No reliable word yet on value of Alaska's 2006 salmon harvest
By Laine Welch
September 18, 2006
Total salmon catches through September 15 were approaching 136 million fish, down 19 percent from the preseason forecast. At best, the season will likely wind up at around 140 million salmon down a whopping 37 percent from last year's catch. The big dip stemmed from a surprising shortfall in those tough to predict pink salmon returns in several regions of the state. Managers projected a catch of 108 million, but the total will be about 70 million pinks this season.
The total humpy harvest in Southeast Alaska, for example, was pegged at more than 50 million but came in at closer to 10 million, the region's lowest catch since 1988. Conversely, Kodiak experienced a surprisingly strong pink salmon return the fishery was expecting a pink harvest of 18 million but it topped 31 million, one of the best pink harvests ever. Kodiak usually provides about 20 percent of the state's pink pack, but this year it will be closer to 40 percent.
Looking at Alaska's other four salmon species - sockeye catches came in better than expected at nearly 42 million, thanks primarily to a strong performance at Bristol Bay. Coho salmon (silvers) are still coming in at many regions with a harvest total of 3.4 million. The preseason forecast called for five million coho. The summer king salmon catch of just over 576,000 is slightly below forecast. Chum catches came on stronger than expected with the harvest topping 20 million, compared to a projection of 17.5 million fish.
No reliable word yet on the estimated value of Alaska's 2006 salmon harvest. Upward ticks in most prices are likely to be canceled out by the lower catch numbers. Last year's salmon harvest rang in at $305 million at the docks, the first time the value broke the $300 million barrier since 1999 when the harvest value was $370 million.
Some comparisons: Alaska's
salmon catch was worth $257 million in 2004 and $195 million
Early guess-timates indicate this year's red king crab catch will be similar or slightly higher than last year's total of about 18 million pounds. But whatever the catch quota is, 4.6 percent will be taken off the top to account for high levels of discards due to highgrading last season. The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery opens October 15.
For snow crab (opilio Tanner), the outlook is a bit more uncertain. The summer trawl survey showed an apparent increase in legal males from 69 million to 135 million crabs. The scientists caution, however, that the large increase came from a very small number of samples. But given that the data show an increase in mature males, it's likely the harvest of snow crab could be higher than last year's catch of just over 37 million pounds, Sackton said. The snow crab fishery opens in mid-January.
Meanwhile, the market outlook
for snow crab is ticking upwards. (Fishermen averaged about a
buck a pound last season.) The market for king crab remains jittery
- Bristol Bay red king crab last year averaged about $4.50 a
pound but an over supplied market will likely keep a downward
press on those prices this year. Ken Talley of Seafood Trends
reported that early landings from the golden king crab that began
in August fetched between $1.45 a pound up to $1.80, well below
the average $2.69 a pound from last year.
A spokeswoman said that Prince
Charles selected Alaska salmon because it is certified as earth
friendly and well managed by the international Marine Stewardship
Council. Prince Charles has long been outspoken in his concerns
that farmed salmon are ruining the future of Britain's wild stocks.
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