Pink salmon catch boosts Prince William Sound harvest

Overall PWS harvest now exceeds 20M fish

Copper River sockeye fillets sold quickly at the Fred Meyer seafood counter on Abbott Road in Anchorage. Photo by Margaret Bauman/The Cordova Times

An overall catch of 16.6 million humpies has boosted the preliminary commercial total harvest in Prince William Sound to over 20 million fish, although it’s still too early to gauge the strength of the pink salmon harvest.

Along with hatchery fish, some wild stocks of pink salmon are also coming in better than expected, considering the drought two years ago, said Heather Scannell, seine manager in Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Scannell noted that some harvesters early on also said some early run wild stocks were pretty big, but on average the harvested pinks are about 3.5 pounds.

ADF&G biologists are fairly optimistic about a better-than-anticipated pink salmon run.

Until the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. pinks and west side wild stocks show up, it is hard to gauge how the rest of the season will be, but “so far we are off to a pretty good start,” she said.

Prince William Sound harvesters have made nearly 15,000 deliveries to processors.

As of Wednesday, July 21, the latest ADF&G preliminary commercial salmon harvest report put the Prince William Sound commercial catch at 20.1 million fish, including 16.6 million pink, 2.4 million chum, 1.1 million sockeye, 7,000 Chinook and 1,000 coho salmon.

Statewide preliminary harvest figures show deliveries to processors of 75.3 million fish, including 47.4 million sockeye, 22.9 million pink, 4.7 million chum, 147,000 coho and 144,000 Chinook salmon, led by catches of nearly 39 million fish in Bristol Bay, 20 million in Prince William Sound and 10 million in the Alaska Peninsula.

The Nushagak district continues to lead the Bristol Bay harvest, with deliveries of nearly 18 million fish, including 17.5 million sockeyes, followed by the Naknek-Kvichak with 8.4 million sockeyes and the Egegik district, with 7.7 million sockeyes.

In Prince William Sound, The general seine district alone has delivered 15.8 million fish, including more than 15 million pink salmon.

Harvesters in the Alaska Peninsula have brought in over 10 million fish, including 5.5 million sockeyes, and at Kodiak the harvest has reached over 2 million fish, including 1.2 million sockeye salmon.

Fisheries economist Dan Lesh, writing his in-season weekly commercial salmon report for McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, noted that the largest salmon harvests of the season so far took place last week, with the cumulative harvest to date now even with the 2020, or 2019 for pink salmon, harvest.

Last week saw an early season surge of pink salmon, with the bump driven by the Prince William Sound region, where pink salmon harvests were up 21% year-to-date from 2019, Lesh said. In other regions of the state, pink harvests were well behind the 2019 pace.

Sockeye harvests peaked the week before last, but with a few weeks left in the season this year’s catch should easily beat the pre-season forecast of 46.5 million fish, he said. As of July 17, 99% of the preseason forecast had been caught. While numerous, size remains an issue in Bristol Bay, with average size at 4.5 pounds per sockeye, down from 5.1 pounds in 2020. Bristol Bay sockeyes currently represent 82% of the sockeye and 56% of all salmon harvested so far across Alaska. The catch includes no fish from the Yukon River, where even subsistence harvests are out this year because of the low run of fish.

Keta salmon are in short supply, with cumulative harvests up a bit from 2020, but still at less than half the typical harvest at this point of the summer, Lesh said. The five-year average harvest through week 29 is 9.7 million, compared to 4.4 million keta harvested so far this year, he said.

ADF&G preliminary salmon harvest reports are updated daily at cdv.tiny.us/bluesheet.