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Bristol Bay salmon forecast drops from 2012

November 30th, 2012 | Hannah Heimbuch Print this article   Email this article  

The numbers are out for Bristol Bay's 2013 sockeye salmon season, and the forecast is partly cloudy.

Alaska's Department of Fish and Game released their projections on Monday, and are predicting a total run of 26.03 million red salmon. That's just over 5 million less than last year's projection, and 3 million below 2012's actual run strength.

The escapement goal is set at 8.5 million fish.

That 26.03 million marks a decent drop when compared to the last decade's average runs. It is 33 percent lower than the previous 10-year average of total runs, and 20 percent lower than the bay's historical average of 32.38 million.

At this point, all systems are expected to meet their 2013 escapement goals. If those escapement goals are indeed met, ADF&G predicts a potential harvest of 17.53 million, which would be about 3 million shy of this season's actual harvest, or 40 percent below the 10-year average.

As far as individual systems go, biologists are estimating the following total runs:

Kvichak River

5.08 million

Alagnak River

2.08 million

Naknek River

3.46 million

Naknek-Kvichak District Total

10.61 million

Egegik District

6.06 million

Ugashik District

3.53 million

Wood River

3.42 million

Nushagak River

1.31 million

Igushik River

.52 million

Nushagak District Total

5.25 million

Togiak District

.59 million

The forecast encompasses age classes 1.2, 1.3, 2.2 and 2.3 years, as well as .3 and 1.4 years for Nushagak reds.

While the department has used current prediction methods since 2001 to forecast the coming season, they're difficult numbers to nail down and operate in a wide range.

Since 2001, forecasts have been on average 7 percent below the actual run — though last year's forecast was higher by 3 percent. In the last 10 years there have been some actual runs that varied up to 20 percent from forecast — such as the surprisingly high return in 2007, when sockeye came in 26 percent above forecast. On the other side of that coin, the run came in 21 percent below forecast in 2011. That error margin goes up when it comes to individual rivers, according to the ADF&G release, though they maintain the forecast is in general a fairly accurate estimate of what the coming season holds.

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Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at


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