Top takeaways: low prices, rock-bottom catches for Western regions
Alaska’s 2023 salmon season is pretty much a wrap, although fishing continues in some regions.
This year’s salmon harvest is 16% larger than the pre-season forecast, but down about 10% from 2022 in estimated dockside weight.
The final bulletin from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) compiled by McKinley Research Group shows the statewide harvest for sockeye at 50.2 million is down 28% from last year. The reduced sockeye harvest was driven largely by Bristol Bay, where the harvest was down 29% from last year’s record catch.
For Chinook salmon, a catch of 190,000 fish is down by 40% compared to last year.
The pink salmon harvest of nearly 148 million is the only species that topped the preseason forecast projection of just over 122 million fish.
The harvest of chum salmon at nearly 21 million exceeded the forecast by 40%. Likewise, coho catches topping two million were 31% higher than the forecast. That number will increase as the season for Southeast trollers was extended by 10 days to September 30. The trollers are likely to top one million silvers, reported KCAW in Sitka.
Coho salmon, also called silvers Credit: ASMI
“You know, this year will be the first year in probably five or six years that the trollers are looking to catch over a million cohos,” said Grant Hagerman, ADF&G regional troll management biologist for Southeast Alaska. In recent weeks, catch rates for coho have been more than double the long-term average for both trollers and gillnetters.
Hagerman said the price bumped up later in the season, as coho became noticeably larger. Although the final price often isn’t settled by processors until after the season, Hagerman says it’s likely to come in around $1.80 or $2.00 per pound.
Total Alaska salmon harvest totals through September 22 added up to 221.3 million fish on a preseason projection of just under 190 million salmon.
The preliminary harvest breakdown is 50.2 million sockeyes; pinks at nearly 148 million; chums at about 21 million; just over two million for cohos and 190-thousand for Chinook salmon.
What will be most notable about Alaska’s 2023 salmon fishery is the rock-bottom prices paid to fishermen. State managers will have the breakdown by species and region in November.
Another bleak note: the total salmon catch from the Arctic/Yukon/Kuskokwim region was just 165-thousand fish.