The F/V Centurion.

The F/V Centurion.

Sea Watch: Small harvest was still profitable

Bigger is not always better, at least according to the preliminary summary of the 2018 Alaska salmon season.

In a report issued by the McDowell Group, this season was one of the smallest harvests on record but also one of the most profitable.

“The 2018 harvest is the seventh most valuable since 1975 in nominal terms; following anticipated revisions, the season may be the fifth or sixth most valuable,” it reads. “However, excluding 2016, the total harvest volume was the smallest in 34 years. The sockeye harvest was the second-most valuable in 26 years and the chum harvest was the third-most valuable since 1975.”

Ex-vessel prices were comparable or higher than 2017 values. The average ex-vessel price per fish in 2018 was $5.20 pounds, considerably higher than the $3.05 per fish paid in 2017, a difference largely driven by the record run and high price paid for sockeye in Bristol Bay, compared to the large run of lower-priced pink salmon which dominated 2017.

The average Chinook salmon in 2018 weighed 11.6 pounds and earned fishermen nearly $70 per fish, while the average sockeye earned $7 per fish.

However, the financial gains were largely focused on Bristol Bay sockeye.

Bristol Bay’s harvest of 41.2 million sockeye worth an estimated $275 million is a record for both volume and value. However, ADF&G’s sockeye salmon forecast for Bristol Bay in 2019 anticipates a return that is 10-percent lower than the 10-year average but about 16 percent above the 55-year average.

With the big push toward refrigeration systems and better handling practices, it is unlikely that sockeye prices will fall too far next season; however, a strong dollar and trade war politics may have a dampening effect. Excluding Bristol Bay, Alaska’s sockeye harvest was about 40 percent lower than the 10-year average. Prince William Sound’s harvest was nearly 50 percent lower than the 10-year average, Cook Inlet was 60 percent lower, and Southeast was down about 45 percent.

The disastrous Chignik harvest of only 128 sockeye compares to the 2017 harvest of nearly 900,000 fish.

Outside of Bristol Bay there were some bright spots. Southeast’s late-season harvest of chum salmon was largely unanticipated; about 3 million were harvested at Crawfish Inlet alone.

While modest, Norton Sound’s $4 million salmon harvest was a record, and both chum and coho harvests on the Yukon River were the fourth largest on record by volume.

Cristy Fry can be reached at

More in News

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces a tourism aid initiative during a press conference on Friday, April 9, 2021, at Wings Airways Hangar in Juneau, Alaska. Dunleavy was joined by officials and business owners, including Alaska Sen. Peter Micciche (left). (Governer’s Office/Kevin Goodman)
Dunleavy announces tourism aid initiative

Dunleavy said 1.3 million tourists were expected to come to Alaska via cruise ship before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Halibut season starts slow in Homer

The halibut season is off to a slow start in Homer, with… Continue reading

A Kelly Tshibaka campaign sign is seen inside of Nikiski Hardware & Supply on Friday, April 9 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tshibaka makes rounds on the peninsula

The former DOA head is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her Senate seat.

Homer News file photo
Homer High School.
School announcements

School district risk level update and upcoming events

Courtesy photo 
Dr. Cheryl Siemers, the new director of Kenai Peninsula College, is seen in this undated photo. She begins her term on Monday, June 21, 2021.
Cheryl Siemers to lead Kenai Peninsula College

Gary Turner is the current KPC director, and will be stepping down in June.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School board kills efforts to phase out insurance benefits for board members

Members of the board receive a monthly stipend in addition to being eligible for district insurance.

Homer Flex High School Phoenix Award winner David Young holds his certificate on March 25, 2021, at Flex High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Homer Flex High School)
Homer Flex Phoenix Award winner: David Young

Homer Flex School recently released its recipient of the Flex Phoenix Award… Continue reading

City of Homer staff hold a meeting in the Cowles Council Chambers at Homer City Hall in this undated photo. The chambers are being remodeled to allow COVID-safe public meetings. (Photo courtesy of City of Homer)
Council introduces ordinance prohibiting beach launches of Jet Skis

Council introduces ordinance to ban launching Jet Skis, other powerboats, from beaches.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alaska alert level is higher than national average.

COVID-19 cases continue rising statewide and on the southern Kenai Peninsula. Statewide,… Continue reading

Most Read