2012 Salmon Projection
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) released its 2012 run forecast and salmon harvest projections in February. Typically, ADFG forecasts are within 10-20 percent of the actual harvest forecast and provides and important “ballpark” figure for upcoming market supplies of wild Alaska salmon. Last year, the actual harvest of 176 million fish was 16 percent below the forecast.
ADFG projects the 2012 Alaska salmon harvest at 132 million salmon. The 2012 forecast is 24 percent below the prior 5-year harvest average of 173 million fish. While the 2012 forecast may be low by contemporary standards, if the actual harvest meets the forecast it would rank as the 24th largest harvest and the 25th year in a row that Alaska salmon fishermen have harvested 100 million salmon or more.
Most of the year to year fluctuation in recent years has been driven by pink salmon. Pink salmon have a two-year life cycle, and in the recent past Southeast pink salmon harvests have been significantly larger in odd years. Statewide, catches have varied from a record high of 161 million pinks in 2005, to a decade-low of 72 million pinks in 2006. ADFG expects pink salmon harvests will be lower even in lower in 2012, than the 2006 season. Although the pink forecast for 2012 is down from 2011, as expected, there is always reason to be optimistic. In 2010, ADFG forecast a return of 69 million pinks but fishermen ended up harvesting 105 million pink salmon thanks to excellent ocean survival rates of hatchery-bred pink salmon returning to Prince William Sound. Kodiak pink salmon forecasts are down from the prior year, but slightly higher than 2010 (the last “even” year).
Sockeye harvests have ranged from 39 million fish to 47 million fish during the past five years. The 2012 forecast of 38 million fish is 9 percent below the prior 5-year average sockeye harvest.
The forecast for 2012 Bristol Bay sockeye is down from the 2011 forecast, but similar to the actual number of Bristol Bay sockeye caught in 2011 (about 22 million fish). Despite the lower forecast, Bristol Bay sockeye are still expected to make up over half of Alaska’s sockeye harvest. Elsewhere, sockeye forecasts are down slightly for Prince William Sound and Upper Cook Inlet; and up slightly in the Westward region.
The 2012 chum (or keta) forecast is 12 percent higher than the 2011 harvest, and 8 percent higher than the prior 5-year average harvest.
The 2012 coho forecast is 26 percent higher than the 2011 harvest, and 10 percent higher than the prior 5-year average harvest. However, harvests in recent years have tended to be lower and there is reason to believe coho harvests will come in well below the 4.6 million fish projection. Projection methodology for coho salmon revolves around recent 5-year averages. As such, the 4.3 million fish forecast reveals little about the actual potential for this year’s coho run to produce a harvest above or below projections. Harvests of coho salmon have fallen in recent years. The 2011 harvest of 3.4 million fish was the lowest in over 10 years. Most coho are caught in Southeast Alaska, where trollers account for the majority of the harvest.
The anticipated statewide Chinook (or King) salmon harvest is 426,000 fish, a 4 percent decline from the 2011 harvest of 445,000 fish. However, the 2012 forecast is well above the harvests seen in 2008 through 2010.
Most Chinook salmon (caught in commercial fisheries) are caught in Southeast Alaska, where harvests are limited by terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The treaty establishes quota, based on abundance indicators, for fishermen in Alaska, Canada, Washington, and Oregon. Abundance indicators were up substantially in 2011 and remain at high levels. Southeast commercial fishermen will be able to harvest 217,000 Chinook salmon under the treaty, in addition to hatchery-bred Chinook (typically in the range of 80,000 to 100,000). Elsewhere in the state, commercial fishermen are projected to harvest 120,000 Chinook in 2012.
**Source: Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute