Alaska Board of Fisheries Plans Final Action on Hatchery Production Issue

Image: Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Final action on a proposal to reduce hatchery production of pink salmon is scheduled to be heard at the next meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, which is scheduled for Feb. 23-March 5.

The board took testimony on Proposal 43 during its meeting in Homer, Alaska from Nov. 28 through Dec. 1, and received additional written testimony in advance of the Anchorage meeting, which is being held at the Egan Convention Center.

According to Board of Fisheries Executive Director Art Nelson, Proposition 43 is slated for discussion by Group 6 of the board’s committee on March 2, with final action set for after further deliberations on March 3.

Proposition 43, proposed by the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee, calls for reduction of overall hatchery production of pink salmon to 25% of the year 2000 production, as promised in 2000.

The proposal contends that an over-production of hatchery pink salmon threatens wild Alaska stocks.

According to the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory committee, marine productivity is currently in a very low cycle, with wild salmon starving and many small systems extirpated.

Most of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim and Cook Inlet stocks are not meeting escapement goals and have very little or no harvest of Chinook, chum and coho salmon, the advisory committee contends.

The purpose of the proposal is strictly conservation to hold the hatcheries to their 200 promise, the proposal states.

Most testimony at the Homer meeting, where no action was taken, was in opposition to Proposal 43.

Proponents of current hatchery production of these salmon include commercial fisheries entities such as Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU) and the Alaska Trollers Association (ATA).

The ATA testified that its fishery has seen dramatic declines, particularly through reductions mandated by implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Hatchery fish are not counted toward Alaska’s Pacific Salmon Treaty allocation and ATA stands firmly in support of the hatcheries and have received significant benefit from them, ATA Executive Director Amy Daugherty stated in her written testimony.

Nancy Hillstrand, owner of Pioneer Alaskan Fisheries in Homer, favored passage of Proposition 43. She contends in her written testimony that the presence of a high proportion of stray hatchery fish in streams artificially inflates wild stock escapement estimates.

She also argued that hatchery salmon are believed to become genetically distinct from the originating native populations and that concern arises from the belief that the fitness of locally-adopted wild populations is reduced upon genetic integration with domesticated hatchery salmon.