Bristol Bay records its largest sockeye run on record

A fishing vessel full of salmon.
A fisherman on the F/V Cutting Edge on June 30, 2021. (Hope McKenney)

Bristol Bay’s 2021 sockeye run is the largest on record: 63.2 million fish have returned to the bay this year, breaking the 2018 record of 62.9 million. 

This is the fourth time since 1952 that the bay’s run has exceeded the 60-million-fish mark. 

The latest record shows Bristol Bay’s sockeye management is working, said Tim Sands, an area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“I think it’s a shining beacon of sustainable management,” he said. “We’ve been prosecuting the commercial salmon fishery management since 1884 and we are still able to set records on total runs, and I think that speaks to the escapement-based management that we use and it’s great.” 

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The Nushagak District, on the west side of the fishery, also set several records this season.

Fishermen there broke the district’s record for daily catch two days in a row. They hauled in 1.7 million fish on June 30, and 1.8 million on July 1. 

The Nushagak District’s escapement is also the largest on record with 9.7 million fish swimming upriver this summer, surpassing the 2018 count of 9.5 million. The district’s run of 27.2 million fish is the second-largest on record, behind the 2018 record of 33 million. 

RELATED: Record-high Copper River prices boost market optimism ahead of the Bristol Bay fishery

Contact the author at stephanie@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.