Upper Cook Inlet sockeye harvest weak

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2000

KENAI - Two scheduled openings remain for upper Cook Inlet drift gillnet fishermen, but many are already giving up on what they're calling a disastrous season.

The average catch with the fishery winding down is about 7,400 pounds of sockeye salmon per boat, said Kenai drift fisher Steve Tvenstrup. Add other species, and the average paycheck may be $6,500.

Tvenstrup's boat and permit are paid for, he said, but many skippers are making payments of $6,000 to $20,000 per year.

``Figure that in, and it's a disaster,'' he said.

The preseason forecast for the upper Cook Inlet sockeye catch was 3 million fish. The harvest total so far is about 1.3 million.

``There's not going to be a whole lot more caught,'' said Pat Shields, assistant area management biologist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries in Soldotna. ``I'd be surprised if we caught another 10,000 sockeyes.''

At an average price of about 85 cents per pound, this year's sockeyes might bring upper inlet fishermen a total of $7 million, said Jeff Fox, area management biologist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries in Soldotna. Add the other species, and the total still will be less than $8 million, he said.

That would make this the worst year for upper inlet fishermen since 1975, when processors paid a total of $6.7 million for the catch.

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