Friday, November 10, 2006



Hope your hangover is over from the worst pink salmon harvest in Southeast since 1987. And although not enough time could ever pass to help us forget the lousy aspects of the summer ( besides the biblical proportions of rain), there were a few bright spots in 2006.


Nakat, Kendrick, Anita Bay all came through with decent chum salmon production. The SSSF(Southeast Sustainable Salmon Fund) investment and direction from USAG to return chums to Anita Bay has paid off. Certainly it was a bittersweet Nakat season since that will go to the ugly section in 2007, with the discontinuance of summer chum purse seining there. {For what it’s worth, fall chum seining will still be allowed until the end of 2007} But it was with renewed optimism that we saw a resurgence in survival at Kendrick Bay this year. Whether there were remote site problems or whatever the issue we are pleased to see a rebound there. In 2006, SSRAA continued to be a major player in providing production to the seine fleet when we needed it most.

Chichagof Island
Tenakee, Slocum, Basket Bay, Salisbury Sound and the Augusta shoreline were some of the few areas that produced harvestable numbers of pink salmon this past summer. Even the odd-year-only stranglehold that has always gripped Lisianski was broken this past summer with the first meaningful harvest on an even cycle since statehood.

Taku River and Hawk Inlet
Once again the gillnets were swamped with pinks in District 111. We were unable to prosecute a meaningful pink harvest with the weaker overall SE pink runs. Sockeye conservation time and area restrictions at Hawk Inlet also allowed too many swim through the district. This could have placed Hawk Inlet in the BAD or UGLY category but for the fact that we at least had quite a few Hawk Inlet opportunities. And we are pleased that the Taku is remaining extremely productive.

Both Hidden Falls and Deep Inlet made the chums this year. The front office of NSRAA wouldn’t even consider 2006 a blip compared to their historical success. Yet even the leadership at NSRAA must be relieved to see the recent chum productivity slide reverse itself. NSRAA should be rewarded with praise for their longstanding success and contributions to the purse seine fleet. Cohoes made it a great finale when the total of 1.3 million pounds was harvested in August and September by cost recovery at Mist Cove and Hidden Falls. Season ending prices were $1.35 for seine caught coho in the round.

ADFG Management
The men and women in ADFG blue have to be commended for their conservative approach to the overall SEAK pink harvest. I walked a big indicator system in Security Bay this fall and there was a 30,000 escapement where there were 90,000 in 2004. ( That 90K was William Bergman’s estimate—mine was more like 200K). So without any directed fishing at Kingsmill in 2006, with little accompanying harvest rate, the spawner recruit was about .33. That’s 1 fish returning per 3 spawners. At that rate, with management error, we would find ourselves with endangered or threatened species within a few cycles of similar errors.

The Pink Price
Pink prices have inched up to 19 cents at the dock of one large processor. Of course those who got that at the dock paid dearly for the privilege of getting there, most likely eating up the extra 3 cents in fuel costs. The recent frozen price of over $1.00 and the latest bids by the processors to sell to USDA at over $60 a case ( on a 48 tall basis) would indicate that that price is quite some distance from where the price will settle out at and start for the 2007 season. Now there are a number of factors contributing to this price increase and some of those are UGLY like the lack of supply.

II. The Bad

2004 Drought
It wasn’t just that the summer drought that didn’t break until the 2nd week of September, but there were also anecdotal reports of regions that experienced drought-like conditions throughout the winter of 2004-05. Pinks that had held out in salt water until mid-September didn’t have the geographically diverse and healthy spawn that they might have had with earlier entry to fresh water. Perhaps later run systems(mid-August through early September pinks) could have gotten a few more fish by the fleet and into healthy spawning conditions but the normal timed summer pinks were obviously susceptible to the 2004 summer drought.

It was an interesting combination though in Southeast pink salmon spawning streams. Where streams weren’t accompanied by glacial systems, upwelling springs, or high mountain watersheds, we saw virtually the lowest spawning numbers we’ve seen in decades*- even allowing that this was the sub-dominant even SE pink cycle. In the case of Chichagof Island and the Taku, these systems have the necessary drought-survival tools- or at least they worked beneficially to the progeny of the 2004 spawning adults.
However, along the West Admiralty Island shoreline, and in many of the POW and Kuiu Island systems, pink salmon suffered.
*notwithstanding that we still met minimum escapement goals nearly everywhere.

2005-2006 Near-shore Marine and Ocean Conditions
Accompanying the drought were ocean conditions that stunted the growth of each and every hatchery and wild stock pink salmon in the state except for West Kodiak.
Certainly one can attribute to the drought a high percentage of the blame on the SE pink failure. But perhaps equally as important were the low marine survival that seemed to plague statewide pink salmon hatcheries. In Southeast’s single pink salmon facility, 82 million pink fry returned less than 1 million adults to Armstrong-Keta. Likewise, the large spring of 2005 releases of PWS pinks never made it back home in 2006.

Coho apparently fared better than pinks in 2006, even though they both shared the drought issue 2 years ago. The coho were likely large enough to escape the lowest, hottest water and perhaps were able to emerge from the drought with overall less harm than the pinks. In some systems the coho smolts must have entirely left the system in order to survive.

Cholmondeley Sound
Even though escapement was decent in Disappearance and exceptional in Lagoon Creek, 2006 marked another sub-par year at Cholmondeley. This was particularly disturbing since the hatchery chums seemed to enjoy an excellent survival year in southern Southeast.


Southern Southeast
For only the 3rd time in several decades, Northern Southeast ruled supreme over Southern Southeast, throwing the regions’ renowned manager, Mr. Philip Doherty, into such a tailspin that he had to quit and take Julie Deckers old job over at SARDFA. More on Mr. Doherty at another spot in this newsletter. ( He doesn’t belong in the ugly column).

Fuel Prices


Lack of Pinks to fulfill market orders

Need I say more.

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