Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Forecast: Sockeye, Pink Down; Coho, Chum Up

Alaska’s fisheries biologists are anticipating a total commercial salmon catch of 161 million fish in 2016, down from 268 million salmon a year ago, with a projected pink salmon harvest of 100 million fewer humpies than last year’s catch of 190.5 million.

The forecast for a smaller humpy harvest, although significant, is not unusual, nor is it cause for concern, because in the past couple of decades pink salmon runs have tended to be lower in even years, then up in odd years.

While the overall sockeye salmon harvest is anticipated to be some 7.3 million fish fewer than were harvested in 2015, the 2015 red salmon harvest was the largest since 1995.

The chum harvest is expected to be some 475,000 more fish than were caught in 2015 and the coho harvest likewise is expected to be about 556,000 more fish than a year ago.

How big the Chinook harvest will be is an unknown because of treaty allocations not reflected in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecast. Smaller Chinook harvests are, however, expected in central and western Alaska fisheries this year.

Several factors play into prices at the docks for harvesters this year, including the strong value of the dollar in comparison to currencies of buyers and competitors, canned inventory still unsold, salmon harvested in Russian, Japan and Canada, and the impact of the red tide in Chile on salmon markets. Red tide is a harmful algal bloom, with large concentrations of toxic aquatic microorganisms.

Market observers note that sales of frozen sockeye salmon appear to be moving faster than at this time last year. Major retailers like Costco now have frozen fillets on salmon or other wild seafood for sale all year round.

The volume of canned salmon still is a concern, due to the volume unsold, and there are still problems in the market for salmon and salmon roe. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has been promoting the sale of more canned stocks by posting recipes at for mini-loaves, chowder and salmon salad sandwiches.

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