Through Monday, the total Bristol Bay sockeye run was estimated at 51,935,000, according to Area Management Biologist Tim Sands. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has stopped sending out daily run summaries, but managers are still tracking the activity.
“It looks like we’ll break 52 million in the total run here today,” Sands said Tuesday.
There was much anticipation going into the 2015 Bristol Bay sockeye season this year, with some 54 million sockeye salmon forecasted to return. While the final return of sockeye may fall just short of the pre-season forecast, the 2015 sockeye season was a historic one, with a much higher than average return and a surprisingly late, long run. As of July 26, 51 sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay with 35 million of those fish harvested. The peak of Bristol Bay’s run came in about ten days later than usual this year.
A robust forecast, followed by what first appeared to be a season gone bust in Bristol Bay, culminated with a run of wild sockeyes exceeding 50 million reds, and the price to fishermen sank.
"Everybody's concerned with the price," said Dave Harsila, president of the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association, and a veteran Bristol Bay harvester. "I don't think anybody expected it to be that low, but that's what it is.
Two seafood industry trade associations have come to an agreement to transfer, effective for the 2016 season and beyond, ownership of the Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certificate for Alaska salmon.
The transfer announced July 21 by the Pacific Seafood Processors Association and the Alaska Salmon Processors Association is to be completed by Oct. 1.
The agreement will have no impact on sales for 2015.
Tough restrictions that shut down fishing at the start of this year’s king salmon run on the Kuskokwim River may have made a difference.
A state research biologist told a Kuskokwim River advisory group Wednesday that goals for salmon escapement -- fish that swim past nets, hooks and predators to spawn -- have been met on several of the big river’s key tributaries.
Coming up this week, Bristol Bay sockeye strategically held back from hitting the nets until everyone doubted they'd show at all; Manakotak says “we can annex, too,” and getting to know our friends, the cannery workers. We had help KDLG's Molly Dischner and Dave Bendinger in Dillingham, and KFSK's Joe Sykes in Petersburg.
The 2015 fishery summed up? Odd, confusing, unique, strange. Or that's what fishermen and managers are telling us. Their take on 2015, fish numbers and other news, plus - how do you survive a Bristol Bay romance?
Statewide catches of wild Alaska salmon jumped from an estimated total of 20.3 million fish on July 7 to 53.5 million fish on July 14, lifting the spirits of harvesters in what has been a disconcerting season.
Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game noted that the late run of the run into Bristol Bay was showing strength, along with an increase in the average size of the sockeyes.
"The fishery has picked up substantially," said David Harsila, of Seattle, president of the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association.
Bristol Bay lived up to its reputation for unpredictability as a bizarre late rush of sockeyes has surged into fishermen’s nets nearly a week past the historical peak, with enough still coming to potentially surpass the 20-year average harvest by several million fish.
“Things change,” said Chuck Brazil, assistant area biologist for Bristol Bay. “That’s why we manage the fishery day to day.”
A massive cleanup effort is getting underway in Alaska, with tons of marine debris — some likely sent to sea by the 2011 tsunami in Japan — set to be airlifted from rocky beaches and taken by barge for recycling and disposal in the Pacific Northwest.
Five weeks into the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, with a preseason harvest forecast of 40.5 million fish, the estimated catch was climbing ever so slowly, as fishermen and processors waited it out.
As of July 6, biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game were estimating the total Bristol Bay harvest to date at 9.1 million salmon, and the statewide catch of salmon at 20 million fish.
In 2013, 38 percent of the salmon coming out of the bay was put into cans. But they aren’t flying off the shelves. LA Marketer Craig Caryl is working with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to change that.
“I think that canned salmon needs to be positioned with blueberries, literally, as a superfood," Caryl said.
He’s not the only one who wants to see a resurgence in canned salmon.
In another hurdle for Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling program, an ice-handling vessel playing a key role in the operation has returned to Dutch Harbor after a gash was discovered in its hull.
The Fennica, a 380-foot Finnish vessel, was damaged Friday as it headed for the drilling grounds in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest Alaska coast, with a state-certified marine harbor pilot on board handling it. The vessel is one of 29 Shell plans to send to the area this summer.