Kodiak, Alaska (KINY) A hatchery wants to harvest an additional 20 million pink salmon eggs.
The Peninsula Clarion reported that the Board Fisheries expressed concern about Pacific salmon hatchery impacts on wild salmon stocks, but have not decided how to address the issue.
The Board declined to consider an emergency petition submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association that asked the board to intervene in a permit modification applied for by the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation.
The hatcheries operate across the state raising Pacific salmon to smolt, and releasing them into the ocean. The public has raised concerns about how much capacity the ocean has and how the hatchery stock interacts with wild stocks.
The organizations wrote in their petition that the expansion of Prince William Sound hatchery operations threatens wild stocks in both Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet. A sampling study in 2017 from pink salmon returning to streams across Lower Cook Inlet that don’t normally have pink salmon showed that many of them originated in Prince William Sound hatcheries.
“It is certainly unforeseen and unexpected that release of millions of additional hatchery-produced pink salmon fry into the marine waters of Prince William Sound without a doubt threatens the biological integrity of wild stocks of pink salmon in Lower Cook Inlet and potentially adds to an already critical ocean rearing situation,” the petition stated.
The petition requested that the Board of Fisheries put the permit on hold until “adequate consideration” could be given to the impact of hatchery fish on wild salmon stocks. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in collaboration with hatchery organizations, is in the middle of a long-term study on the interaction of hatchery fish with wild fish in Prince William Sound and Southeast, with the study scheduled to conclude in 2023.
Fish and Game responded that the petition did not meet the Board of Fisheries’ standards for an emergency, according to a staff response submitted to the board. The board also has limited authority over hatchery organizations, which are funded partially by a tax on commercial fishermen but are private nonprofit organizations.
The board voted 3-3 on the petition. The board agreed to discuss hatchery issues on a regular basis after the public voiced concerns at the meeting held in Sitka in January.