Bristol Bay’s total sockeye run surpassed 61 million on Thursday, making 2018 a record year putting this season at $275 million.
Talking to KTOO Public Media, Bert Lewis, Regional Supervisor, who oversees commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said that strong returns and increasing prices in the past five years have raised the value of Bristol Bay salmon. The average sockeye now weighs 5.5 pounds at a base price of $1.25.
“That stands out really statewide where sockeye runs have not been strong. I know that westward Kodiak area is meeting their goals, but with very little fishing opportunity. Cook Inlet right now is under restrictions,” Lewis said. “King salmon statewide are of concern with low returns, but meeting goals solidly in Bristol Bay,” he told the site.
This year is just a half-million fish behind the largest run of 61.7 million in 1980.
Howvever Lewis blamed weak state-wide returns on an unusually warm water mass called the “blob”.
“The warm blob, this warm-water anomaly, was not present in the Bering Sea where those (Bristol Bay) fish came out,” Lewis said. “That’s one possible supporting piece of evidence that we’re looking to that it was the 2015 outmigration year that could be driving some of the patterns that we’re seeing and good returns in Bristol Bay and poorer, weak returns across much of the rest of the state,” he added.