The trends in Alaska salmon headed in opposite directions in 2022, sometimes extremely so, but ended up meeting in the middle. The total commercial salmon harvest for the year wound up being close to historic averages for total fish and value, according to a preliminary summary report released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The total commercial harvest of all salmon species was 160.7 million fish, a little less than the long-term average of 167 million, said the summary report, released on Thursday.
The total ex-vessel value – the amount paid directly to harvesters prior to processing – was $720.4 million, an increase from the $643.9 million total reported for 2021. Without adjustment for inflation, the 2022 total ex-value total is among the highest in Alaska history, but adjustments for inflation bring that total down to about the median for the harvests reported since 1975, the Fish and Game report said.
Harvests of high-priced sockeye salmon were particularly strong in 2022, affecting the totals.
The statewide sockeye salmon harvest of 74.8 million fish was a record high, driven by the record return in the Bristol Bay region, according to the Fish and Game summary report. Sockeye salmon accounted for two-thirds of the total value of the state’s 2022 salmon harvest, the report said.
At the same time, the report said, there were no commercial harvests of any salmon species in areas where the salmon runs collapsed — the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. Salmon runs in those rivers were so abysmal that even subsistence fishing, the harvesting of salmon for basic food needs by village residents, was sparse.
This year’s total Alaska commercial harvest of pink salmon, the cheapest and normally the most plentiful of the state’s five salmon species, was less than half that of last year, 69.1 million fish compared to 161 million fish in 2021. That reduction in some ways reflects the natural population cycles for pink salmon, which have two-year lives, the report said. Even-numbered-year returns and harvests of pink salmon are generally lower than those in odd-numbered years.
The total 2022 harvest, including the breakdown among sockeye and pink salmon, was almost exactly what had been forecast by the department this spring.
A more detailed review of the 2022 commercial salmon season will be included in the 2023 harvest forecast expected next spring.
Originally published by the Alaska Beacon, an independent, nonpartisan news organization that covers Alaska state government.