This year’s 2014 wild Alaska salmon season will be stunningly smaller than last year if the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s predictions are correct.
The total statewide salmon catch prediction is for just 132.6 million fish, a far cry from even the pink harvest alone last year, which was 226.3m fish. This years total of all species looks to be down by 53% from last year’s record Alaska salmon harvest of 282.9m fish. Last years all time historic large catch was 27% higher than the previous record of 221.9m.
Pink salmon in SE Alaska nearest to the ocean pasture restoration project that targeted that northern pink population was the major factor pulling last years numbers up so spectacularly. Without a similar ocean pasture restoration effort it’s no wonder that this year’s predicted drop of total salmon catch comes mainly from the projected huge drop in pink salmon numbers. The pink harvest projection is down a considerable to about 1/3 of last year’s harvest of 226.3 million, to 74.7m fish.
However helping the fishers to a considerable extent is the increase in available chinook salmon in SE Alaska where the catch has been increased to 463,000 fish based on a healthy local population. This is way up from last years quota of 263,000. These pasture fed SE Alaska chinooks survival was greatly assisted by the 2012 ocean pasture restoration project in the nearby Gulf. They were there along with the Pinks and other species all enjoying an ocean pasture as rich and abundant as they were 100 years ago. For more on how ocean pasture restoration works here’s a link http://russgeorge.net/2014/04/05/ocean-pastures-important-part-global-carbon-cycle/
The projected sockeye harvest may be cause for particular concern, considering last year’s catch was considered relatively low by an industry hurting for product, and this year’s catch is projected to be 14% lower, at 33.6m fish.
The chum harvest is expected to be 6% lower, at 19.9m fish. Chinook in the Yukon system are expected to be so low that native and other Yukon groups and others are calling for a long term moratorium on Yukon Chinook fisheries. Like the desperately endangered Atlantic salmon Yukon chinook salmon are quite clearly lost at sea.
Last years history breaking catch brought an extra $800 million into the pockets of Alaskan fishers and resulted in more than a few historic “sprees” and a lot of new pick-up trucks. This year fishers will have to be frugal with their money and hope that the government gets behind ocean salmon pasture restoration as a regularly supported and incredibly cost effective strategy to support this important state industry.