Fisheries Board Decision Gives Go-Ahead for Increase in Hatchery Humpies

In an emergency meeting in Anchorage, Alaska on July 17, the Alaska Board of Fisheries, in a 4-3 vote, declined to reverse an earlier decision allowing for an increase of 20 million pink salmon eggs for the Solomon Gulch Hatchery near Valdez.

The meeting was called to discuss several proposals, including one brought by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) to stop the Valdez Fishery Development Association from raising its take and incubation of eggs. The action was opposed by commercial fishermen, who were also critical of the timing of the emergency meeting when most harvesters who would be affected were out fishing.

In a commentary about the issue published in The Cordova Times, President Jerry McCune of Cordova District Fishermen United, called upon all stakeholders, to “band together to support sensible habitat protection, sustainable management, and continued research. We can’t afford the distraction of quibbling over a time-tested, well-managed, intensely studied program that feeds thousands of Alaska families.”

Marty Weiser, chief development officer for Copper River Seafoods, said the success of Prince William Sound (PWS) is reliant on these hatcheries. “If the science says we are not damaging wild stocks then we should continue to provide the stability to our fishermen and the market that these hatcheries provide.”

The sportfishing association contended in its petition to the board that in some streams across Lower Cook Inlet last year up to 70- percent of the humpies were released from Prince William Sound hatcheries.

“In addition to the straying issues of PWS hatchery-origin pink salmon observed in Lower Cook Inlet, recent scientific publications have provided cause for concern over the biological impacts associated with continued release of very large numbers of hatchery salmon into the North Pacific Ocean, including the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska,” the KRSA petition states.

Hatchery issues are set to be taken up again by the Alaska fisheries board during a work session in Anchorage in October.