Salmon gillnetting in Alaska. (Photo: United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters)
Salmon gillnetting season kicks off in Alaska
Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
Fish processors and fishers are optimistic about Alaska’s ripe sockeye salmon gillnetting season which kicked off this weekend.
Chris Knight, executive director of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters, expects better returns than for sockeye than in 2010 and hefty chum returns just like last year. As reports from the Copper River show powerful numbers, fleets on similar ocean survival rates should see good returns also.
Prices are also pointing toward a bright outlook. Knight said some prices rose by about 20 per cent in 2010.
“This year prices look even stronger and we expect relatively decent chum returns and hope for decent sockeye returns,” he commented, reports Juneau Empire.
Salmon processors concur and speculate that initial prices suggest chum prices could rise up to USD 0.80 a lb -- the highest in around 20 years, according to Knight. For this year, they expect them to hike another 10-20 per cent.
“Particularly, pink and chum have gone up because of steady demand from Asian markets,” he explained.
Taku Fisheries VP and General Manager Eric Norman thinks most of the catch will consist of chum, which have grown more popular over the last several years along with a widespread increased demand for high-protein foods.
Alaska Glacier Seafoods CEO Mike Erickson said that even though less than a decade ago chum were hard to sell, things have changed.
“It looks like strong market conditions that require strong ground prices,” Erickson said. “There is a market demand that will allow for that.”
Knight explained that the season brings a local economic push to Juneau.
“This is a fairly significant fishery with excess of 100 resident permits in town that prosecute the gillnet fishery. It’s a fairly significant revenue stream for local businesses and the community at large,” he noted.
Meanwhile, nobody is sure what will happen with coho salmon.
Knight said the species had average to poor returns in 2010 and the Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) reports that the returns are consistent this year. ADFG’s 2011 Southeast Alaska Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan states that last year’s coho contributions to gillnet fisheries were some 252,000 fish, or 50 per cent of total harvests.
The report’s pink salmon harvest forecast for the Southeast is 55 million fish, with a range of 43 to 67 million; the region-wide forecast of hatchery chum salmon returns is anticipated to be 8.6 million.
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By Natalia Real