Story last updated at 12/3/2008 - 2:01 pm
State fisheries biologists are forecasting a total run of 33.8 million reds in the 2009 in the famed Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, with a harvest in the bay itself of nearly 24 million reds, compared to nearly 28 million reds netted during the 2008 fishery.
The forecast, issued Nov. 12, includes the Kvichak, Alagnak, Nakinek, Egegik, Ugashik, Wood, Igushik, Nushagak-Mulchatna and Togiak river systems.
Tim Baker, area research biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the prediction is 4 percent lower than the
previous 10-year mean of total runs. A run of 33.8 million sockeye can potentially produce a total harvest of 25.04 million fish if escapement goals are met for managed stocks and industry is capable of taking the surplus fish, Baker said.
The problem for harvesters and processors with the 2008 run of 42.1 million sockeye was that the run came in unusually compressed. Processors told state officials in a pre-season processor capacity survey that they could handle up to 1.7 million reds a day, which they did.
At the same time, they were forced to set limits on how much harvest they would take from fishing vessels in a day, and fishermen were frustrated and just plain angry about having to set in their boats and watch thousands of salmon swim by.
To be fair to the processors, it's ideal for them to bring just enough capacity to the bay to handle the fish, said Chris McDowell, a Bristol Bay salmon fisherman to writes the salmon marketing report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. "The margins are always very tight in the seafood business," he said.
The forecast for each district and river system is 12.11 million reds to Naknek Kvichak District; 9.59 million to Egegik District; 2.38 million to Ugashik District; 8.93 million to Nushagak District; and 0.77 million to Togiak District.
Baker noted the tendency for forecasts and projected harvests to be biased low in recent years. The forecast in 2008 was 4 percent below the total run.
Forecasts since 2001 have averaged 9 percent below the actual total run, while expected harvests have averaged 5 percent below actual harvest for the same period. Expected harvest differences have ranged from 17 percent below actual harvest in 2006 to 33 percent above actual harvest in 2004, he said.