Bristol Bay sockeye: Big run, smaller fish

The Bay sockeye salmon harvest is more likely to be in the 40 to 50 million range.

by | June 27, 2022

Filed Under Forecasts

Harvest is unlikely to reach projected 60 million sockeye

Salmon experts predict a whopping run of 71 million sockeyes to the world’s largest fishery at Bristol Bay this summer.

“We stand on the edge of what may be the largest Bristol Bay salmon run in history,” said Curry Cunningham in a tweet to Tradex CEO and President Robert Reierson. Cunningham is a Quantitative Ecologist and Professor at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks.

Hold on a minute, responded Andy Wink, director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

“It will honestly be almost impossible to realize the harvest forecast of 60 million fish. Bristol Bay has never eclipsed a 45 million fish harvest. And while we expect there is some room to grow that this year, it’s probably more likely that the base harvest comes in between 40 to 50 million fish,” he told Tradex.

Smaller size fish also are anticipated again this season

Measuring sockeyes at Bristol Bay

Cunningham and his team project the returning reds will be 53%  2-ocean sockeye and 47%  3-ocean sockeye. That translates to 3.75 to 4.5 pound and 5.5 to 7.5 pound whole round fish.

A 2-ocean fish has spent two winters in the ocean; a 3-ocean sockeye spends three years in the ocean.

Cunningham said that weight-at-age is always low in years of higher salmon abundance, so it is very likely that average weights for each age class will be at the low end of the range this season. He added that competition for food in the ocean seems to be a likely reason for the less hefty fish.

While Peter Pan Seafoods posted a pre-season advance base price of $1.15/lb for sockeyes, other processors have yet to announce a price.  It’s still very early in the season and Reierson said wholesale market prices have yet to be determined.

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Tagged as: Bristol Bay

About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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