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Prince William Sound hatcheries look at straying SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker - January 13, 2015 Alaska salmon was the first fishery in the nation to come under MSC’s sustainability certification. Today environmental non-governmental organizations (eNGOs) are all about Alaska salmon. They are analyzing the state biologists’ reports, assessing and categorizing degrees of sustainability, creating easy to use, color-coded lists of “good” and “bad” seafood to sell to seafood buyers as part of a “sustainability package”. About the same time the Alaska Department of Fish and Game released their forecast for 2015 last month, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) released their report on salmon. “Pacific Seafood: SFP’s Sustainability Overview” gave a failure rating to Prince William Sound’s pink fisheries due to “hatchery issues.” Their complaint referred to “straying” of the hatchery fish that may then interbreed with wild pink salmon. They recommended a ban on further increases to hatchery production until the effects on wild salmon can be seen and measured. Even though they acknowledged that straying is not an issue for the Solomon Gulch hatchery (where the latest increase in production was approved last year), they stuck to singling Prince William Sound out as a problematic area without ever articulating the problem. The Solomon Gulch hatchery is located at the north end of Valdez Arm, a hundred miles from PWSs other hatcheries. The pink salmon from Solomon Gulch return and are harvested a full month before wild salmon enter the Sound. There has been no documentation of Solomon Gulch pinks straying or interbreeding with wild stocks. Additionally, as with all decisions to increase egg takes or change production levels, ADF&G conducts a full analysis of what impacts the change would bring, basically looking at whether the area could support it. In this case, the analysis included a finding that there would be no impact on wild stocks. Here’s what ADF&G says about hatcheries on their website: From the start of hatcheries in 1971, “protection of wild stocks has been foremost” when developing programs and creating policies. Alaska continues to approach requests for increased hatchery production by asking if an increase can be managed with consideration of potential risks to wild stocks. From the beginnings of Alaska’s salmon fishery enhancement program it was recognized that salmon stray and that hatchery stocks would stray; consequently, policies and regulations were adopted to mitigate concerns associated with straying. For the protection of wild salmon stocks, hatcheries must use local stocks as the brood source and locate hatcheries away from important wild stocks. Requiring the use of only local salmon stocks means that straying hatchery fish are less likely to reduce fitness of local populations.” The SFP report lauds the practice of marking of hatchery fish by snipping the adipose fin as a technique to better account for straying. Alaska’s salmon biologists pioneered the use of otolith (ear bone) thermal marks for mass-marking hatchery production. “Now, almost 100% of all hatchery salmon in most of the state are marked. Straying on a sub-regional level appears to be on the order of 5-10% for pink and chum salmon, and less for other species,” according to the department website. As with all resource management, these observations raised other questions and a new hatchery research project was launched a year and a half ago to answer three questions: Are hatchery-bred salmon interbreeding with wild salmon to the extent that fitness and productivity of these stocks are being diminished? Is the annual assessment of wild stocks (which is, in large part, based on visual observation) so biased by the presence of hatchery salmon that excessive harvest of wild fish is being allowed or that escapement goals are difficult to set and difficult to assess? Do density interactions diminish productivity of wild salmon? The project is expected to complete in the winter of 2016, when they will have the data to make an informed decision about whether to halt production increases in Prince William Sound. Peggy Parker, Science and Sustainability Editor SeafoodNews 1-781-861-1441 Email comments to [email protected] Copyright © 2015 Seafoodnews
Posted on: Tue, 13 Jan 2015 18:37:31 +0000

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