The Southeast Alaska 2012 season’s pink salmon catch was less than half of last year’s but a little higher than expected.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game predicted an all year harvest of 17 million and came in at around 20 million, 19 million of which were caught by the seine fleet.
According to Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries Coordinator Biologist Bill Davidson, the runs have been coming in weak in the even years and strong in the odd since 2006 and this year is no exception to the historical rule.
“We are a little above forecast,” Davidson said. “But we are in line with pre-season expectations of a weak even year.”
Davidson explained that climate played a large part in the up and down cycle of pink returns.
According to ADF&G officials the southeast had strong returns in both even and odd years until 2006. In 2006 the area had cold winter and cold spring conditions, along with a drought during the spawning return. These conditions led to low early marine survivals and started this cycle and it seems to be taking some time to recover from this situation.
“What makes a pattern persist so long is a little beyond my ability to explain,” Davidson stated.
The largest pink catches this season were in District Four on the coast of southern Southeast where the fleet brought in six million and another six million were caught in District Two off the Southeast coast of Prince of Wales Island. This trend was just the opposite from last year’s largest catch being caught in the northern panhandle.
The low projection for the 2012 season was cause for low participation with 238 boats making landing this summer compared to the 270 boats that caught 55 million pinks last year.
According to Davidson, the numbers of pink salmon escaping upstream to spawn was good overall but there were still some trouble spots.
Dock prices this year were fairly equal to last year’s which were very good.
Pink salmon averaged around $.40 per pound and dogs brought in twice that amount. Dog salmon are the other main target for seiners and they brought in a total of 5.8 million this summer, 1.2 million of which went toward hatchery operation costs.
“We had a good chum return this year,” Manufacturing Executive of Trident Seafood Dave Ohmer said. “The hatcheries got more than expected returns this year.”
Ohmer also said that overall salmon prices were down this season, but they were very fortunate with the roe prices this year.
“Our Trident fishermen had a great year,” Ohmer said.
Petersburg Fisheries Production Manager Patrick Wilson explained that PFI saw slower returns on salmon this season.
“We downsized our fleet this year,” Wilson stated. “Our crew sizes matched the volume of fish being caught, it was a good combination.”
According to ADF&G officials, this was a strong chum return season. Most of the chum that is harvested in the Southeast purse seine fishery is produced by the hatchery organizations and, across the board; the hatchery chum returns were better than forecasted.
Along with the chum and pink salmon, seiners brought in 248,000 Coho, 171,000 Sockeye and 38,000 King Salmon this season.
Davidson explains that the all species seine catch was worth an estimated total of $64 million in the Southeast this year, which is less than half the value recorded for the 2011 season.