Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Seawatch: Bristol Bay sockeye run could stress processors

Bristol Bay is expected to see a return of as many as 75 million sockeye salmon

Some Bristol Bay fishermen have been expressing anxiety about the ability of area processors to handle the huge sockeye run expected for this season, and the area’s largest marketing association hasn’t expressed the utmost confidence that processors will be able to handle the expected record run.

Bristol Bay is expected to see a return of as many as 75 million sockeye salmon and a possible harvest of 52 million fish if processors meet their goals.

That would compare to the 2021 previous record harvest of 40.4 million sockeye and a potential available harvest in 2022 of 60 million sockeye if processors are able to buy every available fish, a difference of 8 million or more sockeye, depending upon the actual return.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveys processors every year about their anticipated processing capacity based on the projected run. For 2022, 15 major commercial processing companies responded, and for the first time in a long time responded by saying they would not likely be able to buy every fish available for delivery.

The last time commercial salmon fishermen in Bristol Bay were put on catch limits, meaning they could only offload so many pounds per day, was 2008, back when Sarah Palin was governor.

That was far before COVID-19 appeared on the horizon, which caused myriad marketing, workplace and supply-chain problems, some of which are still gumming up the works.

Some of those problems are hopefully being alleviated by the federal government issuing 35,000 additional H-2B visas for non-agricultural visas for tourism and fishing workplaces.

However, salmon prices have rebounded from pre-pandemic levels, and the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association estimates that the lost revenue from unharvested sockeye could be as much as $100 million, depending upon run timing.

“Foregone harvest can happen for several reasons, aside from processing capacity, but just for context, the value of the (theoretically available) 9.1 million sockeye that weren’t caught in Bristol Bay last year (2021) was approximately $75 million in ex-vessel terms, which would rank as the state’s third-largest salmon fishery (behind Bristol Bay and Prince William seine),” BBRSDA said on their website. “For the processor’s part, this is also a golden opportunity. Demand for Bristol Bay sockeye appears to be near an all-time high, at least in the modern era that includes large-scale farmed salmon production. All things considered, the sockeye pricing outlook is strong whether the harvest is 40 million, 50 million, or 60 million fish.”

More in News

Bruce Jaffa, of Jaffa Construction, speaks to a group of students at Seward High School’s Career Day on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward students talk careers at fair

More than 50 businesses were represented

Alaska state Sen. Bert Stedman, center, a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, listens to a presentation on the major North Slope oil project known as the Willow project on Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. The committee heard an update on the project from the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Revenue. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Official: Willow oil project holds promise, faces obstacles

State tax officials on Thursday provided lawmakers an analysis of potential revenue impacts and benefits from the project

Jerry Burnett, chair of the Board of Game, speaks during their Southcentral meeting on Friday, March 17, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Board of Game decides on local proposals

Trapping setbacks, archery hunts and duck restrictions were up for consideration

Audre Hickey testifies in opposition to an ordinance that would implement a citywide lewdness prohibition in Soldotna during a city council meeting on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council kills citywide lewdness ordinance

The decision followed lengthy public comment

Samantha Springer, left, and Michelle Walker stand in the lobby of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Springer named new head of Kenai chamber

Springer, who was raised in Anchorage, said she’s lived on the Kenai Peninsula since 2021

Forever Dance performers rehearse “Storytellers” on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Storytellers’ weave tales with their feet

Dance and literature intersect in latest Forever Dance showcase

Soldotna City Hall is photographed on Wednesday, June 24, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs donation of portable shower, restroom facilities to homelessness coalition

The city purchased the portable restroom and shower trailer for about $182,000 in October 2020

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. The deadline for the permanent fund dividend is coming up fast, landing on March 31, 2023. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
PFD application deadline is next week; state revenue forecasts lower than expected

Alaska North Slope crude oil was estimated to be about $71.62 per barrel on Monday

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19: Cases jump in Kenai Peninsula Borough

No hospitalizations were reported in the Gulf Coast region

Most Read