Fish Radio
November 28, 2012

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – A Western Alaska salmon genetic study misses the mark. More after this —

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A six year salmon genetics study aimed to identify the origins of chum and sockeye salmon in fisheries from Chignik to Kotzebue.  Called the Western Alaska Salmon Stock Identification Project, or WASSIP, the project directly involved 11 regional groups and Fish and Game.     Nearly 320,000 samples were collected from salmon fisheries and   analyzed at the state’s Gene Conservation Laboratory.

CUT:  It is unprecedented. You are not going to find any salmon genetics project in the world that comes even close to this.

Eric Volk is chief scientist for the Commercial Fisheries Division.   He says such genetic projects typically reveal the salmon stocks that are harvested in a particular run, and the proportions of those stocks that make up a catch.

Cut:  We not only look at each fishery which stocks are contributing to that fishery but we also look at it from the other side which is for any given stock of interest which fisheries are catching that stock.

The WASSIP study yielded a wealth of information and more is sure to come. But it came up short in terms of the big question surrounding chums.

Cut:   We were hoping that we could recognize genetically the chum stocks that originate from Norton Sound or the Yukon or the Kuskokwim or Bristol Bay. That would be very informative, for people to look at a fishery and be able to discern which of those stocks are caught in what proportion. Unfortunately, we are not able to distinguish genetically those chum salmon over that broad stretch of coast.

Volk called the WASSIP project a model of diverse groups that worked by consensus.

Cut:      To me it was a model of stakeholder participation to get to a product.  Let’s face it these results are potentially impacting all of these people lives and so the idea that we were able to get all these people together and agree on how to sample the fishery, where and how we are going to do the analyses – that’s incredible and a fascinating example of how it can work. I was honored to be sitting at the head of the table for four years  to try and bring it to the finish line.

The WASSIP study will be discussed at the Board of Fish meeting starting next week at Naknek. Find a link at Fish Radio on Facebook.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, celebrating 102   years of partnership with Alaska’s coastal communities.  In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.