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Excellent King Salmon Escapements Reported
Throughout Southeast Alaska


September 16, 2004

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) escapement surveys show king salmon escapements throughout Southeast Alaska meeting or exceeding goals. Preliminary region-wide escapement estimates indicate 180,000 kings have returned to spawn in 11 key systems, the second highest count on record. The Stikine River greatly influenced numbers with a record high estimate of over 84,000 kings, three times the upper end of the escapement range.

"The excellent escapements are a result of the department's comprehensive, long range chinook rebuilding programs in Southeast," said Commissioner Kevin C. Duffy, ADF&G. "The program has steadily built escapement and returns throughout the region for over 30 years. It's just one more example of ADF&G's successful management practices helping to increase fishing opportunities for Alaskans."

Escapements have increased from an average of around 70,000 fish in the 70's and early 80's to averaging over 125,000 since 1990. Over the last 10 years, escapement goals have been reached annually in 80 to 90 percent of Southeast chinook runs. Natural fluctuations in survival rates can cause some stocks to fall short of the escapement goal range in any given year.

Emerging juvenile chinook salmon spend from 1 to 2 years in fresh water before entering marine environments, where they grow and mature for another 2 to 5 years before returning to spawn. Throughout their lifecycle, many habitat variables affect survival rates, including: water quality, currents, water temperature, available food, and a myriad of predators.

Based on preseason and inseason estimates of abundance, management biologists work to achieve the desired escapement by opening or closing fisheries, changing bag limits, or implementing gear restrictions. Meeting the individual escapement goal ranges helps ensure sustainable continued returns of wild chinook salmon to Southeast Alaska.
ADF&G's management program to rebuild stocks in Southeast Alaska streams for U.S. and Canada transboundary rivers began in the 1970's. Harvests were selectively decreased on chinook stocks by managers to allow escapements and stocks to increase. In 1985, Canada and the states of Washington and Oregon joined in rebuilding chinook abundance under the U.S./Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST).

During the early 1990's, ADF&G improved and expanded the management program. Mark-recapture tagging projects were established on many of the large glacial rivers to estimate total escapement and enable better, more precise management on the Alsek, Chilkat, Taku, Stikine, Unuk and Chickamin Rivers. In addition, Biological Escapement Goals have been established for 11 key systems using sophisticated analysis of the production data for the stocks.

Escapement and other biological data are provided annually to the PST Joint Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission. They use the data to evaluate the status of key stocks and to judge fishery management performance.


Related information:

Detailed reports on the Department's escapement estimation program and long-term chinook research programs

Descriptions of some of the chinook salmon research projects in Southeast Alaska

Source of News:

Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Web Site


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