North Pacific salmon catches continue to decline

N. Pacific salmon catches dropped in 2022 to the second lowest harvest of this century.

by | June 16, 2023

Filed Under Hatcheries | Research | Salmon

Amount of garbage thrown into ocean by fishing fleets is cause for “growing concern”

Commercial salmon catches throughout the North Pacific dropped in 2022 to the second lowest harvest of this century after reaching all-time highs in 2018.

That’s according to the annual report by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) which tracks salmon abundances and catches as reported by its five member countries -the U.S., Canada, Japan, Korea and Russia.  

The preliminary combined 2022 North Pacific salmon catch by the five nations of 354 million fish weighed in at nearly 1.6 billion pounds.

Pink salmon catches showed an overall decline but comprised the majority of the harvest at nearly 180 million fish, or roughly 36.5% of the total volume by weight.  The last time the pink salmon portion of the catch weight equaled that proportion was in 1994 and 1996, the report said.

Sockeye salmon made up 30.3% of the total catch by weight for the first time in the history of Pacific salmon fishing.  The total sockeye salmon commercial catch of just under 94 million fish was the second highest ever recorded behind 1993.

The sockeye harvest also topped the take of chum salmon which came in at nearly 75 million fish, or 30% by volume for the total North Pacific harvest. 

Coho catches of 5.5 million made up just over 2% of the catch;  a combined Chinook salmon harvest that barely topped one million fish was less than 1% of last year’s harvest.

U.S. fishermen took home fully half of the total salmon harvest at nearly 775 million pounds, the largest portion of the five countries.  Of that, all but 21 million pounds of the North Pacific salmon was caught in Alaska!

For all of North America, the 2022 chum salmon catch declined by 50% since 2017, the report said, while sockeye catches increased by nearly 113 million pounds.

Russia was second for total salmon catches topping 583 million pounds, followed by Japan at 194 million. Canada and Korea each took less than one percent of the total 2022 salmon harvest.

Many of the millions of salmon caught in the North Pacific got their start in hatcheries. Hatchery releases by the five member countries have been stable since 1993, with approximately five billion fish released each year.

The U.S. released the most hatchery salmon at nearly 2.2 billion fish, 44% of the total. Russia released 27%, Japan at 23% and less than one percent of the salmon hatchery releases came from Canada and Korea.  

Chum salmon made up most of the releases at 59%, or nearly 3 billion fish. Pink salmon totaled 28% of at just under 1.4 billion. Sockeye salmon releases of 289 million comprised 6% of hatchery releases into the North Pacific.

The Anadromous Fish Commission also coordinates enforcement throughout the North Pacific.

Ocean garbage patches Credit: National Geographic

 In 2022 that included 436 hours of aircraft patrols and 143 ship-days to deter illegal fishing activities. Patrolling agents expressed growing concern with the amount of garbage observed being thrown into the Pacific Ocean by the fishing fleet.

This year salmon research surveys are planned for the western and northern Bering Sea, the northwestern North Pacific, and the southern Sea of Okhotsk.

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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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