KETCHIKAN - While the fate of the commercial salmon fishery in Southeast remains undecided this season, there are some promising signs.
The state is forecasting a catch of approximately 41 million pink salmon - substantially larger than last year's all-species commercial harvest of 28.03 million salmon. That was the fewest fish since 1987.
Other factors in fishermen's finances appear positive going into the 2009 season.
For example, fuel prices are about $1.50 lower than at this time in 2008.
And more processing capacity is anticipated in southern Southeast Alaska because Trident Seafoods has added capacity at its Ketchikan plant. Silver Bay Seafoods also is planning to start operating its new Craig processing facility in mid-July.
Fish and Game doesn't do formal forecasts for the other species of salmon in Southeast Alaska. Instead, it uses an average of the past five years of harvest to provide a catch projection for the current season.
Based on the five-year averages, the department is projecting commercial catches of 1.465 million sockeye salmon; 2.523 million coho salmon and 10 million chum salmon, each of which is above the actual 2008 catch.
Things could be looking up for king salmon in 2009 following large cuts that commercial and sport fishermen saw in their harvest quotas in 2008.
The 2009 all-gear quota for king salmon established through the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty process is about 218,780 non-Alaska-hatchery-produced kings, up from 170,000 in 2008.