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A Tale of Two Salmon Fisheries: Bristol Bay and the Yukon River

For Alaska salmon fishing, the summer of 2022 is the best of times and the worst of times.

In the Bristol Bay region, the sockeye salmon run and harvest amounts set new records, as was predicted in the preseason forecast. As of Monday, the run had totaled over 73.7 million, with a harvest of over 56.3 million. The previous record was set just last year, with a 67.7 million run of sockeyes and a third-biggest-ever harvest of nearly 42 million of the fish.

But along the Yukon River, a prized salmon run is heading toward a worst-ever season.

The number of Chinook counted by sonar while swimming up the river at Pilot Station, a village near the Bering Sea coast, was the lowest on record for this time of the year, the department said. Things are looking grim for the rest of the summer, Fish and Game said in its most recent update; “the drainage-wide run may be under 50,000 fish, which is so small that escapement goals may not be met in any tributaries,” the update said. Chinook fishing has been closed all along the river and its drainages.

The chum salmon run, which starts in the late summer, is also looking grim and “is anticipated to be critically low,” meaning that even subsistence harvests will be closed for at least the start of the fall season, the department said.

Fisheries activists are pointing to both cases as evidence supporting protective measures, for which they are campaigning.

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