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El Nino to Help Some, Hurt Other Fisheries

PULLMAN, Wash. — El Nino will bring good news for some fisheries and bad news for others in the coming year.

Gil Sylvia, of Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Ore., says El Nino is bad news for coho and shrimp fishermen and good news for albacore (tuna).

Writing for the 1998 Pacific Northwest Agricultural Situation and Outlook Report, Sylvia said El Nino is expected to decrease ocean survival rates for coho and to decrease shrimp landings. On the other hand, warmer waters from El Nino already have pushed albacore closer to shore where they are being caught by smaller “ice boats.”

The 1997 salmon harvest is down and the forecast for 1998 is bleak. Both catch and prices are down. Coho harvest also may be diminished by implementation of the new Federal Fisheries Act.

Oregon coho landings totaled only 151,000 pounds in 1997, less than 5 percent of the 1985-1994 average and 40,000 pounds less than in 1996. Chinook totaled 2.1 million pounds, up 500,000 pounds from 1996. Gross ex-vessel revenues in 1997 totaled $2.7 million, up $400,000 from 1996.

Washington chinook and coho landings both are expected to drop significantly in 1997. Chinook harvest is expected to be about 2.5 million pounds, down 300,000 pounds. Coho landings are expected to total 1.3 million pounds, a drop of 1.2 million pounds.

Washington sockeye harvest is expected to double to 4 million pounds. Overall, Washington salmon revenue is expected to be $10 million to $14 million. That would be a $3 million to $7 million increase over 1996.

Despite a 5.5 million pound increase, the combined Oregon and Washington Pacific Pink Shrimp harvest of 24.8 million pounds remained below the 30 million pound average for 1985-1996. The industry is hampered by low prices. Total revenues for the two states totaled $9.9 million, down $2 million from 1996.

Sylvia said landings may decrease as El Nino strengthens.

The Pacific whiting industry enjoyed one of its most profitable seasons in 1997. Devaluation of the Japanese yen and competition from supplies of other competitive products are expected to keep groundfish prices about the same in 1998 as in 1997. However, management authority guidelines will lead to reduced landings of 20 percent to 70 percent in 1998, Sylvia said.

The Dungeness crab fishery had a relatively poor season in 1997. Oregon’s harvest of 7.1 million pounds was down 10 million pounds from 1996. Washington’s landings of 9.2 million pounds was down 8.2 million pounds.

This was somewhat offset by rising prices, but total Oregon revenues were off $11.4 million, at $13.4 million. Washington’s total revenues of $17.5 million were down $6.9 million.

Prospects for 1998 are poor. Indications are for a smaller harvest and lower prices. Climbing crab inventories and an increase in the Alaskan Opilio crab quota are expected to push prices down.

Oregon’s and Washington’s combined albacore harvest of 15.2 million pounds was 20 percent smaller in 1997 than in 1996, but still far above the 25-year average of 8 million pounds.

Beneficial effects of El Nino, a longer season and increased fishing effort should keep landings strong in 1998. Prices should remain near 1997 levels. Oregon’s and Washington’s combined albacore revenues were $12.2 million.

Washington’s aquiculture industry brought additional millions to the state’s economy. Sylvia said Washington aquiculturists produced more than 260 million trout eggs in 1997. They sold for an average $14.56 per 1,000, up from $13.13 in 1996.

Washington also harvested half a million pounds of trout. The state’s net-pen salmon production for 1997 is expected to be about 9 million pounds with prices averaging $2.25-$2.50 per pound.

Sylvia said Washington’s oyster production totaled more than 60 million pounds. Revenues topped $27 million, an increase of 7 percent. Production should increase slightly in 1998. Washington is the nation’s leading oyster producer.

In addition, Washington produced 8 million pounds of other shellfish, primarily hard-shell manilla clams and mussels.

The 1998 PNW Agricultural Situation and Outlook Report is the product of 44 agricultural economists and other authorities at Washington State University, Oregon State University, University of Idaho and private industry. It will be published Jan. 2 in the “Capital Press.”

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