Alaska reports mixed results from salmon season
Like most years, Alaska’s summer salmon season was a mix of good and bad depending on fishing areas and species.
Sockeye returns were good across the state and Norton Sound saw unusually strong pink salmon returns. However, the pink salmon harvest in Southeast Alaska was disappointing. Though it was forecasted to be 34 million, a “strong” forecast, only 14.5 million pink salmon were actually harvested and only 1.4 million of those fish were from northern Southeast Alaska.
“As a processor, there just was not enough fish to cover any of the costs. It’s going to be tough for the fishermen to put maintenance back into their boats, as well as us putting maintenance back into the plants,” Mike Forebush of Ocean Beauty Seafoods said.
Biologists, fishermen, and buyers offer a range of reasons why the season did not meet projections, including localized warm sea surface temperatures sometimes known as “the Blob,” ocean predators, and fry state predators, but a clear answer remains elusive.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Andrew Piston said that when looking at longer-term trends, the fishery still appears quite healthy.
“In recent years we’ve had some of the biggest harvests and biggest escapements we’ve ever seen and even with this year’s low harvest, most of our recent harvests are still far above what people could even dream about in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
In the 1960s average harvest was around 12.7 million. Catches dropped in the 1970s and then climbed to an all time high of 95 million fish in 2013.