Southeastern Alaska catch of BC salmon: summary and reports

Alaskan fisheries in Southeast Alaska (SEAK) intercept salmon returning to British Columbia (BC) rivers. Given the current depressed status of many BC wild salmon populations, and in the context of changing marine and freshwater environments due to climate change; there is growing concern that as Canadian salmon abundance declines, and Canada closes or restricts its fisheries, Alaskan interceptions are having an increasing  impact on Canadian salmon and steelhead populations. 

This report series describes significant Alaskan exploitation on many BC populations, such as Area 3 (Nass), 4 (Skeena), and 5 (coastal streams south of the Skeena), sockeye, coho, chum and pink salmon, central coast salmon populations of all species, Fraser River sockeye and chinook from Vancouver Island, Strait of Georgia, and some Fraser River populations. Importantly, these impacts continue despite declines in abundance of many species in BC. Additionally, the commercial catch of Canadian-bound salmon in most recent years is higher in Alaska than it is in Canada. 

Data quality and quantity vary between species and regions. In that several models provide estimates of Canadian catch based on tagging studies completed in the 1980’s, historical effort/catch relationships from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and dated stock composition (known or inferred), and migration timing information, the results generated by the models include considerable uncertainties.

In 2021, southern Southeast Alaskan (SSEAK) net fisheries from Districts 101-106 caught over 50,000 Chinook, over 1.2 million chum, ~540,000 coho, 34 million pink, and ~800,000 sockeye. 

The District 104 fishery – located on the outside of the Alaskan panhandle – catches a large proportion of Canadian salmon from many stocks. The total salmon catch in District 104 during 2021 was ~20,000 Chinook (power troll and seine combined), over 212,000 chum, ~130,000 coho, ~10.7 million pink, and ~495,000 sockeye. The proportion of Canadian salmon in the catch, and the certainty of the estimates, varies by species.

The report provides a ‘State of Knowledge’ of SSEAK interceptions of BC salmon and steelhead that compiles and summarizes historical and recent information. Information on SSEAK catch were obtained through discussions with staff from Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DFO), Alaska Department of Fisheries and Game (ADF&G), and LGL Limited, and other agencies, and many additional resources were found online through the Pacific Salmon Commission Technical Committee websites, the Pacific Salmon Foundation Pacific Salmon Explorer, LGL Limited, and published literature and reports. Products of this work include the following technical summary, 100+ page data report, and R-code for figures and data summaries.

While the inclusion of details for all data sources, expansions, and models is beyond our scope, we provide citations for many reports where further details are included. Rather than thoroughly review specific methodology, we collate and present available information, and highlight important considerations for further discussion.

The intent of this report series is to promote discussion, identify knowledge gaps, attempt to collect, and make available, all relevant data, and provide recommendations to improve our understanding of Alaskan interceptions of Canadian salmon. 

To that end, we encourage feedback and discussion on the content, and welcome additional information that we may have missed. As such, it should be considered a ‘living document’. Future versions will include clarifications, edits, and likely additional content. Changes will be tracked and recorded for transparency and collaborative purposes. Please reach out to the authors for further information or to provide feedback or additional content.

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