Figures just released by state fishery managers show that the 2006 statewide salmon harvest totaled 141.5 million fish. That ranks as the 15th largest catch on record since Alaska became a state 47 years ago. The preliminary value is $308.864 million, compared to $334 million for last year's record harvest of 221 million salmon.
Average dock prices this year for chinook salmon increased to $2.77 a pound, up from $2.23 last year.
Coho prices averaged 99 cents a pound, an increase from 75 cents in 2005. Chum salmon prices increased year-to year by five cents, a 19 percent increase. For pinks, the price crept up to 13 cents a pound, an increase of one penny from last year.
The statewide average price for sockeye of 67 cents is seven cents less than last season. That's due primarily to a drop of a nickel a pound at Bristol Bay, which by far provides most of the state's sockeye catch - nearly 29 million pounds this year compared to about 12 million pounds from elsewhere in Alaska.
On a brighter note, Norton Sound had its best commercial coho harvest ever at 131 thousand fish. Healthy chum runs also continued in the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.
"In fact, if there were more buyers for chum salmon from that region, our statewide harvest would've been much higher. There were hundreds of thousands of fish there that could have been harvested but were not, due to no markets," said ADF&G deputy commissioner Geron Bruce.
The statewide chum salmon harvest of 21.4 million fish ranks as the second best of all time in both numbers of fish and in the dockside value of $56.3 million.
Preliminary salmon prices do not include bonuses or other post season adjustments.
That means 2006 salmon values will likely increase after Alaska processors file their final reports on purchases and prices paid. That information will be available in April. Find complete details on regional salmon catches and prices at www.cf.adfg.state.ak.us .
Representatives of Northern Dynasty hope to meet with as many fishermen as possible this month in Seattle to talk about the Pebble Project, one of the world's largest open pit gold and copper mines the Canadian company hopes to someday operate at headwaters of Bristol Bay. Why so far away from the proposed mine site?
"Of the more than 1,800 drift net permits in the Bristol Bay fishery, 1,100 are held by non-residents of Alaska. That means we really have a problem with local participation in the fishery," said Trefon Angasan, an outreach coordinator for Northern Dynasty.
Angasan, who now lives in Anchorage, is a lifelong Native rights advocate and former state Fish Board member.
He claims his clan goes back 10,000 years in the Bristol Bay region, and his family currently holds more than 50 local salmon permits. Angasan calls himself a "connector between Northern Dynasty and the people."
"I've taken a lot of heat for that but I think it is a necessary step to be sure that at least what was being said within the inner circles is conveyed to the local people," he said.
"They really haven't shown me they can do it safely yet. Until they do, I am going to withhold my comments and keep an open mind at least until they are finished with their permit applications.
Get more information from Angasan at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 877-450-2600.