Alaska's salmon harvests showing mixed results

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The salmon harvest statewide is showing mixed results halfway through the season, according to state officials.

So far, commercial fishermen have taken 64 million fish on their way to a projected year-end harvest of 154 million salmon, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Last year's harvest of 216 million salmon ranked as the second highest on record. But biologist say this year appears more in line with the recent 10-year average.

The agency says chum catches look strong in all areas except Western Alaska. King, coho and sockeye salmon are showing mixed results. Pink returns generally are slow in most areas, except for the Valdez hatchery return in Prince William Sound which is very strong.

State biologists expect the total Southeast chum salmon harvest will exceed expectations. Purse seiners participating in both wild and hatchery chum salmon fisheries have recorded strong catches.

The chum fishery in Prince William Sound is at a record-high. However, sockeye returns in the sound are generally weaker than expected. Pink salmon returns appear to be on track.

Upper Cook Inlet sockeye runs are nearly complete with a catch of 1.3 million fish -- about half of the anticipated total harvest.

The sockeye catch in the Lower Cook Inlet also is running at 50 percent of expectations with a catch of 214,000 compared to 487,000.

However, chum returns are strong in the Lower Cook Inlet. This year's harvest so far is the largest since 1988, totaling 70,000 fish.

The catch for Bristol Bay totaled just over 20 million sockeye this summer, beating the five-year average. That was well within range of the 22.3 million preseason forecast.

The Kodiak and Alaska Peninsula salmon fisheries are reporting mixed results. The Kodiak chum salmon catch is expected to top out over 1.2 million, nearly double what was forecast. Both wild and hatchery returns are strong with wild stocks making up 75 percent of the total. Sockeye salmon escapement goals are being met in all systems.

The Chignik and Alaska Peninsula sockeye fisheries are winding down with a catch of 1.5 million salmon at Chignik, 1.8 million around the South Peninsula and 1.3 million for the North Peninsula fisheries. All three areas will fall short of their preseason forecasts by approximately 1 million fish or more.

The Kodiak pink salmon harvest also is below the estimated 10.2 million fish.

Returns of chinook and chum salmon in some areas of Northwest Alaska have been critically low, resulting in regulatory closures of the commercial fisheries, sport fisheries and restricted subsistence harvests.

Subsistence restrictions were declared for the first time in history for Kuskokwim and Yukon River chinook salmon and Yukon River summer chum salmon in order to help preserve stocks.

Pink salmon returns also are weak although sockeye returns generally have been good in the region. Early indications are that the coho return may be better than average.

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