BRISTOL BAY, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting another bumper year for sockeye salmon in 2018. An expected 51 million sockeye could return, with 37 million set aside for commercial fishing. "All systems are expected to meet their spawning escapement goals," wrote the ADF&G in a news release.
The bumper forecast comes amidst debate about whether to open the controversial Pebble Mine, a move that supporters say would bring growth and economic activity to the region. Detractors say the mine would harm the profitable watershed.
ADF&G says size of the predicted run is "18% greater than the most recent 10-year average Bristol Bay total runs." The predicted 51 million returning sockeye would also be 41 percent greater than the long-term mean of 33.78 million fish. There is a predicted escapement of 12.20 million sockeye.
Furthermore, a total harvest of nearly 40 million fish would be 87 percent greater than the long-term average of 20.85 million fish. ADF&G says that average was recorded from 1963 until now.
The lower end of the forecast range would be 40.68 million while the higher end of the forecast would see 61.88 million sockeye return, says ADF&G.
ADF&G says due to the unpredictability of the salmon run, the department has incorrectly predicted the sockeye run in the past. “Since 2001, our forecasts have, on average, under-forecast the run by 11%,” the department wrote.