It’s a record breaking pay day for salmon fishermen at Bristol Bay, topping $280 million at the docks.
That’s 242 percent above the 20 year average – and the number will go higher when bonuses and post season adjustments are added in. Bay fishermen averaged just under $215 million at the docks last year.
According to a summary by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, the 2018 sockeye salmon run Bristol Bay of 62.3 million fish was the biggest since 1893, and nearly 70 percent above the 20 year average.
It also was the fourth consecutive year that sockeye runs topped 50 million fish.
In terms of catch, the Bristol Bay harvest of 41.3 million red salmon was the second largest on record, after the 45.4 million fish taken in 1995.
Most major buyers posted a sockeye base price of $1.25 this summer with 15 cent bonuses for chilled and bled fish. The average Bay price last year was $1.02 a pound.
The sockeye weights this summer can be characterized in two ways. Fish that spent three years at sea were closer to long term averages of 5.5 to 6 pounds, while two year ocean fish with two years of were smaller than average at 3.5 to 4.5 pounds.
With all the salmon fishing going on across Alaska why all the hoopla about Bristol Bay? The answer can be summed up in two words: sockeye salmon. Andy Wink is director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association –
“The sockeye resource is very unique in terms of its size. It’s typically around 35 to 40 percent of the global sockeye supply and it’s a huge chunk of Alaska’s salmon value overall. It’s a market moving fishery.”
Bristol Bay is home to the largest red salmon run in the world and it’s Alaska’s most valuable salmon fishery by far. Sometimes up to half of the state’s total salmon fishing earnings come from Bristol Bay.
The Bay also has the most fishermen, with more than 2,800 salmon permit holders.
Statewide, Alaska’s total salmon fishery harvest is hovering at 111 million fish, more than 30 percent below the expected 147 million.
Over 50 million of the total catch are sockeyes, nearly 40 million are pinks. The chum catch has topped 17 million, down a third; similarly, coho catches of 3.4 million are down 33 percent from last year. The statewide king salmon catch is at 223,000.
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