More Copper River King Salmon Expected in 2009

The opening of Alaska’s coveted Copper River salmon fishery is more than three months away, but buyers can already expect to find king salmon more readily available this year.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game released its 2009 Copper River forecast this week, and scientists are projecting a king salmon run of 77,000 fish, which would be about 24,000 more fish than the 2008 run but 3,000 less fish than the 10-year average; about 53,000 fish would be harvested.

Prized for its pronounced buttery, rich flavor, Copper River king salmon was a difficult buy last year. The unprecedented closure of the California and Oregon fisheries, weaker-than-expected Copper River landings and burgeoning demand for wild salmon resulted in tight supplies and high prices for king salmon, which at the onset of the Copper River fishery in mid-May pushed the $40-a-pound mark at retail.

However, the outlook for Copper River sockeye salmon isn’t nearly as cheery. Scientists are calling for a sockeye salmon run of 1.3 million fish, which would be 840,000 fish less than the five-year average and the fifth lowest run since 1980; about 728,000 fish would be harvested.

The Copper River fishery signifies the unofficial start of Alaska’s summer salmon season.


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