which is more than triple the 2018 level. Productive fishing in Cook Inlet last week brought that region close to its 2018 pace, but weak landings persisted in Southeast Alaska and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

Evridge noted that keta landings have not improved, with current production of about 4.2 million fish down nearly 10 million from the five-year average. Among all salmon harvest regions, Kodiak has experienced the smallest deficit with keta landings down 17 percent from a year ago. Prince William Sound has contributed about 45 percent of the harvest with volume down 36 percent from a year ago. Harvest in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region and Southeast Alaska are particularly slow, down 79 percent and 66 percent respectively from last year.

Coho product of 341,000 is 65 percent last year’s harvest level at this point of the season, and king salmon landings are 32 percent lower than last year, though some data may be withheld, Evridge said.