Photo by David Little

Prince William Sound purse seine fisheries were anticipated to close for the season today Friday, with an overall preliminary harvest of more than 63 million salmon — including 1.9 million sockeyes, 56.3 million pinks, 4.9 million chums, 98,000 cohos and 8,000 Chinooks.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) biologists in Cordova noted that the Valdez Fisheries Development Association was reporting the Solomon Gulch Hatchery coho run entry and broodstock numbers are behind anticipated levels.

The preliminary statewide overall salmon harvest stood at more than 219 million fish, including 147.6 million pinks, 50 million sockeye, 19.7 million chum, 1.8 million coho and 187,000 kings.

For overall harvest, the central region led with 107.6 million salmon, including 58.9 million pinks, 43 million sockeye, 5.3 million chum, 197,000 coho and 13,000 kings.

Southeast Alaska’s preliminary total was 61 million fish, including 46.7 million pinks, 12.3 million chum, 1.2 million coho, 834,000 sockeye and 155,000 kings.

The Westward region brought in 50.6 million fish, including nearly 42 million pinks, 6.2 million sockeye, 2 million chum, 450,000 coho and 19,000 kings, and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim — which was for the most part denied commercial harvests because of poor returns to the fishery — had total deliveries of 165,000 salmon, mostly chums.

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Retail markets overall were showing lower prices for fresh fillets of sockeye and coho salmon, including $9.99 a pound at Costco stores in Anchorage. 

10th & M Seafoods had ready-for-the-freezer wild Alaska king salmon portions for $21.95 a pound and sockeye fillets for $14.95 a pound, plus sockeye salmon steaks for $7.95 a pound, and the online Anchorage seafood purveyor FishEx still had premium portions of Copper River for $89.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye portions for $49.46 a pound.

Research analyst Simon Marks with McKinley Research Group, in Juneau, said this year’s Alaska salmon harvest is 16% larger than the pre-season forecast, but down about 10% from 2022 (2021 for pinks) in estimated ex-vessel weight. Harvests for sockeyes are down 28% and Chinooks by 40%, but keta harvests are up by 40% and coho harvests by 31%. Pink salmon harvests are down 3% slightly from 2021. Coho is the only species with a significant share of the total season harvest still likely to come in during the remaining weeks of the season, noted Marks, who compiles the commercial salmon harvest report each week during the salmon season for McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The reduced sockeye harvest was driven largely by Bristol Bay, where the harvest was down 29% from last year’s record catch, Marks said. The pink salmon harvest was down slightly from 2021 in Prince William Sound and Southeast, but up in Kodiak, where four million pinks were harvested last week.

Marks also noted that the statewide keta harvest has followed an unusual pattern: Preliminary keta data show a single mid-summer harvest peak, rather than separate summer and fall peaks as typical. The total keta harvest increased this week because of ADF&G data revisions to previous weeks, he said. Chinook salmon harvests are down from 2022 in regions across the state. Most Chinook are caught in Southeast, where volume is down 40% because of fewer and slightly smaller fish.

The reduced sockeye harvest was driven largely by Bristol Bay, where the harvest was down 29% from last year’s record catch. The pink salmon harvest was down slightly from 2021 in Prince William Sound and Southeast, but up in Kodiak, four million pinks were harvested last week.

In-season harvest totals are unlikely to change substantially as the last few weeks of fishing conclude. ADF&G usually publishes preliminary end of season data in early November.

Overall prices at the dock to commercial harvesters remained low, due to the glut of fish harvested in 2022 that is still unsold.

With fall meetings of federal and state fishery management entities coming up in October, Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU) is planning its annual fall board of directors meeting on Sept. 20, said Executive Director Jess Rude. At that time the full board will certify results from the summer election, of CDFU members — to confirm Steven Swartzbart to a general seat, Forest Jenkins to a setnetter seat and Jeff Bailey to a seine seat — and elect general officers for the term, Rude said.

The board will also discuss strategies for working this winter with state and federal delegations, processors and hatcheries about fish prices, as well as how to empower all commercial fishermen in the region for the next Prince William Sound board of Fisheries meeting in 2024.

CDFU members are also convening this month to develop gillnet and seine recommendations for the fall Salmon Harvest Task Force meeting, set for Oct. 3 at the Cordova Center and virtually via Zoom.

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