Saturday, July 4, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Premier Alaska Salmon Run Having Another Bad Year


ANCHORAGE - The Bristol Bay red-salmon run remains stalled. Alaska's richest salmon fishery usually reaches its peak around the Fourth of July, but the fish are failing to arrive for the second straight year.

Cannery workers, fishing-boat skippers and crew members are idled. Fish aren't swimming into the river systems in large-enough numbers to allow much fishing in three of the five districts around the bay.

"The news is what's not been happening," said Jeff Regnart, a Department of Fish and Game biologist in King Salmon, Alaska.

As of Thursday the run had totaled about 2.5 million fish out of a projected run of 30 million.

Biologists want 9.5 million salmon to make it upriver to spawn, leaving the rest for the fishermen. Biologists had expected about a third of the run to have reached Bristol Bay by now.

The run is not only late, but it's missing a bulk of 5-year-old fish, which were forecast to make up a large segment of the run.

In view of last year's disastrous Bristol Bay shortfall, Gov. Tony Knowles is monitoring daily reports from the bay closely, said Bob King, the governor's spokesman.

Bristol Bay, home to hundreds of fishermen, was declared an economic-disaster area last year after the catch barely hit half of what was predicted.

There still is time for the salmon to charge into the bay and salvage this season, Regnart said, much as happened in 1994, when a run came late but eventually was the third-largest catch in the past decade.

"I can't tell you where we're going to be. . . . It can change quite quickly," Regnart said. "Tomorrow might be a much rosier picture in the bay."

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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