The total abundance of Pacific salmon in the North Pacific remains near all-time highs but there are some troubling signs.

Harvests have slowly declined t over the past decade – and last year showed especially low catches of some salmon species.

For nearly 30 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 coordinates research and enforcement.

The total  2019 salmon catch topped 563.3 million fish, down from 651 million in 2018.

Declines were driven by several factors:  Japan had its lowest chum catches since 1970.  (55.9 thousand metric tons). In Canada, catches of chum, sockeye and pink salmon were the lowest since 1925. (2,973 metric tons) Even worse, salmon catches for Washington, Oregon and California were the worst on record.  (4,965 metric tons)

Its annual report said “interannual variability in the total catch in North America has been more pronounced during the last decade than in previous decades, primarily because of variability in pink salmon catches.”

In terms of who caught the most salmon – Russia took 51% of the total (499.2 thousand metric tons), followed by the U.S. at 42%  (406.9 thousand metric tons),  nearly all of which came from Alaska  (401.9 thousand metric tons).

Japan was a distant third at 6% (59.5 thousand metric tons), with Canada claiming just 1% of the North Pacific salmon catch last year (2.9 thousand metric tons) and Korea (130 metric tons), respectively.

Pink salmon made up 54% of the catch by weight, followed by chum (24%) and sockeye salmon (19%). Coho comprised 2%, while Chinook salmon, cherry salmon, and steelhead trout were each less than 1% of the catch.

Finally, 2019 saw record salmon hatchery releases into the North Pacific.

While releases from the five nations have held at roughly 5 billion fish 1993, last year it reached(5.5 billion due to increased Asian hatchery releases.

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