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2008 salmon forecast predicts 18th largest harvest since 1960
By Margaret Bauman
Alaska Journal of Commerce

State fisheries biologists are forecasting a total run of 137 million salmon during the upcoming commercial harvest season, which would make 2008 the 18th largest harvest on record since 1960.

The total harvest is expected to include 672,000 Chinook salmon, 47.1 million sockeye salmon, 4.4 million coho salmon, 66 million pink salmon and 18.7 million chum.

David Harsilla, president of the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association in Seattle, has already voiced his concerns to Gov. Sarah Palin that the processing capacity for the upcoming season will not be sufficient. Harsilla is asking that one or more foreign companies be allowed to enter Bristol Bay for the 2008 season and purchase salmon directly from the fleet.

Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, said another possibility would be for the state Department of Fish and Game to allow more aggressive harvests as the peak of the run starts to build.

“In big (run) years there seems to be the potential for more aggressive early season fishing, before escapements are reached,� Waldrop said. “There is still time to correct for overharvest.�

Harsilla noted that the 2008 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon processing capacity survey indicated processors are prepared to purchase and process 36.3 million sockeye this summer.

However, the report also states that “individual processors may still impose limits per period, or for some limited time, because of quality concerns, tendering limitations, daily processing capacity limitations at specific plants, or other operational considerations,� he said.

Over the past few seasons in Bristol Bay the fishermen have been troubled by ongoing overescapement into most of the river systems, plus persistent and restrictive delivery limits from processors, Harsilla said.

“The lack of processing capacity has resulted in loss of income to fishermen and the region's communities,� he said. “We take special note that the processor capacity survey does not nearly adequately address limits or the welfare of the Bristol Bay fleet. Coupled with continued low salmon prices paid to the fleet, we are seeking relief from the economic dark clouds that are hanging over our heads.�

Harsilla said the fleet anticipates continued overescapements, and even more restrictive delivery limits in 2008 if the status quo is given a nod of approval.

Some 13 processors were included in the state's survey for the upcoming Bristol Bay season. State biologists noted that Bristol Bay has a point estimate of 40.3 million sockeye, within a range of 29.9 million to 50.6 million fish.

“There's more to it than having adequate harvesting capacity,� said Waldrop, who urged consideration of other solutions for greater processing capacity. “It's the surges (in the Bristol Bay sockeye run) that hurt the most. We think that in large forecast years, there are other regimes that might be put in place to take the peak out of the run.�

Waldrop said the state has already played a very important role, doing an early survey just on the Bristol Bay fishery.

“In doing this survey, the dialogue has opened up for further consideration of other potential solutions, and it is a dialogue that allows for a wider range of things,� he said.

The Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and others have already weighed in on the problem, he said.

The forecast also predicted that the two largest pink salmon producing areas in the state, Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound, would have modest returns this year.

A pink salmon harvest in Southeast Alaska of only 20 million fish is predicted this year, just 43 percent of the average for the region over the last 11 years. The forecast for the total Alaskan pink salmon harvest is about the same as the average statewide pink salmon harvest for the last 47 years, biologists said.

In contrast to pink salmon, the sockeye and chum salmon harvests in the state are expected to be up in 2008. Bristol Bay is anticipating one of its larger sockeye harvests in recent years and a statewide sockeye salmon harvest of 47.1 million salmon would put the 2008 sockeye harvest in the top 10 since 1960. A potential statewide chum salmon harvest of 18.7 million fish also falls within the top 10 chum harvests since statehood.

The 2008 Chinook salmon harvest prediction of 672,000 salmon marks an increase of 110,000 fish compared to the 2007 harvest, while the projected coho salmon harvest of 4.4 million salmon is similar to the most recent 10-year average of 4.6 million coho salmon.

In view of the moderate level of the expected 2008 salmon returns, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will not conduct a statewide salmon processing capacity survey in 2008, officials said. The agency previously conducted a processing capacity survey for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon, the results of which were released Feb. 11.
 

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Mother of God!!!! Looks like I picked a good summer to plan a trip to the Nushagak. I just googled Nushagak 2008 forecast and they're saying 160k. Which is 55k less than last year?? Any other way to predict the run size for the nush' or somewhere specific to look?

http://www.bbna.com/comfish/nusfor08.pdf
 

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So lemme think here... 18th best siince 1960 means 18th out of 46 or 47, right? That puts 18th best just north a little ways from the middle which would be 23rd or so, right? Sounds like kindofa normal, "middle of the pack" year to me. But you know what they say about statistics...

There's lies, damn lies and then there's statistics.
 

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“In big (run) years there seems to be the potential for more aggressive early season fishing, before escapements are reached,� Waldrop said. “There is still time to correct for overharvest.�

If we need to correct for over harvest we will let Washington sprotsmen handle that! :shock:on" as it's way too early in the business to dwell on a couple things that were not a big issue anyway. I'm not sure how many birds were killed in total but there were a lot of dead birds at the end of the day. Bushman was totally spent by the end of the trip. He must have put on 50 miles. He laid still all the way home and was stiff to get up after we got home and he had to get out of the truck.
 

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I like that. I have a trip a brewin for this summer up there. I hope its awesome fishing.
 

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Sure wish we could get a few (million) os those fish. Oh wait! That would be selfish wouldn't it? :roll:
 

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I don't like the raw numbers more than anyone else but at least with the sockeye,pinks and chums I believe a good number of those fish are originating within thier border. Now if we could just get them to cut back on the coho and especially kings that would be swell. Seeing as a number of them head down to Canada or our house it sucks knowing that they are looking at taking 11o,ooo MORE kings this year than last year. We are struggling with ESA listings factoring in every single endangered chinook in Puget Sound and they go and add on those types of extra harvests, oh and just blow off incidental bycatches of 130,oo0 kings in the pollack trawls! It all starts up there and snowballs on down our way - sucks bein' on the bottom......
 

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I don't understand this, someone please educate me? If there is over-escapement, doesn't that mean more fish are surviving. Does that mean more fish spawning, and therefore more fish to complete the cycle again? Doesn't that also imply more healthy runs in years that are predicted to be slow? If there are more fish consostantly that means room for more processors, and more jobs. Selling to foreign processors means outsourcing more jobs. Just because the fish are there, it doesn't mean they have to be taken. Is there no intrest in protecting the resource and the industry as a whole?
 

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The over escapement is Bristol Bay sockeye. They can be so thick they foul the streams, I've heard of them dynamiting some streams because they were clogged with dead fish.
 

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From what I understand as a particpant in the Bristol Bay fishery, If there were no gillnetters fishing the bay, the mass amounts of sockeye spawning in the lakes would supplement the population of predatory fish(dollys, resident rainbows, grayling, etc.) to a point where they would become the predominate species and eventually deplete the sockeye population by consuming the roe and smolts. thats one aspect. another is that if rivers/streams are overescaped the sockeye can be so thick they mess up the water quality(choking the river) and prevent latter runs from spawning causing a chain reaction year after year. Alaska got rid of cash buyers(foreign markets) a few years ago and now our seafood companies cant process the amount of fish that the fleet is catching when the fishings really hot therefore they put every boat within the company on limits in that district. days where you see fish jumping every where and you could easily fill your boat, your limited to 2000 pounds when you could be delivering 20000 pounds thus contributing to overescapement.
 
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