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Latest BBSRI Forecast Puts the Bristol Bay Sockeye Run at 38-Million

Mike Mason

Catches appear to be tailing off at the Port Moller Test Fishery but there appears to be a sizable tail left to this year’s sockeye run. This has led to an updated in-season total run forecast of 38-million sockeye. The annual Port Moller Test Fishery runs from June 10th through July 10th with the goal of providing data to fishermen, processors, and managers about the sockeye resource about 6 to 9-day’s away from the in-shore districts. Catches through the test fishery have fallen off a bit but there appears to still be a significant amount of sockeye moving through the test fishery area headed to Bristol Bay. 157-sockeye were taken Tuesday. The catch at station 2 was 26 fish and the catch at station 4 was 25-sockeye. 19-fish were taken at station 6 and the catch at station 8 was 44. 43-sockeye were taken at station 10. The daily replacement index number Tuesday was 31, which pushes the cumulative index number up to 564. The daily replacement index number was 52, which pushes the cumulative index number up to 1,210. That’s well shy of the average index number of 1,743 for July 1st and only twice in the last 24-years has the cumulative number been lower than this year’s 1,210 for July 1st. Those years were 2007 and 1998. The run turned out to be 44-million fish strong in 2007 but just 18-million in 1998. The interpretation of Tuesday’s catches suggests that the daily replacement index at the Test Fishery began the end of the year decline on Tuesday. However, Fisheries Scientist Scott Raborn with the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute noted that while catches should continue to fade there appears to be a sizable tail left. He notes that the run through the test fishery area showed a 2 peak pattern this year with the first peak occurring on June 23rd. If you figure in a 6 to 9-day travel time, that put those sockeye in-shore in Bristol Bay over the weekend or early this week. That somewhat coincides with the massive 2.6-million fish harvest day recorded last Friday and the 2-million harvest day on Saturday. Things have since slowed down a bit in the Bay but the second peak recorded at the Port Moller Test Fishery was Sunday, June 29th. Depending on the travel time, those fish will hit the in-shore districts sometime over the weekend or early next week. Raborn notes that currently it looks like the run through the Test Fishery area will be about 2-days early, which should translate into about the same run timing inshore. Raborn wrote that the data suggests catch and escapement will pick back up starting Thursday. As part of analyzing the data, Raborn and the others working on the Port Moller Test Fishery project have put forward a total run projection. The latest model, based on the catches at the test fishery and the catch and escapement inshore, shows that this year’s run will be over 38-million strong. If that turns out to be correct it would be a huge increase over the Fish and Game preseason forecast, which anticipated a sockeye run this year of just 26.5-million. The BBSRI model shows the run to the Egegik District coming in 55-percent above the pre-season forecast and the run to the Naknek-Kvichak District coming in about 72-percent above forecast. The run to the Nushagak District is anticipated to come in 27-percent above the forecast. In the Port Moller Test Fishery interpretation issued very early Wednesday morning, Raborn wrote that such a drastic adjustment to the forecast seems extreme. However, he notes that it’s what the data and modeling suggests. The latest genetic information from the catch at the test fishery was released Tuesday night for the catch on June 28th and 29th. Figuring in a 6 to 9-day travel time buts those fish inshore this weekend or early next week. 47-percent of the fish analyzed showed a genetic signal for the Kvichak River and 18.8-percent were apparently bound for the Egegik River. The genetic signal for the Igushik River was 11.7-percent and 6.8-percent for the Wood River. 7.7-percent apparently showed a genetic signal for the Naknek River and 6.6-percent were Alagnak River sockeye. Just 1.3-percent were Ugashik River sockeye and just 0.1-percent carried the genetic signal for the Nushagak River. No genetic signals were detected for sockeye bound for the Togiak or Kuskokwim Rivers.