Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) has released its latest sockeye marketing report, noting that in 2018 the Bay witnessed a record run of red salmon and produced its second largest harvest in history.
In nominal terms, this was also the most valuable Bristol Bay salmon harvest ever recorded, with a preliminary ex-vessel value of $281 million, noted BBRSDA executive director Andy Wink. After factoring in quality premiums and volume bonuses, the final value is projected to be over $335 million.
The report also notes that first wholesale prices for all major sockeye product forms continued to rise during the May to August sales period, compared to the same period a year ago, and that frozen Bristol Bay sockeye prices are approaching 2013 levels but at double the volume.
State biologists meanwhile are forecasting a run of some 40 million sockeye salmon into Alaska’s Bristol Bay in 2019, 16 percent greater than the long-term average of 34.2 million fish from 1963 through 2018. That would allow for a potential total harvest of 27.6 million fish, including 26.11 million reds in Bristol Bay and 1.49 million reds in the South Peninsula.
The run forecast includes:
16.12 million to Naknek-Kvichak District (6.95 million to the Kvichak river, 3.97 million to the Alagnak river, and 5.21 million to the Naknek river)
9.07 million to the Egegik District
3.46 million to the Ugashik District
10.38 million to the Nushagak District (4.62 million to the Wood river, 4.18 million to the Nushagak river, and 1.58 million to the Igushik river)
1.15 million to the Togiak District
Sockeye salmon runs into Bristol Bay have historically been highly variable. In issuing the 2019 forecast biologists noted that forecasting future salmon returns is inherently difficult and uncertain. Individual river forecasts have greater uncertainty compared to bay-wide forecasts, they said, but over-forecasting returns to some rivers while under-forecasting returns to other rivers means that the overall Bristol Bay forecast is often more accurate than the forecast to any individual river.
The 2018 Bristol Bay sockeye forecast, by comparison, was for a total run of 51.28 million fish and a harvest of some 38 million.
According to the preliminary summary, the 2018 inshore run of reds into Bristol Bay was 62.3 million fish, the largest on record dating back to 1893, and was 69 percent above the 36.9 million average run for the latest 20-year period. It was the fourth consecutive year that inshore sockeye runs exceeded 50 million fish and proved 21 percent over the preseason inshore forecast.
The harvest of 41.3 million reds was 10 percent over the 37.6 million preseason forecast and the second largest harvest on record. Commercial harvesters also delivered 41,696 kings, 1.9 million chum, 138,466 silver and 218.998 pink salmon for a preliminary ex-vessel value of $281 million for all species. That was 242 percent above the 20-year average of $116 million.
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