Alaska salmon hatcheries are again on the agenda this month at the Board of Fisheries meeting at Cordova.
Seven proposals by two entities aim to curtail production at Prince William Sound where six hatcheries operate, claiming that the fish harm wild stocks. The hatchery salmon are from wild stocks, from which eggs are taken and the tiny fish are released as fingerlings to the sea.
In 2019, 15 million salmon that began their lives in hatcheries were caught in Prince William, accounting for 70% of the total commercial catch. According to the annual salmon enhancement report by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, the value to fishermen of nearly $27 million was 67% of the total value for the region.
About 220 seiners fish in Prince William Sound hailing from 22 Alaska communities, along with nearly 520 drift gillnetters from 30 towns. The Sound also is home to 30 setnet sites.
Often lost in the hatchery picture is that they operate with no state dollars and the contribution the fish make to other users., Tina Fairbanks, director of the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association, explained at a 2019 Fish Board meeting at Seward
“In each region where there is an aquaculture association, commercial salmon permit holders have levied a salmon enhancement tax upon themselves from one to three percent. In addition, through statute we’re provided the opportunity to offer a licensing agreement on an annual basis on returning adult salmon to our projects which is a process we call cost recovery. That allows us to recoup our operating expenses.”
“These faculties produce salmon for the common property that include sport, subsistence personal use and commercial fisheries at no cost to the state of Alaska. The revenues generated through commercial harvest landing and fish taxes go back into the communities and state coffers and represent a great return on the state’s initial investment.”
When asked at a packed 2018 Fish Board meeting how many people depended on hatchery fish for their livelihood, over half stood up.
Typically, up to 30 percent of Alaska’s total salmon harvest are fish that began their lives in state hatcheries, mostly pinks and chums.
Deadline to comment directly to the Fish Board on the Prince William Sound hatchery proposals is noon on November 15.
The Board meets at the Cordova Convention Center from November 30 through December 6.