Strong sockeye run, good prices forecast for Bristol Bay

Salmon forecasts continue to come in around the state, with Bristol Bay possibly looking at a total run of around 41.5 million sockeye, 10 million less than the actual run last year of 51.4 million sockeye.

Last year came in second out of the last 20 years as far as run size, but was nearly 50 percent above the 35.1 million fish average run for the same period.

Based on the forecasted run and other indicators, a harvest of 27.5 million sockeye is predicted for 2017.

The 2017 forecast for both total run and harvest after escapement are only a bit below what was forecast for 2016.

Prior to the expected near-record Bristol Bay harvest in 2016, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game predicted a 46.55 million fish run and a harvest of around 29.52 million. If the department is off by the same amount in 2017, the run could be 10 percent higher and the actual harvest could be 26 percent higher or 34.7 million fish.

However, as history has shown, predicting Bristol Bay runs, or any salmon run in Alaska, is notoriously difficult.

Pink salmon runs in 2016 were forecasted to return at record levels, but ended up causing disaster declarations in many parts of the state.

Meanwhile, strong sockeye salmon prices are predicted for Alaska wild salmon.

Sockeye inventories are reportedly all but bare leading into the new season, according to Fishnews.com.

“Fillet pricing has been steady since last summer, ranging between $6.65 and $6.85 per pound in Vancouver (B.C.) However, any remaining fillet inventories, if you can find them, are approaching $7.00 per pound,” they reported.

“(Fifty three) million sockeye were harvested in Alaska last year, with an average fish size of 5.4 pounds — compare that to 54 million fish in 2015 at an average size of 5.2 pounds. The 2017 projections for Alaska show sockeye harvests around 40.9 million fish, so we anticipate the price to rise with minimum supply early on in the season.”

However, in the world markets, Russian sockeye will be a factor this year. U.S. imports of frozen sockeye salmon in 2016 from Russia were the strongest in the past 8 years.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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