Salmon catch for 2014 projected to be down by almost half
By LAINE WELCH
April 11, 2014
A pink catch of 95 million pushed the record last year and it is pinks that will bring the numbers down this summer. Pink salmon run in on/off year cycles and this year the catch is pegged at about 75 million, a 67% decrease from last summer’s 226 million humpy haul.
Other projected catches for this year call for a 14% increase in sockeyes to nearly 34 million; 4.4 million coho salmon, and nearly 20 million chums. For Chinook salmon, a catch of 79,000 is projected in areas outside of Southeast and Bristol Bay.
Some highlights: A total of 1,917 permit holders participated in Alaska’s salmon fisheries last year, an increase of 1% over 2012. The preliminary value of $238 million is the highest since 1985.
The proportional harvest composition by species was <1% Chinook, 1% sockeye, 3% coho, 84% pink and 11% chum salmon.
Southeast Alaska fishermen again caught the most salmon at 112 million, the most since 1962, and 218% of the recent 10-year average. The exvessel (dockside) value of $238 million was the highest since 1985.
Prince William Sound’s salmon harvest barely missed 100 million fish – all but about 7 million were pink salmon.
At Upper Cook Inlet, the catch of 3.1 million salmon was down 23% from the 10 year average, but high sockeye prices pushed the value to $39 million, the eighth highest value since 1960, and the second highest in a decade.
The Bristol Bay total harvest was 16.4 million salmon, valued at $141 million, 26% above the 20-year average and seventh over that same period.
At the Kuskokwim region, 469 permit holders went fishing last summer and took home $2.4 million at the docks. The overall chum run at Kotzebue Sound was well above average.
For the 6th year in a row, there was no fishing for king salmon in the main stem of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers. Many of the 467 fishermen had great success targeting chums with dip nets for a dockside value of $3.5 million.
At Norton Sound 124 salmon fishermen brought in the highest chum salmon harvest in over 25 years. For three of the past four years, the value has topped $1 million.
The $23.3 million value of the Chignik salmon fishery was worth $307,076 on average among the 77 permit holders. At the Alaska Peninsula/False Pass, 150 fishermen shared a payday of $33 million.
At Kodiak, 335 (55%) of the eligible salmon permits fished last year for a catch that topped 59 million, the highest since 1995. It paid out well above the previous average 10-year value of $28.3 million. Seiners accounted for 94 % of the total Kodiak harvest with earnings averaging $304,105 per permit.
A push by Sitkans is aimed at getting more local seafood onto Alaska kids’ school lunch trays.
“The Fish to Schools Program tries to integrate the community into every part of the process,” Gagnon said. “It gets our fishermen and processors involved, our schools and children and parents, community members…I really think that’s what makes ours so successful.”
To help make students more aware of where their food comes, the guide includes a seven lesson ‘Stream to Plate’ curriculum.
“It really brings salmon to life in the classroom and teaches students how the fish are connected to their lives, the community, the economy and the environment. That is something unique to our Sitka program,” she said, adding that salmon is served once a week at most Sitka schools.
Prior to this year, over 23 local fishermen and Sitka processors donated the seafood to the schools – but now they can be paid, thanks to a $3 million funding grant from the state.
“It’s called ‘Nutritional Alaska Food for Schools’ (NAFS) and it’s a fabulous statewide appropriation that reimburses school districts for their Alaska food purchases, including seafood,” Gagnon said. (Credit Rep. Bill Stoltz (R-Chugiak.)
Food for Schools money is in the FY15 capital budget and Gagnon hopes it becomes a fixed item.
“We are really hoping to see multi-year funding so schools have the ability to invest in infrastructure development so that they can process raw products,” Gagnon said. She added that the US school lunch program has moved away from scratch cooking and most meals are heat and serve, highly processed products.
The Food to Schools program also is a boom to Alaskan growers and fishermen because they are able to have secure in-state markets.
Seafood purchases through NAFS last year totaled $137,176 pounds by 25 Alaska schools or districts, led by Anchorage, Kenai and Kodiak. Sitkans hope their Fish to Schools guide book will motivate others to come aboard. www.sitkawild.org
This year marks the 24th year for this weekly column that focuses on Alaska’s seafood industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News, and now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A daily spin off – Fish Radio – airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. My goal is to make all people aware of the economic, social and cultural importance of Alaska’s fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world.
Laine Welch ©2014