Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Momentum Building for the Salmon Fisheries

Down on the Copper River, harvesters and processors are bracing for the first commercial opener of 2012 on the river’s famed Copper River red and king salmon. 

Weather permitting, the first catch will arrive in Seattle and Anchorage the next day.

As Bristol Bay drift net and set net harvesters and processors ready for the start of their season in late June, fishing is already in progress in the commercial king salmon fishery in the Pacific Salmon Treaty waters of the Stikine and Taku rivers.

Both fisheries began May 7 with three 24-hour openings each for the troll fleet, as the gillnet fisheries were also open for 24 hours on those days.

Alaska’s share of the trans-boundary fishery on the Stikine River, which remains open until June 30, is 5,890 large Chinook salmon. 

On the Taku River, which remains open until the third Saturday of June, the allowable 2012 catch is 6,703 large Chinook salmon.

The number of permit holders registered for each of these trans-boundary fisheries had not yet been calculated in early May. 

On the Stikine River in 2008, 92 troll permit holders harvested 1,699 kings, while 146 gillnet permit holders netted 13,056 fish.

On the Taku River in 2009, with less than three troll permits fished, the harvest remained confidential. Eighty-three gillnet permit holders harvested 5,297 kings during that season.

The all-gear harvest quota for Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon, under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty is 266,800 treaty fish, down 28,000 fish over last year’s preseason estimate of 294,800 treaty fish. The commercial troll fishery preseason Chinook salmon harvest allocation for 2012, announced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in late March, is 197,300 fish, down 20,700 kings from last year’s troll allocation.

The allocations for the treaty Chinook salmon include 11,472 to the purse seiners, 7,737 to the drift gillnetters, 1,000 to set gillnetters; 197,272 to trollers, and 49,318 to sport anglers.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has projected a statewide harvest of 132 million salmon of all species, including about 120,000 kings, 38.3 million reds, 4.3 million silvers, 70 million pinks and 19 million chums. Should the actual harvest match or exceed 132 million salmon, say officials with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, 2012 will mark the 25th consecutive year of a harvest in excess of 100 million salmon. While initial openings are amongst the smaller troll-caught salmon fisheries, the season will go into full swing with larger openings throughout the summer and continue into September.

The all-species salmon harvest for 2011 totaled 177.1 million fish, which was about 26.4 million less than the preseason forecast of 203.5 million. The combined harvest included some 468,000 Chinook, 40 million sockeyes, 3.5 million coho, 116.1 million pinks and 17 million chums.

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