Unofficially official

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:

  1. A bust for Canadian and Pacific Northwest salmon.
  2. A boom in general for Alaska salmon, especially sockeye in Western Alaska and pinks in Central Alaska.
  3. 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. 




9 replies »

    • yes and no.

      there was a forecast of improved runs this year, and the southern fish, which spend all their time at sea in the California Current, look to be 50 percent above that. the southern component is very good.

      farther north in the state, though, it’s pretty mediocre. the fish from the rivers there appear to split when they go to sea with some heading for the California current with others going north to join many Ore., Wash. and B.C. fish in the Alaska Current.

      it all adds more questions to the issue of ocean survival. there has been a lot of attention to the end of a California drought boosting the return, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in Northern California or southern Oregon, so there is clearly something more to the story than that.

      working north from Oregon, it’s pretty grim before things start to improve in the Alaska Panhandle.

      the Fraser River, Canada’s Bristol Bay, is a disaster. only a tenth of the forecast came back.

    • Craig: As you so often and expertly report from Alaska, the MSM is generally off when it comes to assessing lower 48 fisheries news. You are correct that the Klamath does not look good. However, the Sacramento had a year for the record book, Columbia chinook are coming in above forecast, the Fraser looks to be having one of the best Chinook years in decades. General Puget Sound Chinook are coming in right at forecast by numbers but sizing and general fish condition is excellent. (Wild) Pinks are running between 2-5X forecasts in Puget Sound, Fraser and lower Georgia streams/rivers, depending on the system. Coho are looking very strong in Washington as well. The ocean is boiling with feed, as is the inside. Washington Coast trollers had one of their strongest seasons in years–both state and tribal. Yes, Fraser Sockeye were a disaster. But otherwise things here are looking pretty dang rosy. As ever, the complexity of fisheries defies easy reporting. And anything that contradicts the general consensus on climate-driven ecosystem collapse gets swept under the rug. At least some things are constant, even if fish runs are not. BTW, another excellent run of fisheries articles. I troll any number of fishery-related sites for fish news and Medred news is the best, by miles. Keep it up! One thing I would like to see more in-depth reporting on here is the brewing crisis in wild fish processing and the various strategies industry players are using to resolve it–robotics, mechanization and year-round re-processing activities to justify the investments–this is crucial element in the farm fish debate. I recently took a tour of some Canadian facilities and was blown away by the investments and efficiency justified by the steady supply of farm fish. They are able to process wild fish at roughly 60% of standard cost in Washington and 40% of costs in Alaska–a game changing sum for the kinds of volumes we see. I’m no lover of farm fish, but, they are here to stay. Let me repeat, Canadian processing costs are 40% lower than Washington rates and 60% lower than Alaska costs. This means that Canadian fishermen can be paid well over Alaska or Washington prices for their catch just by virtue of the processing stability provided by the farm fish industry. Kinda makes you think, don’t it?

      • yeah, a lot of it makes me think. thanks for the trenchant post.

        we need a lot more thinking in this state, but there are a lot of people mired in old ways who simply do not want to change anything.

  1. The price for salmon is also higher than ever (since China is a buyer? ) and the soprtfishing is being restricted and closed 🤔
    There must be a problem?

    • The price paid by processors for comm fish harvested in AK, has nothing to do with the sports fishery. It is the demand from lower 48 customers, who do not want to purchase: hormones and antibiotic infused farmed fish.
      Yes, the comm fish price for Sockeyes, Chinook and Coho showed some of the highest prices paid ever. BB had the highest gross earnings ever, due to another strong return and good price.
      Most of these fish harvested by AK comm fish, are sold in the lower 48.

      The price paid for pinks and chums (which the flesh has been predominantly exported to China, last 5 years) was lower, than last season, due to the tariffs put on by the Fed. Most of these fish are exported back to US, as a valued added product (salmon burgers, etc.).
      The salmon roe is still largely exported to Japan and Russia (by way of China, due to economic sanctions, because of Crimea. Russia still getting what they want, only have to pay the middle man China, a little more).
      On another note:
      Chinese electronics are still being exported to US, though now going thru Vietnam, to buy pass the tariffs. Our trade with Vietnam, for non perishable products has quadrupled, during last 10 months, while our farmer”s soybeans sit and rot in the silos, with no buyer.
      How’s that working for you now?

      • James, I tell you what is not working out for me and that was Obama and John “Boltneck” Kerry’s pathetic 10yr Nuclear Deal with Iran. Not to mention giving those terrorists everthing they asked for and then some. Giving those troglodyte’s from hell $150 billion in unmarked bills, on a blacked out jet, in exchange for hostages, to sponsor Jihad across the globe. How’s that working for you now?

  2. I think you know my position on the whole “Global Warming” fraud. But, this is a direct quote recently from a brainwashed Fed Enviro Research Scientist I was trying to convert to reality:
    “So is your theory then that a good salmon catch offsets all the climate change damage (including unprecedented salmon die-offs) being documented in Alaska?”

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