The Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) on Friday projected a sharp jump in the commercial catch of Copper River sockeye, one of the world's most valuable wild salmon.
Regulators forecast a commercial sockeye harvest of 716,000 fish in the Copper River district this coming season, a more than 75 percent jump over 2021.
However, the 2021 season isn't a high bar to cross. Last year's commercial Copper River sockeye catch of 408,000 was 68 percent below the pre-season forecast of 1.29 million, and well below the 10-year average.
The number of sockeye returning to Copper River also remains low. The 1.38 million run is down 34 percent from the 10-year average of around 2.16 million fish.
Even more valuable -- and more scarce -- are Copper River king salmon. Last year, just 9,450 king salmon were caught in the region, at an average ex-vessel price of $12.07 (€10.54) per pound. The king salmon harvest projections will be released later this month, ADF&G said.
The Prince William Sound pink salmon harvest is estimated at 4.25 million fish. The number is around 36 percent above the average of even-numbered years between 2000-2020.
Because pink salmon return in higher numbers on odd years, figures are not compared to the year prior.
In 2021, 66.3 million pink salmon were harvested in Prince William Sound, worth an ex-vessel value of $84 million (€73.4 million). Some 2.7 million chum were harvested in the district, worth $16.3 million (€14.2 million).
While it started with a sputter in 2021, the Copper River salmon season picked up steam with a stronger-than-anticipated late summer peak.
Though ADF&G forecasts tend to be remarkably accurate, regulators cautioned that the projections are "inherently uncertain."
Bristol Bay, meanwhile, is heading for another record year for sockeye.
ADF&G is projecting a 75.27 million run of sockeye, with an estimated harvest of 59.9 million fish in Bristol Bay.
A Bristol Bay harvest of this size is 75 percent greater than the most recent 10-year average harvest of 34.2 million, and 170 percent greater than the long-term average harvest of 22.2 million fish, ADF&G said.