Salmon decline linked to warming
2019 is expected to be another poor year for pink salmon in Southeast and Southcentral coastal areas and the Bristol Bay sockeye catch is predicted to be down, although 2017 and 2016 were both record-setting years. The Southeast pink harvest is pegged at 18 million fish, or half the 10-year average of 36 million, according to the state Department of Fish and Game’s annual forecast for the upcoming season. State biologists say warm waters in the Gulf of Alaska, likely linked to climate change, appear to be a decisive factor. From 2013 to 2016 an accumulation of warm water, the “blob,” was detected and fisheries managers connect that with poor salmon harvests. The blob dissipated in 2017 but has now returned.
Salmon pays $596 million in 2018
Despite a lower salmon harvest in 2018, at 114 million fish, harvesters pocketed $596 million this year, Fisheries writer Laine Welch reported in her column. About 44 percent of salmon caught were sockeyes but those supplied 60 percent of the income to harvesters. Bristol Bay harvesters earned $281 million of the statewide $596 million, but the Bristol Bay payments are expected to reach $335 million after post-season adjusted payments are made.
Sportsfish exceeds halibut limits
Alaska commercial fishermen stayed within halibut harvest guidelines this year but sports charter operators did not, data compiled by the Pacific Halibut Commission showed. In the central Gulf of Alaska charter vessels exceeded their 1.8-million-pound limit and caught 1.85 million pounds, or 103 percent of quota. The commercial fishing sector stayed within its guidelines, however.
Halibut biomass survey is due
Halibut biomass in the North Pacific, from Oregon to the Bering Sea, has been trending down for years and to reduce fishing pressure the international commission has reduced the allowable catch by 16 percent between 2017 and 2018. The perception of falling supply from the Pacific has caused competitors to ramp up, particularly Atlantic halibut. Thus, despite lower supply prices are declining, with the 2018 haibut season opening at $5.74 per pound compared with a $6.53 per pound opening price in 2017. Halibut quotas for both sport and commercial fisheries will be set in January after regulators survey the latest information on biomass.