This year’s Kodiak salmon harvest of 34,361,257 salmon is worth approximately $45.8 million, well above the 10-year average, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
This total harvest number does not include hatchery-caught fish.
Purse seine fishermen accounted for the majority of the harvest. Their earnings averaged $227,552 per fished permit. Set gillnetters earned on average $38,725 per permit fished while beach seiners earned $1,461 per permit fished, according to a Fish and Game news release.
Including hatchery-caught fish, almost 33 million pink salmon were harvested, which is well above the forecast amount, and nearly double the 10-year average of 17,825,242 fish. The majority of pinks were harvested on the west and east sides of the island.
Sockeye and chinook salmon were under the 10-year average. In total, 2,176,572 sockeye salmon and 7,371 chinook salmon were harvested.
For other species, 393,812 coho salmon and 547,178 chum were harvested.
Throughout salmon season, Fish and Game open and close fisheries to achieve the salmon escapement goal, the number of salmon that should be allowed to escape the fishery to spawn to achieve the maximum return.
Observers flew 30 aerial surveys to measure salmon escapement, and several observers conducted surveys by boat and on foot to make escapement estimates.
However, after budget cuts in the department, some fisheries had to close in August due to lack of surveys. These included Dakavak Bay, Kukak Bay, Hallo Bay and Big River.
“If you cut the department’s ability to count fish, we typically just keep fisheries closed,” said James Jackson, a salmon and herring area management biologist at the department.
If fisheries are closed, fishermen will lose out on the opportunity to harvest, he said.
“The Kodiak area used to have 15 weirs,” he said. Weirs are a fence that stretches across the river used to count fish. Currently, there are only 10 weirs, five of which are paid by the state, he said.
Jackson noted that the cost of aircraft and biologists to conduct surveys is also increasing.
“You will get to a point where we won’t be able to open up fisheries. it will be a lost opportunity for fishermen.”
KODIAK SALMON FISHERY PROPOSALS
Salmon management and allocation will be topics of discussion, and could potentially be changed, at the Board of Fisheries meetings in the upcoming months.
The Board of Fish is a regulatory board whose members are appointed by the governor.
The board votes on proposals that affect state-managed fisheries, submitted by the public.
This year the meeting will take place in Kodiak and Upper and Lower Cook Inlet. These meetings will allow members of the public to submit public testimony for or against a proposal.
Kodiak fisheries stakeholders met last week at two Kodiak Fish and Game Advisory Committee meetings to discuss proposals. The committee is a group of people who represent different sectors of the Kodiak community and who report to the Board of Fish and the Board of Game.
“They vote on proposals and it gives the Board of Fish an idea of what locals think,” Jackson said.
Many of the proposals discussed at the meeting would restrict fishery openings and allocation in the Cape Igvak Salmon Management Plan to decrease the number of sockeye that can be harvested by Kodiak fishermen.
During each Kodiak Board of Fish finfish meeting, every three years, Chignik fishermen have historically submitted several proposals to restrict how much sockeye Kodiak fishermen can harvest, Jackson said.
Nate Rose, a salmon seiner and president of the Kodiak Salmon Seiners Association, countered these proposals at the meeting.
The management plans put in place already have measures to safeguard Chignik fishermen, he said.
“The safeguards put in place to ensure that Kodiak fishermen would never put a biological burden on the Chignik fishery,” Rose said. “We don’t go fishing unless there are 300,000 sockeye harvested in the Chignik Management Area.”
Several other contentious proposals were submitted by Cook Inlet fishermen. These proposals put harvest caps and close different areas to limit the incidental harvesting of Cook Inlet-bound fish.
“There are some flaws and assumptions that we (Kodiak fishermen) are causing significant harm biologically to Cook Inlet stocks by incidentally harvesting them here,” Rose said.
To contest these proposals, members of the public and the Fish and Game Advisory Committee will be able to take part in public comment during the January Board of Fish meeting in Kodiak.