Catch numbers still edging up for PWS while the statewide salmon harvest tops 106M fish

Biologists with the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. say they have broodstock secured at the Armin F. Koernig and Wally Noerenberg hatcheries, and have begun egg take at those facilities. Broodstock at the Cannery Creek hatchery continues to build. Egg take was anticipated to begin there this week, according to the latest Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) report on Prince William Sound commercial salmon fisheries.

Egg-take operations at the Valdez Fisheries Development Association hatchery began on Aug. 4, and as of last week they were at 75% complete on their egg take goal.

Preliminary harvest estimates from fishing periods included 53,400 pink and 33,200 chum salmon in nine reported deliveries from the Eastern District on Aug. 23; 103,000 pinks in three reported deliveries from the Northern District on Aug. 24; 1.3 million pinks in 121 reported deliveries from the Southwestern District on Aug. 23; and 704,000 pinks in 58 deliveries on Aug. 24, also in the Southwestern District.

Overall preliminary salmon catch totals for Prince William Sound through Tuesday rose to 62 million fish, including over 55 million pink, 4.9 million chum, 1.9 million sockeye, 31,000 coho, and 8,000 Chinook salmon, according to ADF&G calculations.

For the Central Region overall, including Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, the catch reached 106.3 million salmon, including over 57.7 million pink, 43 million sockeye, 5.3 million chum, 128,000 coho, and 13,000 Chinook.

Fishmongers said fillets of wild salmon were selling well, from $21.99 a pound for fresh coho fillets at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle to fresh sockeye fillets for $12.95 a pound at 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage. Many shoppers were ordering more salmon for the Labor Day weekend and to fill their freezers for the coming winter, seafood shop workers said.

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The total statewide salmon harvest has now surpassed the pre-season forecast of 189 million fish, said Simon Marks, a research analyst with McKinley Research Group LLC, which produces the in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest updates for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Harvest volumes are expected to drop off more steeply than usual after this week because of low salmon prices, and several processors plan to stop buying salmon as of Sept. 1, Marks said.

The peak of the humpy run has likely now passed, with last week’s preliminary harvest of 14 million fish less than half of the previous week’s pink salmon harvest, he noted. The pink salmon harvest is up 5% in estimated volume from 2021 (the previous odd-year harvest).

The pink harvest is up from 2021 (in fish counts) in Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Southeast, and Prince William Sound. In Southeast, the harvest of nearly 56 million pink salmon is almost triple the pre-season forecast.

The only two Alaska salmon species that have not reached their preseason harvest forecasts are coho and Chinook salmon, Marks said. Coho is generally the latest salmon species to spawn. Coho harvests through Statistical Week 34 were at 40% of the pre-season forecast, while Chinook harvests are at 75% of their pre-season forecast.

The second highest harvest area to date is Southeast Alaska, where the total preliminary harvest stands at nearly 60 million fish, including more than 44 million pink, 9.2 million chum, 754,000 sockeye, 732,000 coho, and 154,000 kings.

For the Western Region, including the Aleutian Islands, Chignik and Kodiak, the preliminary count on Tuesday stood at 39.3 million fish, including 31.5 million pink, 5.7 million sockeye, 1.8 million chum, 326,000 coho, and 18,000 kings.

For the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Region, where most fisheries were banned because of low runs, the harvest stood at 164,000 fish.

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