Alaska's Salmon Hatcheries: for Better Or Worse

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: 2:00 PM
Pope (Statehouse Convention Center)
W. Stewart Grant , Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Gene Conservation Laboratory, Anchorage, AK
The State of Alaska established several salmon hatcheries in the 1970s with the intention of evening out natural population fluctuations. These hatcheries were later transferred to private-non-profit corporations, but under state production regulations. Permitted production levels have been expanded considerably in the last two decades, so that in some areas the number of hatchery releases exceeds natural production by 8–10 fold. While hatchery production has indeed increased harvest opportunities for sports and commercial fishermen, evidence indicates adverse ecological and genetic influences on natural populations. A gradual decrease in the average size of spawners in some areas may indicated that ocean carrying capacity has been reached. Additionally, the analysis of hatchery marked fish shows that hatchery fish stray into natural spawning areas. Genetic studies show that the presence of strays in natural streams may or may not lead to genetic introgression. The Alaska State constitution stipulates the 'sustainable use' of renewable resources, but how this mandate translates into the management of salmon populations is much debated.