Port Moller Test Fishery

The Port Moller Test Fishery (PMTF) is conducted each year to help processors, fishermen, and fishery managers assess the timing, composition, and abundance of sockeye salmon returning to commercial fishing districts in Bristol Bay.  Started in 1967, the project was operated and funded by ADF&G through 1986.  In 1988, processors funded the program and University of Washington operated it.  Since 2002 the project has been operated by BBSRI and funded by BBSRI, processors and the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.  The BBRSDA has also provided additional and key support to the second test vessel and, in 2021, to the onboard genetics experiment.  Peter Pan Seafoods has provided shore support to the project for decades. BBSRI charters two research vessels to conduct test fishing: the R/V Ocean Cat from R&R Marine and the R/V Pandalus from ADF&G.  BBSRI manages the project, provides technicians and gear to sample fish, and prepares all analyses and reports to managers, industry, and the public.

The PMTF is approximately 150 to 200 miles southwest of the different Bristol Bay fishing districts; sockeye salmon typically take 6 to 9 days to travel this distance.

Test fishing stations that are sampled by 30 minute sets are spaced 10 nmi apart (i.e., even-numbered stations; see map). Historically, up to six stations were fished each day (stations 2-12).  Since 2019, we have doubled that coverage and extend fishing as far north as station 26.  Test fishing occurs from approximately June 10 through July 12-15. Stations 2-12 range from 30 to 80 nmi offshore from Port Moller, on a line stretching from Port Moller towards Cape Newenham.  Station 26 is ~ 150 nmi from Port Moller. 


From 2011-2019, we used a multi-panel 200-fathom gill net that consisted of four 50-fathom shackles that alternate between shackles of 5 1/8 and 4 1/2 in mesh. The resulting daily index of abundance with two mesh sizes replaced the old Index (1987-2010) that was obtained using only 5 1/8 in mesh.  The old net was selective towards older, larger fish. Fish are also sampled for scales and tissue to estimate the age composition and district-specific stock composition.  Up to 11 stock composition estimates are prepared, typically spanning 2-day periods of test fishing beginning around June 20. The genetics-based information allows us to begin to parse the overall Index into relative abundance of fish bound for the different fishing districts, thereby increasing the program's usefulness to fishery managers and industry.

In 2019 and 2020, using the Ocean Cat we documented a substantial fraction of the run (>50%) moving by Port Moller at the outer stations beyond the traditional areas fished since 1967.  See the figure from the button on the top right of this page "Map of Stations Fished" to see the focus of the second boat.  Also, see the 2019 and 2020 reports for the benefits of fishing the other half of the run found offshore of station 12.

After finding in 2019 that under certain conditions, almost all fish can move below our 60-mesh net.  When this occurs we cannot index, age, or identify the stock composition of the run (the purpose of the project).  Therefore, we switched in 2020 from 60 to a net of 100-mesh (5.125") and 111-mesh (4.5") panels .  The deeper net set us up to avoid missing large numbers of fish running beneath the net in certain stable weather/water situations. We monitor as best we can the fraction of the catch in the bottom half of the 100-mesh net to approximate what a 60-mesh net might have caught for comparison to historical information. 

NEW in 2021, we will be experimenting with conducting the genetic laboratory analysis on board the R/V Ocean Cat. Lab analyses for these stock composition estimates will also still need to be done in ADF&G' Anchorage lab in 2021 to confirm accuracy of the on-board lab work. If all goes well in 2021 and we get 100% concurrence with the land-based lab, the on-board lab could provide more timely and less vessel intensive results in future seasons by eliminating the need for one of the vessels to come ashore every two days and for getting tissue samples all the way from the North Peninsula to Anchorage. 


BBSRI distributes four types of information from the PMTF:

  • Daily Catch Updates

    • Report raw catches by panel, set duration, average fish size, weather and seastate, and the PMTF Index

  • Interpretations of PMTF Data and developing run

    • Periodic forecasts of the entire year’s run and its relative strength to various districts (every 3 to 7 days)

  • Stock Composition Estimates of the PMTF catches

    • Released by ADF&G Gene Lab up to 11 times per season

  • Age Composition Estimates

    • Released by ADF&G multiple times per season

Each series of updates are consecutively numbered and delivered by email to everyone on the BBSRI email list serve, then posted to the web page.  Contact Michael Link (project manager) to be added to the list of email recipients for all PMTF updates.  There is no cost to be on the list serve and email addresses are not shared with anyone.  Those on the list in 2020 are automatically be included in 2021.  Although not mandatory, it is helpful if you could let us us know your affiliation with the fishery (e.g., harvesting, processing, fish buyer, shipper, supplier of gear, scientist, state or federal government biologist or manager). 

Michael Link manages the PMTF project and assists with distributing the daily catch updates.  Dr. Scott Raborn takes the lead in producing the regular interpretations of the PMTF data.  Both can be reached via email.

Prior Annual Reports from PMTF, 2010-2020

These reports include a compilation of the in-season updates that were sent to the distribution list, including the stock and age composition updates, and describe the test-fishing sampling protocol.  We also provide some performance metrics associated with the updates that were issued. File sizes range from 3-6 MB, except for 2015 and 2020, which, unfortunately, are 10 and 9 MB, respectively.

Individual annual reports:

2020, 2019, 20182017, 2016,  2015,  2014,  2013,  2012,  2011, 2010.

Port Moller looking SW

Port Moller looking SSE