Commentary

Whose pasture?

whose salmon

Alaska hatchery salmon harvest/Alaska Department of Fish and Game

News analysis

On a three-three vote, the Alaska Board of Fisheries has allowed to move forward a plan to dump another 18 million or so pink salmon fry into the Port of Valdez every year to add to the approximately 700 million pink fry being poured into Prince William Sound every year.

 

The big winner? Peter Pan Seafoods, a subsidiary of the Maruha Nichiro Corporation in Japan and several hundred commercial fishermen. Maruha Nichiro is the world’s largest seafood company with annual sales of $8 to $9 billion and profits of around $150 million.

Peter Pan, its subsidiary, operates a Valdez processing plant that handles a bounty of pinks produced by the Valdez Fisheries Development Association, a private, nonprofit company that has grown from a small hatchery that released 7.4 million pink salmon fry in 1981 to one that now releases about 230 million fry and growing. 

Six of  the seven members of that organization’s board of directors are involved in the commercial fishing business. Three of them, including chairman of the board Bernie Culbertson, hold valuable, Alaska salmon seine permits for Prince William Sound.

Sound seine permits, which the state of Alaska issued free to commercial fishermen as their personal property to keep or to sell after the approval of the state’s Limited Entry Act in 1973, are now selling for anywhere from $155,000 to $175,000.

A fishing package – the permit plus a boat and the gear to go fishing – costs somewhere from $450,000 to $675,000.

These small, individual businesses are highly valuable because a prolific, state-backed salmon ranching scheme introduced to the Sound in 1975 has made them so. When the Armin F. Koenig hatchery was built in 1974, a token 3 million salmon fry were being released into Alaska waters to eat their way to sea and return, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game figures.

By the time that hatchery run by the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Association, another operation dominated by commercial fishermen, released its first million fish in 1975, state hatchery production had increased to 11 million fry.

The stocking was destined to explode. By the time the Alaska legislature voted to ban fish farming in 1990, the annual fry dump into the ocean topped 1 billion small fish per year.

Backers of private, nonprofit hatcheries and their lobbyists have sold their hatcheries as big contributors to “common property” salmon stocks that benefit all Alaskans, but state data indicates that is largely a lie.

Ninety-nine percent of the hatchery salmon produced in Alaska benefit commercial fishermen or hatcheries, according to the Alaska Salmon Fisheries Enhancement Annual Report 2017 from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. One percent gets split between rural subsistence fishermen, Alaskans who dipnet salmon for personal use, and the several hundred thousands anglers – resident and non-resident – who pump cash into the state’s tourist economy.

Wild salmon – not hatchery salmon – are the fish that benefit most Alaskans, but the state provided limited attention to protecting wild fish from possible hatchery competition and displacement even as scientists at the start of the decade began to warn that ocean pastures are being overgrazed by hatchery salmon and some state fisheries biologists expressed concern that pink salmon getting lost on their way back to the hatcheries were straying into almost ever stream in the Sound  with the risk of potentially turning the area into little more than one giant, defacto hatchery.

Those concerns would slow the meteoric growth in the ocean-ranching program, but the state reported almost 1.6 billion salmon fry – most of them voracious pinks and chums – poured out of hatcheries in the Sound, Southeast Alaska and Kodiak last year.  

More, more, more

State fisheries managers are now being questioned by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and others for allowing hatchery programs to continuously expand, but the same biologists probably deserve a commendation for holding things in check as well as they did.

Statewide fry dumps that topped 1.5 billion for the first time in 2007 have remained within 250,000 fry of that mark ever since, despite pressure from salmon processors and hatchery operators to significantly expand the hatchery program.

The Pacific Seafood Processors Association, an industry trade group, and three of the biggest processors running operations in Alaska – Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods – approached the private, non-profit hatcheries in 2010 to ask for a greater than 60 percent increase in hatchery output.

“From 2000-2009 the average statewide hatchery pinks returns were 32.6 million in even years and 55.9 million in odd years – in both cases about 40 percent of total pink returns,” the processors said in an “Open Letter to Alaska Hatcheries.”

“We would like production to increase to 70 million in both even and odds years over the next five years, which would bring hatchery production to roughly 50 percent of that total.”

State reports reflect that the processors got part of what they wanted – odd year hatchery returns of pinks increased to about 60 million and even year returns to 41 million – but it was by luck, not design.

Fry stocking did not increase significantly. Adult returns from similar fry releases  appear to have risen due to slightly better ocean survival, a factor over which hatcheries have no control.

Hatcheries helped drive Alaska salmon harvests into the present era of bounty fueled in large part by a warmer North Pacific ocean making for more productive habitat. Just over half of the 169 million salmon caught in Alaska commercial fisheries in 2010 were hatchery fish, but wild fish are what have largely supported the good times of this decade.

From 1970 through 2009, the Alaska commercial catch topped 200 million fish only four times. Since 2010, the catch has three time passed 200 million with a state record harvest of 280 million coming in 2013.

The hatchery percentage of the catch for the seven years from 2011 through last year? Thirty-one percent – far below the 50 percent goal of processors. And the percentage was down to 21 percent last year on a catch of 222 million.

Meanwhile, there were obvious problems with the pink salmon returning to the Sound, the salmon-ranching capital of Alaska.

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Dazed and confused

Hump-backed hatchery pink salmon – or “humpies” as Alaska’s commonly call the smallest and most bountiful of the Pacific salmon – that were supposed to be returning to Sound hatcheries in 2017 showed up in a lot of other places, most notably in Cook Inlet.

“All around Kachemak Bay the past weeks, people have reported large runs of pink salmon in places never seen before,” Michael Armstrong wrote in the Homer New in August 2017.

“Glenn Hollowell, finfish area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Homer, said he started hearing reports of pinks in Beluga Slough last week. When he went to check, he said he saw so many ‘that I came back with a knife and tray and started plucking otoliths,’ or ear bones.”

Those otoliths would turn out to be telling. Collected from 16 target streams where salmon research was ongoing and “a few streams that normally have very few, if
any, fish – e.g., Beluga Slough, Fritz Creek, Lou’s Creek, Sadie Cove – but were reported by
members of the public to have ‘hundreds’ or ‘thousands’ of fish in them in 2017,” the thermally marked ear bones showed hatchery fish had infiltrated most of the streams in Lower Cook Inlet (LCI), according to an Alaska Fish and Game memo.

“Hatchery-marked pink salmon – PWS and LCI combined – outnumbered unmarked
pink salmon on five of the 16 streams sampled, including three small streams sampled in response to public reports of unusually high escapements, i.e., Beluga Slough, Fritz Creek, Lou’s Creek,” the report said.

The entrance to Cook Inlet is approximately 150 to 200 miles west of the westernmost entrance to Prince William Sound. How many hatchery salmon from the Sound turned into the Inlet instead of heading home is unknown. State fisheries biologists have offered no estimate.

And while hatchery pinks from the Sound were showing up in the Inlet in unusual numbers, they weren’t showing up in the Sound as expected. The hatchery return there was a bit of a bust. PSWAC forecast a return of 27.4 milion pinks to its four hatcheries, but only 13.3 million – 48 percent less – came back.

The Valdez hatchery did better. It came up only 4.6 million humpies shy of a predicted return of 18.75 million, according to Fish and Game’s season summary.

Wild pinks, meanwhile – or at least pinks heading for streams instead of hatcheries, the spawning streams of the Sound now being a jumble of wild and hatchery fish – returned in unexpected numbers.

The ”wild” catch of humpies was about 600,000 in excess of the state forecast, and Fish and Game reported the number of pinks spawning in Sound streams appeared to be at or above spawning goals.

What happened? Nobody knows.

Biological realities

Ocean survival is the huge wild-card in salmon management.

On the heavily studied Columbia River of the Pacific Northwest, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have determined that as little as one-tenth of 1 percent to 2 percent of the salmon that enter the Columbia River estuary on their way to sea survive to return.

That is a twentyfold difference.

“If just 1 to 2 percent more juvenile salmon survived through adulthood in the ocean, the number of adult salmon that came back to the Columbia River to spawn would more than double,” notes the Bonneville Power Administration.

PSWAC survival usually runs 5 percent. PSWAC hatcheries hit the jackpot in 2010 when 12 percent of hatchery pinks survived, according to the McDowell Group, a consultancy.

In a 2011 report prepared for the aquaculture association, McDowell argued “that Alaskans have received tremendous ‘bang for the buck’ as a result of supporting
PWSAC operations” to the tune of about $49 million in state grants and loans.

“For every $1.00 of net grant funding the State of Alaska has invested in PWSAC
facilities since 1975, the hatcheries have returned $271 to the seafood industry (in first wholesale value),” said the report, which argued for pumping ever more pink salmon into the North Pacific Ocean in hopes of further increasing profits.

Adding another 441 million eggs to the hatcheries in the late 2000s, the report argued, would produce another 26 million humpies and “fishermen would have earned an additional $30.1 million during the 2009 to 2011 fishing seasons. That is equal to $42,300 per active permit holder for the three-year period, or $14,100 per year.”

Hatcheries are often viewed as a panacea by commercial and sport fishermen, the general public and some consultancies, but biologists have been prone to colder, harder, more objective examinations.

While agreeing that the Sound hatcheries appear to be a huge success, Ricardo Amoroso from the University of Washington and colleagues observed that the picture is confused because of  “a major change in productivity in the North Pacific so that throughout Alaska pink salmon increased dramatically in abundance between the 1970s and the 2000s.”

In a peer-review study published last year in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, the scientists concluded appearances can be deceiving:

“We estimate that the PWS hatchery program has increased the total catch by an average of 17 million fish, of which 8 million have been allocated to pay hatchery operating expenses,” they wrote. “We estimate that the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of wild spawning fish in PWS has increased slightly (28 percent), while in regions of Alaska without pink salmon hatchery programs the MSY has tripled. Our results support the use of a precautionary approach to future large-scale stock enhancement efforts.”

The study was flawed only in that it ignored the efficiency of “cost recovery,” which is the main way in which the private, non-profit hatcheries now fund their operations. Fish are cheap to catch when they school near a hatchery, and pink salmon – small salmon which lack the high fat content of sockeyes and Chinooks – are a low-value fish on which profit is tied to volume.

Increasingly pinks are ground,  formed into patties, and sold as “salmon burgers,” but a large volume is still canned. Canned salmon is a cheap product – about $3 per can- that competes with tuna, a product that has been falling out of favor with U.S. consumers for years.

Pink salmon processors need a lot of pinks cheap to survive as businesses. Commercial seiners need a lot of pinks they can sell at low price to generate the income to cover operating costs and earn a profit. Hatcheries need a lot of salmon – and roe, the most valuable part of pink salmon – to cover operating costs and staff salaries that exist even if they operate as non-profits.

For all of these interests, pumping out ever more pink salmon makes economic sense. In a simple business world driven purely by personal self-interest, they would continue to ratchet hatchery production up to the point where falling marine survival – a sign the pasture is being overgrazed – dropped to a point where the cost-to-benefit ratio of hatching ever more eggs and releasing ever more fry began to fall.

Only it isn’t that simple because the hatchery owners and their associates don’t own the pasture. The pasture is a huge commons in which everyone dependent on or interested in salmon has a stake, and it is out in the commons that things get interesting.

Trade-offs

An advocate for wild fish, Ben Van Alen, a fisheries biologist for the U.S. Forest Service in Southeast Alaska, is at the opposite extreme of hatchery backers. He argues that mainly what salmon ranching does is steal nutrients from the ocean in the process of disrupting natural ecosystems.

Naturally, he argues, “a sizeable proportion of wild salmon runs spawn and die in thousands of watersheds which helps maintain the natural marine-terrestrial-marine
nutrient cycle. In contrast, nearly all salmon returning to hatcheries and remote release sites are caught (and should be) and their tons of marine-derived nutrients are removed from the nutrient cycle.

“Thus, not only are wild fish and shellfish facing direct competition from 5 billion-plus hatchery salmon now released into the North Pacific each year, but the ocean’s productivity is declining from the nutrient mining inherent with these industrial-scale ocean ranching hatchery programs.”

Van Alen also makes a point with which no one argues:

There is a limit, albeit unknown and variable, as to how many salmon the ocean pastures can support, and “you can fill (that) carrying capacity with wild fish and/or hatchery fish.”

Against that backdrop, there is a growing debate about hatchery fish more than filling their fair share of that carrying capacity to the detriment of not only other salmon, but seabirds as well.

University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Alan Springer and colleagues in Australia say large volumes of hatchery fish are messing up the ecosystem of not only the North Pacific, but the entire Pacific. In a peer-reviewed study published Monday on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, they reported evidence that immature pink salmon were consuming so much food in the North Pacific that Australian shearwaters that summer in the area were dying from malnutrition after winging their nesting grounds back in the South Pacific. 

The scientists described the issue as “another example in a growing list of ecosystem disservices of an abundant species of North Pacific salmon and the need to include ecosystem processes at such geographic scales in conservation and management considerations for this northern open ocean.”

Their paper came on the heels of another by fisheries scientists Greg Ruggerone from Seattle and Jim Irvine from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, suggesting the huge production of hatchery chums and pinks by Alaska, Japan and Russia is likely reducing North American populations of coho and Chinook salmon and contributing to the shrinking size of the most prized sport fish in the 49th state.

In a peer-reviewed paper published in Marine and Coastal Fisheries – Dynamics, Management and Ecosystem Science, they observed that “salmon abundance in large areas of Alaska (Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska), Russia (Sakhalin and Kuril islands), Japan, and South Korea are dominated by hatchery (pink and chum) salmon. During 1990–2015, hatchery salmon represented approximately 40 percent of the total biomass of adult and immature salmon in the ocean.”

Ruggerone said in an interview that it is pretty clear the Pacific has reached carrying capacity for salmon, and that in some cases fast-growing pinks appear to be displacing and then replacing sockeye, coho and Chinook that spend years at sea instead of a year at sea.

The idea is not exactly new.

“Competition for resources between hatchery and wild salmon stocks has become a significant concern,” the University of Alaska Anchorage Environment and Natural Resources Institute reported in a 2001 paper prepared for Trout Unlimited. “Based on a review of the literature and discussions with biologists, geneticists, and fishery
managers, it is widely believed that extensive ocean ranching may pose a threat to the ocean’s carrying capacity and the protection of salmon biodiversity.

“This may be the most important issue for assessing risks to wild salmon, especially for populations with comparatively small numbers of individuals, and it may be more significant than the risk of loss or change in genetic diversity due to hatchery practices.”

Nancy Hillstrand, a resident of the Homer area on the Kenai Peninsula and a critic of the cavalier way in which state hatchery programs are monitored, has referred to the process of displacement and replacement of highly valuable salmon with low-value humpies as “silent allocation.”

“Monitoring of hatchery practices is a duty and responsibility of each of the Regional Planning Teams established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game,” the UAA report concluded. “Judging from the type of reports they produce (e.g., annual hatchery management plans), their primary concern is development of hatchery production plans and evaluating the resulting contribution to fisheries.

“Some plans have information that addresses the protection of wild stocks; however, there is almost no information on how effective any of the proposed measures have been.

“This report concludes that industrial-scale hatchery salmon production, which releases billions of smolts into the North Pacific Ocean, could be jeopardizing Alaska’s wild salmon. Additionally, there are legitimate management questions as to whether
hatchery operations in Alaska are in line with current Alaska Department of Fish and Game policies, including the Sustainable Salmon Fisheries Policy.”

Nobody listened to the UAA scientist then. Seventeen years on, with hatcheries again wanting to expand, the Kenai sportfishing group is raising the same issues. The Board of Fisheries has this time suggested maybe it should listen at some point, but when is the question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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26 replies »

  1. Bill,

    With all do respect, I don’t think you quite grasp the understanding of the term the tragedy of the commons. You certainly do not understand the numbers behind the argument laid out in this article. The basic premise is that commercial interests are what is causing the problem. In no way did lmited entry take care of the tragedy of the commons, by definition limited entry will always compound the tragedy of the commons. Personally, as a former commercial fisherman I would suggest that you not try and represent commercial fishermen in your statements since you are doing us no favors.

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    • Steve-O
      “The tragedy of the commons is a term used in social science to describe a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.”
      There you go Steve-O and I do not represent commercial fishermen any more that you do. The “tragedy of the commons” was handled fairly well IMO with Limited Entry. You don’t agree (tough noogies), but the resource, that was in trouble, bounced back nicely after limited entry and those fishermen no longer needed to destroy the resource because they had an interest in it. Simple as that.
      This hatchery issue is an entirely different situation and has nothing to do with limited entry IMO.

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      • Bill,

        Keep re-reading what you just wrote in quotes, and try to follow along.

        The commercial fisherman with limited entry permits are using the hatcheries in their own self interest in a way that acts against the common good for all users in the shared resource of all salmon. If a person were to write a case study in the tragedy of the commons, the low cost hatchery humpy scheme would be a prime example.

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      • Steve-O, you may have something relative to hatcheries but what I wrote was specifically due to limited entry solving a “tragedy of the commons” issue of unlimited commercial fishing. And like I said, the hatchery issue “is an entirely different situation.”
        As someone who fished commercially during the early years of hatcheries in PWS, I can say that the subject of hatcheries was sold on the premise of evening out the boom-bust cycle that often occurred in wild fish runs. I personally witnessed the straying issue (with PWS chums) causing a bit of harm to wild chum runs in College Fiord and believe the straying issue that many are referring to relative to pinks.
        The chums are both a gillnet and seine fish but pinks are predominantly seine fish-that said our biggest issue seems to be with pinks and they are really only benefitting a handful of PWS seiners. On the other hand, with seine fishermen doing so well, gillnetters are also benefiting by keeping chums for themselves due to the allocation rules.
        Expect a lot of push-back from limited entry holders in PWS to keep things as they are. I believe that this needs to be looked at, especially due to straying, and studied more to determine if these hungry mouths are indeed harming other salmon and birds.

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      • Bill,

        What you just said is, once again, the very definition of the tragedy of the commons which is caused by the limited entry permit process. Limited entry caused the current problem, it did not solve anything other than to allocate a public resource to a limited number of people.

        As I’m sure you know, the salmon do not belong to those owning the limited entry permits, the limited entry permits allow the permit holder to harvest the resource that belongs to the people. If through the hatcheries that serve the limited entry permit holders there is damage done to the commonly held resource then the hatcheries, and by default the limited entry permit holders, are causing damage to that same commonly held resource.

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      • OK Steve-O you don’t agree that limited entry solved the “tragedy of the commons” whereby the resource was clearly suffering due to nobody caring about the resource. That’s certainly your right but you stand alone there.
        I will agree that this hatchery situation is a horse of another color and it may indeed be a form of “tragedy of the commons” but that verdict is not in yet. And you’re the only one who had brought up the subject of owning of the fish. What does that have to do with anything here??
        I believe that harm has been done due to straying and its quite possible that harm is done to other fish and birds due to those hungry mouths but that hasn’t been proven, as yet.

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  2. It’s up to Alaska’s governor to appoint a Commissioner of Fish & Game to make sure all department divisions put long-term sustainability of the publics fisheries resource first. Is the department’s allowable release of pink salmon eggs from hatcheries consistent with the state’s Sustained Yield law? Once again Governor Walker is a failure. Is the Commerical Fisheries Division of ADF&G following the department’s guiding principles?

    1) Seeking excellence in carrying out its responsibilities under state and federal law, the department will:

    2) Provide for the greatest long-term opportunities for people to use and enjoy Alaska’s fish, wildlife, and habitat resources.

    3) Improve public accessibility to, and encourage active involvement by the public in, the department’s decision-making processes.

    4)Build a working environment based on mutual trust and respect between the department and the public, and among department staff.

    4)Maintain the highest standards of scientific integrity and provide the most accurate and current information possible.

    5) Foster professionalism in department staff, promote innovative and creative resource management, and provide ongoing training and education for career development.

    To get a new Commisioner of Fish&Game that requires department staff to follow the department’s “guiding principle” elect a different governor, one that has less financial backing from the commercial fisheries industry.

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      • Bill, Why do you like spends a lot gov. Walker so much ? You tend to protect him like he was a friend.What has he done to make Alaska and your situation better?

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      • Well Rayme, this situation really has nothing to do with Walker-I suspect he doesn’t give a tinkers about hatcheries but he is interested in support of fishermen.
        I’m from a government town and know a bit how government works and we have been in a situation whereby cutting the budget gets us nowhere and we have to increase revenues. OK we have decided to go after Earnings Reserve of PF but IMO that shouldn’t have happened yet. That said, the situation Walker found himself in required that he get revenues to fund the budget. I think he thought that Legislature would go for a tax along with the taking of PFDs but the Republican House and Senate didn’t owe him a thing since he defeated their guy (Parnell). So… Walker was left holding the bag, so to speak, by having taken half the PFDs and nobody else willing to step up to fund the rest of deficit. We’ve put off taxing ourselves by diminishing the CBR to the point that its done helping out. ISER folks determined the best way to fund government without creating a bigger recession than was coming and Walker took their advice. Problem was that Legislature didn’t agree with the taxin part.
        All of that has placed Walker in a tough spot to be re-elected with folks pissed about losing half their PFDs. Frankly I thought he didn’t have a chance in hell of surviving until he pulled a rabbit out of his hat by getting one of the three Oil Cos. to sell him their gas. And I suspect the others will follow along as it’s most likely a reasonable deal and that IMO gets him elected.
        There’s a bunch on here that don’t like him for their own reasons but if it looks like this gas line is a go then he will win hands down. The deficits will no longer be a problem and hopefully we can get a modest income tax before actual construction starts to get those big buck folks paying their fair share. Heheh!
        Just ask me what fair is here! I remember when we had a personal income tax and nobody was a bit thinking of leaving-where you going to go that doesn’t tax (income or sales)? We have had it pretty good with Oil paying for everything but those days are gone, since Sean Parnell sold us on SB21. The ACES thing of Palin is what gave us that CBR that has bailed us out lately but SB21 took care of that for high oil prices and we didn’t get anything for low oil prices. Walker didn’t have a thing to do with any of that but he does seem to be a bit into this gas line and it seems to be working for him. The oil price collapse was not any of his doing either-I just don’t have anything against him so far. This hatchery straying thing is something that B of Fish is going to have to deal with IMO but it might take some political push from Legislature to push them.

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  3. You stayed up late on this one. Thanks. FYI, a new petition coming soon asking for specific regulatory relief. That was missing the first time around.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  4. State law allows for a “special meeting” 2 board members can call for a special meeting. Contact BOF members and ask them to call a special meeting. A meeting on a proposal or situation is far easier for the board to navigate, than complying with the restrictive emergency petition interpretation.

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  5. Bill – interesting comment that not everyone agrees with the default position that a precautionary position should be taken until it is clear that no damage could occur.

    That actually comes straight out of Alaska’s Sustainable Salmon Policy – you know, the bedrock upon which the claim is made by ADFG, ASMI and the commercial fishing industry that this state has the most scientific and sustainable fisheries management in the world…. It is the reason why the commercial processors make the claim that salmon harvested in Alaska don’t really need MSC certification, because of how well its salmon fisheries are managed.

    Now when faced with an ever increasing number of scientific reports about the negative impacts of food competition in the ocean – hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil vote no.

    As to the ever increasing number of science reports, the American Fisheries Society 2018 western division meeting is in Anchorage next week and will be discussing these matters in detail.

    It should also be noted that at the emergency hearing the department states we are doing a comprehensive research study on hatcheries – what they leave out is that it is a genetics study and not at all focused on food competition and biomass consumption in the ocean environment.

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    • It just boils down to this particular “emergency petition” IMO. The hatchery position held sway with just enough votes to avoid a large pissing match.
      I think that everyone is starting to get the idea that this situation cannot continue without political intervention. Interesting times ahead for all of these aquaculture associations and I think holding their feet to the fire is just how it needs to be done. And this is a good start IMO.

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    • It has also been my position that this “straying” is the way to attack these hatchery releases, rather than the “hungry mouth” position. I believe that is can be shown already that this “straying” is harming and possibly even destroying their own species (both pinks and chums).
      Keep it up IMO.

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    • Jensen, Ruffner, and Cain voted to allow the egg capture. Morisky, Huntington, and Payton voted to stop it. Johnson, because of a family matter did not participate.
      It is not over! The same signatory organizations plus a few more individuals, just yesterday, filed another emergency petition asking the Dept to use their authority to curtail the additional egg take as well as allow the BOF to exercise its authority acknowledged by the Dept of Law at the recent hearing.
      It was no surprise that Jensen, who holds multiple fishing permits and who has agreed with the Gov, Commissioner Cotten, and the Dept’s positions every time voted to support the additional egg take. Nor was it a surprise that Cain voted the same. He has a personal service contract with the Dept that pays well. Think he would vote against the Dept? Talk of a conflict!
      And, Ruffner who claimed to be both a scientist and a conservationist when vetted for his seat has voted in favor of every proposal favoring commercial fishing. And he did the same here. He lives in the ,dominated by commercial fishing interests, in the Kenai area and has made it clear he is in that camp.
      The potential damage that could occur to our wild stocks is intolerable. The default position should be to take a precautionary position until it is clear no damage could occur. But money makes the decision under Commissioner Cotten’s watch, not conservation.
      Something needs to change!

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      • Thanks AF. The conditions for an emergency order are fairly cut and dried but clearly there is some discontent in the troops, here.
        I suspect the problem is in how one deals with “the potential damage that could occur” that is not “cut and dried.” Cearly, not everyone agrees with your “default position.”

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      • It’s the tragedy of the commons – a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.

        I’d stay as far away from the Precautionary Principle as humanly possible as it plays into the hands of our “friends” among the greens.

        OTOH, there is sufficient data out there to support an immediate limit on the number of pinks released into PWS. Probably enough to cut that release in half if not farther. Silver and king fishing out of Whitter has been pretty bad for nearly a decade. Previously common bait balls are few and far between if seen at all. While correlation is not causation, there is enough data to get off the dime and start ratcheting hatchery releases of pinks back a notch or eight. Cheers –

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      • agimarc, Limited Entry took care of “tragedy of commons” for commercial fishermen some time ago. Since that time, charter operations have increased immensely with little limiting (at least in the ocean) and with increased population and tourist folks wanting fish this “tragedy of commons” does exist still among those folks. Kenai river limited certain charter fishing and I suspect a few other rivers have done similarly but nothing has been done to limit charters in the ocean. Half-day charters around Juneau and Sitka have increased to where certain fisheries have needed limits imposed (halibut mostly).
        More needs to be done in this area IMO.

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      • Bill: i hate to call you out here, but this is the oldest strawman in the Alaska fishing discussion.
        participant numbers are irrelevant except in cases where they can damage streamside habitat, alla the RussianRiver, and then, as has been demonstrated on the Russian, that problem has solutions.
        the harvest issue is catch, plain and simple. it doesn’t matter if 5,000 people ending up catching 2,000 fish or one person catches all 2,000. you’ve still got 2,000 dead fish removed from the return.
        it’s fun to bash tourist, but the amount of fish hauled out of here by the tourists who fish with rod and reel is infinitesimal compared to the number of fish hauled out of Alaska by visiting commercial fishermen.
        and economically, if you care about the Juneau and Sitka economies, local businesses get a much, much, much bigger bang out of people flying to Alaska to each catch their own fish than they do out of one guy motoring to Alaska to catch fish for 5,000.

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      • Craig, all I spoke to was the “tragedy of the commons” and its taken care of with limited entry for commercial fishing but not at all relative to other users. I know that Kenai folks limited days fishing for charter guys some time ago recognizing the threat. And nothing has been done in the ocean for same charter folks and unlimited almost tourists coming on huge tour ships are decimating king salmon and halibut numbers because they are out there every day and know where the bite is. Like I say, its the “tragedy of the commons” plain and simple. Halibut numbers have been reduced in many cases to charter guys because they took over their quotas for years and they bitched like crazy. The king salmon issue has been taken care of by other concerns but will come again if they get a handle on king salmon losses.
        I don’t give a rats about Juneau or Sitka economies as they are both doing quite well selling whale watching tours and T-shirts.
        And no commercial fisherman from outside are hauling outside large numbers of salmon but they can sell their halibut to Seattle as they aren’t Alaska’s fish. A few copper river fishermen are selling reds and kings to individual buyers and no doubt some are from outside Alaska, but so what? It’s not like our processors are only selling to Alaskans. What is your point??

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      • Bill: you lost me at “our processors.” follow the money. Puget Sounds makes more off Alaska salmon than Alaskans do. and most of the Alaska high-value commercial fishing permits – Bristol Bay drift and seine – are now held by non-residents.
        limited entry, which is only one of many ways to reduce harvest, turned out be little but a job-export act.
        if it is possible to make enough money in a few months to support yourself for a year, most people who make that money don’t want to over winter in Alaska. Gunnar Knapp once ran the numbers and found a permit-value range that largely IDed Alaskans. above the range, most permits moved Outside and below it, some permits went to Lower 48 hobbyists who vacation as commercial fishermen.
        there is no limit on Kenai charter fishing days. there is a federal 2A limit on halibut fishing in the north Gulf, which includes Cook Inlet. nobody in Kenai did that. the NPFMC did it to take fish away from the charter fleet and give them with to the commercial fishery. it was what the council called a “catch share” plan.
        there is no evidence to support the idea that tourists are “decimating king and salmon halibut numbers.” their catches are small compared to the SE commercial harvest of halibut and Chinook.
        my point was limited entry had nothing to do with the “tragedy of the commons.” it wasn’t about regulating harvest. it was about increasing incomes for commercial fishermen. with the commercial gear left in the state now (after limited entry), we could still easily over harvest salmon. very easily.
        conservation has nothing to do with how many people fish; it has everything to do with how many fish those people kill. it doesn’t matter if the fish killing is done by two longliners or 2,000 tourists, or the wildlife killing by one aerial gunner or 2,000 archers. all that matters are the numbers of dead.

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    • Bill,

      With all do respect, I don’t think you quite grasp the understanding of the term the tragedy of the commons. You certainly do not understand the numbers behind the argument laid out in this article. The basic premise is that commercial interests are what is causing the problem. In no way did lmited entry take care of the tragedy of the commons, by definition limited entry will always compound the tragedy of the commons. Personally, as a former commercial fisherman I would suggest that you not try and represent commercial fishermen in your statements since you are doing us no favors.

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