For the fourth time this decade – but only the eighth time in the 134-year history of Alaska commercial salmon harvests – the catch has topped 200 million.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s running tally now stands at 200.8 million with but two weeks to go in the season. The climate stories whirling around the harvest are threefold.
Global warming is proving:
- A bust for Canadian and Pacific Northwest salmon.
- A boom in general for Alaska salmon, especially sockeye in Western Alaska and pinks in Central Alaska.
- And a mixed bag for the longer-lived salmon species, especially the official state fish, in some areas of the 49th state.
The state fish is the king salmon, or Chinook as it is often called elsewhere, and it has been in a general statewide decline for a decade. No one knows why, but low ocean survival – something the state of Alaska like most state management agencies has proven reluctant to study – appears the main cause.
One hypothesis has linked poor ocean survival to the possibility the biggest, longest-lived of the salmon cannot compete with smaller, faster-growing species enjoying an additional boost from hatchery production.
The state’s running tally on salmon harvests is not official, but it is now generally expected it will finish somewhere over 200 million. The preseason forecast was for a harvest of 213.2 million.
The catch will mark the fourth decade in a row with a significant increase in the average annual harvest. How long this can continue is unknown, but with 200 million superseding the 100 million of the 1980s as the benchmark for harvests, it does not seem impossible this decade’s average, annual catch of about 180 million could increase yet again.
Still, Alaska is losing the production war.
This is an update on a story from a week ago. For more on Alaska’s salmon bounty, click here.