12 September: Cost Recovery Update:
We have turned the page to fall chum.
Cost recovery and broodstock collection started on the 1st of September. The run was early last year; broodstock and harvest started substantially on the 1st of September. This is not the case this year, 2016. Historically fall chum runs have started after the first full week of September, sometimes later. We started catching some fish after the first this year, but numbers were very small until the 8th…which matches the historical norm for this run.
This has changed recently: we harvested 90,000 pounds yesterday (11 September) and put 4,600 fish across for brood. To date we have collected 22,800 fall chums for broodstock, with a goal of 45,000 plus or minus; and about 150,000 pounds have been harvested for cost recovery. Reaching the broodstock goal will not be a problem. As with summers, we will do the collecting over several weeks. The last time we did a male/female ratio the run was greater than 70% male, which means there are quite a few fish to come. The abundance of fish in the outer bay confirms our thoughts about run timing…it is pretty fishy in the outer portion of Neets Bay.
Even though this appears to be a decent fall chum run, SSRAA will not reach the cost recovery goal in 2016. There is little chance of common property rotational fisheries in Neets Bay until it is no longer viable for SSRAA to do cost recovery…and at that point the local processors may not want to process coho.
Coho cost recovery harvest is ongoing at Klawock. These numbers have been included in the graphics following this narrative. It is very early in this process, too early to assess the relative outcome. About 500 coho have been removed from the adult brood raceway at Whitman. It is likely this will happen several times before the returning fish are retained as brood. We are also harvesting some coho at the barrier in Neets Bay, incidental to fall chum cost recovery. Those are being tracked in the attached graphics.
All chinook and summer coho cost recovery activities are complete.
4 September: Cost Recovery Update:
Summer chum cost recovery ended with the small clean up harvest at the barrier on 29 August. As you can see from the graphics, we harvested substantially fewer pounds than anticipated; 4,450,000 in actual harvest with about 7,500,000 anticipated at that date. The total return of Neets Bay summer chums slightly exceeds what was forecast. There are two primary factors contributing to this difference: (1) with the intense fishery on the south end, more of these fish were harvested in common property both in traditional fisheries and the SHA than was anticipated in the forecast; and (2) the fish were 15% smaller than the average weight used to generate the forecast (8.5 pounds vs. 10 pounds forecast).
At this point is isn’t reasonable to think we will reach the revenue goal. There was no mid-season common property rotational fishery in the Neets Bay SHA nor is it likely there will be an opportunity for a rotational fishery this fall until after it is no longer reasonable to conduct cost recovery harvest.
The desired 155,000,000 summer chum eggs are now all in incubators.
On 2 September we started collecting fall chum broodstock and harvesting excess fall chum related to broodstock management. This is very early in that process as we often don’t see any number of fall chum in the inner SHA until after the first week in September. The harvest of Nakat falls has already reached the forecast with three weeks left in the run. We are optimistic that the Neets Bay falls have also done well. There is an apparent abundance of these fish in the outer bay, supporting that optimism. Regardless, the fall run is not large enough too compensated for the shortfall in the poundage of summer chum.
The harvest of chinook, excess to broodstock needs, from the raceways at Whitman Lake is finished. The desired number of Chickamin chinook eggs is in the hatchery at Whitman Lake; and the required number of Andrews Creek chinook eggs is in the hatchery at Crystal Lake. We had enough chinook broodstock at Crystal Lake to help DIPAC with a shortage of Andrews Creek eggs…supporting their program as they supported the Crystal Lake program when there were shortages there.
Neck Lake summer coho harvest is finished. This was the lowest summer coho return on record (see attached graphics). We’ll attribute this primarily to “The Blob”…an unhappy ocean environment. Summer coho broodstock is in hand at Burnett Inlet.
Cost recovery coho harvest is ongoing at Klawock. We will include these fish in the report next week.
13 August 2016: Neets Bay Cost Recovery:
Summer chum cost recovery is well on the back shoulder of the run curve, though in 2016 there wasn’t much of a typical run curve as the return more resembled a steady stream without a noticeable peak. In fact sometimes it has been hard to see any fish at all until seines are pursed at the barrier. We are currently harvesting about 40,000 pounds a day. That has gone on for about a week without much variation. The fish still seem relatively fresh, where at this date they would normally be dark with a lot of loose eggs in each pump. That is not currently the case. The other large difference from the past is in fish size, the current daily average weight is 6.5 pounds; and, these fish are still primarily 4-year-olds. My experience pretty much spans all the return years to Neets Bay and we have never seen summer chum this small.
The actual return in fish numbers will be very close to what was forecast. The weight is not close to what we used and ultimately may result in an error of between 15% and 20%. We are not able to forecast the average weight of a summer chum and instead use the long term average.
Looking at the graphics, we are well short of the cost recovery goal. It isn’t reasonable to think we will reach that goal. There will not be a mid-season common property rotational fishery in the Neets Bay SHA. At this point there is also no chum troll fishery on these fish…the last troller left several days ago.
Broodstock is in hand, we have collected enough fish to meet egg take goals. Regardless, we anticipate putting fish across the barrier several more times to provide the desired diversity and to assure the required number of fish will survive to reach the egg take raceways. About 128 million eggs have been collected of the 155 million target. The target should be met this coming week.
The harvest of chinook, excess to broodstock needs, from the raceways at Whitman Lake is finished.
Neck Lake summer coho harvest is all but finished with perhaps one last clean-up of the harvest raceway remaining. This is the lowest summer coho return on record. We’ll attribute it primarily to “The Blob”…an unhappy ocean environment.
6 August 2016: Neets Bay Cost Recovery:
Last week I said that chum abundance had seemed the same through the week…should have added, as best we can tell. The fish simply have not shown themselves this year short of reaching the barrier. Once in a while through the course of a day you may see a group of finners on the surface, but they quickly disappear and in essence are not catchable. We don’t see the fish until they come to the surface at the barrier. This has been the case for pretty much the entire run. We can harvest about 120,000 pounds every morning and sometimes an additional 20,000 pounds in the evening. The other major difference from a normal Neets Bay summer chum return is the size of the fish, the current daily average is about 6.9 pounds. At this date they are generally at least two pounds heavier. And, another anomaly, they are still fresh with some bright fish. Generally the run is getting tired at this date with dark fish keying to the flats and notable loose eggs with every seine pump. This is not happening.
Looking at the graphics, we are well short of the cost recovery goal. There is an excellent chance the forecast will be correct, or that the Neets Bay return will exceed the forecast. Remember, forecasts are done with numbers of fish. We then assume they will weigh the long-term average weight. These fish are going to weigh 25% to 30% less, which accounts for most of the difference between what we anticipated and what is actually happening. And, one more thing, there was no noticeable peak abundance with this return, unless it is still to come…more a constant number available every day for the past 10 days to two weeks. We often say “this run was different”, and of course to some degree every run is different…but this time, it does not resemble anything in our collective institutional memory. And, we could use a little rain.
Broodstock is in hand, we could have already collected enough to meet egg take goals. Regardless, we anticipate putting fish across the barrier several more times to provide the desired diversity and to assure the required number of fish will survive to reach the egg take raceways.
The harvest of chinook, excess to broodstock needs, from the raceways at Whitman Lake is finished.
Neck Lake summer coho harvest is ongoing and one more harvest has occurred since the last report. We are retrieving/harvesting the excess summer chum brood at Burnett Inlet today. There will be at least one more harvest at Neck Lake, but we don’t anticipate a large number of fish. This is the lowest summer coho return on record. We’ll attribute it primarily to “The Blob”…an unhappy ocean environment.
29 July 2016: Neets Bay Cost Recovery:
As best we can assess, chum abundance has been about the same through the past 5 or 6 days. Cost recovery harvest is proceeding pretty much as anticipated. Through yesterday, the 23rd, we have harvested about 48% of the cost recovery goal. We need to harvest close to 8 million pounds to meet the revenue goal…that is still at the minimum between two to three weeks from today. Unless there is a sudden increase in abundance, similar to what occurred in 2015, we may not meet this goal with the summer chum return. Consider the goal was more than 2 million pounds less in 2015, that isn’t unanticipated.
There are two things that make forecasting this run difficult. First, the size of a terminal Neets Bay chum is more than 10% less than usual, and usual is what is forecast. Related to managing the return…fish behavior is “different” than we have observed over the past 15 years. The fish simply are not visible in large schools as they approach the barrier. They are coming in deep, deeper than they can be harvested by seine, and raising up at the barrier itself. This behavior is evident elsewhere in SE chum fisheries this summer (DIPAC personal communication). It isn’t possible to “read” the bay by looking for schools on the surface since they don’t appear on the surface until the fish reach the barrier. We have done several recent measures of male/female (49% female yesterday) that suggest we are just reaching the peak of the return. When you look at the bay, without visible schools anywhere, it is difficult to believe there is much if anything there…and still, set after set at the barrier itself is relatively successful. We are trusting our most reliable information, male/female ratio…but still feeling somewhat blind in the process.
We have collected about 110,000 fish for brood – over the barrier. This should be more than 60% of what is required, though that isn’t certain until we determine how they survive and recruit. At the moment conditions are optimal for the fish behind the barrier. There are more than the usual number of females in the first 100.000 brood; and the first several days of egg collection has gone well. As is always the case, we will continue adding brood over a period of about 2.5 to 3 weeks as is required for both genetic diversity and the logistics of egg taking at Neets Bay.
The harvest of chinook, excess to broodstock needs, from the raceways at Whitman Lake is finished. Neck Lake summer coho harvest is ongoing, but is far below what normally occurs. Most of this harvest should have occurred by now. It appears this isn’t a late run, but instead these fish didn’t survive at their normal rate.
24 July 2016: Neets Bay Cost Recovery:
Chum abundance continues to build in the inner portion of Neets Bay. Cost recovery harvest is proceeding as anticipated. Through yesterday, the 23rd, we have harvested about 31% of the cost recovery goal. We need to harvest close to 8 million pounds to meet the revenue goal…that is at the minimum between two to three weeks from today, probably closer to three weeks if it is achieved.
When we formulate the run forecast, we first estimate fish numbers. Once we have a number we use the long-term average weight of the fish to forecast the weight of the terminal return. The fish are smaller than usual this year; it may come to a pound difference which is about 10%. In this situation it will take 10% more fish to meet the revenue goal as fish are sold by weight.
Broodstock collection began as planned on the 18th. At this point we have put an estimated 52,000 fish over the barrier. Some of our normal measures used to determine run timing are confusing this year. In light of this, we will put brood over the barrier a little faster than usual…at the same time we will spread collection over a three week period as we have always done. This relates to realistically maximizing the diversity among the brood fish.
The fish are still predominantly male, but not by much (current estimate 53% male). Mid point of a run that is predominantly 4’s should be about 46 or 47% male. While we are still early in the process, at this point it looks as if the terminal run and cost recovery is occurring as anticipated. Please note that the graphic shows an earlier beginning to the return than the usual curve. We can’t know if the run is simply early, and perhaps not as strong as anticipated until several more weeks pass.
18 July 2016: Neets Bay Cost Recovery:
Chum abundance has increased in the inner portion of Neets Bay. Cost recovery harvest is proceeding as anticipated. Through yesterday, the 17th, we have harvested about 16% of the cost recovery goal. We will need to harvest close to 8 million pounds to meet the revenue goal…that is at the minimum between two to three weeks from today, probably closer to three weeks.
Broodstock collection began this morning as planned (18 July). The fish are still predominantly male. We will add to broodstock again in several days – as the percentage of females in the return increases over time. Broodstock collection will be distributed through the next 2 ½ to 3 weeks.
While we are still early in the process, it looks as if the terminal run is occurring as anticipated.
10 July 2016: Neets Bay Cost Recovery:
Common property rotational fisheries in Neets Bay extended one additional rotation into July and ended on the 4th. There were more than 50 seiners fishing the last rotation. Going back 5 or 6 years, common property rotations ended on the 20th of June, then later the 25th. The additional effort makes it difficult, if not impossible to compare historic cost recovery harvest on the 10th of July to what happens currently. Regardless, there is a decent abundance of chum entering the SHA and some have moved to the inner bay. To date we have sent two tenders of fish to town and it appears between one and two tenders can be filled in a day’s fishing. From the very back of the room, the Neets SHA, it looks like a decent run.
We will begin collecting broodstock on the 16th or 17th, depending on abundance, male/female ratio, and whether the fish are ready to go into freshwater. Collecting broodstock any earlier that that serves no purpose since the fish ripen and spawn on their timeline, not ours. In addition, the early run is comprised of far more males than females. In short, it can’t be made to happen more quickly regardless of the size of the return.
We’ll start the normal graphics with the next report and will update weekly. At this point, very early in the process, it looks as if this is occurring as anticipated.