A boost in the coho catch has increased the Prince William Sound 2020 overall harvest to 24.9 million salmon, as the fishery continued this week in the Copper and Bering river districts.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Cordova office on Tuesday, Sept. 15, approved a 36-hour commercial fishing openers beginning Thursday, Sept. 17, for the Copper River and Bering River districts.
ADF&G biologists said the Copper River Delta survey count for the week ending Sept. 12 was 35,180 coho salmon versus an anticipated range of 18,286 to 38,285 fish. The Copper River district harvest for the 24-hour fishery that began on Sept. 7 was 11,571 coho with 168 deliveries reported. For the 12-hour fishing period that began on Sept. 10, there were 7,311 coho caught, with 151 deliveries.
In the Bering River district, the survey count for the week ending Sept. 12 was 24,275 coho versus an anticipated range of 6,969 to 17,691 fish. The harvest for the 24-hour fishery that began on Sept. 7 was 13,458 fish with 111 deliveries reported. The harvest for the 12-hour fishing period that began on Sept. 10 was 3,353 coho with 46 deliveries reported.
The overall preliminary statewide harvest compiled by ADF&G meanwhile stood at over 112 million salmon, including 57.6 pink, 45.4 million sockeye, 7.5 million chum, 1.9 million coho and 245,000 kings.
The 2020 Alaska salmon season to date represents the third consecutive even-numbered year of relatively weak landings compared to historical averages, said fisheries economist Garrett Evridge, of the McDowell Group, who compiles in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest updates for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
To date, measured by the number of fish, this year’s harvest will rank 17th out of the 23 even-numbered years since 1975. This ranking may improve a bit as data are revised and final landings of the season occur, Evridge said.
On a statewide level, the 2020 sockeye harvest of 45 million fish measures up to 15 percent below the five-year average, on par with the 10-year average, and nearly 10 percent ahead of the 20-year average, he said. The multi-year trend of strong Bristol Bay harvest balancing weak sockeye production elsewhere in the state continued in 2020, but if Bristol Bay is excluded from the statewide total, the 2020 sockeye harvest would be the smallest since 1976.
This summer’s harvest of some 58 million humpies lags behind the 10-year average (including only even-numbered years) by about 25 percent, Evridge notes. Still, while the current season is below longer-term averages, the 2016 and 2018 harvests were still exceeded by about 50 percent. Kodiak’s harvest proved surprisingly productive, with the area exceeding its preseason forecast by 9 million fish, or 74 percent.
Keta salmon harvests fared decidedly less abundant, at 7.5 million fish, adding up to the weakest harvest since 1979. All areas of Alaska had weak landings, with the impact on Southeast Alaska and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region particularly harsh, due to the importance of the keta to those fisheries.
Even with some additional harvests anticipated in the next three weeks, the coho harvest will have declined to levels last seen in the mid-1970s, Evridge said. Chinook catches also are expected to end the season well below historical levels, he said.