Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: July 24, 2019

Jul 24, 2019

The Nushagak continues to slow to a halt, but there’s still a steady catch on the east side. Egegik pulled in more than a hundred thousand and Ugashik is still trying to make up for a weak early season.

 

 

Remnants of an abandoned cannery near Nushagak Bay,
Credit Alex Hager / KDLG

The Nushagak continues to slow to a halt, but there’s still a steady catch on the east side. Egegik pulled in more than a hundred thousand and Ugashik is still trying to make up for a weak early season.

 

On the west side today, Nushagak is still in its waning days. The district posted a catch of 18,000 yesterday, but the season cumulative is up to 14.7 million. Nushagak escapement was 38,000 yesterday and 2.9 million on the season. Breaking Tuesday’s escapement down by river, the Igushik saw 27,000 fish and the Nushagak got 12,000. The Wood River tower is done for the season, so no escapement numbers from there.

Also on the west side, Togiak fishermen brought in a catch of 42,000 yesterday, pushing the cumulative up to 640,000. Escapement in the district was 13,000 yesterday and 142,000 on the year.

To the east, Egegik is posting the biggest catch numbers on that side of the bay. Yesterday, the district brought in 110,000 fish, making the cumulative 14.6 million. Escapement there was 22,000 yesterday and 2.3 million on the year. 

The Ugashik district is still fishing hard, and they brought in 62,000 fish yesterday. The cumulative so far this season is still scrapping to break a million. Right now it’s hanging around 911,000. Escapement was 410,000 yesterday and 1.3 million so far this year. 

The Naknek-Kvichak had a catch of 66,000 yesterday. That brings the cumulative up to 11.3 million. Daily escapement over there was 55,000, which puts the cumulative at 6.1 million. Breaking that escapement down by river, the Kvichak got 24,000 fish, the Naknek counted 18,000, and the Alagnak got 12,500.

Down the peninsula in Area M, the South Pen is up to 1.14 million sockeye and 10.7 million pinks.

On the north side, they’ve caught 1.8 million sockeye, which brings the combined sockeye total for Area M up to 2.9 million.

 

Things are finally picking up after a long dry spell in Chignik. Those folks are still on an opener that runs until midnight tomorrow. Escapement at the Chignik weir yesterday was 4,900, and the cumulative is 507,000 so far this year.

 

At 42.2 million fish, 2019’s cumulative harvest is the second largest in history. The biggest harvest on record was set at 44.2 million in 1995. Andy Wink, the executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, said he is encouraged by this year’s catch numbers -- and by the base price of $1.35. 

That base price of $1.35 is a 10 cent increase from last year. Wink said it’s important to distinguish between the base and final pay, which factors in adjustments and quality bonuses. The final price for 2019 won’t be set until sometime next year, once processors pay adjustments.   

But if processors aren’t making enough money to pay those adjustments, the final price might not be as high. And what processors make is determined by a whole slew of factors -- the quality of the fish, trade tariffs, the value of the dollar, and prices for competing species. 

Overall, Wink said, the region has seen an upward trend in the past few years. As the wholesale value of Bristol Bay sockeye has increased, fishermen have gotten a higher value and a higher percentage. 

The market’s ups and downs usually have a bigger impact on fishermen than on processors, since processing and shipping costs generally remain the same. But Wink added that a healthy processing sector was critical for competitive prices.

With this summer’s abnormal heat, chilling was especially important for quality. Wink says that by and large, the high temps didn’t seem to hamper those efforts. But while the hot spell is over, Wink said he’s still concerned about some of the fleet’s dry boats.

As the season winds down, BBRSDA is working with Alaska Marine Lines to give a discount to drifters shipping their vessels down to Seattle for repairs.

 

 

It’s hard to imagine Bristol Bay without canneries. Since the late 1800s, canneries have been a cornerstone of economic *and* social life here, dominating the shores of rivers across the bay.

The NN Cannery History Project has worked for years to preserve the stories of the people who lived and worked around the South Nanke Diamond NN cannery. KDLG’s Sage Smiley attended a presentation on one of the most significant years in Bristol Bay history for today's show.

You can find the NN Cannery History Project and the stories they’ve told already online at nncanneryproject.com

 

We’re in the final stretch of this summer’s fish report now, but we’re still taking suggestions and requests. If there’s anything we missed or anything you wanna hear about, send it our way. You can email the show at fish@kdlg.org or call 842-5281. That’s the same place to go with song requests and messages to the fleet.