The state Department of Fish and Game has released the lowest forecasts for Southeast Alaska king salmon since record keeping began in the 1970s.
King salmon numbers have been dwindling for years, but researchers don’t have a lot of answers as to why, KTOO Public Media in Juneau reported on Tuesday.
Federal fisheries biologist Jim Murphy said there is concern that the 2013 “blob” of warm water played a role because it wreaked havoc on salmon feeding in the open ocean. But Murphy said king salmon numbers started decreasing long before 2013.
Other theories point to more predators in the ocean, but Murphy said he hasn’t seen any king salmon in predators’ stomachs in his 15 years.
“It does really point to our lack of understanding in the underlying ecology,” Murphy said. “I think it’s good to kind of put some resources into understanding. It’s probably not going to bring fish back but it helps to be able to sort out very difficult decisions that are made.”
Proposals to offset the low forecasts are expected to be discussed at the next state Board of Fisheries meeting in Sitka.
At least 30 proposals have been made and more could emerge during the meeting.
Fish and Game managers recommended listing king salmon as a fish stock of concern, which could trigger stronger restrictions.
Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association, said “fishermen are extremely concerned about the effects of conservation management on their businesses, our long-term survival depends on the health of these stocks.”