Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wild Salmon Catch Hits 93 Million, Humpies Slow

Alaska’s preliminary wild salmon forecast, compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, has reached 93 million fish, but the humpy harvest, projected to be below average this year, is dragging.

Through Aug. 9, the total preliminary catch added up to 51.6 million sockeyes, 28.4 million humpies, 11 million chums, 1.6 million cohos, and 333,000 kings.

Some 12 million pink salmon have been harvested in Southeast Alaska, out of a forecast of 34 million humpies.

ADF&G noted in a discussion paper that their forecast of 34 million pinks was below the recent 10-year average harvest of 38 million pink salmon, saying that perhaps the largest potential source of uncertainty are anomalously warm sea surface temperatures that have persisted throughout the Gulf of Alaska since fall 2013.

Pink salmon that went to sea in 2014 returned in numbers well below expectation in 2015, particularly in the southern half of the region, and pink salmon that went to sea in 2015, and were set to return in 2016, experienced similar above-average sea surface temperatures, biologists said.

There were also widespread reports of more southern species in the eastern Gulf of Alaska in 2015, suggesting pink salmon could experience more competition or predation than normal. Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist for ADF&G in Cordova, said that hatchery returns were looking weak so far, and that there appeared to be weak pink salmon returns across the Gulf. The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Association was busy conducting cost recovery at three hatcheries, with management priorities to meet cost recovery and brood stock needs.

Botz said that water temperatures had been above average for most of the summer. On the Yukon River, meanwhile, in the wake of a very healthy summer chum salmon run, the fall run of chums appeared to be coming in stronger than forecast.

Yukon River fall season manager Jeff Estensen in Fairbanks said so far the fall chum run was looking good, with a strong pulse at the start of the fall season, and biologists were anticipating the run would come in at or above the forecast.

Managers on the Yukon, Estensen noted, are tasked with spreading out the harvest over the entire run, to provide enough opportunity for commercial harvesters and enough fish upriver for subsistence users.

Other preliminary commercial salmon harvest totals include catches of 39 million fish in Bristol Bay, 3.4 million fish in Cook Inlet, 9.4 million fish in the Alaska Peninsula, 1.6 million fish at Chignik and 4.3 million fish at Kodiak.

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