2010 Salmon Projections
Alaska Department of Fish and Game released its 2010 run forecasts and salmon harvest projections in February. The projection is normally within 10-20 percent of the actual harvest and provides an important “ballpark” figure for market supply of Alaska wild salmon.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game projects the 2010 Alaska salmon harvest at 137 million fish. This is significantly below the 10-year average of 167 million but would still rank among the top 20 Alaska salmon harvests on record since 1900. (19th largest)
Most of the recent fluctuation in Alaska’s year to year salmon harvest is driven by the pink salmon catch, which has varied from a record high of 161 million in 2005 to a decade-low 72 million in 2006. In contrast, harvest of all other Alaska salmon species combined has been steady since 2005, ranging between 60 and 68 million fish. The 2010 projection calls for 69 million pinks and a total of 68 million other salmon.
The 2010 Alaska sockeye harvest projection is 45 million fish, slightly above the 5-year average of 42 million. If the projection is accurate, 2010 will be the seventh consecutive year of Alaska sockeye harvest near or above 40 million fish. Five of the last six Alaska sockeye seasons have been significantly over 40 million fish (the 2008 harvest was 39 million). This strong performance is significant with respect to historical market supply, as Alaska’s 50-year average sockeye harvest is only 28 million.
Bristol Bay is expected to be a strong performer again, with a harvest projection of 30 million sockeye, 67 percent of the statewide total. Sockeye fisheries elsewhere in the state (“local” sockeye) are expected to produce 15 million, up from 12 million in 2009.
ADF&G sockeye harvest projections have been relatively accurate in the last four years, ranging between -17 and +17 percent compared to actual harvest. However, the forecast has been low in three of the last four years, by 17 percent in 2006, 16 percent in 2007 and 14 percent in 2009. If this recent pattern of under-projection holds for 2010 sockeye harvest could exceed 50 million, for the first time since 1995. Bristol Bay is the key to that potential, as the region accounts for the majority of Alaska sockeye and for most of the variation in sockeye harvest. The 2009 Bristol Bay catch was projected at 24 million sockeye, but actual harvest was nearly 31 million.
The 2010 harvest projection for pink salmon is 69 million fish and if accurate would be the second-smallest Alaska pink harvest in 20 years. The low point was 60 million pinks, in 1992.
While the 2010 projection is near the low end of the 20-year range, it is consistent with normal fluctuation in the abundance cycle. Variation of the Alaska pink harvest follows a predictable pattern based on the two-year life cycle of the fish. Abundance of parent-year fish is directly related to current-year abundance. Pink salmon harvest in the last three even-numbered years (2004, 2006 and 2008) averages 85 million fish, compared to harvest in the last three odd-numbered years (2005, 2007 and 2009) averaging 134 million pinks. The odd-even pink salmon abundance pattern is especially distinct in recent years, but is a long term pattern.
The 2010 chum salmon projection is 17.9 million fish, slightly above the 5-year average of 17.3 million. The primary production areas are Southeast Alaska (projection 9.3 million) and Prince William Sound 3.7 million). The majority of the chum harvest projection (about 60 percent) is enhanced fish.
The projection methodology for coho relies primarily on recent five-year average harvests. Accordingly, the 2010 harvest projection of 4.35 million coho reveals little about the potential of the coho return to produce a harvest substantially above or below projection. The five-year average harvest is 4.29 million.
The Alaska coho harvest can vary widely. The recent 10-year average harvest is 4.5 million but harvest has been as low as high as 3.6 million in 2007 and as high as 9.6 million, in 1994. Ex-vessel prices for coho dipped in 2009, but otherwise have been relatively strong in recent years, stimulating fishing effort in the late season when coho are most abundant. Improved salmon market conditions suggest the price will recover to some extent and coho fishing effort is likely to remain strong, creating potential for a harvest substantially above projection.
The anticipated statewide Chinook harvest is 415,000 fish, about 20 percent below the 5-year average. ADF&G has not yet released the projection for the Southeast Region, primary harvest area for the species.
Chinook harvest in SE is limited by terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada and the treaty quotas were recently published. The sum of Alaska’s commercial allocation (182,000) and typical enhanced contribution to the SE harvest (about 90,000) is 272,000 fish, up slightly from the 2009 harvest. ADF&G Chinook harvest projections for the remainder of the state are modest, totaling 143,000 king salmon.
2010 Salmon Roe Production Estimate
The primary sources of salmon roe from the Alaska harvest are pink, chum and sockeye, in that order. Anticipated 2010 salmon roe production is 19-20 million pounds, down from the recent five-year average of 23.5 million pounds.
Pink salmon typically provides slightly over half the roe production (averaged for the odd-even cycle) but with the modest 69-million-fish projection for 2010, pink roe production is expected to be approximately 7 million pounds, less than 40 percent of 2010 statewide total roe production volume.
Chum is the second-largest source of roe with about one-quarter of recent average production. It is the highest valued roe and most often used to make ikura or other single-egg roe products. Chum roe production is expected to be at or near 6 million pounds with the 2010 chum harvest projection at 18 million.
Sockeye makes up the final major piece of roe supply and the strong 45-million-fish projection is expected to yield approximately 6 million pounds of roe. Roe recovery is generally lower for sockeye, due in part to run compression and related chilling issues with Bristol Bay sockeye, which account for over two-thirds of Alaska sockeye production. The Bristol Bay fleet is making significant headway on chilling and sockeye roe recovery may improve as more fish are chilled at the point of harvest.