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Salmon Fishery Update
Southeast Alaska & Yakutat Commercial Fisheries

Updated Friday, June 15, 2018

Southeast Chinook Salmon Symposium

The Southeast Chinook Salmon Symposium hosted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was held on Monday, May 21, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at Sitka's Harrigan Centennial Hall. All event materials, presentations, and recorded audio are on the department's website at 2018 Sitka Chinook Symposium.

Presentation topics included:

  • Chinook salmon research: What we know about performance of local stocks, as well as Pacific Northwest Chinook salmon stocks coast-wide.
  • A look at the last 10 years of Chinook salmon management for commercial and sport fisheries, including annual allocations, actual harvest, and performance relative to the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
  • Conservative actions: Management measures in response to poor Chinook salmon production.
  • Treaty transparency: A summary of the treaty past, present, and future.
  • Public process and participation: An overview of the public regulatory process and how to get involved.
  • Public question and answer session.

Troll Fishery

During the 2018 Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting in Sitka, action plans to conserve wild Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon were adopted. These measures and further supplementary emergency order actions restrict spring troll fisheries for conservation of Southeast Alaska and transboundary river Chinook salmon stocks. Spring troll fisheries target Alaska hatchery Chinook salmon and, for 2018, are limited to seven terminal harvest areas and eight spring troll areas located on the outer coast and/or near hatchery release sites. When compared to recent years' openings, a reduced number of spring troll and terminal harvest fisheries opened May 1. A total of 15 spring troll and terminal harvest areas have been opened to date.

Through June 14 (Stat Week 24), approximately 195 permits holders have made 655 landings, with a total of 3,604 Chinook salmon harvested. This is a decrease in effort from both 2017 and the 5-year average, primarily due to the reduction in the number of areas opened. The 2018 cumulative spring Chinook harvest through June 14 is down from 2017 and the 5-year average by 1,868 and 16,261, respectively. The current spring troll seasonal average weight for Chinook salmon of 12.4 lbs. is above the 2017 average of 11.7 lbs. and at the 5-year average of 12.4 lbs. during the same weeks. The seasonal Chinook salmon average price per pound of $12.49 is a $3.09 increase from 2017, and a $5.28 increase from the 5-year average. A news release announcing openings for the week of June 17 will be issued this Friday, June 15.

For more information please see the 2018 Spring Troll Fishery Management Plan (PDF 5,470 kB)

Purse Seine Fishery

The Southeast Alaska purse seine fishery is managed according to statute, regulations, emergency order authority, and in consultation with the public and industry through the Purse Seine Management Task Force process. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued a preseason forecast for a harvest of 23 million pink salmon for 2018. This forecast for pink salmon, together with historical escapement estimates, fishery performance data, private non-profit hatchery forecasts for chum salmon and other species, are used to determine the management plan.

Regulations allow purse seine fishing in Districts 1 (Sections 1-C, 1-D, 1-E, and 1-F only), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (Sections 6-C and 6-D only), 7, 9, 10, 11 (Sections 11-A and 11-D only), 12, 13, and 14. Purse seine fishing is also allowed in hatchery terminal harvest areas (THA) at Neets Bay, Kendrick Bay, Anita Bay, Deep Inlet, and Hidden Falls. Although the areas specified above are designated purse seine fishing areas, specific open areas and fishing times are established inseason by emergency order.

Since statehood, 77% of the salmon harvested in SEAK commercial fisheries have been caught with purse seine gear. Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) is the primary species targeted by the purse seine fleet; therefore, most management actions are based on the abundance of pink salmon stocks. Chum salmon (O. keta) are targeted in or near hatchery terminal areas and the majority of the chum salmon harvest is from hatchery production. Other species of salmon are harvested incidentally to pink and chum salmon.

For more information please see the 2018 Southeast Alaska Purse Seine Fishery Management Plan (PDF 299 kB)

Drift Gillnet Fishery

Traditional Southeast area drift gillnet fisheries occur in Districts 1, 6, 8, 11, and 15. For more specific information please see the 2018 Southeast Alaska Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan (PDF 526 kB)

Tree Point/Section 1-B

The Tree Point drift gillnet fishery opens the third Sunday in June, or Sunday, June 17, 2018. For further details concerning this fishery, the 2018 Southeast Alaska Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan (PDF 526 kB).

Stikine and Prince of Wales/Districts 6 and 8

The 2018 preseason terminal run forecast for Stikine River large king salmon is 6,900 fish. This forecast is well below the average of 22,000 fish and well below the escapement goal range of 14,000-28,000 fish. This forecast does not allow for directed king salmon fisheries in District 8. Recent trends of Stikine River king salmon abundance and trends in king salmon abundance throughout SEAK indicate very poor survival of king salmon. As such, conservation measures will be in place for the start of the sockeye salmon fishery.

The 2018 preseason forecast for Stikine River sockeye salmon is 161,000 fish, which is near the average of 159,000 fish. This forecast includes: 112,000 Tahltan Lake, 13,000 enhanced Tuya Lake, and 36,000 mainstem sockeye salmon. Fishing periods in District 8, and to a lesser extent in District 6, will be determined by inseason abundance estimates of Stikine River sockeye salmon. Both districts could have opened by regulation as early as the second Sunday in June (June 10). However, with an expected poor run of Stikine River king salmon, conservation measures will be in place in both districts. Conservation measures include; delaying the initial sockeye salmon opening by two weeks in District 8 and by one week in District 6, implementing a six-inch maximum mesh size, limiting fishing time, and reducing fishing area in District 8. The initial District 6 opening on June 17 will be limited to 48 hours. The following week, both Districts will be open for an initial 48 hours on June 24 and may be extended based on observed effort and harvest levels. During the first few weeks of the sockeye salmon fishery, any extended fishing time or midweek openings will be based on the preseason forecasts, expected harvest levels, and stock proportion data.

Taku-Snettisham/Section 11-B

The District 11 drift gillnet fishery will be managed in accordance with the Transboundary River (TBR)Annex of the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST). Harvest sharing arrangements for Chinook, sockeye, and coho salmon through the 2018 fishing season are specified in the annex.

The preseason forecast is well below the escapement goal range and requires a conservative management approach for the 2018 Taku River Chinook salmon run. The forecast does not provide any AC for U.S. fisheries in early May, no assessment fishery will occur on the Canadian side of the border, and the joint U.S./Canada inriver assessment project on the U.S. side of the border will be minimized to reduce the number of fish handled. Inseason abundance estimates derived from comparisons of inriver tangle net CPUE may be available in mid- to late May and would be used to determine the extent of restrictions implemented during the initial weeks of the traditional sockeye salmon season possibly involving adjustments in time, area, and mesh size. However, inseason assessment may cease if the run does not appear large enough to allow the additional handling of fish.

Section 11-B will open for directed sockeye salmon fishing on the third Sunday in June (June 17) likely for a two-day fishing period with an area restriction closing waters in Taku Inlet north of Point Greely and west of a line of longitude running mid-inlet from the latitude of Point Greely to a point where it intersects with the shoreline south of Grand Island. A six-inch maximum mesh size restriction and night closures will be in effect. The second opening will likely have identical restrictions to the first. The maximum mesh size restriction and night closures will remain in place through at least the third opening and area may be liberalized during the third opening to have only those waters in the northern portion of Taku Inlet closed (for example, north of Cooper Point). Subsequent openings will be based on inseason fishery performance and stock assessment information, but Taku Inlet will likely only open for two days through the fifth opening and waters north of Jaw Point will be closed for the fourth and fifth openings.

The District 11 fishery will be managed through mid-August primarily on the basis of sockeye salmon abundance. Run strength will be evaluated using harvest and CPUE data, and weekly inriver run size estimates derived from the Taku River fish wheel mark-recapture project. Contribution of enhanced stocks of sockeye salmon will be estimated inseason by analysis of salmon otoliths sampled from the commercial harvests. The age and stock compositions of the commercial harvest of wild sockeye salmon will be estimated after the fishing season by scale pattern and genetic stock identification (GSI) analysis.

The returns of Port Snettisham enhanced sockeye salmon will be managed according to the District 11: Snettisham Hatchery Salmon Management Plan. The plan provides basic guidelines for managing enhanced sockeye salmon production from Port Snettisham including the following provisions in order of priority:

  • Sustainable production of wild sockeye salmon from Crescent and Speel lakes;
  • Manage Port Snettisham enhanced sockeye salmon returns in a manner that does not prevent achieving escapement goals or PST harvest sharing agreements for Taku River salmon stocks;
  • Assessment programs shall be conducted to estimate Port Snettisham wild sockeye salmon stock escapements and contributions of enhanced sockeye salmon to the District 11 commercial fishery;
  • Common property harvests in the Speel Arm Special Harvest Area (SHA) shall be conducted by limiting time and area to protect wild sockeye salmon returns.

Management of the fishery in Stephens Passage will focus on conservation of Port Snettisham wild sockeye salmon stocks, particularly in July. ADF&G intends to implement a six-inch minimum mesh size restriction in Section 11-B south of Circle Point in order to limit harvest rates on Port Snettisham wild sockeye salmon while allowing harvest of enhanced chum salmon returning to the Limestone Inlet remote release site. The mesh restriction in Section 11-B may be relaxed at the end of July or after the peak migration timing of Port Snettisham wild sockeye salmon stocks through Stephens Passage.

A personal use fishery will be allowed in Sweetheart Creek to ensure enhanced sockeye salmon returns to this site are fully utilized. Sweetheart Creek is naturally blocked to anadromous fish migration several hundred yards upstream from the mouth. The Sweetheart Creek personal use fishery will be open seven days per week starting June 1.

In order to avoid conflicts with sport fisheries, the District 11 drift gillnet fishery will not be open concurrent with the 2018 Juneau Golden North Salmon Derby (August 17-19) and will not open until Monday, August 20.

Pink salmon are harvested in Section 11-B incidental to sockeye and enhanced summer chum salmon fisheries. Fishing time for a directed pink salmon fishery in Section 11-C will depend upon the strength of pink salmon returns to lower Stephens Passage, Seymour Canal, and the northern portions of District 10. Returns will be closely monitored, but an opening in Section 11-C is highly unlikely based on parent-year escapements.

Beginning in mid-August, management of the Taku/Snettisham drift gillnet fishery will be based primarily on the run strength of returning Taku River coho salmon. In 2015, a point escapement goal of 70,000 Taku River coho salmon with a range of 50,000-90,000 fish was adopted by the TBR Panel. Similar to the past several seasons, Canada may harvest all coho salmon that pass above the border in excess of both the point escapement goal and a 5,000 fish assessment fishery. The District 11 fishery will be managed to provide a minimum above border run of 75,000 coho salmon. Inseason management will be based on evaluation of the fishery catch, effort, and CPUE relative to historical levels, inriver run size estimates from the Taku River mark-recapture project, and recovery of CWT Taku River wild and hatchery coho salmon in marine fisheries.

Lynn Canal/District 15

The gillnet fishery in Lynn Canal, District 15, will begin at noon on June 17 (SW 25) and will be managed according to the Lynn Canal and Chilkat River King Salmon Fishery Management Plan (5 AAC 33.384) and the Board of Fisheries guidelines reported in the Chilkat River and King Salmon River King Salmon Stock Status and Action Plan, 2018 (Lum and Fair 2018).

The Lynn Canal drift gillnet fishery operates in the waters of District 15 and is divided into three regulatory sections: 15-A (upper Lynn Canal), 15-B (Berners Bay), and 15-C (lower Lynn Canal). This fishery has historically targeted sockeye salmon from late June through September and fall chum and coho salmon from mid-August to mid-October throughout District 15. In recent decades, the fishery has harvested substantial numbers of hatchery summer chum salmon in Section 15-C returning to DIPAC release sites at Boat Harbor and Amalga Harbor THAs. Section 15-B has only opened once in the last 10 years to target coho salmon.

The Chilkat River Chinook salmon stock was designated as a stock of concern at the 2018 Board of Fisheries (BOF) meeting after multiple years of failing to achieve escapement goals. The 2018 preseason total forecast of Chilkat River Chinook salmon is 1,033 large fish, below the escapement goal range of 1,750-3,500 large fish. Conservation measures implemented by ADF&G to minimize Chinook salmon retention include a 6-inch maximum mesh size restriction during SWs 25-27 (June 17-July 7) in Section 15-A and during SWs 25-26 (June 17-30) in Section 15-C. Additional conservation measures to protect inside rearing Chinook salmon will take place by imposing night closures between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. during SWs 25-28 (June 17-July 14) in Sections 15-A and 15-C. Time and area restrictions outlined in following sections will also be implemented to minimize the catch of Chinook salmon.

Wild sockeye salmon returning to the Chilkat and Chilkoot lakes make up the majority of sockeye salmon harvest in District 15 with additional contribution from the Chilkat River main-stem stock. The parent years for the 2018 return to Chilkat Lake had an escapement of 108,000 in 2012 and 111,000 in 2013, which is close to the midpoint of the escapement goal range of 70,000-150,000. Zooplankton prey observations during the first summer of lake rearing for these brood years indicated above average abundances of Copepods and Cladocerans. The strong parent-year escapement and zooplankton abundance suggest an average to above average return of sockeye salmon to Chilkat Lake in 2018. The parent-year escapement for the 2018 run to Chilkoot Lake was 46,000 sockeye salmon which is near the lower bound of the escapement goal range (38,000-86,000). Zooplankton prey observations during the first summer of lake rearing for this brood year and the pre-smolt estimate in the fall from hydroacoustic observations were above average. The low parent-year escapement and strong zooplankton and pre-smolt estimates suggest an average or below average run of sockeye salmon to Chilkoot Lake in 2018.

Sockeye salmon are typically caught throughout District 15 starting in the first week of the season (SW 25). The Chilkoot Lake sockeye salmon are usually first to enter Lynn Canal followed by the Chilkat Lake stock which are present throughout the sockeye salmon management season. Sockeye salmon are targeted in Section 15-A and are targeted or incidentally caught while targeting chum salmon in Section 15-C. Area restrictions that will influence sockeye salmon harvest in Section 15-A include closing the area north of Eldred Rock Lighthouse during SWs 25-29 (June 17-July 21) by implementing and exceeding conservation measures of the Lynn Canal and Chilkat River King Salmon Fishery Management Plan, 2018 (Lum and Fair 2018). Furthermore, the area west of a line from Eldred Rock Light to a point two nmi from the eastern shoreline at 58°51.00' N. latitude, 135°12.77' W. longitude, will also be closed through SW 29. In Section 15-C, area restrictions that may influence sockeye salmon harvest include opening for a maximum of two days in the "Postage Stamp" for SW 25 (June 17- 23) and a maximum of two days south of the latitude of Vanderbilt Reef in SW 26 (June 24-30). The "Postage Stamp" area is defined as: The waters of Section 15-C south of the latitude of Vanderbilt Reef light and east of a line from Vanderbilt Reef Light to Little Island Light. After SW 29 in Section 15-A and after SW 26 in Section 15-C, the Chilkat Chinook salmon run is mostly through the area and traditional Lynn Canal management practices will begin based on in-season observations of Chinook salmon returns to the Chilkat River and sockeye salmon returns to Chilkat and Chilkoot lakes.

Approximately 1,984,000 summer chum salmon are forecasted to return to DIPAC release sites at Boat Harbor and Amalga Harbor THAs in 2018. The commercial harvest is expected to be 1,454,000 chum salmon. This forecast is slightly below the 10-year average but well above the long-term historical average. Summer chum salmon harvests are expected to be average to above average in 2018. The parent-year escapement for the 2018 return of Chilkat River fall chum salmon was estimated to be 140,000 fish. Although this is still within the escapement goal range, it is below the midpoint and is lower than the 10-year average of 234,000. Fall chum salmon returns to the Chilkat River are expected to be average to below average for 2018. Summer chum salmon returning to the DIPAC release site at the Boat Harbor THA are caught in Section 15-C starting in the first week of the season (SW 25). Area, time, and gear restrictions outlined in previous sections to minimize Chinook salmon retention will likely impact the fleet's ability to harvest chum salmon outside the Boat Harbor THA. The Chilkat River fall chum salmon run begins in late August. The run will be monitored by evaluation of harvest in the District 15 drift gillnet fishery and by fish wheel catches. If the indications are for a strong run, fishing area may be expanded to include the Chilkat Inlet in Section 15-A.

The Chilkat River is the primary source of the commercial coho salmon harvest in Lynn Canal with some contributions from Berners River. The parent-year escapement for the 2018 return to the Chilkat River was estimated at 49,000 fish which is near the mid-point of the escapement goal range of 30,000-70,000 fish. The parent-year escapement for the 2018 return of coho salmon to the Berners River was 12,500 fish which was above the escapement goal range of 4,000-9,200. Coho salmon returns to Lynn Canal are expected to be average. The Chilkat River coho salmon run begins in late August. The run will be monitored by evaluation of harvest in the District 15 drift gillnet fishery and by fish wheel catches. If the indications are for a strong run, fishing area may be expanded to include the Chilkat Inlet in Section 15-A.

Parent-year pink salmon escapements to District 15, and throughout the northern part of the region, were below average in 2016. Returns of pink salmon to the northern Southeast Alaska inside waters are expected to be low for 2018 as stocks continue the trend of low even-year abundance. Pink salmon start their return to Lynn Canal in the beginning of July and are caught incidentally when targeting sockeye salmon. If the pink salmon return is strong as indicated by aerial surveys and there are no sockeye salmon concerns, Lutak Inlet may be opened to target pink salmon.

Yakutat Area Set Gillnet Fishery

Yakutat Bay and the Dangerous River commercial set gillnet fisheries opened on June 10 for 2.5 days. The Dangerous River was not fished, and 20 permits harvested 66 Chinook and 150 sockeye salmon in Yakutat Bay. Fishing effort was slightly below average, and the sockeye salmon harvest was among the lowest harvest on record.

Escapement monitoring at the Situk River weir for sockeye and Chinook salmon started the first week in June. To date, less than 50 sockeye salmon and one medium-sized Chinook salmon have been enumerated at the weir. The 10-year average cumulative count is approximately 5,000 sockeye salmon. It appears run-timing could be at least one week late this year. If the Situk River weir sockeye and Chinook salmon passage continues to be well below the 10-year average, Yakutat Bay and the Situk-Arhnklin Inlet commercial fisheries could face closures until such time adequate levels of escapement are observed.

The Situk-Ahrnklin Inlet and the Manby Shore fisheries will open on Sunday, June 17. With the current low abundance levels in the Yakutat area, these fisheries, as well as the Dangerous River and Yakutat Bay fisheries, will open with reduced fishing time. The fishing periods will be reduced from 2.5 days to 1.5 days of fishing. The remainder of the Yakutat District will open on the fourth Sunday in June. The East Alsek, Akwe, and the Italio River systems will open by emergency order when adequate levels of escapement can be documented.

Sockeye salmon returns to the Yakutat Area in 2018 are expected to be average to above average. The 2018 preseason projection of a total return of 730 large Chinook salmon to the Situk River is indicative of an average return, however, any harvests of these stocks will result in the escapement goal not being achieved. The Situk River subsistence, sport, and commercial Chinook salmon fisheries are closed until further notice. These fisheries will reopen when Situk River weir counts indicate the Biological Escapement Goal (BEG) will be attained. The coho salmon return this year is also expected to be average to above average.

The preseason projection for Alsek River Chinook salmon indicates a below average run. The Alsek River commercial fishery was delayed two weeks this season due to Chinook salmon conservation. The fishery will open on Sunday, June 17 for 24 hours. A six-inch maximum mesh restriction is in effect until July 1 and fishermen are asked to release all live, and healthy Chinook salmon. With poor sockeye salmon returns in recent years and continued poor forecasts, the directed sockeye salmon fishery will be managed conservatively through SW 29 (July 15). The coho salmon return to the Alsek River this year is expected to be average to above average.

Terminal Harvest Area (THA) Fisheries

Terminal Harvest Area (THA) gillnet fisheries occur in Nakat Inlet, Neets Bay, Anita Bay, Deep Inlet, and Boat Harbor. THA seine fisheries occur in Neets Bay, Kendrick Bay, Anita Bay, Deep Inlet, and Hidden Falls.

Nakat Inlet THA

The forecasted return of Nakat Inlet summer chum salmon is 260,300 and for fall chum salmon is 56,890. Nakat Inlet opens to the harvest of salmon by drift gillnet and troll gear on Friday, June 1, 2018. For further information and updates on Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (SSRAA) contributions and updates visit the SSRAA website external site link.

Neets Bay THA

The Neets Bay forecasted return for summer chum salmon is 1,347,900, for fall chum salmon is 59,400, for Chinook salmon is 18,100, and for coho salmon is 82,716. Neets Bay opened to the harvest of salmon by Drift Gillnet and Purse Seine on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Currently there is no reported harvest. For further information and updates on SSRAA contributions and updates visit the SSRAA website external site link.

Kendrick Bay THA

The forecasted return for Kendrick Bay summer chum salmon is 632,500. Kendrick Bay opens to the harvest of salmon by purse seine gear on Friday, June 15, 2018. For further information and updates on SSRAA contributions and updates visit the SSRAA website external site link.

Anita Bay THA

The 2018 Anita Bay THA forecast includes: 459,000 summer chum, 15,400 king, and 9,900 coho salmon. Anita Bay opened May 15 to troll, drift gillnet, and purse seine gear concurrently. Troll fishing will remain open for the season. A rotational fishery will begin on June 13 for the drift gillnet and purse seine gear groups with a time ratio of one to one. This rotational fishing period will conclude on August 31 when the THA opens to both gear groups concurrently until it closes for the season on November 10 at 12:00 noon. The harvest to date is confidential. For further information and updates on SSRAA contributions and updates visit the SSRAA website external site link.

Deep Inlet THA

The Deep Inlet THA opens on May 1; rotational fisheries begin on June 17, with seine openings on Sunday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and gillnet openings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Forecast returns for Deep Inlet THA and Medvejie Hatchery includes 1,250,000 chum salmon, 12,700 king salmon, and 66,000 coho salmon. This season, 90,000 chum salmon are needed for broodstock. NSRAA does not anticipate cost recovery operations this season in the Deep Inlet THA.

Hidden Falls THA

The first common property purse seine openings in the Hidden Falls THA are scheduled for June 17 and June 24. Subsequent openings will be dependent on inseason run strength. Forecast returns for Hidden Falls THA includes 593,000 chum salmon and 191,000 coho salmon, and 2,000 king salmon are expected to return in 2018. NSRAA needs 190,000 chum salmon for broodstock leaving 403,000 chum salmon available for common property harvests. NSRAA does not intend to use a tax assessment on the common property harvest of chum salmon to satisfy cost recovery needs as provided under AS 16.10.455.