Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Alaska’s Pink Salmon Numbers Way Down

Alaska salmon harvests reached the 99 million fish mark through Aug. 16, with the preliminary harvest of 52 million sockeyes exceeding a forecast of 47.7 million reds, while the 33 million pinks caught was far below the forecast of 90 million humpies.

The humpies, said a spokesman for one major processor, are big, but the numbers are way down. Even for an even numbered year, when the harvest of pink salmon traditionally falls far below odd numbered year harvests, this harvest is looking to be one of the worst humpy harvests in years.

Just what is behind the low return of pink salmon, nobody is sure, but given the income they contribute to paying the overhead in processing plants, the low catch is raising some concerns.

A year ago, the harvest of pink salmon in Alaska reached 190.5 million fish, and the projection for 2016 was 90.1 million, this being an even year, to bring the projected total statewide commercial salmon harvest to 161 million fish.

In 2014, the last even year, pink salmon harvests reached 95.8 million fish, on the heels of the record pink salmon harvest of 219 million humpies in 2013 was worth $277 million.

There are surprises every year in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, and among the pleasant ones this year were the late, but then steady harvest of sockeyes in Bristol Bay. The Chinook salmon projection for this year was 99,000 kings in areas outside of Southeast, but to date the 337,000 kings caught have included 250,000 from Southeast, leaving the overall total some 12,000 short of the forecast.

The coho salmon projected harvest this year is 4.4 million silvers, and the chum projection is for 18.7 million fish. Those fisheries are now underway, with preliminary harvests of 1.9 million and 11.7 million fish respectively.

A harvest to date report released this week by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute showed that harvests of all five salmon species were lingering below the harvest pace of a year ago, sockeyes by 3 percent, kings by 42 percent, cohos by 20 percent, and chums by 25 percent, while humpy harvests were 63 percent behind the last even year, 2014.

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