Early in the season for most Alaska salmon fisheries, commercial harvest numbers are well below where they were at the same time in 2017, according to data put out on Thursday by Anchorage consulting firm the McDowell Group and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
The sockeye harvest was 64 percent lower this year through June 23 than it was through the same time frame last year, according to the McDowell Group. The harvest of king salmon was 49 percent lower, as expected, and the pink salmon harvest was down 67 percent. Chum salmon harvest numbers were up 5 percent.
Slow sockeye harvests in Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Chignik are a main reason for the lagging numbers, McDowell Group economist Garrett Evridge said in an email.
Still, he cautioned, it's early in the season and a couple good weeks of fishing can significantly change the harvest trajectory for many areas. A good week in Bristol Bay alone can double the statewide harvest, Evridge added.
"We're still in the early weeks," he said in an interview, "but early indications are definitely difficult. If you're a Copper River fisherman or a Kodiak fisherman, it's not reassuring to hear that overall it's too early."
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have indicated that a mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean a few years ago — known as the "Blob" — could be a reason for low harvests, the McDowell Group said in its report.
"There's still room to be optimistic at the statewide perspective," Evridge said.
There's also still optimism around Bristol Bay harvests accelerating in the coming weeks, the McDowell Group said in its report.