Biology teams with University of Washington and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game both expect more than 70 million sockeye to return to Bristol Bay for the first time in recorded history.
The University of Washington forecast predicts a run of 71.9 million sockeye, which would be 60 per cent greater than the 20-year average return of 44.9 million fish. The state expects more than 75 million sockeye will flood Bristol Bay starting next June.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Daniel Schindler, a biologist with UW’s Alaska Salmon Program, said multiple factors in the university’s record run forecast bolster its credibility. For one, all of the Bay’s nine large river systems are predicted to do very well, rather than just one or two forecasted to have outsized sockeye returns.
Both the UW and Fish and Game forecasts are a weighted average of several models that use what are known as sibling relationships to formulate predictions, largely based on how many salmon of certain age classes returned in prior years.
The vast majority of Bristol Bay sockeye spend two or three years in the ocean following a year or two rearing in freshwater. That allows forecast authors to correlate their expectations for three-ocean sockeye returning the coming year to how many two-ocean sockeye returned the summer prior.