The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) predicts over 51 million sockeye salmon will return to Bristol Bay in 2021, another massive run for Alaska’s most robust salmon fishery.

If the forecast holds, it will continue an unprecedented string of large runs in Bristol Bay, which have the fishery averaging over 48 million sockeye salmon annually for the past 10 years. The long-term contemporary average, calculated from 1963 to 2020, is 35.12 million fish. This season’s predicted run would be 45 percent greater than the 35.12 million mark.

ADFG predicts a harvest of 36.35 million fish, which would be 13 percent higher than the recent average of 32.23 million fish and 40 percent better than the long-term average of 21.88 million fish.

The report, authored by ADFG biologists Greg Buck, Jordan Head, and Stacy Vega, forecasts nearly half the fish will be age 1.2 sockeye, which means the fish have spent one year in freshwater and two years in saltwater.

The bulk of the rest of the run would be 1.3 sockeye – meaning fish that have spent one year in freshwater and three in years in saltwater – coming in at 39 percent of the total. And while the larger 1.3 fish will be welcome, Tim Sands, the ADFG area manager for the Nushagak district, said the larger runs do seem to be returning smaller fish.

“There’s some indication that the fish size has been decreasing at age, so a 1.3 fish would be a bigger fish, but if there are lots of them we could have a smaller size of that age,” Sands told SeafoodSource.

See more of the story at SeafoodSource—