NOAA: Young herring “suddenly disappear” from Pacific, no one can find them; “This is an enigma, something’s happened” — Millions of missing salmon raising alarms; “Very odd… Very strange… Most different year ever… It looks really bad” — Fishermen catching only huge numbers of jellyfish (VIDEO)

Published: July 6th, 2015 at 4:20 pm ET
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Bristol Bay Times, Jul 3 2014 (emphasis added): [T]he sluggish start to a large forecast run was making many people in the industry restless… Naknek-Kvichack district’s run total was about 434,000 sockeye – less than 2 percent of this summer’s expected run of 28.8 million… on the same date in 2014 [it] was already nearly 5 million… Elford saw just one fish hit a net all morning. They were, however, catching jellyfish by the hundreds. Elford says this is strange timing, as jellyfish… signal the end of salmon season.

Alaska Dispatch News, Jul 2, 2015: [Kuskokwim River salmon] returning to spawn is still alarmingly low… [Kings are] dramatically below last year’s count… “Mounting evidence suggests that the 2015 chinook salmon run was early and weak,” Fish and Game managers said… chum salmon also is very low, the Bethel test fishery shows… “The chum salmon run is showing so poorly” [a state biologist] said…”comparable to 1997, which was one of our crash years It looks really bad.”

Port Moller Test Fishery (pdf), Jul 4, 2015: “This year has been very odd… [There’s] a signal the other stocks are winding down…. All district C+Es [Catches & Escapements] are estimated to be below the pre-season forecasts… 44% lower than the expected.”

KDLG, Jul 4, 2015: Test Fishery says it’s likely coming in… a lot smaller… than predicted.

KDLG, Jul 1, 2015: Alaska’s largest sockeye fishery is predicted to have a near record return this summer, but so far [they] have only trickled into Bristol Bay’s rivers… 3.4 million sockeye have been harvested… estimates suggested 54 million sockeye… with 38 million available for harvest… by Wednesday evening, Port Moller and Fish and Game were hinting at problems… Fish and Game [said] the sockeye are smaller than expected… “So far I haven’t seen a fish in my net yet,” [said] set netter Sylvia Elford. The day before her site had delivered only 140 pounds. “Out of the 20 days we’ve been here, we’ve bought [bait] fish twice,” said Rob Trumble, skipper of the fishing tender Denali… “It’s been the most different year ever.”… “It’s been really frustrating,” said Gabe Dunham aboard the F/V Oracle.

Cordova Times, Jun 25, 2015: Area management biologist James Jackson said that through June 23 the sockeye harvest [is] half of what biologists expected the harvest to be at this time. “It’s been a very strange year,” Jackson said… Jackson also noted that the average sockeye was about half a pound less in weight than the usual average, and that salmon were being harvested in areas where the commercial fleet typically doesn’t catch fish.

Undercurrent News, Jun 29, 2015: Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvests are continuing to be well under 2014 and five-year average levels… down 86% from… the same period last year and off 75% from the… average.

F/V Lily Ann crewman: “We caught two red salmon… and came back.”

Jamal Moss, NOAA biologist, May 21, 2015 (at 37:45 in): “In Prince William Sound in 2014 we found a high abundance of juvenile herring that were very fat and very large… and very abundant — it’s a good indicator that were going to have a good age class coming in. However, that’s not the case. We lost track of these fish in our winter and spring sampling… the Prince William Sound Science Center that also does acoustic surveys have not been able to track them. So this has kind of been an enigma. Something happened to these fish over the winter…. Also in the Gulf proper, we’ve seen a decrease in Herring. Unexpectedly, the Sitka Sound herring fishery — which is a seminal fishery for herring in our state — came in really lowsomething happened to them over the winter. Right now that’s still an unknown.” (Slide: Juvenile age class of herring appeared to be doing well, but suddenly disappeared.)

Watch Moss’ presentation here

Published: July 6th, 2015 at 4:20 pm ET
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