Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bristol Bay Slows; Statewide Salmon Harvest Tops 41 Million Fish

Alaska’s statewide wild salmon harvest topped 41 million fish by July 9, including overall strong returns at Chignik, Kodiak, Copper River and the Alaska Peninsula, while the Bristol Bay fleet was feeling the pain of a second surge that never came.

The total run in Bristol Bay through July 7 stood at 18.9 million salmon, with a cumulative harvest of 13,240,759 fish.

While economically the Bristol Bay harvest will be a big disappointment to commercial harvesters and processors, it is not by any stretch of the imagination a biological disaster, said Geron Bruce, assistant director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Commercial Fisheries.

“We are coming down from a period of pretty good productivity. It hasn’t been as good as it was in the mid 1990s, but it has been pretty good,” Bruce said.  “If you look at the history of Bristol Bay, you can see this has happened before, but for whatever reasons we didn’t have as high a productivity as we did in the past.”

Statistics compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show how widely the harvest fluctuation can vary.  The 20-year harvest average for Bristol Bay is 25,360,300 fish, while the 2002-2011 average is 24,214,831 fish.

The University of Washington’s Fisheries Research Institute meanwhile issued an updated forecast summary on July 7, noting that catch and escapement date from July 2 through July 5 had prompted researchers there to greatly reduce their in-season estimates of run strength.

Observations of catch and escapement data indicate the 2013 Bristol Bay run was eight days early. “District specific arrival timing shows a range of 15 days early (Ugashik) to 8 days early (Naknek-Kvichak),” the report said. “For all districts and baywide, this will be the earliest run on record.”

According to the state’s preliminary commercial salmon harvest report issued July 9, the Bristol Bay harvest had reached nearly 14 million fish, including some 15,000 kings, 514,000 chum and 13.4 million red salmon. 

The statewide total of 41,377,000 salmon included 214,000 king, 8,238,000 chum, 145,000 silver, 11,143,000 pink and 21,637,000 red salmon.

At Chignik, the commercial fleet’s harvest stood at over 1.9 million fish, including 1,000 king, 89,000 chum, fewer than 1,000 silver, 62,000 pink and 1,787,000 red salmon, while at Kodiak, fishermen had harvested an estimated nearly 1.9 million fish, including 16,000 king, 257,000 chum, 2,000 silver, 230,000 pink and 1,378,000 red salmon.  The Copper River harvest stood at 1.47 million fish, including 9,000 king, 11,000 chum, 1,000 silver, 12,000 pink and 1,443,000 sockeyes.

On the Alaska Peninsula, the harvest reached over 2.8 million fish, the bulk of them from the South Peninsula, where the catch was 2,000 king, 418,000 chum, 5,000 silver, 353,000 pink and 1,671,000 red salmon.

Upper Cook Inlet was showing a harvest of 684,000 fish, including 638,000 sockeye, 29,000 chum, 1,000 king, 12,000 silver and 4,000 pink salmon.

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