ASMI winning photo, Malerie Gunderson,
Sand Point

November 2, 2018

To: Commissioner Sam Cotten
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
From: Forrest R. Bowers, Acting Director
Division of Commercial Fisheries

2018 Alaska Commercial Salmon Fishery Preliminary Season Summary

This memorandum provides a brief preliminary summary of the 2018 Alaska commercial salmon harvest and run strength. More detailed, area-specific summaries will follow later this year as final harvest data become available. Please note these are preliminary harvest figures that may change as fish tickets are processed and finalized.

The 2018 Alaska commercial salmon fishery all species harvest was approximately 114.5 million fish with an estimated preliminary exvessel value of $595.2 million, a 13% decrease from the 2017 value of $685.0 million. Sockeye salmon account for approximately 59% of total value at $349.2 million and 44% of total harvest at 49.9 million fish. Chum salmon were the second most valuable species comprising 21% of total exvessel value at $125.0 million and 18% of total harvest at 20.1 million fish. Pink salmon represent approximately 12% of total value at $69.2 million, and 36% of total harvest at 40.7 million fish. Coho salmon account for approximately 6% of total value at $35.5 million and 3% of total harvest at 3.6 million fish. The Chinook salmon harvest was estimated at 234,614 fish with an estimated preliminary value of $16.3 million. The estimates of value are based on preliminary exvessel prices and do not include any post-season adjustments paid to fishermen.

In terms of pounds of fish, the all species salmon harvest of 605.1 million pounds ranks 34th in the 1975-2018 time series, with chum salmon harvest ranking 8th, sockeye salmon harvest ranking 13th, coho salmon harvest ranking 31st, and pink salmon harvest ranking 39th in the 1975-2018 time series. The 2018 total harvest value for Chinook salmon were the lowest since limited entry began in 1975.

Yukon River

Recent returns of Chinook salmon have been below average, therefore inseason management began with a conservative approach with commercial and sport fisheries for Chinook salmon closed. Most Yukon River districts were put on a reduced regulatory schedule in which each period was about half the usual fishing time. Inseason uncertainty about run strength and timing of the Chinook salmon run triggered Commissioner Cotten November 2, 2018 2018 salmon summary subsistence fishing closures in the form of “cancelled periods” and restrictions limiting fishing time or gear in most districts that effectively protected each part of the run and spread the harvest across all pulses of the run.

Preliminary subsistence harvest is projected to be about 30,000–40,000 Chinook salmon. Chinook salmon subsistence harvest data are still being collected and analyzed. Escapement goals were met on most tributaries, including the East Fork Andreafsky, Chena River, Salcha River, and the Canadian interim management escapement goal. The preliminary Chinook salmon passage at the sonar project near Eagle was 57,959 fish. This is not considered a true escapement estimate as it does not account for harvest between Eagle and the border in Alaska, nor Canadian harvests.

Yukon River chum salmon are comprised of summer-run and fall-run fish. The 2018 summer chum salmon run was below the preseason projected run size of 2.5 million fish and was approximately 2.1 million fish. This preliminary run size estimate is based on Pilot Station sonar counts and commercial harvests, escapement estimates, and average subsistence harvests located below the Pilot Station sonar. The drainage-wide escapement goal of 500,000 to 1,200,000 fish was exceeded; however, goals on the East Fork Andreafsky and Anvik rivers were not met. This is not entirely unexpected based on the recent trend of lower river stocks not performing as well as upriver stocks. The total 2018 commercial harvest for the entire Yukon Area was 576,700 summer chum salmon, which is the highest since 1996. Of this total, 446,381 fish were harvested from the Lower Yukon and 130,319 fish were harvested from the Upper Yukon. In the Upper Yukon, there were buyers in District 4 and District 6. The preliminary exvessel value of the Yukon summer chum salmon commercial fishery was approximately $1.9 million.

The 2018 fall-run chum salmon run of approximately 1.3 million fish was below the preseason forecast range of 1.6 to 1.8 million fish (highest forecast on record). Prior to the start of the fall season, the fall chum salmon projection was adjusted down to 700,000-900,000 fish based on the performance of this year’s summer chum salmon run. Most escapement goals, as well as treaty objectives with Canada for the mainstem Yukon River, are anticipated to be met except for the Fishing Branch River. In recent years, the abundance of fall chum salmon in the upper Porcupine River has been low when compared to other stocks in the Yukon River drainage. To improve fall chum salmon escapement to the spawning grounds in Canada, the mainstem Porcupine River was changed from a reduced subsistence salmon schedule to a full closure. The preliminary commercial harvest of 374,157 fall-run chum salmon and 106,225 coho salmon were the 4th largest on record for each species in the 57-year history of commercial fishing on the Yukon River. Commercial fishing is ongoing in the Upper Yukon River though early October. The fall chum salmon run came in about a week later than average while the coho salmon run was 3 days later than average. The preliminary $2.1 million value of the Yukon Area fall chum salmon commercial harvest equaled the record value, and the $0.67 million value of the Yukon Area coho salmon was the 5th largest on record.

Kuskokwim River

2018 was the third consecutive fishing season that there were no large-scale commercial salmon buyer/processors in the Kuskokwim Area. This resulted in very little opportunity for fishermen in District 1 and no opportunity for fishermen in District 4 (Quinhagak) and District 5 (Goodnews Bay). Due to confidentiality requirements the small amount of harvest that did occur cannot be reported. Commissioner Cotten November 2, 2018 2018 salmon summary

Kuskokwim River Chinook salmon returns have continued to improve over recent years. The preliminary Kuskokwim River total run estimate is approximately 140,891 Chinook salmon (95% Confidence Interval: 113,093–175,521). The drainage-wide escapement goal was likely achieved but will not be fully assessed until after all the data are analyzed this winter. The preliminary subsistence Chinook salmon harvest estimate is approximately 30,000 fish, which is well below the historical average of 80,000 fish.

Kuskokwim River sockeye salmon escapements were above the historical average. Chum salmon escapement estimates were average at most monitoring projects and the single escapement goal at Kogrukluk River was achieved. The Kuskokwim River coho salmon run came in below average at all assessment projects. The Kwethluk and Kogrukluk Rivers respective escapements goals were not achieved.

Norton Sound

As in 2017, the 2018 harvest ranged from well above average to record-size for chum salmon, pink salmon, sockeye salmon and coho salmon. The 2018 commercial coho salmon harvest was the highest on record. The commercial chum salmon harvest was the second highest on record and the largest since 1983. Although it only contributed a small amount to the overall salmon harvest, the sockeye salmon commercial harvest was the second highest in history with over 3,600 fish. The coho salmon catch of 260,471 fish contributed to roughly half of the Norton Sound salmon harvest in 2018. This was 36% above the catch in 2017, and 110% and 165%, respectively, above the recent 5-year and 10-year averages. The chum salmon catch of 238,030 fish was the highest recorded since 1983 and ranked second highest in history. The combined commercial harvest of all salmon species was 543,479 fish, including fish retained for personal use. 2018 is ranked with the highest harvest since 1998 in Norton Sound.

The pink salmon run was one of the greatest even-year runs on record with high escapement values reported at many counting project locations. However, there was minimal interest from the only buyer in purchasing pink salmon. No commercial fishing targeting Chinook salmon was allowed; however, the Chinook salmon run met escapement goals for the first time since 2015.

There were 149 commercial permits fished in 2018, which was ten more permits fished than last year. The number of commercial permits fished was the second highest since 1993. The 2018 fishery value of $4.0 million was a new high record and was the eighth time in the last nine years that the season value exceeded one million dollars. Before 2010, the last time the value of the fishery exceeded one million dollars was in the 1980s. The average price paid for Chinook salmon was $2.99/lb, $1.40/lb for sockeye salmon, $1.40/lb for coho salmon, $0.25/lb for pink salmon, and $.80/lb for chum salmon.


The 2018 commercial harvest of 695,153 chum salmon was a record high, exceeding the previous record of 677,239 chum salmon caught in 1981. The 2018 harvest represented the fourth time in the last five years that the harvest exceeded 400,000 chum salmon but was only the eighth time in history for harvest that high. Commissioner Cotten November 2, 2018 2018 salmon summary

A total of 5,642,859 pounds of chum salmon (average weight 8.1 lb) was sold at an average of $0.40/lb. This year’s average price was 17% lower than last year’s price of $0.48/lb. The total exvessel value was $2.3 million and was 24% more than last year. 2018 was only the fourth time since 1988 that the exvessel value was over one million dollars. The historical average exvessel value of the fishery was $0.7 million without adjusting for inflation.

There were 95 permit holders that sold fish in 2018, making this year the third highest permit holder participation in over 20 years. The highest daily fishing effort occurred on July 31 when 62 permit holders fished.

Bristol Bay

The 2018 inshore Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run of 62.3 million fish is the largest on record dating back to 1893 and was 69% above the 36.9 million average run for the latest 20-year time period. The preliminary exvessel value of $281.0 million is the largest on record. It was the fourth consecutive year that inshore sockeye salmon runs exceeded 50 million fish. The 2018 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run was 21% above the preseason inshore forecast of 51.3 million fish. Runs to all districts, except Egegik, were larger than the preseason forecast. The commercial harvest of 41.3 million sockeye salmon was 10% above the 37.6 million preseason forecast and is the second largest harvest on record. All sockeye salmon escapement goals were met or exceeded, with a total bay-wide escapement of 21.0 million fish. The preliminary harvests for other species are 41,696 Chinook salmon; 1,868,308 chum salmon; 138,466 coho salmon; and 218,998 pink salmon.

South Alaska Peninsula, Northwestern District and Aleutian Islands

Catches of sockeye salmon on the South Alaska Peninsula for the 2018 season were significantly lower than for the 2017 season and the previous 10-year average. During the 2018 South Alaska Peninsula season, a total of 1.3 million sockeye salmon were harvested with an estimated exvessel value of $8.0 million. The harvest of pink salmon was valued at $0.8 million and numbered 773,000 fish, which was much lower than the 2016 harvest of 2.9 million fish, and greater than the 2014 and 2012 harvest of 772,000 and 491,000 fish respectively. One million chum salmon were harvested in 2018 (estimated exvessel value of $3.2 million), which is greater than the most recent 10-year average of 800,000 fish. Coho salmon harvest was also high in 2018, with an estimated exvessel value of $0.8 million and approximately 271,000 harvested, greater than the most recent 10-year average of roughly 223,000 coho salmon. Chinook salmon catch was slightly above average at 17,000 fish and an estimated exvessel value of $0.1 million. A total of 3.4 million salmon of all species were harvested in 2018 on the South Alaska Peninsula, which is much lower than the recent 10-year average of 11.1 million fish.

South Alaska Peninsula fisheries were reduced in June outside of normal fishing schedules due to the conservation concerns of Chignik River early run sockeye salmon. Set gillnet gear was reduced by 72 hours and seine and drift gillnet gear were reduced by 96 hours in June. In addition to the reduced fishing periods in the June fishery, commercial salmon fishing was closed in the West Pavlof Bay Section south of Black Point and the Volcano Bay Section on July 14 to conserve Chignik Lake sockeye salmon escapement. On July 17, the Board of Fisheries met to hear emergency petitions regarding the Chignik River sockeye salmon escapement. The Board determined that the Southeastern District, Mainland District, and the “Dolgoi Island Area” would remain closed until the Chignik Lake sockeye salmon interim Commissioner Cotten November 2, 2018 2018 salmon summary

The Northwestern District harvested roughly 7,000 sockeye salmon and 94,000 chum salmon in 2018, which was entirely harvested in the Izembek-Moffet Bay Section.

No commercial salmon fishing occurred in the Aleutian Islands Area in the 2018 season.

Northern District of the Alaska Peninsula

Catches of sockeye salmon in the Northern Districts of the Alaska Peninsula were similar to the historical average. A total of 2.4 million sockeye salmon were harvested in 2018 which was below the 2017 harvest of 3.8 million sockeye salmon, but comparable to the previous 10-year average of 2.1 million fish. The estimated exvessel value of sockeye salmon for the Northern District was $15.9 million. The 2018 chum salmon harvest of 59,000 fish and $0.1 million was above the 2017 harvest when 25,000 chum salmon were harvested, but comparable to the previous 10-year average of 56,000 chum salmon. The 2018 Coho salmon harvest of 95,000 fish was well above the previous ten-year average of 56,000 fish. The 2018 estimated exvessel value of coho salmon was $0.2 million. The Chinook salmon harvest of 1,800 fish and $0.04 million was like the 10-year average of 2,000 fish, but below the 2017 harvest of 2,800 fish. All escapement goals in the Northern District were met or exceeded.


The 2018 Chignik River sockeye salmon run (approximately 540,000 fish) was the poorest on record since statehood. The Chignik River sockeye salmon early run did not meet the lower bound of the escapement goal. The sockeye salmon late run lagged well behind escapement objectives for most of the season; however, this run did meet the lower bound of the escapement goal. There is also an inriver run goal (IRRG) for the Chignik River late run sockeye salmon to provide for additional freshwater subsistence fishing opportunity. The IRRG requires that 25,000 sockeye salmon escape in August in addition to the minimum escapement needs and 50,000 sockeye salmon escapement in September. The August component was achieved however, the September component was well below the 50,000 fish required. Chinook salmon escapement was also well below the Chignik River escapement goal resulting in restrictions to Chinook salmon harvest in the subsistence fishery. Additionally, pink salmon escapement was poor throughout the Chignik Management Area (CMA) and did not meet area wide escapement goals.

Due to the poor run, there was no commercial fishing targeting sockeye salmon in the CMA. State subsistence fishing remained open to sockeye salmon in the Chignik River drainage; however, the Federal Subsistence Board (USFWS) prohibited subsistence fishing for sockeye salmon to non-federal users from June 22 to July 31. Two 48-hour commercial fishing periods occurred in select inner bays of the CMA; the first in July to target early opportunity on pink salmon and chum salmon and the second in September to target coho salmon. Very little effort occurred in either fishing period. A total of 6 permits made deliveries for a total harvest of 128 sockeye salmon, 1 coho salmon, 6 pink salmon, and 924 chum salmon. Commissioner Cotten November 2, 2018 2018 salmon summary


The Kodiak Management Area (KMA) even year pink salmon return was below average, resulting in the harvest of approximately 6.0 million pink salmon. Pink salmon escapement totals were below average in most areas which resulted in minimal commercial salmon fishing openings. KMA sockeye salmon harvest was also below average with a harvest of approximately 1.8 million fish valued at $14.4 million. Sockeye salmon escapement was average with the four large systems with weirs contributing over 1.4 million fish. Due to the weak pink salmon run and overlapping run timing, the KMA chum salmon harvest was below average with only 464,000 fish valued at $1.9 million. KMA chum salmon escapement was above average. Coho salmon harvest was well above average with approximately 446,000 harvested.

Upper Cook Inlet

The overall harvest and value of the commercial salmon fishery of Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) was poor in 2018. The 2018 UCI commercial harvest of approximately 1.3 million salmon was 61% less than the recent 10-year average annual harvest of 3.4 million fish. While all five species of Pacific salmon are present in UCI, sockeye salmon are the most valuable accounting for nearly 93% of the total value during the past 20 years. The 2018 total run preseason forecast of sockeye salmon for UCI was 4.6 million fish, while the actual in season run was 3.1 million fish, or 32% less than forecast. The largest deviations from the 2018 forecast occurred with 3-year ocean sockeye salmon of ages 1.3 and 2.3, which returned at 1/10th and ½ of forecasted levels, respectively. The estimated ex-vessel value of the 2018 harvest of all salmon species of approximately $11.0 million was 67% less than the previous 10-year average annual ex-vessel value of $31.0 million. All species-specific ex-vessel values other than coho salmon were significantly below average in 2018 in UCI.

UCI salmon escapements in 2018 were mixed. In UCI there are seven sockeye salmon, fourteen Chinook salmon, four coho salmon, and one chum salmon system with escapement goals that were monitored in 2018. For the 2018 season, sockeye salmon escapement goals were exceeded in two systems (Kasilof River, Big Lake at Fish Creek), and met in four systems (Kenai River, Larson, Chelatna, Judd lakes); the final escapement for Packers Lake achieved the bottom end of the escapement goal of 15,000 sockeye salmon but the total count was incomplete due to video monitoring failure. Overall, run timing of sockeye salmon inlet wide was estimated at 4 days late. In 2018 the lower end of the Kenai River early run Chinook salmon Optimal Escapement Goal (OEG) was not achieved, but the late run Kenai River Chinook salmon run ended within its Sustainable Escapement Goal (SEG). The lower ends of the Deshka River and Little Susitna River Chinook salmon SEGs were not achieved in 2018. Coho salmon assessments on all UCI systems were either above (Jim Creek and Fish Creek) or within (Little Susitna River and Deshka River) their escapement goals in 2018. The lower end of the SEG for chum salmon in Chinitna Bay tributaries was not achieved in 2018.

Lower Cook Inlet

The preliminary estimate of the 2018 Lower Cook Inlet Area commercial salmon harvest is 2.0 million salmon. The harvest was composed of 381 Chinook salmon, 370,460 sockeye salmon, 14,544 coho salmon, 1.5 pink salmon, and 48,729 chum salmon. The harvest was comprised of 758,117 (37.9%) commercial common property fishery (CCPF) harvested fish, and 1.2 million (62.1%) hatchery cost recovery fish. The preliminary estimated exvessel value of the 2018 common property harvest of Commissioner Cotten November 2, 2018 2018 salmon summary

approximately $2.6 million was above the previous 10-year average annual exvessel value of $2.5 million. The majority of the commercial common property sockeye salmon and pink salmon harvests were from hatchery subdistricts. Otoliths sampled from the commercial harvest from both species in those areas will be read this winter and are anticipated to show significant hatchery contributions. SEGs for sockeye salmon were achieved in seven of the eight systems with goals. Preliminary estimates for pink salmon escapement show that of the 13 of the 18 systems with SEGs were above the minimum SEG.

Prince William Sound/Copper River

CCPF harvest of 20.1 million pink salmon was 14.0 million fish less than the 5-year even year average, and 32% below the 28.3 million CCPF preseason forecast. Total pink salmon harvest was 23.94 million fish; including 3.8 million fish for hatchery cost recovery, broodstock, and raceway sales (2.3 million for Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation and 1.5 million for Valdez Fisheries Development Association. Pink salmon escapement goals were met in all districts.

Total commercial chum salmon harvest in Prince William Sound (PWS) was 3.44 million fish, including 456,000 fish for Wally Noerenberg Hatchery broodstock and cost recovery. Chum salmon CCPF harvest was 2.9 million fish compared to a 3.3 million fish recent 10-year average.

Total sockeye salmon harvest for the PWS area was 1.3 million fish. The Copper River sockeye salmon harvest of 44,400 fish was the second lowest in the last 120 years and was 97% less than the recent 10-year harvest average of 1.3 million sockeye salmon. The Copper River District was only open for three short duration fishing periods in May prior to low sockeye salmon abundance indices necessitating a forty-day closure of the commercial fishery. The Miles Lake 2018 preliminary sonar escapement estimate was 701,577 salmon and was within the range of the inriver goal of 644,000–1,034,000 fish.

Chinook salmon harvest in the Copper River District was 7,200 fish, below the recent 10-year average of 12,900 fish. There is not yet a preliminary estimate of inriver Chinook salmon abundance.

Coho salmon returns were strong in both the Copper and Bering River Districts. Coho salmon harvest in the Copper River District is currently 302,000 fish compared to a recent 10-year average harvest of 225,000 fish. In the Bering River District, 120,000 coho salmon have been harvested to date, compared to a recent 10-year average of 58,900 coho salmon.

The 2018 total estimated exvessel value for all salmon species in Prince William Sound was $94.7 million. Of this total, Chinook salmon harvest was valued at $1.3 million, sockeye salmon harvest was valued at $16.1 million, coho salmon harvest was valued at $6.3 million, pink salmon harvest was valued at $45.4 million, and chum salmon harvest was valued at $25.6 million.


Escapement of pink salmon in 2018 was below the parent year in 2016 and the regionwide index was the lowest since 1988. Escapement goals were met in Southern Southeast (SSE) and Northern Southeast Outside (NSEO) subregions but were below goal in the Northern Southeast Inside (NSEI) subregion. The pink salmon harvest of 7.8 million fish was the lowest since 1976. Commissioner Cotten November 2, 2018 2018 salmon summary

For summer chum salmon, escapement goals were met in SSE and NSEI subregions, but the escapement in the NSEO subregion was below goal. Fall chum salmon escapement goals will be met for at least three of the five systems with escapement goals. The regionwide chum salmon harvest was approximately 11.2 million fish, which is above the recent 10-year average of 10.3 million. The chum salmon harvest in Southeast Alaska has averaged approximately 87% hatchery produced fish over the most recent 10-year period.

Chinook salmon production in Southeast Alaska continues to be poor and in 2018 escapement goals were achieved in four of the eleven index systems. This represents an improvement from 2017 when two of eleven escapement goals were achieved. However, for the Stikine, Taku, and Chilkat rivers, all data suggest the lowest runs on record. Chinook salmon conservation measures were taken in all commercial salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska.

The total 2018 Yakutat set gillnet harvest of 130,546 salmon was below the recent 10-year average of 337,172 salmon. The commercial harvest was 295 Chinook salmon, 7,174 sockeye salmon, 94,831 coho salmon, 28,114 pink salmon, and 132 chum salmon. Sockeye salmon and coho salmon are the only directed fisheries and all other species are caught incidentally. The sockeye salmon harvest was well below the recent 10-year average harvest of 113,867 fish and coho salmon harvest was also below the recent 10-year average harvest of 140,711 fish.