Alaskan salmon trends went in opposite directions in 2022, sometimes a lot, but ended up meeting in the middle. The total commercial salmon harvest for the year finished near historical averages for total fish and value, according to a preliminary summary report released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The total commercial harvest of all salmon species was 160.7 million fish, slightly below the long-term average of 167 million, according to the summary report, released Thursday.
Total ex-vessel value, the amount paid directly to harvesters before processing, was $720.4 million, up from the $643.9 million total reported for 2021. Unadjusted for inflation, the 2022 total value is among the highest in Alaska. history, but inflation adjustments bring that total down to about the average of reported harvests since 1975, the Fish and Game report said.
High-priced sockeye harvests were particularly strong in 2022, affecting totals.
The statewide sockeye harvest of 74.8 million fish was a record, boosted by a record return in the Bristol Bay region, according to Fish and Game’s summary report. Sockeye salmon accounted for two-thirds of the state’s total salmon harvest value in 2022, according to the report.
At the same time, the report said, there were no commercial harvests of any salmon species in the areas where salmon runs collapsed — the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. The salmon runs in those rivers were so abysmal that even subsistence fishing, the harvesting of salmon for the basic food needs of the villagers, was scarce.
Alaska’s total commercial harvest this year of pink salmon, the cheapest and usually most abundant of the state’s five salmon species, was less than half last year’s 69.1 million fish compared to 161 million fish in 2021. This reduction somewhat reflects this reduction. the natural population cycles of pink salmon, which have a two-year lifespan, according to the report. Even-year yields and pink salmon harvests are generally lower than odd-numbered years.
The total 2022 harvest, including the breakdown between sockeye and pink salmon, was almost exactly what the department had predicted this spring.
A more detailed review of the 2022 commercial salmon season will be included in the 2023 harvest forecast due next spring.