The 2016 Alaska salmon harvest is seeing a sharp decline from 2015, but one species is helping to save the summer fishing season. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the projected total catch for salmon during the summer of 2016 is 161 million, down 40 percent from 2015’s harvest of over 268 million salmon. To date in 2016 there has been about 88 million salmon caught. One bright spot for Alaska fishing during the 2016 salmon fishing season has been the sockeye salmon, which is projected to have a total harvest that will rank in Alaska’s all-time top ten for sockeye. While other salmon species have had low catch numbers, thus far the sockeye salmon harvest has surpassed 51 million. Bristol Bay has received a sockeye salmon catch so far of 38 million, greatly exceeding expectations, and will likely result in the largest sockeye harvest there in over 20 years.
The large decline in 2016 for Alaska total salmon harvest can be contributed to the significant decline in pink salmon harvest statewide; an estimated 90 million will be caught this year, while 190 million were caught in 2015. Some fishing areas, such as the Kodiak, are seeing the slowest pink salmon harvest since the 1970’s. Other notable Alaska salmon harvests thus far include the following: red salmon, nearly 48 million – down 7 million from last year; silver salmon, 4.4 million – up by 500,000; and chum salmon, 19 million – up by 500,000.
While Alaska salmon fishing is one of Alaska’s most important industries, with an annual average harvest exceeding 150 million fish sold by commercial fishermen, it can also be a very dangerous occupation. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that during the decade of 2000-2009, salmon fishery experienced the most occupational deaths within commercial fishing in the United States, with 39 fatalities.