Cook Inlet salmon falls short of forecast

The Upper Cook Inlet’s 2016 harvest came in beneath expectations.

According to season summary released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Thursday, the season brought in fewer fish than average and carried a value less than average.

“The 2016 Upper Cook Inlet commercial harvest of approximately 3.0 million salmon was 12 percent less than the recent 10-year average annual harvest of 3.5 million fish,” the summary reads. “The estimated exvessel value of the 2016 harvest of approximately $22.3 million was 23 percent less than the previous 10-year average annual exvessel value of $28.9 million.”

Sockeye salmon, which make up 93 percent of the overall Upper Cook Inlet harvest value, contributed the most to the drop in value from the average, though all Upper Cook Inlet salmon runs returned in numbers less than average.

ADFG forecasted 7.1 million fish for the total UCI sockeye run, but 5.2 million fish returned, or 27 percent less than forecast. At an average $1.50 per pound, Upper Cook Inlet fishermen earned a total ex-vessel value of $21 million for the season.

Despite sub-average numbers, gear groups kept roughly the same catch percentage relative to the overall harvest.

“The 2016 total sockeye salmon harvest breakdown between set and drift gillnet gear was very close to the previous 10-year average,” the report reads. “Drifters harvested 1.3 million sockeye salmon or 53 percent of the total harvest, compared to the previous 10-year average of 51 percent…while setnetters harvested 1.15 million or 47 percent of the total sockeye salmon harvest compared to their previous 10-year average of 49 percent.”

King salmon comprised only 2 percent of the total value, less than average.

“In all of UCI, approximately 9,613 king salmon were harvested in 2016, which was 6 percent less than the previous 10-year average annual harvest of 10,227 fish. Using a price of $2.50 per pound for king salmon, the estimated exvessel value of the 2016 harvest was $447,000. This value was approximately 2 percent of the total UCI commercial fishery.”

Pink salmon made a negligible 1.4 percent of the area’s total harvest value and small numbers at 379,000, which was slightly more than the 10-year average of 373,000 fish.

However small a portion of the commercial harvest, the pinks reveal an interesting trend. The most recent 10-year average pink salmon weight for Upper Cook Inlet is 3.6 pounds. This year, the average was 5 pounds, the largest average weight for pink salmon on record.

DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]


09/29/2016 - 1:23pm