Coming on the heels of an 80 percent crash of cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska and a 10 percent decline in halibut catches, state fishery managers are projecting a 2018 salmon harvest at 149 million fish, down 34 percent from last season.
The shortfall stems from lower forecasts for returning pink salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a humpie harvest of just 70 million fish, down by more than half from last summer.
For sockeye salmon, a statewide catch of about 52 million is down 1.8 million fish from 2017, which was the fifth largest red salmon harvest since 1970.
By far, most of the sockeyes will come from Bristol Bay’s nine river systems where ?projected harvest of 37.5 million would be down by more than a million, still well above the 10 and 20 year averages for the Bay.
Alaska’s chum salmon catch last year of 25 million also was the largest haul since 1970. This year’s statewide catch is expected to produce 21 million chums, down by nearly 4 million?
The 2018 coho catch is pegged at 5.8 million, nearly 600,000 more silvers than last season.
For Chinook salmon, the forecast calls for a catch of 99,000 kings in areas outside of Southeast Alaska, where the numbers are determined by treaty with Canada. Declining stocks have forced fishery managers to impose tough restrictions on Chinook catches for all users.
Alaska’s salmon season officially gets underway in mid-May when sockeye and king salmon return to the Copper River near Cordova. That’s followed by commercial openers across the state from Ketchikan to as far north as Kotzebue.