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Pacific report reveals a 439m salmon season

Salmon abundance in the North Pacific, as indexed by aggregate commercial catches, remains at near all-time high levels.

This was revealed by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), which announced preliminary North Pacific-wide total salmon catches for 2016, as reported by its member countries Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia, and United States.

A total of 0.85 million metric tonnes (439.5 million fish) was caught in 2016, slightly less than previous even-numbered years. Salmon catches tend to be less in even than odd-numbered years because the most frequent species in the catch, pink salmon, are less abundant in even-numbered years.

The member nations’ portions of the total catch included 51% by Russia (439.5 thousand metric tonnes), 33% by the United States (280.4 thousand metric tonnes; Alaska—271.8 thousand metric tonnes), 13% by Japan (111.3 thousand metric tonnes), 3% by Canada (21.5 thousand metric tonnes), and less than 1% by Korea (256 metric tonnes).

Pink salmon constituted the majority of the total commercial catch (41% by weight) followed by chum (33%) and sockeye salmon (21%). Coho comprised 3% of the catch, Chinook salmon was 1%, and each of cherry salmon and steelhead trout were < 1% of the catch by weight. Pink and chum salmon dominate Asian catches. In general, catches remain high and in 2016 were within the range of catches for recent even-numbered years.

The total North Pacific pink salmon catch was 353.2 thousand metric tonnes, with the majority caught by Russia (75% of the total by weight). The total catch of chum salmon was 285.2 thousand metric tonnes, and the largest portion of the catch was shared by Russia (41%) and Japan (34% of the total by weight).

In North America, the relative abundance of salmon species varies from north to south. In Alaska, pink and sockeye salmon are the primary species, followed by chum salmon. In Canada, sockeye, pink, and chum salmon have historically comprised the largest catch, while in Washington, Oregon, and California, Chinook, chum and coho salmon are the most abundant species. In 2016, unusually low catches of pink salmon resulted in relatively low total catches of salmon in North America.

Hatchery releases of salmon and steelhead from NPAFC member countries totaled approximately 5.1 billion fish in 2016, similar to numbers over the last three decades. Hatcheries released 1,959 million fish (38% of the total) in the United States, 1,898 million (37%) in Japan, 967 million (19%) in Russia, 282 million (6%) in Canada, and 22 million (< 1%) in Korea.

Hatchery releases were mostly chum (3,340 million, 65%) and pink salmon (1,227 million, 24%), followed by Chinook (238 million, 5%), sockeye (220 million, 4%), and coho salmon (76 million, 2%), steelhead trout (20 million, less than 1%), and cherry salmon (8 million, less than 1%).

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Rob Fletcher

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