Record high third Copper River opening
The Copper River sockeye salmon season’s third opening was the highest third opener on record, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) reports.
“We took a period off the week prior, some of the fish may have built up. Plus, the Copper River is so cold, which may have helped supply build,” Jeremy Boatz, area management biologist for the ADF&G, told SeafoodSource.
Fishermen landed 311,000 sockeye salmon, 3,200 kings, and around 1,700 chum last week. The numbers are up significantly from the start of the season on 16 May when fishermen landed around 82,000 sockeye salmon, 700 king salmon and 1,600 chum salmon due to rough weather. Alaska’s second opener on 20 May netted 190,000 sockeye salmon and 1,400 king salmon.
While supply is increasing steadily, processors and distributors are clamoring for more — particularly king or Chinook salmon.
“Fishermen are catching enough supply to put into the marketplace, but not enough yet to create a consistent supply for our customers,” Cassandra Squibb, a spokesperson for processor Copper River Seafoods in Cordova, Alaska, told SeafoodSource. “ADF&G is focused on ensuring escapement, which from our perspective is the number one priority. Once escapement goals have been met, customers can expect to see a more consistent supply.”
While the Copper River salmon prices are still strong, distributors are uncertain how long the high prices will remain.
“If the Atlantic market stays hot, wild fare may not fall much. At a time of year when farm-raised Atlantic salmon prices soften with the opening of the wild season, demand continues to outstrip supply,” one distributor said.
This season’s king yield will be lower, since there are still closures in effect, according to Boatz.
“We are still anticipating a small king salmon run and taking management action to make sure we meet our escapement goals,” Boatz said. ADF&G predicts 179 million fish to be harvested this year, a five-year high. However, sockeye, the most valuable Alaska fishery, is projected at 34 million fish, a new low for five- and ten-year averages, according to the distributor.