By Chris Basinger
Petersburg Pilot 

Southeast pink salmon harvest came in at 53% of 10-year average

 

November 30, 2022 | View PDF



The 2022 Southeast Alaska salmon harvest is estimated at 29.6 million fish, mostly comprised of 17.6 million wild stock pink salmon, according to Troy Thynes, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's regional management coordinator for commercial fisheries.

Though the pink salmon harvest was only 53% of the recent 10-year average, it was above the preseason estimate of 16 million fish.

"The pink salmon in Southeast have been on a strong odd year, even cycle for probably almost the past 15 years or so, and so this year compared with the parent year, the last even year in 2020, was much better," Thynes said.

Coho salmon, which Thynes said generally follow pink salmon abundance trends since they have similar life cycles and are subject to the same ocean conditions, also saw a below average harvest.

Chinook, chum and sockeye salmon all saw average harvests.

According to the report, the estimated value for all salmon species from all fisheries in Southeast was $144.1 million as of Sept. 27. Over half of that total was made up of the chum salmon harvest, valued at $79.2 million, which Thynes said was the highest for chum they have seen in years.

The pink salmon harvest was valued at $22.5 million followed by chinook at $16.2 million, sockeye at $13.2 million, and coho at $13 million.

Pink salmon escapements were average in the southern Southeast region and mixed in the northern Southeast region.

This year also marked the first time since 2010 that the northern Southeast inside subregion's escapement goal was met during an even year.

The lower-bound sustainable escapement goals for summer chum salmon were met in the southern Southeast and northern Southeast inside subregions, but the northern Southeast outside subregion's escapement index was below the goal for the fourth time in the past five years according to the report.

Thynes said it was hard to say what caused it to fall short but that all of the stocks have been experiencing lower ocean survival and that freshwater conditions could have also affected the chum salmon numbers.

Chinook salmon escapement goals are also only projected to be met in five of the 11 index systems.

Thynes said Chinook salmon are doing just fine in freshwater, so marine survival is likely what is impacting their low production. "There's no issues in the spawning habitat, and then the freshwater survival from the projects we do on several of the systems all indicate that there's good egg to smolt survival so there isn't really any issues with the freshwater but it's in the marine environment and it more points toward the near shore, when they first get into the saltwater, but the ocean conditions out in the ocean haven't been that great as well," Thynes said.

The purse seine fishery caught the largest proportion of salmon in Southeast with 18.8 million, 78% of which were pink salmon, with a total value of $55.5 million.

Thynes said this year saw the lowest effort in the purse seine fleet since limited entry went into effect in 1977, with just 194 permits fished. Gillnet and troll efforts were also lower than recent averages, likely due to low expectations and high fuel prices.

The drift gillnet fishery caught 3.5 million salmon valued at $28.1 million, while the troll fishery caught 2.3 million salmon and valued at $32.6 million.

According to a Nov. 10 release from the Department of Fish and Game, a total of 160.7 million fish were harvested in the commercial salmon fishery statewide, which was the largest even-year harvest since 2010. The value was put at $720.4 million.

This year saw a record-breaking harvest of sockeye salmon statewide at 74.8 million, mostly due to the large harvests in Bristol Bay according to the report.

 

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