After bumper years, fewer reds forecast
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released statewide forecasts for salmon, and 2016 promises fewer fish than last year’s price-deadening sockeye glut.
Statewide, ADFG said 2016 will see a drop in the total salmon harvest, led by an especially sharp decline in pink salmon. Projections are for 161 million total salmon: 99,000 chinook in areas outside Southeast Alaska, 47.7 million sockeye, 4.4 million coho, 90.1 million pink, and 18.7 million chum.
Southeast Alaska chinook salmon harvests are set by the Pacific Salmon Commission between the U.S. and Canada, and have not yet been released.
Rivers will see a half-million more chum and coho salmon, but pinks and reds — Alaska’s money crops — will both decline.
The projected harvest of pink salmon — which run strong every other year — is about 100 million fewer than in 2015 at 190.5 million.
In Prince William Sound where pink salmon is the major harvest, the forecast is 23.4 million, less than average and a change of pace from the 2015 season that broke the 20-year record for the largest harvest with 96 million fish.
Southeast Alaska will have a harvest of 34 million pinks. In Kodiak, 16.2 million is projected, and 13.4 million is forecast for the South Peninsula and Aleutian Islands.
The sockeye salmon harvest is expected to be about 7.3 million fewer than in 2015, which could prove a benefit for the industry after Bristol Bay’s surplus driven ex-vessel price crash in 2015.
ADFG forecasts the Bristol Bay sockeye harvest — the most valuable in the state — to be 29.5 million, far less than the 2015 harvest of more than 36 million but still greater than the 20-year average of 23.2 million.
Both reds and pinks contributed last year to one of the largest overall salmon harvests on record. Statewide, the commercial salmon harvest of all species was 247 million fish, greater than the 2015 harvest projection of 220 million and the 2005-14 average of 179 million fish. The harvest was the second highest since 1994, following only 2013, when the harvest was 273 million fish.
The Alaska all-species salmon harvest for 2015 totaled 268.3 million, about 47.5 million salmon more than the 220.8 million forecast.
This included 522,000 chinook, 55 million sockeye, 3.9 million coho, 190.6 million pink, and 18.2 million chum salmon.
Bristol Bay sockeye led in value with an immense but oddly timed run of sub-average-sized fish, while a bumper pink salmon harvest in the Prince William Sound matched exactly an inexplicable lag of Southeast pink salmon runs.
Meanwhile, the international salmon market contended with price forces that included the U.S. dollar’s relative strength, Russian import bans, farmed fish and oversupply from the 2014 harvest.
DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected].