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Business/Economy

Early numbers show strong start for commercial sockeye salmon harvest in Prince William Sound

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: June 14
  • Published June 14

Commercial sockeye salmon fishing in Prince William Sound is off to a strong start, while it’s weaker in a handful of other fisheries, according to Anchorage consulting firm the McDowell Group.

The statewide sockeye harvest of 696,000 fish through June 8 was more than three times what it was at the same time in 2018, according to numbers the McDowell Group prepared for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Most of that harvest ⁠— 607,000 fish ⁠— was in Prince William Sound. Kodiak, Cook Inlet and Chignik fisheries were off to a slow start, McDowell economist Garrett Evridge said.

For all salmon species, the year-to-date commercial harvest through that week was 974,000 fish.

There’s much fishing yet to come, though. Typically less than 10% of the state’s salmon harvest every year happens in June, and the season stretches from May through September.

“It is still early in the season,” Evridge said. “But we are all a bit on edge coming off of a difficult 2018 season” for sockeye, he said. Bristol Bay’s sockeye harvest excelled last year, but other fisheries didn’t fare so well.

Pink salmon numbers spiked in the second week of June, with a year-to-date commercial harvest of about 1.6 million, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game data. That’s far above the five-year average harvest of 120,000 fish by that point in the season, marking an encouraging start to the season for pinks, Evridge said.

“As an odd year, we would expect pink salmon harvests to be stronger statewide,” he said. “But this is definitely much stronger than we’ve typically seen.”

Harvest numbers can vary wildly from week to week, and it’s not uncommon to see dramatic fluctuations from one year to the next, Evridge said. The sockeye season usually peaks in early July, and most pink salmon is harvested in late July and early August.

The statewide harvest of about 254,000 keta salmon — also called chum — through June 8 was about double what it was during the same time frame last year, according to McDowell. King salmon numbers were also up.

The annual forecast Fish and Game put out in April projected a total commercial salmon harvest of 213 million fish this year. That would mark an 84% increase over 2018, but would be similar to 2017 numbers.

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