Laine Welch: Fishery managers foresee decrease in pinks driving salmon harvest drop

Laine Welch

Alaska's total salmon catch for 2014 is projected to be down by 47 percent from last year's record 283 million fish. State fishery managers are calling for an all-species harvest of just under 133 million salmon this year.

A pink catch of 95 million drove the record last year, and it is pinks that will bring down the numbers this summer. Pink salmon run in even/odd-year cycles. This year the catch is pegged at about 75 million, a 67 percent decrease from last summer's 226 million humpy haul.

Other projected catches for this year call for a 14 percent increase in sockeyes, to nearly 34 million; 4.4 million coho salmon and nearly 20 million chums. For kings, a catch of 79,000 is projected in areas outside of Southeast and Bristol Bay.

Along with the salmon forecasts, the annual report released last week by the state Commercial Fisheries Division also provides recaps of the 2013 season for every Alaska region. (All values are dock prices and will increase when post-season sales bonuses and other adjustments are made.)

Some highlights: A total of 1,917 permit holders participated in Alaska's salmon fisheries last year, an increase of 1 percent over 2012. The preliminary value of $238 million is the highest since 1985.

The proportional harvest composition by species was 1 percent kings, 1 percent sockeyes, 3 percent cohos, 84 percent pinks and 11 percent chums.

Southeast Alaska fishermen again caught the most salmon at 112 million, the biggest catch since 1962, and 218 percent of the recent 10-year average. The dockside value was $238 million, the highest since 1985.

Prince William Sound's salmon harvest barely missed 100 million fish; all but about 7 million were pink salmon.

At Upper Cook Inlet, the catch of 3.1 million salmon was down 23 percent from the 10-year average but high sockeye prices pushed the value to $39 million, the eighth highest value since 1960 and the second highest in a decade.

The total Bristol Bay harvest was 16.4 million salmon, valued at $141 million, 26 percent above the 20-year average and seventh-highest over that same period.

In the Kuskokwim region, 469 permit holders went fishing last summer and took home $2.4 million. The overall chum run at Kotzebue Sound was well above average.

For the sixth year in a row, there was no fishing for king salmon in the main stem of the Yukon and Tanana rivers. Many of the 467 fishermen had great success targeting chums with dipnets, for a dockside value of $3.5 million.

In Norton Sound, 124 salmon fishermen brought in the highest chum salmon harvest in more than 25 years. For three of the past four years, the value has topped $1 million.

At Kotzebue, 66 permit holders sold 2.5 million pounds of chum salmon, down 20 percent. A 15 percent drop in chum prices to 27 cents a pound likely caused less interest in the fishery. The dockside value of $689,163 was 16 percent above the historical average.

The $23.3 million value of the Chignik salmon fishery was worth $307,076 on average among the 77 permit holders. At the Alaska Peninsula/False Pass, 150 fishermen shared a payday of $33 million.

At Kodiak, 335 (55 percent) of the eligible salmon permits fished last year for a catch that topped 59 million, the highest since 1995. It paid out well above the previous average 10-year value of $28.3 million. Seiners accounted for 94 percent of the total Kodiak harvest, with earnings averaging $304,105 a permit.

Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Contact her at

Laine Welch