Salmon abundance in the North Pacific has declined somewhat over the past decade, but salmon catches remain near all-time highs.
For over 25 years the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) has summarized abundances and catches of salmon as reported by its five member countries – Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the U.S. It tracks all salmon species caught in the North Pacific, Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.
The Commission also provides the venue for coordinating research and enforcement activities.
For 2018, the total salmon catch topped one million metric tons, or more than 651 million fish, the highest catch ever for an even-numbered year. That’s nearly 200 million more salmon than were caught in 2017.
Russia led all other nations for salmon catches, taking 63 percent (676,200mt). The U.S. ranked second for salmon catches at 27 percent at nearly 287,000 tons, with Alaska taking all but 8,700 tons of the total U.S. catch. The other three nations all were in single digits for catches.
Pink salmon made up most of the North Pacific catches at 55 percent by weight, followed by chums at 26 percent and sockeyes at 16 percent. Cohos comprised just two percent of the total and Chinook at less than one percent.
Hatchery releases from the five countries have been fairly stable since 1993 at about 5 billion fish released annually. They have declined slightly each year since 2014, however, due to reduced Asian hatchery releases.
The U.S. accounted for 44 percent of total hatchery salmon releases last year, mostly from Alaska. That was followed by Japan at 34 percent, Russia at 17 percent and five percent from Canada.
Chums made up 59 percent of all hatchery releases and pink salmon at 29 percent. Chinook salmon made up five percent of hatchery releases, sockeyes at four percent and coho salmon at two percent.
The commission said variability in annual North Pacific salmon catches has been more pronounced during the past decade, primarily due to unpredictable pinks.
A particularly low pink salmon catch in 2018 (71,300mt) resulted in the lowest total North American catches of salmon in 40 years.