Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 17, 2020

Jun 17, 2020

Nushagak saw a big jump in its daily counts yesterday. The Wood River and Egegik towers started counting today. Kings are just starting to hit Dillingham beaches. Port Moller Test Fishery wasn’t out on the water, but they hope to get enough fish today to start running stock compositions.

Dillingham Harbor. June 2, 2020.
Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG



The Nushagak sonar crew counted 4,518 on June 16 -- a big increase from the previous daily counts. The cumulative unapportioned count is now 17,404.

The crew needs to catch 5 fish in each strata (inshore and offshore on each side of the river) to apportion the counts. According to biologist Tim Sands, the sockeye and chum tend to stay in the inshore strata. In an email update, he said, “The fact that we can’t apportion the count yet is another indication of how few king salmon are going by.”

Strong winds in Dillingham and may move some kings up the Nushagak, which Sands expects to see tonight or tomorrow morning. 

The Wood River is counting. As of 8:30 a.m. the crew had counted 372 fish. 

Chignik Weir Counts

6/15/2020: 1,467 sockeye passed the Chignik River weir on June 15, bringing the total run so far to 8,736. That is 4,000 below last year’s run at this point in the season, though it’s a bit above the 2018 run of 5,614.

Area M

Over in Area M, the total sockeye harvest for the South Peninsula is at 89,201. The chinook run is just under 2,000. The coho record remains at 226, pinks are at 803,760, and the chum harvest is 153,955.

Port Moller

Let’s go now to the Port Moller Test Fishery. No numbers from yesterday -- the Ocean Cat was in port doing some repairs, which coincided with unfishable weather conditions. 

The Ocean Cat is trying to get enough fishing done to reach a total fish sample size of 190, which is necessary for them to consider any stock composition estimates. 

In an email update, technician Michael Link said, “Should [today] be unfishable, we might try a similar strategy the following day (Thursday).  We’ll see.”


Three additional COVID-19 cases in Bristol Bay

China has stopped imports from European salmon suppliers due to fears of a connection between salmon imports and coronavirus, according to a report by Reuters. State-run newspapers in China reported the coronavirus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at a market in Beijing. The initial cluster of infections came from the same market, and some fear the discovery of virus there indicates a second wave of the coronavirus in China. 

Several fisheries organizations are pushing back against those reports. The National Fisheries Institute compiled statements on Tuesday from health professionals and agencies like the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration saying there is no connection between seafood and COVID-19. 

Fish marketing experts are assessing how the rumors could affect Alaska salmon’s image in the world. If people think eating salmon could put them at increased risk of contracting the virus -- even if that information is incorrect -- that could harm markets. 

“Any time there’s information or misinformation, we have to wait and see how consumers respond to that,” said Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

China made up roughly 6% of the market for Bristol Bay sockeye in 2019 -- it imported about 3,100 metric tons of the region’s reds]. While that’s not a huge customer base, Wink says, it’s still important, especially in terms of the potential growth it represents. 

“You know, I think we’ll have to wait and see to what extent -- if this impacts market demand outside of China, and, you know, if it impacts consumer demand in other markets in the U.S. and Europe and Japan where we have a much larger market share and many more consumers,” Wink said, adding that if necessary, BBRSDA will work with other marketing groups to distribute accurate information to consumers.

In an email, Ashley Heimbigner communications director with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute pointed out that multiple agencies have said there is no known link between seafood, food or food packaging and transmission of coronavirus. She also said Chinese officials issued a statement yesterday confirming that there was no evidence that salmon was the host or a carrier of COVID-19. 

"While there was an immediate negative reaction in the imported salmon supply chain, a short term correction is expected following this official statement," she wrote.

Heimbigner said that Alaska’s largest challenge with the Chinese market continues to be the 32-40% final tariffs on most seafood, including salmon, when it’s imported into China for domestic consumption .

Kings are running later than expected this season. Many nets from Kanakanak beach to the Wood river have been coming out with little to no fish. That’s not normally the case – by mid-June, there are usually at least a few kings in the nets.

“Yes, it has been very slow for kings this year, although this morning apparently there was some subsistence catch of kings and other fish you know, sockeye and chum as well but I’m particularly concerned about and watching the kings right now,” said Tim Sands, management biologist on the west side. “The fact that there was some king catch this morning is a positive. But in general, we’re well behind where we would normally be, I think, as far as people catching kings.”

Although some people on Kanakanak beach did say they’ve caught kings at their sites, others hoping for chinook were not as lucky. Sands said it's too early to tell what a late run might mean for the rest of the season.

“There’s no commercial yet so we can’t talk about the commercial harvest at all,” he said. “The subsistence harvest, again we’re well behind every year I’ve ever seen I think at this point. There might a year or two where I haven’t caught a king yet at this point and I’ve been out 3 times so far this year…So we’re definitely behind where we want to be and where we usually are on our escapement – that’s our main metric that we use on the Nushagak.”

The strong winds we’ve been seeing around the bay may increase the number of kings coming into the river soon.

The Dillingham City Council passed an emergency ordinance last night to change the mandatory quarantine requirements for people coming to Dillingham from outside of the region.

The change allows people quarantining for 14 days in Dillingham to leave the community prior to those 14 days if they have completed a COVID-19 test in Dillingham.

The 14 day quarantine is still mandatory through August 8. People still have to get a test on day 13 of quarantine before they can end quarantine.

People can still forgo the mandatory 14-day quarantine if they have completed the 14 days prior to arrival in Dillingham and obtained a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival in the city. People can also forgo the requirement if they have obtained two negative results within 10 days of each other. One of those tests must be taken at least 72 hours after arriving in Dillingham.

The city council also passed a resolution to expedite the purchase of a new ambulance for the fire department. The resolution waives the normal permitting process for purchasing the equipment in favor of having the ambulance in town before the last barge of the year. If the resolution had not passed, the city would have had to wait until next spring to get the ambulance.