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Cook Inlet commercial fishermen netted more per pound this season but earned less overall, report says

Redoubt Reporter
Sockeye salmon.

Salmon harvests and earnings were up statewide in 2022, though fishermen in Cook Inlet earned less this season than they did last. That’s because they caught less salmon overall — part of a declining trend for the fishery.

This year’s harvest numbers and values were released this week in a preliminary report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

According to the report, fishermen in Cook Inlet caught an estimated 2 million fish this season, weighing in at 10 million pounds — including nearly 7 million pounds of sockeye. The total value at the docks for the inlet was $16 million.

Fishermen in Lower Cook Inlet reeled in $3.7 million in earnings, while in Upper Cook Inlet, earnings surpassed $12 million. That’s pretty standard for the region, where the majority of fish are caught in the upper inlet.

On the whole, Cook Inlet’s harvest numbers are down from 2021. Last year, fishermen brought in about 4 million fish — or 16.6 million pounds — for a nearly $19 million in earnings.

One area where inlet fishermen saw an improvement: price per pound. Cook Inlet fishermen earned over $2.03 for sockeye this year, a 20-cent increase from 2021. (Note that those prices are preliminary and don’t account for any postseason bonuses.)

And both seasons show improvement from the markedly bad season in 2020, where fish prices and landings bottomed out statewide. Even though that was an exceptional year, partly due to the pandemic, generally the size and values of Cook Inlet harvests have been declining over the last decade.

Statewide, while Alaska’s all-species harvest was close to the long-term average, according to Fish and Game, the sockeye harvest statewide is the largest on record – that’s nearly 75 million fish.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of fish, and earnings, came from Bristol Bay. The bay saw more than 307 million pounds of fish caught this season, for nearly $352 million in landings.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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