Chignik salmon fisheries made $3000 between six permits in 2018

Oct 6, 2018

The exvessel value per permit has been over $100,000 for the past 10 years in the Chignik Management Area. This year, the entire fishery brought in $3000, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's season summary.

Chignik Bay
Credit Mitch Borden/KDLG

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game released its summary of the 2018 Chignik salmon season this week. The Board of Fish already declared the sockeye salmon fishery a disaster in early July. Then the governor declared it an economic disaster in August. This report from Fish and Game confirms that the entire fishery only brought about $3000 dollars between the six permit holders who fished. KDLG’s Avery Lill has more.

Audio Transcript:

The overall sockeye salmon run to the Chignik River was 540,000 fish. That is the lowest return on record since statehood. There were no commercial fishing opportunities for sockeye this summer in an effort to get more fish upriver to spawn. Although, fishermen incidentally caught 128 reds during a two-day opener in July aimed at harvesting pink and chum salmon.

The Chignik River gets two individual salmon runs, an early run and a late run. The late run actually made its minimum escapement goal—but barely. The early run, on the other hand, only hit about half of its escapement goal of 350,000 sockeye.

So the sockeye salmon return was a disaster. How did the other species of salmon fair? To paint with a broad brush, not well.

In terms of harvest, there was a second 48-hour commercial fishing opener targeting silvers in September. One coho was caught. Over the last 10 years, fishermen have brought in an average of 111,000 silvers.

Chignik Management Area
Credit ADF&G

During the July two-day opener targeting pink and chum salmon, fishermen brought in 6 pink and 924 chum. Normally fishermen catch 702,000 pink during the even years and 253,000 chum annually. There were no openings for Chinook.

In terms of escapement, coho escapement was actually above average. Chum salmon escapement was below the escapement goal, but Fish and Game noted that the weather was poor for surveying and that if the conditions were better, then they would likely have counted enough chum to meet the escapement goal.

The pink run was weak. According to Fish and Game, the Chignik Management Area only counted about a quarter of its minimum escapement goal, 170,000 pinks.

The king run was also very poor. Only 825 Chinook made it upstream to spawn. The bottom end of the escapement goal is 1300 kings. State subsistence fishing and sport fishing for Chinook was closed on July 13 to try to get more upriver.

Overall, the summary confirms what fishermen in the area have been saying since the beginning of the summer. It was an extremely rough year. The average exvessel value for each permit in the Chignik Management Area has been above $100,000 for past 10 years, sometimes double or triple that, and usually more than 50 permit holders fish. This year only six permit holders fished during the four open days of fishing. The average value they brought in was a mere $500 per permit.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.