Record Setting Harvest, Rebounding Prices Fuel Successful Pink Salmon Harvest

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

A record-setting pink salmon harvest in Prince William Sound and rebounding prices at the docks around Alaska helped propel the value of the 2010 salmon catch to its highest level in nearly two decades.

Statewide, the salmon harvest topped 168 million fish, up more than five million from last year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it’s the 11th largest salmon harvest since statehood.

Fish and Game assistant director Geron Bruce says the value of this year’s catch reached historic levels.

Statewide, fishing fleets landed over 105 million pink salmon in 2010. A record 69 million pinks were caught in Prince William Sound, with the bulk of those fish returning to hatcheries.  In Bristol Bay, this year’s catch of more than 28 million sockeye salmon were worth nearly $149 million at the docks. Those two catches made up more than half of the total value of this year’s salmon harvest statewide.

In Southeast, the pink salmon catch ended up topping $24 million, worth around $31 million at the docks. Southeast fishermen caught almost 9.5 million chum, with an average price of 72 cents a pound, and a total worth more than $56 million. Most of those chum are produced by the region’s hatcheries and chums remain by far the most valuable of the five salmon species in the Panhandle.

Bruce says prices for chum and pinks were notable this year.

Salmon prices have been on the rise since a low-point in 2002. As for other species, Southeast permit holders caught 2.5 million coho, with an average price of a $1.19 a pound. Southeast’s king salmon catch was 249,000 fish and the sockeye harvest was 717,000.

Elsewhere around the state, 2010 was a poor pink salmon year along the Alaska Peninsula. The catch was 867,000 humpies, from a pre-season forecast of 5.8 million. It was also another poor year on the Yukon River for fall chum and king salmon.

Download Audio (MP3)