Methods for Forecasting of Bristol Bay, Alaska Sockeye Salmon Abundance

Curry Cunningham1
1School of Aquatic and Fishery Science
December 09, 2014

Methods for Forecasting of Bristol Bay, Alaska Sockeye Salmon Abundance

Bristol Bay, Alaska is home to the largest wild sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) fishery in the world, with a total harvest value of $165 million USD in 2010 and supporting an estimated equivalent to 10,000 year-around American jobs. However, returns of sockeye to Bristol Bay are highly variable, with observed returns ranging between less than 10 million and greater than 65 million since 1960. The profitability of the commercial fishery and the ability of the commercial fishing fleet to allocate effort amongst the 5 terminal fishing districts in Bristol Bay depends to some extent on accurate predictions for the number of returning sockeye prior to, and during, the summer fishing season. The Alaska Salmon Program at UW provides inseason forecasts for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon abundance, which are updated on a semi-daily basis throughout the duration of the commercial fishery as new data become available. These inseason forecasts incorporate a wide range of data sources: 1) catch, 2) escapement, 3) age composition, 3) genetic composition of catch, and 4) inseason test fishery catch indices, to inform estimates of run size for Bristol Bay as a whole and for the major fishing districts. I will describe our current forecasting methods for inseason assessment of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon abundance, a retrospective analysis of the efficacy of these forecasting methods, and elicit new ideas for improving these methods in the future.

Posted in Fisheries Think Tank.

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