2021 PWS salmon harvest up for all but kings

Statewide the harvest in of some 234 million salmon exceeded the forecast by 123%

Fishing vessels around Cordova Harbor. Photo by David Little/for The Cordova Times

Preliminary total harvest reports for the 2021 salmon season in Prince William Sound show that the catch exceeded 2020 harvests for sockeye, keta and Chinook and the 2019 harvest of pink salmon, McKinley Research said on Monday, Jan. 3, in a report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Commercial harvesters delivered to processors an estimated 1.24 million sockeyes, 2.7 million keta, 9,000 Chinook, 66 million pink and 257,000 coho salmon. That was up 32% over the catch of 942,000 sockeyes, up 34% over 2 million keta and 35% over 7,000 Chinook in 2020, plus up 36% over 48.7 million pinks in the 2019 odd-year catch, which always exceeds the harvest of humpies in even years.

The coho harvest was down 11% over the 2020 harvest of 2.4 million fish.

By gross revenue, the value of the Prince William Sound harvest rose in 2021 for all salmon species except cohos.

The sockeye harvest brought fishermen $16.8 million, up 117% from $7.7 million a year ago, while the keta harvest was worth $16.3 million, up 13% from $7 million; the Chinook harvest brought fishermen $1.4 million, up 205% over $500,000; and the pink harvest was worth $84 million, up 46% from the odd year harvest worth $57.7 million in 2019. The 2021 coho harvest was worth approximately $3 million, the same as fishermen received in 2020.

Statewide results included an overall preliminary count of 57 million sockeyes, up 23% from 46.4 million; 12.8 million keta, up 49% from 8.6 million; and 266,000 Chinook, down 2% from 272,000, all in 2020. Plus 161 million humpies, up 25% from 128.6 million fish in 2019.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game data showed that while the projection for all five species of salmon was approximately 190 million fish that the harvest came in at nearly 234 million salmon, or 123% above the forecast.

The McKinley Research report, compiled by Dan Lesh, noted that small average fish sizes in 2021 tempered some of the good news from fish harvests counts. The total harvest was up only 18% from 2020 (2019 for pinks) based on total pounds.

Areas where small fish particularly influenced the disparity between fish count and fish weight numbers include Southeast Alaska, where pink salmon averaged 2.8 pounds and the Alaska Peninsula, where sockeye weighted an average of 4.8 pounds in 2021.

Thanks to both higher prices and higher volumes, the total ex-vessel salmon harvest of 2021 of $643.9 million is up substantially, 78% from the preliminary salmon ex-vessel value reported last year. Lesh noted that the 2021 revenue total would likely be adjusted upwards next year to account to retroactive payments.