Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 19, 2023
Welcome to the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report! It’s a very different start to the season than last year, the 2023 season forecast is down from last year’s record-breaking run of 79 million fish - but still strong at an estimated 51 million. And, we dive into some of the impacts of last season’s massive harvest - what some market analysts are calling a “hangover year” - and fishing crews respond to what could be a dramatic drop in prices.
Get in touch and share some perspective — give us a call 907-842-2200 or send an email to email@example.com. If you’d like to get a message out to the fleet on this show, send your messages to the fleet to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nushagak King action plan explainer
Chinook or King salmon have declined sharply in the Nushagak watershed, prompting action by the Board of Fish this spring. While the river’s sockeye population continues to push historical records, the Nushagak king run has fallen short of minimum escapement goals five of the last six years. Last fall, the state declared Nushagak kings a stock of concern and the Board of Fish approved an action plan in an attempt to conserve them. But what does the plan mean for the upcoming commercial fishing season? KDLG’s Jack Darrell reports.
Fishermen raise alarm at what could be dramatic price drop
Headed into the season, many fishermen are concerned about prices. While Alaska seafood companies have not officially announced a base price, there are some signs of what could be a dramatic drop this season. KDLG spoke with fishing crews at the Dillingham harbor last week about this season’s price forecast.
KDLG reached out to seafood processing companies to comment on the base price concerns, but did not hear back before airtime.
What's behind a potential price drop?
The Bristol Bay commercial harvest forecast, processing, market supply, competition and retailer prices, as well as consumer demand, all contribute to how much money people make in the fishery.
Andy Wink is director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, joins us to discuss. Wink calls this season a “hangover year,” – the result of a major surplus from last year’s record breaking harvest of 60 million fish. Bristol Bay’s prices aren’t out yet, but low prices from other fisheries around the state indicate fishermen could see dramatically lower prices this year.
Changes afloat at the Dillingham harbor this year
With the fishing season is upon us, changes are afoot down at the Dillingham Harbor. This includes repairs on two of the harbor’s floats, new crane use fees, and the availability of Narcan kits at the harbor office. KDLG’s Jessie Sheldon reports.
This season on the Fish Report, we’re launching a new weekly segment called Mechanical Mondays. Whether you are an experienced boat engineer or a new deckhand, or working with a new engine or boat this season, we’ll spotlight boat mechanics’ tips, tricky engine problems, the quick patchwork repairs and what works long term.
This week, we speak with Gabe Dunham. He’s with Alaska Sea Grant, and has taught marine safety and operations for nearly a decade. As a refresher, Dunham gives us a rundown on what you should be looking out for in terms of safety with all mechanical systems mounted to a Bristol Bay gillnetter ahead of the season
Messages to the Fleet
For the captain of the Linda K:
The sun is always shining, above the clouds.
For Ed on the F/V Nezzan:
Ed, Happy Father's Day! We love and miss you. Have a great day and a good season. Love your family.
Meet the 2023 Fisheries Report team
Corinne Smith is back for a second season. Originally from Oakland, CA, she comes from reporting in Homer, and prior to that as a local news reporter in Haines, Petersburg and the Bay Area, CA. Jessie Sheldon is from the Seattle area and has a passion for fisheries, wilderness, and fishy art. Jack Darrell is from Baltimore, MD and has been reporting on the fisheries of the mid-Atlantic and Seattle areas.
Goodbye to KDLG's Izzy Ross
A familiar voice and KDLG reporter of the last five years is moving on. Izzy Ross is headed to a year-long climate solutions reporting role with Grist and Interlochen Public Radio in Michigan. She bids goodbye to the Fisheries Report and shares what she learned covering the past four seasons.
In the Nushagak River, counts were low Sunday for King and chum.
At the Nushagak River sonar, only 4,406 sockeye passed on Sunday for a total of 14,832 up the river so far.
The Nushagak River is forecasted to see 16.7 million sockeye return this year.
Only 31 Chinook passed for a total of 10,142 so far this season.
And 23 chum salmon passed the sonar, for a total of 11,004.
2,484 sockeye passed the Wood River counting tower yesterday - a much slower run than this time last year. Another 930 fish swam up as of 6 a.m. this morning
About 8 million sockeye are expected to return to the Wood.
No counts from the Igushik or Togiak towers yet. The Igushik’s forecasted return is larger this year at about 3.35 million sockeye. Togiak’s forecast is an estimated 700,000 sockeye.
Egegik fishermen caught a total of 33,056 and 10 chinook as of June 17. The season’s escapement is at just 30 fish. The season’s escapement goal is over 800,000.
Fish and Game says Egegik tower operations began on Saturday, and data from the in-river test fishery shows passage rates are low.
Egegik is expected to see around 11 million sockeye.
We’re still waiting for updates from counting crews on the Naknek and Kvichak Rivers. The Naknek is forecasted to see 6.5 million sockeye run, and the Kvichak is expecting to see over 8 million fish. Alagnak numbers will start to come in next week. The Alagnak is forecasted to get around 4.2 million
We’re still waiting on numbers from Ugashik. Around 3.3 million fish are predicted to return to the Ugashik River.
Chignik Weir Counts
At the Chignik River weir, 10,832 sockeye swam through the weir yesterday, for a total of 58,800.
An estimated 10,600 fish were part of the early run, and almost 200 fish part of the late run.
The Chigniks total escapement goal is 470,000 to 800,000.
In Area M, fishing fleets harvested almost 50,000 sockeye on Sunday for a total of almost 547,250.
Chinook harvest was at 826 fish total, pink harvest was at 62,141 fish, chum were at 91,187, and coho were at just 19 fish.
The South Peninsula harvested almost all of that catch, with the South Unimak and Shumagin Islands fleets hauling in 546,817 sockeye and 800 Chinook so far.
Port Moller Test Fishery
The Research Vessel Ocean Cat is back for its 5th season. The second vessel is the F/V Miss Leona, an 86 foot trawler owned and operated by Chris Allison. The at-sea genetics lab launched last year is also aboard the Miss Leona, and will be providing the genotyping service without bringing tissues ashore. Technicians will send that data to Fish and Game geneticists in Anchorage. That’s where we get the stock composition numbers, and share with you all.
No fish were caught at Station 2, 6, 12, 14, 16, or 20.
At the following test fishery stations, the smaller mesh size is 4 ½ inch and the larger mesh size is 5 ⅛.
Station 4 caught 24 fish in the small net and 2 fish in the big net. That catch index is 45.
Station 8 caught 42 fish in the small net and 3 fish in the big net.That catch index is 82.
Station 10 caught 69 fish in the small net and 30 fish in the big net. That catch index is 156.
Station 18 caught 3 fish in the small net and 4 fish in the big net. That catch index is 13.
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