Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Copper River Wild Salmon Fishery Opens May 14

The famed Copper River wild salmon fishery gets under way tomorrow, with the excitement of the fishery somewhat dampened by concerns over keeping the novel coronavirus pandemic at bay. The Copper River District will open at 7 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, May 14 for a 12-hour commercial drift gillnet fishing period.

Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle has posted prices for the first fish out of the Copper River at $74.99 a pound for Chinook filets and $659.99 for whole kings, plus $49.99 a pound for first run Copper River sockeyes or $174.99 for the whole fish. Several other major retailers were still waiting as of Tuesday May 12 to post any prices, including those accepting orders from retail customers willing to pay whatever that price will be.

All seafood industry workers arriving at Cordova from out of town to participate in the fishery, including harvesters and processing workers, are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and must abide by other restrictions, including mandates on the use of personal protective equipment now in place.

Coastal fishing communities like Cordova, Naknek and Dillingham have taken extensive measures, as have the seafood processors and independent fishermen themselves, to keep the virus from spreading. To date Bristol Bay has had no reported cases of the virus, while Nome, Kodiak and Cordova have had one each. The Cordova individual was an out-of-state seafood worker who tested positive while still in quarantine in Cordova. A small group of federal, state and tribal officials were visiting several coastal communities this week to listen to their concerns about keeping the virus at bay and to hear about any needs they have for additional equipment during the fisheries, which attract thousands of people from outside their communities.

Alaska Wildlife and state troopers announced this week that nearly 20 percent of all Alaska Wildlife Troopers would be in Bristol Bay to enforce rules in place for that fishery, which this year includes several state mandates directing specific behavior and use of protective gear on boats and in seafood processing facilities to guard against spread of the virus.

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