Outsider kings dominating harvest

New study shows Chinooks caught in westward region commercial and Kodiak area sport fisheries are from BC, US West Coast

Alaska caught, yes indeed.

Still, most of the Chinook salmon harvested in Westward Region commercial and Kodiak area sport fisheries from 2014 through 2016 were from the West Coast of the United States and British Columbia.

A new study released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in late December concludes that these king salmon harvests were dominated by British Columbia and U.S. West Coast stocks, followed by smaller contributions from Southeast Alaska/Northeast Gulf of Alaska, Cook Inlet and Kodiak.

In the annual commercial harvest, over 50 percent of those fish were from British Columbia and over 30 percent were from the West Coast of the U.S. according to the ADF&G report. In the marine sport fishery, the relative abundance of British Columbia and West Coast U.S. fish varied, but jointly represented over 80 percent of annual harvest, the report said. In both the commercial and sport fisheries, the annual harvest of Kodiak-origin Chinook salmon was below 5 percent of the total harvest.

The complete “Genetic Stock Composition of the Commercial and Sport Harvest of Chinook Salmon in Westward Region, 2014-2016” is online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static-f/regulations/regprocess/fisheriesboard/pdfs/2016-2017/kodiak/FMS16-11.pdf

The overall goal of the project, fisheries scientists said, is to provide information on commercial and marine sport harvest of Alaska Chinook salmon stocks, specifically of indicator stocks within the Westward Region Chinook Salmon Research Team.  The information is to be used for reconstructing runs, building accurate brood tables to define escapement goals, and refine management by identifying spatial and temporal harvest patterns of local and nonlocal stocks.


Chinook salmon spawn in freshwater but migrate to the ocean to grow and mature. They have two primary life histories, characterized as ocean-type or stream-type, the report notes. Ocean-type fish immediately migrate to the ocean the year they emerge from the gravel, while stream-type fish typically rear in freshwater for a year before outmigration. Chinooks of both types spend between one and five years in the ocean before returning to spawn in their natal stream. The Gulf of Alaska is within the migratory pathway of and furnishes feeding habitat for king salmon throughout North America.

King salmon are commercially harvested incidentally to directed sockeye and chum salmon commercial fisheries within Alaska’s Westward Region’s Kodiak, Chignik and Alaska Peninsula fishery management areas.

The average commercial Chinook salmon harvest between 2004 and 2013 was 18,703 fish in Kodiak, 3,684 fish in Chignik and 10,880 fish in the Alaska Peninsula.  Fisheries scientists found that since the mid-1990s the harvest of king salmon in the marine waters of the Westward Region has been fairly consistent. Still king salmon escapement estimates at the major systems monitored with weirs have shown substantial reductions since 2005, often struggling or failing to reach their respective escapement goals, the report said.

Chinook salmon are harvested in sport fisheries both in fresh and salt waters in Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula. Sport harvests of kings in the freshwater areas of the Kodiak and Alaska Peninsula regulatory areas have been drastically lower over the past decade, and freshwater sport fisheries have been restricted at Karluk and Ayakulik rivers annually since 2005 either through bag limit reductions or sport fishery closures.

Saltwater king salmon harvests in the Kodiak area have averaged 8,304 fish over the past decade, according to ADF&G’s statewide harvest survey. Harvests of Chinook salmon in Kodiak salt waters vary from year to year, but have generally been declining since 2007, when they reached a peak of 10,636 fish.

The decrease in returns of king salmon in the Westward region and throughout the state have prompted concerns about the health of Chinook stocks, and resulted in Chinook Salmon Research Initiative, which implemented stock assessment program that target 12 indicator stocks around the state, including the Karluk and Chignik rivers.

The principal objective of this latest genetic stock composition project was to sample king salmon in commercial and marine sport fisheries in the Westward region  and use genetic mixed stock analysis to estimate stock compositions and stock-specific harvest, specifically to quantify the harvest of Alaska indicator stocks.

Due to budget reductions for the study, the Alaska Peninsula and Chignik-based portions of the project had to be cut in late 2014.  As a result, the scope of the project was reduced to collecting genetic tissue and age, sex and length data from Chinook salmon harvested in the commercial salmon fisheries in the Kodiak area only in 2015 and 2016.