This is a serious good news/bad news story
The Good News: Chinook (king) salmon runs in the marine waters off Southeast Alaska continue to hit a very high note. Last year’s abundance index was the highest we’ve seen in two decades and this year is expected to reach similiar levels. This reflects the health of chinook stocks in the Columbia River, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. To be clear – Southeast Alaska saltwater salmon fishing is thriving at a high level with great regulations that we expect to be released within the week. WE ARE NOT CLOSED DOWN!! Quite the opposite.
The Bad News: Chinook runs further north are not doing well at all. Since about 2009 these runs have fallen on hard times and there are large scale closures in rivers and marine waters in Cook Inlet. The Yukon River is struggling, too. The story from central, northern and western Alaska is largely one of concern and limited fishing opportunites.
The Confusion: There is often an inverse relationship between chinook runs that feed in the southern Gulf of Alaska and southward and those that stay further north. This is the result of ocean currents described broadly under the Pacific Decadal Occilation (PDO). To simplify, perhaps overly so, when we’re in PDO negative, cool nutrient rich water flows on the ocean currents to the benefit of stocks from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and southernmost Alaska. This main flow to the south results in less nutrient rich water to the north and west. Juvenile salmon, in particular, thrive in this nutrient rich water and survive at much higher rates. We are currently enjoying an oceanographic regime that results in high king abundance off Sitka. These are the good old days.