“As of right now, the way it’s trending, it’s looking like one of the worst years in Chignik history,” says Ross Renick, the management biologist for the Chignik area.
Chignik has two sockeye runs — an early run and a late run. The early run escapement is at about 140,000 fish — barely a fourth of the pre-season forecast. This is the third year in a row that the early run has failed to make escapement goals, and this year, the late run seems to be failing as well. The late run escapement is at only a third of its forecast — it just passed 100,000 fish.
“Usually the criteria for a stock of concern is 3 years of not meeting the minimum escapement goal, so there is the potential that this early run could turn into a stock of concern,” Renick added.
Those salmon runs are the foundation of life in the region. Ben Allen, a member of the Chignik city council and a fisherman explains: “It’s hard to write a budget when you don’t even know if a fishery is going to exist. And how many people are going to be in your town any more. And what you’re even going to do for an income.”