Preliminary findings on total salmon harvests in 2016 indicate that Pacific salmon abundance in the North Pacific remains at near all-time high levels.
Those findings, released by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), during its 25th annual meeting in Victoria, British Columbia, in mid-May, are based on reports from member countries Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.
The NPAFC said a total of 0.85 million metric tons (439.5 million fish) was captured in 2016, slightly less than previous even-numbered years.
Salmon harvests tend to be less in even than odd-numbered years, because the most frequent species in the catch, pink salmon, are less abundant in even-numbered years.
Member nation’s percentages of the total catch included Russia, 51 percent or 439.5 thousand metric tons; United States, 33 percent, 280.4 thousand metric tons of which Alaska contributed 271.8 thousand metric tons; Japan, 13 percent, 111.3 thousand metric tons; Canada, 3 percent, 21.5 thousand metric tons; and Korea, less than 1 percent, 256 metric tons.
Pink salmon constituted the bulk of the total commercial catch, 41 percent by weight, followed by chum at 33 percent, and sockeye at 21 percent. Coho comprised 3 percent; kings, 1 percent; and each of cherry salmon and steelhead trout were less than 1 percent of the catch by weight.
Pink and chum salmon dominate the harvests in Asia, and generally those harvests remain high. In 2016, they were within the range of catches for recent even-numbered years.
The relative abundance of salmon species in North America varies from north to south, the NPAFC report said. Pink and sockeye salmon are the primary species for Alaska, followed by chum salmon. In Canada, sockeye, pink and chum salmon have historically comprised the largest catch. In Washington, Oregon and California, king, chum and coho salmon are most abundant species. Unusually low catches of pink salmon in 2016 resulted in relatively low total catches of salmon in North America.
Hatchery releases of salmon and steelhead from NPAFC member countries totaled some 5.1 billion fish in 2016, similar to those of the past three decades. Sixty-five percent of those hatchery releases were chum, while pink salmon accounted for 24 percent, followed by kings at 5 percent, sockeyes at 4 percent, and 2 percent of coho.
The NPAFC also honored retired federal fisheries scientist Loh-Lee Low with the 2017 NPAFC Award in recognition of his sustained scientific contributions to the commission’s mission to conserve and manage anadromous salmon and steelhead stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas.
Low is retiring from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service. He contributed substantially to the functioning of the commission’s committee on scientific research and statistics, and chaired the deliberations of that committee for three two-year terms.
Low fostered cooperation and scientific achievements of the salmon scientists through his guidance and improvement of salmon research activities on the high seas of the North Pacific, the NPAFC said.