Salmon harvest will rank as second best ever, tops $603M

The 2011 Alaska salmon harvest figures are to rank second-best all time in value after postseason price adjustments.

The preliminary estimate from Alaska Department of Fish and Game for the 2011 salmon harvest value is $603 million, just trailing the $605 million final value in 2010.

The preliminary estimate for 2010 was $533 million, but postseason price adjustment reports provided to ADFG from processors, buyers and direct marketers this spring added some $72 million to the final harvest value.

Analysts from ADFG expect postseason price adjustments for the 2011 will easily push the harvest value past 2010, putting it behind only an outlier year of 1988 in total value all time.

The 1988 salmon harvest brought in more than $700 million, but Geron Bruce of ADFG Commercial Fisheries Division cautioned that year’s prices were historical outliers not likely to be repeated, while the 2010 and 2011 prices are within historical ranges.

Unusual market conditions in 1988 had sockeye salmon fetching $2.11 per pound and pink salmon going for 84 cents per pound. The next year, Bruce noted, sockeye prices corrected to $1.25 per pound and 42 cents per pound for pinks.

That is roughly in line with prices in 2011, which ranged from 86 cents per pound in Kuskokwim to $1.76 per pound in Prince William Sound for sockeye.

Pinks went for a range of between 36 cents per pound on the Alaska Peninsula to 48 cents per pound in Prince William Sound.

Prices for salmon in 2011 were, “about as good as it gets,” Bruce said. “The salmon industry is really cooking. The harvests in the last two years that supported these values are more in the range of what we’ve seen over time and what we could expect to see in the future.”

What should end up as the second-best salmon harvest by value in state history came about despite falling far short of a preseason forecast of 203.5 million salmon. The total harvest was 176.1 million salmon among all five species, which ranked as the ninth largest since 1960.

A sockeye return to Bristol Bay that came up below forecast allowed Southeast to hold the top spot for total value by region. With $92.5 million worth of pinks and $65.2 million worth of chums leading the way, the total harvest in Southeast was $203.4 million.

Bristol Bay saw a harvest of 21.9 million sockeye, far less than the 28.5 million forecast. The total harvest value in Bristol Bay ranked second at $137.7 million with preliminary prices of $1 per pound for sockeye.

Prince William Sound came in third, like Southeast boosted by hatchery production, but also buoyed by a rebound in Copper River king salmon harvest.

Chinook, or king, salmon in the Prince William Sound region fetched $5.33 per pound, and the harvest nearly doubled over 2010 with 378,000 kings compared to 190,000 last year. The total harvest value for Prince William Sound was $101.2 million, with $47.4 million from pinks and $37.7 million from sockeyes.

One region where the harvest exceeded the forecast was Cook Inlet, where a top-five all-time return of sockeye boosted the region to $55.6 million in value — nearly all of that from 5.5 million sockeye that went for $1.52 per pound, or $53.4 million.

The preseason harvest forecast for Cook Inlet sockeye was between 4.4 million and 4.8 million fish. An above forecast harvest also occurred in 2010, when the preseason harvest forecast for Cook Inlet was 2.3 million and ended up being about 3.6 million.

Kodiak rounded out the top five regions with $46.7 million in value, split nearly evenly between sockeye ($20.4 million) and pinks ($21.9 million).

King salmon returns in general around the state were poor, continuing recent trends of low productivity. There were also particularly poor returns of coho, or silver, salmon to Kuskokwim and to the Little Susitna River.

Bright spots in western Alaska were chum salmon returns, Bruce said, although strong commercial harvests were curtailed by restrictions on Yukon River king salmon in the summer run because the two species are mixed together.

“We got our escapement (for kings), so it paid off,” Bruce said. “But we weren’t able to fully utilize the summer chum.”

Still, the chum commercial harvest on the Yukon was 512,000 fish in 2011 compared to just 235,000 in 2010. Fishermen also received 86 cents per pound for chums on the Yukon compared to a preliminary price of 61 cents per pound in 2010.

11/10/2011 - 10:44am