ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Good news for anglers in Alaska looking to catch salmon this year — The Alaska Department of Fish and game predicts a big jump in salmon numbers over those harvested last year.
Last year, fishermen caught about 116 million, and this year it's projected be around 213 million. That's about an 85% increase, which is always welcome news to commercial fisheries, tourists, local businesses, and especially coastal communities who depend on healthy fisheries.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says this prediction is primarily based off of expected large pink salmon and chum harvest this year.
"This year's harvest is primarily, because it's an odd year, and we typically have a large pink salmon run and harvest in odd years," Said Andrew Munro, Fishery Scientist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries. "2013 was a historical harvest of pink salmon, and this year's forecast is in line with our previous recent odd year harvests."
It's a prediction that's typically a good driver for local business.
"When the forecast is good, it's good for two reasons. Number one, when the commercial fishermen can catch a lot of good quality fish, that means we can get all the fish we need so we can smoke that and turn it into fine products that we sell to the local grocery stores," said Martin Eckmann, President of Alaska Sausage and Seafood.
Eckmann says it also generates excitement, and draws more anglers to Alaska during salmon season.
"When they get their fish and they have plenty of it, they bring it to us, we smoke it for them into some great smoked products that they can take home and enjoy for the rest of the year," said Eckmann.
The Department of Fish and Game says, although the salmon forecast is an important tool for the seafood industry, it's not an exact science.
"We typically are within plus or minus 20 percent," said Munro. "For example, last year we projected 147 million salmon to be harvested, and we actually harvested approximately 116 million. Whereas the year before, we had projected 204 million fish, and we had harvested around 225 million fish."
The Department of Fish and Game is predicting a record harvest of about 29 million chum salmon for this year, that's about 9 million above last year's harvest.
To view the full run forecasts and harvest projections for 2019, along with the 2018 review click here.