Wild fish lost

valdez fish farm

The Valdez Fisheries Development Association pink salmon factory/VFDA photo

For the first time in Alaska history, the state Board of Fisheries has voted to put the interests of the fishing industry ahead of wild salmon.

The action came Tuesday after biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game testified that they have no idea as to the ecological consequences of the more than 1 billion pink salmon now dumped into the North Pacific Ocean every year by the state’s industrial salmon  ranchers.

Nineteen conservation groups led by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association had petitioned the Board to prohibit the Valdez Fisheries Development Association (VDFA) from expanding its industrial salmon ranching operation until more is known about the implications for wild salmon.

Studies conducted by scientists in the Lower 48 and Canada have suggested that fast-growing pinks – which go from tiny fingerlings to 3.5- to 5-pound fish in only a year and a half in the ocean – enjoy a competitive advantage over wild Chinook, sockeye and coho salmon that spend a year or more in freshwater and years at sea before returning to their natal streams to spawn.

When it comes to protecting wild Alaska salmon, past state Fish Boards have always followed what is called “the precautionary principle,” which echoes the prime directive of medicine’s Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.” 

The Board appointed by Gov. Bill Walker, a commercial fishing advocate and resident of Valdez prior to his election, flipped that rule on its head. In the absence of definitive proof hatchery pinks are harming wild salmon, the Board voted 4 to 3 to allow VFDA to take another 20 million pink salmon eggs to ratchet up the production of pink salmon already at an expected level of 17 million adults this year.

Scientists studying the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) last year stumbled on a startling, statistical link between hatchery pinks and fading runs of wild sockeye salmon. In a peer-review study published at PLOS-One, they reported they could find no sign of lasting damage from the oil spill in the Sound, but they found significant damage caused by pink salmon.

“All sockeye salmon stocks examined exhibited a downward trend in productivity with increasing PWS (Prince William Sound) hatchery pink salmon returns,” they wrote. “While there was considerable variation in sockeye salmon productivity across the low- and mid-range of hatchery returns (0–30 million), productivity was particularly impacted at higher levels of hatchery returns.”

The hatchery return of pinks to PWS is this year forecast at almost 51 million:  17 million VFDA pinks plus another 34 million produced by Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC). On top of that, another 2 million wild pinks are expected.blurb

Sockeyes suffering

Returns of sockeyes to the Copper River have crashed. A preseason forecast of 1.9 million is expected to come up at least one million short. The once productive Chignik sockeye fishery on the Alaska Peninsula has been closed all season. Kodiak area sockeye harvests are “the worst in 38 years,” said Scott Kelley, director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries. And Cook Inlet sockeye returns look weak.

The sockeye failures had a downtown meeting room filled to standing room only with out-of-work commercial fishermen, frustrated dipnetters and irritated salmon anglers when the Board met to consider the KRSA and other petitions.

All were upset about the Alaska sockeye returns, but independent scientist Greg Ruggerone from Seattle, Canadian government biologist James Irvine and other scientists believe that might be just the tip of the iceberg. They have suggested the industrial-level production of hatchery salmon in Alaska might have bigger, coast-wide implications.

They theorize that huge numbers of pinks and chums now trigger “trophic cascades” that can significantly reduce the prey available for Chinook and coho from the Pacific Northwest north to Cook Inlet and Kodiak Island.

Hatcheries were a major issue of concern with some national environmental organizations more than a decade ago, but then strangely faded out of sight. Nelli Williams, the Alaska director of Trout Unlimited (TU), said the organization has been monitoring the situation here, but has been too busy to do much more.

TU devotes most of its time to continuing efforts to halt development of the Pebble Mine near Lake Iliamna in Southwest Alaska. It considers the mine a grave threat to the region’s salmon. It is strongly aligned with commercial fishing interests there.

“Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program collaborates closely with commercial fishermen…,” the organization’s website says. Commercial fishermen – who managed to get fish farming banned in Alaska – are the main backers of the state’s private, non-profit hatchery system, which ocean ranches salmon at the industrial level.

Between the years 2000 and 2012, the VFDA hatchery alone was worth $113 million to the “Prince William Sound seine fishery,” according to an economic analysis prepared for VFDA by the McDowell Group, a consultancy. 

There are 267 fishermen with limited entry permits to seine salmon in the Sound, according to the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC). Those fishermen struggled through the 1990s when demand for high-volume, low-value canned pinks dried up, but their situation has improved as markets for salmon burgers and salmon in pouches have developed, and as processors have shifted from canning all pinks to freezing some for shipment to China where they are fileted by cheap labor and the filets shipped around the world.

The fishermen have had up years and down years since the 1990s, but over the past decade – from 2007 to 2016 (2017 data is not yet available) – they earned an average, annual gross of $345,936 per permit, according to CFEC figures.

For them, the hatcheries have definitely been a good thing. Whether the hatcheries have been good for all Alaska fishermen – commercial, subsistence, personal use and sport – is a far more complicated question.

The upside

Asked about the growing pink salmon hatchery production in the Sound, Kelley defended it by noting that his agency has seen no signs of a decline in wild pinks in the region.

The sockeye of the Copper River just to the south of the Sound went strangely unmentioned, and Kelley offered no view on how many of the “wild” Sound pinks are actually hybrids. State studies have found hatchery pinks in almost every stream in the Sound in recent years, and they have been interbreeding with wild fish.

Last year, large numbers of Sound hatchery fish also showed up far from home in streams in Lower Cook Inlet. William Templin, the state’s salmon fisheries scientist for commercial fisheries, told the Board that the straying was a natural, evolutionary occurrence.

“They’re exploring,” he said. “They’re looking for new places.”

He was not asked about the consequences if those straying humpies were successful in expanding their range to produce even more of their kind, and what that naturally enhanced addition to hatchery production might mean for other species of salmon.

“Pink salmon have been found to negatively affect sockeye salmon productivity and growth from British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, Bristol Bay, Kodiak, and Russia,” the EVOS scientists wrote. “Pink and sockeye salmon compete in the marine environment due to a high degree of similarity in diets, including similarities in diets of adult pink salmon and juvenile sockeye salmon. Our analysis was primary designed to test drivers in the nearshore environment, which is why we stopped at a lag of 2 (brood) years—when the majority of juvenile sockeye salmon – from the nearshore environment as adult pink salmon are returning to spawn.

“We do not know if possible deleterious interactions between hatchery pink salmon and wild sockeye salmon in this study are from predation or competition, or whether they occur in nearshore or offshore areas. (But) pink salmon feeding may cause a general depletion of prey availability that could impact sockeye salmon without tight spatial overlap of these two species. In this regard, the apparent impact to sockeye productivity may reflect a general increase in pink salmon abundance across the NE Pacific rather than increased abundance of hatchery pink salmon to PWS in particular.”

Asked about pink salmon now showing up in Northwest Alaska for the first time and whether any of those fish might be hatchery strays, Templin said, “to my knowledge those are not actually strays.”

Kelley, however, admitted the state has never looked for hatchery strays in the Bering Seas.

Neither of the biologists made any mention of the possibility the fish might have come from Russia, which has copied the success of industrial salmon ranching pioneered in Alaska starting in the late 1970s.

“Russian authorities rapidly expanded hatchery releases from 573.8 million pink and chum juveniles in 2000 to 904.4 million juveniles in 2010, roughly a 40 percent increase over 10 years,” according to the Wild Salmon Center. 

The organization has been lobbying Russian hatcheries to mark their fish so strays can be detected. The Russians have 38 pink and chum salmon hatcheries in the Sakhilin and Kuril islands southeast of the Bering Sea, and both Russian and Alaska salmon range into the Bering Sea. 

The downside

With hatchery production boosting natural pink salmon production already booming in part thanks to global warming, Ruggerone and Irvine have calculated pinks now make up almost half of the total biomass of salmon in the North Pacific.

“In contrast to less populous species of salmon, these species (pinks) are more abundant now than ever,” they wrote in a peer-reviewed paper published in Marine and Coastal Fisheries in April.

Asked whether the large numbers of pinks could be suppressing other salmon populations, Templin said, “nobody’s resolved that issue yet.”

Ruggerone, Irvine and a host of others who claim evidence of “trophic cascades” would beg to differ. The issue, they say, is not black and white, but the greys are clearly shading in one direction.

For some, it doesn’t matter. Many Alaska fishermen are now heavily invested in hatcheries.

They have for years been paying a 2 to 3 percent “enhancement tax” on their annual salmon catches. The money they’ve spent on aquaculture programs and the obvious success of salmon enhancement in the Sound has made most of them into hatchery supporters even in areas where they are getting no return from hatchery production.

Salmon processors are even bigger hatchery boosters. The Pacific Seafood Processors Association, an industry trade group, and three of the biggest processors operating in Alaska – Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods – in 2010 asked the private, non-profit hatcheries in the Sound 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,” they wrote 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.”

The processors are now helping fund a $16 million, “targeted research” study of pink salmon straying in the Sound and the annual ratios of returns per spawner, “an important measure of productivity and fitness,” according to summary of work to date, which goes on to say:

“It is particularly important that hatchery operators and processors continue their support of the project, both for financial reasons as well as showing a commitment to maintaining this ground-breaking research that is designed to directly address questions about the Alaska salmon hatchery program. Processors had initially committed to 5 years; we hope they will continue their same level of support for the remainder of
the project.”

The report, published on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website, led Board member Reed Morisky from Fairbanks to ask Kelley how the state could ensure “disinterested research” when the commercial fishing division appears so tight with hatcheries and processors.

Kelley answered with the response that the state was in a “collaborative” relationship, and he was confident the research was “significantly driven by the science panel,” which “gives me confidence it won’t be biased.”

He also defended his agency’s actions to date by saying only “incremental” increases in hatchery production have been allowed. Neither he nor Templin, however, offered any idea of how the ecological consequences of those incremental increases were being judged.

They, in fact, suggested the state doesn’t know diddly about salmon competition in the ocean, where pinks appear to be dominating with help from hatcheries; and they said there is no agency rule for how many hatchery fish have to stray before straying rates become unacceptable.

Templin admitted that a 2 percent number was once discussed by the agency, but never formalized. Other numbers have been “thrown out for a given situation,” he added. One  Lower Cook Inlet streams surveyed last year was found to contain nearly 70 percent hatchery pinks. 

A query to Fish and Game as to whether any Upper Cook Inlet streams were examined for hatchery strays has gone unanswered.

When Morisky specifically asked Kelley how great the number of strays and how big the size of hatchery releases had to get before the Fish and Game decided the annual dump of hatchery pink salmon fry was too big, Kelley’s answer was that “that is literally the billions of dollars question.

“I can’t answer the question.”

The state’s plan, he said, is to “incrementally step” up hatchery production of pinks while monitoring returns of wild pinks in the Sound to see if the latter begin to decline. That is pretty much how the Japanese determined the limit of their hatchery program.

They steadily boosted hatchery releases until return rates began to fall significantly, and then reduced hatchery production to where yields produced the most profitable return. But it was easier in Japan. Many of their wild runs of salmon had been nearly wiped out by the time hatchery production began.

“Due to the destruction of old growth riparian forests and wetland habitat across most of Japan, and loss of access to natural spawning habitat – nearly 27 percent of the total spawning area of Hokkaido Island is inaccessible from the sea because of dams – many of the native wild salmon populations have been extirpated. The list of lost salmon runs includes a beautiful and rare subspecies of cherry salmon and white spotted char,” notes the website Ocean Outcomes. 

“To keep commercial fisheries and local businesses running, Japan invested heavily in the development of one of the most extensive hatchery systems in the world, which now churns out billions of salmon juveniles annually….(As a result), the Hokkaido Island chum salmon fishery is the highest volume chum fishery in the world, annually producing up to and over 100,000 tonnes of salmon, shipped to domestic and export markets (such as the US) alike.”

And if you can produce huge volumes of salmon profitably, does it really matter how many wild fish survive?

CORRECTION: An early version of this story over-stated the size of adult pink salmon.

43 replies »

  1. 10 years from now the Seward Silver Salmon Derby will be gone, thanks to industrial humpy ranching. News reports will be like: “Wasilla man wins Seward Pink Salmon Derby with 4 lb 2 oz monster humpy!”

  2. agreed.

    but a trend does make a trend, and there has been a trend in the steadily shrinking size of North Pacific salmon (a general sign of food stress) for decades now.

    and a trend in sockeye numbers:

    “Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) populations from Southeast Alaska through British Columbia to Washington State have experienced similar declines in productivity over the past two decades, leading to economic and ecosystem concerns. Because the declines have spanned a wide geographic area, the primary mechanisms driving them likely operate at a large, multiregional scale at sea. However, identification of such mechanisms has remained elusive. Using hierarchical models of stock–recruitment dynamics, we tested the hypothesis that competition between pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and sockeye salmon for prey has led to reduced growth and productivity and delayed maturation of up to 36 sockeye populations spanning the region during the past 55 years. Our findings indicate the abundance of North Pacific pink salmon in the second year of sockeye life at sea is a key factor contributing to the decline of sockeye salmon productivity, including sockeye in the Fraser River where an increase from 200 to 400 million pink salmon is predicted to reduce sockeye recruitment by 39%.”

    the last Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) study tracked the above mentioned trend in Copper River sockeye. that return generally mimics that of SE/BC. i ran the numbers for harvest in Upper Cook Inlet, and they generally follow that trend as well:

    “From 1985 to 1994, before the hatchery program seriously geared up in the Prince William Sound, the commercial catch of sockeye (red) salmon in Cook Inlet averaged about 5.3 million fish per year.
    “For the past 10 years, it has averaged under 2.9 million reds, according to state fisheries data.
    “Coincidence is not causation, said Greg Ruggerone, a Washington state-based scientist who has been studying salmon interactions in Alaska waters for decades. But, he added, more questions need to be asked about how the nearly 1.5 billion pink and chum salmon Alaska hatcheries now dump in the ocean every year affect wild fish.”

    as a longtime Alaskan, i would have hoped the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would keep Alaskans up to speed on these issues instead of leaving it to some dumbass reporter to pull together the data. but clearly the Department is not what it was in the 1970s when some commercial fisheries biologists were willing to put their careers on the line, and risk death threats, to protect wild Alaska salmon.

    it’s interesting, but i wouldn’t say i’m “frustrated.” the Department of Commissioner Sam Cotten, the first commercial fisherman in state history to hold that post, did what the Department did. and the Board did what the Board did.

    i report the news. nobody got killed here. nobody got wrongly sent to prison.

    those things would frustrate me. this? this is really, at the end of the day, just another business story. the Board decided the hatchery business is more valuable to the state than the wild fish business.

    that’s all.

    personally, i am a little amazed at the behavior of the Department, which has a history of standing up strongly for wild fish, but we live in a time when not many people are willing to risk their jobs to do the right thing. courage is rare in America these days. it’s why newspaper reporters make “heroes” out of people who get in trouble and simply survive.

    in this case, the right thing from a purely wild fish standpoint is obvious: there is clearly enough evidence available to make the proverbial “reasonable man” freeze any hatchery expansion pending an examination of hatchery salmon releases.

    that didn’t happen. the Board said it will revisit the issue. i’m not holding my breathe that the Board, or at least this Board, will tell the Valdez Fisheries Development Association (VFDA) to destroy salmon eggs already incubating. as regards VFDA, the decision has been made that hatchery fish matter more.

    the Board clearly decided to go in a different direction form past Boards. and there’s nothing wrong with that. there’s nothing inherently wrong with hatcheries, either.

    they’re not going to make wild fish extinct, though if you believe the evidence for a competitive advantage for pinks there is good reason to believe they might be able to significantly suppress wild returns of sockeye, Chinook and coho.

    that’s not necessary a bad thing either depending on your scale of measurement. economically, pink/chum hatcheries are very efficient, and industrial ocean ranching might be the best route for the Alaska commercial fisheries of the future.

    it would be nice, however, if the state entertained an upfront discussion of a move in that direction instead of just stumbling toward that end.

    • At the recent BOF mtg., Comm Fish Dir Kelley, stated that the ‘15 wild PWS pink return was the largest on record, ‘13 was not far behind.
      There is no finding for wild stock salmon concerns, of any of the 5 species,in PWS. So, what is the issue? The wild Coghill Lake sockeye ‘18 return, was 50% over forecast.
      The battle has only begun?

  3. Politics and natural resources “seemed” to have increasingly heightened as each year goes by. I apologize, I can’t keep up with “all” the numbers per the issues being discussed in this venue. It’s not that I couldn’t. While everyone is arguing this and that, merits of this or that, it is extremely apparent a good majority of this discussion focuses on the “now and/or short range future”. Nary is there, maybe a rare occasion, when the jist of the actual mechanics of all this is ever addressed. While pinks are the absolute “no brainers” of life cycles to understand, the other species life cycles are much more complex and their life cycles occur over significantly longer periods of time. Duh !!! For each of those species to numerically respond to amendments of a decision process of a “political beast” takes “absolute skill and knowledge” for managers to “right the ship”. As it stands, there becomes a point of “no going back” to “oops, we made a mistake”. Year classes of Pacific salmon have absorbed a “flux” of meddling through the years and now it seems the point has been possibly reached that the management dynamics required to address anything but pinks is being glossed over, simply because of “taking the easy way out”. Of course it’s complex, what isn’t? The BOF, the Governor “AND” the respective user groups had better forget each of their “individual mantras” and address what’s happening with salmonids whose lifecycle(s) are much more complex than “there they go and here they come”. Otherwise, you’ll have proven and perpetuate the message “we are NOT stewards” of the very fish we are most in “love” with.

    • Bob,
      I have read a report you wrote in the 80’s on adding salmon stocks to the Willow Creek by dropping the fry at Deception Creek area I believe…
      How do you feel large regional hatcheries of mono culture (like the one in Valdez) compare with small “augmenting” of natural salmon stocks in local streams?
      It seems to me that the way Fish and Game was doing it in the 80’s was a better alternative to today’s commercial large pink salmon hatcheries.
      Why can’t we just take natural stock from our local streams like Willow and Deshka and then use them to create more fry to dump into the same habitat?

  4. South Central is starting to look a lot like South Dakota these days…no fish in the streams and foreign governments pushing for gas lines through fragile ecosystems…

    • The idea of China having anything to do with our gas line is despicable. China is not our buddy. They have very questionable political ethics and even worse environmental ethics. What is walker thinking? Looks like a sell out on Alaskans so he can save face and get his pet project moving. I disagree with the concept of a fragile ecosystem. It’s pretty shocking how the land heals itself in a short time . In this era we have good environmental consultants who can help mitigate damage . Especially when it comes to salmon streams . The studies and careful implementation of their knowledge is impressive. HDR is a good firm for that . Vigilance for the environment is imperative though. Natural gas is relatively less polluting than other hydrocarbons so I say it’s a worthwhile risk . Just not to China . Selling To China is similar to when the bushes / standard oil were selling the nazis oil through South America to get around the embargo. The nazis then used the oil to power machines and kill our allies. Obviously an extreme example but there is a remote similarity. IMO

  5. Craig, you correctly mention that while mass-scale hatchery impacts were a major issue of concern with some national environmental organizations more than a decade ago, they then strangely faded out of sight?

    Spot on. And here’s why.

    In 2001, Trout Unlimited released a report that clearly stated that “Alaska’s salmon-ranching program lacks biological justification.”

    The Packard Foundation funded this study 100%, but it didn’t conclude the way they were hoping. They threatened to pull all funding to TU, should they not cease this particular case. TU obliged.

    From then on the Packard Foundation, Moore Foundation and many others poured millions of $$ into “de-marketing” farmed salmon that were thought to be competitors to the State of Alaska. The directives were clear: “Shift consumer and retailer demand away from farmed salmon” was the exact language used to direct funding recipients. Pretty darn clear.

    Marketing and self-preservation definitely trumped science and biology. See even back then, “trump” was to blame…

    • well, i didn’t want to approve this point. it was hard to believe that a well-meaning, California-based foundation would play a role in trying to destabilize the ecosystem of the North Pacific Ocean, but then i found this:

      there does appear to be some substance to your claims which makes this story only more interesting….

      it certainly shed some light on why the Marine Stewardship Council, which one expressed major concerns about ranched salmon sold as “wild caught,” backed off its opposition to those hatchery fish.

  6. Wild pinks in SW PWS displayed a higher incidence of wild straying than in other areas. The high number of short, tidal influenced streams with significant intertidal spawning make this region of the Sound different from drainages with longer freshwater spawning areas. That being said, these intertidal pinks do find their way back to their natal streams in many cases, if not the general area. SW PWS is also the entryway for a majority of the PWSAC pink return. These short SW streams are annually inundated with hatchery pinks. If they spawn late, as hatchery strays seem inclined to do, redd displacement of earlier spawned wild pinks occurs, and too many eggs depletes the stream’s oxygen.You wind up with a mass of gooey dead eggs. Later spawning results in later outmigrations. The shear magnitude of the hatchery returns compared to wild stock production is sure to homogenize the pink salmon of PWS.

    There are over 1000 anadromous streams in PWS. Koppen Creek in eastern PWS has, (or had) a bimodal run of pinks that showed distinct preferences in both timing, and spawning location (intertidal or exclusively freshwater spawning). That is(was) a somewhat unique characteristic to this drainage compared to many in PWS. These preferences are genetically derived characteristics, developed over millennia in response to the natural conditions unique to Koppen Creek. Are these characteristics being lost due to hatchery strays? Interestingly, Koppen was also one of a number of original brood sources for some PWS hatcheries. I tend to favor maintaining genetic diversity in this type of situation, even if it is “just a pink”. That is difficult to do when you are so vastly outnumbered.

  7. We’re in the same situation in Juneau with DIPAC(
    They pump out millions of pinks and chums. This year, at least so far, our king salmon run was a bust, silvers are said to be coming in but so far I’ve only heard of one being caught. Unless you boat 1-1/2 to two hours for halibut you’re having a tough time landing any close by. Our Lynn Canal halibut migrate with the run so right now it’s not doing well.

  8. One good note walker did appoint Payton and reappointed Morisky. both bright BOF members.But Walker also appointed Ruffner. Ruffner who pontificated throughout his conformation hearings he stood for the health of wild fish stocks and he was not about favoring one user group over another. How that working out for us?
    Changes: It clear we need to amend the definition an “emergency”.amend to, In this section, an emergency is an unforeseen, unexpected event that either threatens or “PREVENTS” a fish or game resource…….
    It is odd that the BOF is strict to adhere to the letter of the law, when reading the definition of emergency, but completely ignore and are not in compliance with AS 16.05.300 Board meetings.

  9. There must be some recourse? Vote walker and his rich cronies out ! I’m good with rich people but not when they have no conscience in public service work . Is walker still paying his out of state lawyer buddies insane fees to work on gas line ? Gas line in some format is probably a good idea just not with walker at the helm . He won’t balance what’s good for Alaska with what’s good for his buddies pocket books in an honest fashion. He is a hands down crook . Wolf in sheeps clothing only in government position to enrich himself and his overpaid buddies.Now he’s working overtime to screw up the gem of Alaska , fishing- unless you purse seine for pinks . I remember when alaska sent a big canned shipment to Siberia during a Russian food shortage . The pinks were so bad the starving people sent them back . Walker likes to set things up where you rob peter to pay Paul . Like he did with the dividend and his appointees are doing with pinks . IMO

    • “Gas line in some format is probably a good idea just not with walker at the helm.” Whatever else you can say about Walker, he has been the only serious voice for an LNG pipeline lately. Whether/not a pipeline and LNG facility is successful will be Walker’s doing IMO.
      You think he is a crook-care to give some examples of his crooked behavior??

      • You say walker should get credit for future lng pipeline. I call b.s . Almost everyone knows there have been many prior people who have pushed it hard . One man walker didn’t get it going. He hasn’t spent his own money to get it off the ground but he sure has spent a huge amount of every Alaskans money to try and push it through. So every Alaskan has now paid an equal amount to walker . As walker is paid big time to be governor . Mr walker hasn’t donated any more than any other Alaskan . Every Alaskan paid walkers salary so in effect they all have roughly equal effort. Therefore walker gets no more credit than anyone else as he’s just spending public money. He sure loves to pay his friends huge fees . Were his lawyers that work on gas line chosen by bid process? No they were not . They were chosen because they were supporters/ friends then paid above market value fees for compensation. That’s crooked. Walker did not manage fisheries for equal Alaskan usage and maximum yield . That doesn’t follow our constitution. That’s crooked. Walker chose his friends for board positions that bend towards helping certain user groups in commercial fishing. That’s crooked. Walker appointed dishonest people who had residence in another state while snagging pfd ? Or was it just snagging resident fish hunt license. Can’t remember. That’s crooked. Walker stretched the laws governing the pfd to take money from people who directly needed the money and had little voice then he used it to help finance his pet gas line project and overly line the pockets of his lawyer friends leaving needy and Unneedy families with less . That’s crooked. Walker snagged president trumps slogan creating a misleading campaign slogan that walker has not and will not follow through with. “ Alaska First it’s Time “ misrepresenting and apparent theft of intellectual property is crooked in my opinion. His slogan should be walkers friends first , I pay the most ! That’s just tip of the iceberg you can research the rest and draw your own conclusions. IMO

    • Do you have link to article, about canned pinks sent to Russia, that were sent back? Or are you only making it all up as you type along?
      Are you one of those birthers?

      • Hi James . Don’t know what Birthers has to do with it . Or did you just make that up ? I don’t have a link to the canned pinks being returned but I’m sure if you dig deep enough you will find it . It happened when Alaska was doing outreach to Russia . Aprx 1990? Been awhile. I don’t have to rely on internet. When Russia sent it back to Alaska it was given away over here . I ate about 100 cans of it . Goes without saying anyone who eats lots of salmon prefers reds kings silver s and chum over pinks . Obviously my opinion. I prefer spawned out chums and fish head soup over pinks . I’ve seen animals who won’t eat more than a couple pinks . So why flood the Alaska market with pinks and risk the food quality salmon ? You can look at scientific studies on pinks versus reds – reds are far superior with nutrition content . Just because it’s an opinion doesn’t mean it’s made up mr mykland . I can make up something on Obama’s birth certificate for your entertainment if you wish though! Good luck Catching those awesome Alaskan salmon !

      • Opinion could that pink salmon, you say was returned, perhaps been confused with a case of botulism that occurred back then??
        By the way, you haven’t named the scores of people who pushed the LNG project hard. You don’t rely on the internet, maybe you can conjure up something from memory?

      • Ok Yankee . Now you are being silly . Also even more off topic than I went . I will entertain you with a mundane awnser . Being as you are long time Alaskan you know the gas line has been pushed since the late 70s . You also know there is a longer list of people and companies than I want to type . Recent ones of note not counting investors or companies was palin when she was gov . Also your favorite character Trump met with Xi and made some form of verbal agreement to pave way for pipeline and sale of gas to China . Why sell to China I have no idea must be a trade off of some form balance inequalities of broader trade issues. Anyway it still stands that walker can in no form claim all credit for hopefull future lng pipeline . As to your silly question about botulism contamination of canned pinks we sent to hard up Siberian villages that was not the case . As it was released for public consumption on its return. You are long time Alaskan and know our problems with botulism. Pinks are tough eating but not compared to botulism. Someday I will learn how to post links but for now you will have to check references without my assistance. Have to wonder why you asked me questions you already knew answer to ? Bet you were one hecka captain in your day .

      • OK Opinion, I was not talking about the gasline but the LNG situation. And you still haven’t given us the names of all those folks pushing that LNG export program prior to Walker. We all know about Palin and her gasline down the Alcan but we also know that at that time the gas had value in the lower 48. Things changed rather suddenly with fracking finding more gas than we could use and had Palin’s gasline gone forward it would have been a bust.
        As for pinks, we did have a botulism scare back about the time you are mentioning the Russia thing. I don’t recall any such return of pinks from Russia but this is the honor system here and we’ll take your word for it. However, I do recall the problems we had marketing our canned pinks after the English ended up with one can of botulism. Entirely possible we sent some cheap pinks (cheap because of the botulism scare) to Russia and possible they sent them back for reasons other than poor quality. Anyway, I only recall that one situation with botulism and I’ve been paying attention since 1985. Whatever that one situation was, it appears to have been corrected.
        Let us know when you get you act together on posting links so we can all get on board with your Bullshit!

      • Bill on reading my last statement about you as a captain I saw that could be confusing. I was genuine and positive when I said one heck of captain. So you know it was meant as compliment. Due to your intense knowledge of fisheries. The opinion s I said about walker and canned pinks wasn’t bs by the way. Thanks for respecting the honor system. Someday you will stumble on the documented facts .

  10. This decision should not come as a surprise. It was not about conservation. It was all about money, precedent, and power. The Governor and Commissioner Cotten do not believe that the BOF should make these decisions. That it is the prerogative of the administration. And with industry behind the re election of Walker, who lives in Valdez, the Commish takes his marching orders. If the BOF had passed the proposal it would have set a precedent that the Administration feared. That is to allow the Board to make decisions that have historically been made by industry even though we know those decisions have an impact on conservation. The only way to fix this is to elect a governor who is not bought and paid for and who will appoint a Commissioner that will put the fishery first instead of the fisher:

  11. Another perspective is that the BoF put the interests of PWS commfish above those of all other users, which would be consistent with what this governor and his administration have selected his appointees to do. Sad, but not unexpected,

    OTOH, if these are the new rules, those of us in the sport fish / personal use / subsistence user groups can play, though commfish won’t like it a lot. One must always be careful writing new rules as they will ultimately come back to bite you in body parts you don’t want them to bite you in.

    I fish yearly with a boat operated out of Whittier. We chase silvers and have been doing it for nearly two decades. Silver fishing out of Whittier has been pretty bad for perhaps a decade. Bait balls are few and far between if observed at all. Now that we have an explanation (a billion pink fry a year into PWS), perhaps it is time shut that particular operation down. Cheers –

  12. so let me wrap my head around this… The BOF will not protect the fisheries to just hide behind the procedural language? Am I right so far? So who is to speak for our resources?

  13. This is a very important issue and I do no agree with the action taken by the Alaska Board of Fisheries. The Board, at the request of the Department and the commercial fishing industry escaped beginning to draw a precautionary line in the ocean. The Board did this through a procedural maneuver by refusing to consider the present situation an “emergency”. I have observed the Board of Fisheries for longer than I care to admit and in my opinion many, if not most, of the justifications used for a finding of emergency in the past were far weaker than the case here. The Board should not hide behind a wall of process when many of Alaska’s wild stocks of salmon are very likely but at risk. The Board has a work session coming up in October and it is my recommendation that they take affirmative action at that time to put a proposal to halt expansion of hatchery releases of pink salmon from Prince William Sound hatcheries until a finding of no harm can be established.

    • Kevin, just because past boards may have taken a liberal interpretation of what constitutes an emergency does not mean that the current board should do so, or that it would be in the public’s best interest to do so. Statute states that “emergencies should be held to a minimum and should rarely be found to exist”. For this purpose, an emergency is clearly defined as “an unforeseen, unexpected event that either threatens a fish or game resource, or an unforeseen, unexpected resource situation where a biologically allowable resource harvest would be precluded by delayed regulatory action and such delay would be significantly burdensome to the petitioners because the resource would be unavailable in the future.” I don’t see how allowing the egg take to proceed as planned and addressing this issue at the October worksession – while the embryos are still incubating – is “a vote to put the fishing industry ahead of wild salmon”, as Craig claims. Do you? Perhaps we should wait until after the October worksession before passing judgement on this issue. I’d like to see PWS hatchery expansion plans scaled back too, but I like seeing the board abide by their own rules. I think this was a good vote, just like their vote to deny the petition seeking to liberalize the Kasilof setnets.

      • HI Todd. Thanks for copying the state’s definition of an emergency for all the folks out there who weren’t born in a regulations booklet like you and I. When I was with the ADFG we looked at the straying of hatchery fish into areas where wild stocks were spawning as a problem. When I was on the Regional Planning Teams of Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound we tried to manage to avoid high levels of straying into wild stock spawning areas. We considered that the higher the straying rate the more of a problem it would be considered. Straying of hatchery fish is addressed in the State’s Policy for Management of Sustainable Salmon Fisheries as well. My position is that it is both “unforeseen and unexpected” and a threat to a fish resource that the ADFG, the very agency charged with the management of our wild stocks for sustained yield in accordance with the State Constitution, could have possibly observed the level of straying of pink salmon of Prince William Sound hatchery origin into the streams of Lower Cook Inlet during 2017 without considering it a problem without taking action such as halting expansion of the program
        and bringing that problem to the attention of the Alaska Board of Fisheries. We certainly have not heard the last of this issue. Let’s hope for a solid push of late-runs kings ASAP. Stay safe out there.

      • Thanks Todd for comments, but i would have say i am not a big fan of the regulation (not statue) of emergency.As written and currently interpreted, the BOF can only take action after the fact, that something has happen.Instead of allowing the BOF to be proactive, to prevent something/emergency.
        The department could not answer many very important questions asked by board members. such as how many strays would it take to effect wild stocks in a stream? How many hatchery pinks could be released before they would effect other wild stocks of salmon in the ocean?
        Though true the egg take is not really the issue, but the release is. In the realm of conservation, Not allowing the take of eggs this year, also does not significantly impose a threat or harm to the hatchery neither.

      • so you think the BOF should let VFDA invest in an egg take, fertilization and incubation. (yes, it costs money to do these things) and then later order VFDA to throw out the developing embryos?

        and you really think that’s likely to happen? as a young reporter, i sat through a lot of Planning and Zoning Commission meetings in Juneau, and saw a lot of houses built in the wrong locations or with other problems that should have prevented them from being built at all. i never saw anyone ordered to pull a house down.

        that the RPT would approve another 20M eggs for VFDA given the data available on pink salmon straying and pink-salmon competition would certainly seem “an unforeseen, unexpected event that…threatens a fish or game resource.”

        or at least it would if you thought the state had a threshold for pink salmon strays anywhere in the 2-10 percent range discussed in the past. or if you thought there was any sort of threshold. 70 percent PWS hatchery pinks in any Lower Cook Inlet stream would have been a clear red flag for the Department in years past.

        it clearly wasn’t in this case. which raises the other “unforeseen, unexpected event(s)” the Board had before it:

        a.) the fact the Department now has no threshold for straying or any idea what that threshold should be.
        b.) the fact the Department seems oblivious to the hatchery salmon competition issue.
        c.) the fact the Department, after admitting it has no measurements for passing judgement on a. and b., has decided to let the VFDA egg take proceed.

        there you have a definition of a violation of the precautionary principle intended to protect wild stocks in Alaska, and the Board’s first responsibility has historically been to protect wild stocks. it ignored that responsibility and favored VFDA.

        i don’t know if the decision was right or wrong. hell, i can make a damn good argument for continuing to grow hatchery operations in this state until we’re producing salmon as efficiently as Japan. harvesting wild fish is inefficient, costly in terms of state spending for management and enforcement, and fraught with political struggles the state spends more money trying to mediate.

        major expansion of hatcheries might be a good economic move.

        that said, the history of the BOF is that it has always put wild fish first. that policy changed yesterday. the board voted for VFDA and against wild fish plain and simple. they could, of course, reverse course at the work session in the fall, and then at the February BOF meeting order Valdez to destroy all those alevins.

        after decades of watching public bodies at work, i’m not going to hold my breath expecting that to happen.

        now, here’s hoping Cook Inlet picks up so you can catch some fish.

      • Craig,

        How could it possibly be an emergency if they are the ones who created the situation? That’s like asking the bus driver to stop the bus after he drove it off the cliff! The bus driver is going to say 100 times out of 100 that he didn’t see that curve in the road and would do it all the same next time. 70% hatchery strays is some creeks in Cook Inlet, seems like a re-population plan to wild fish starved creeks to me…we should be thanking the hatcheries that are hundreds of miles away for their excess.

    • Hey Kevin,
      Was that you, in your previous state role, the person?, that held the sign up in Glennallen, which read: “this way to the Copper River sockeye & king bonanza”.

      • Hi James, same older Kevin. I don’t remember the sign but I bet the fishing for kings in the Gulkana is pretty darn good this year. It is way past time to dig into the impacts resulting from massive releases of hatchery pink fry.

      • Kevin,
        I agree with you, that we need to find out what impact there is, from hatchery production in PWS, as long as there is factual science and data used. What was presented, as an emergency petition, did not evidently meet the criteria, for the current BOF. It can be brought up again as an ACR, this fall, more appropriate, according to BOF rules. KRSA knows that.
        Except all the fish pundits have to weigh and make political threats, concerning the Governor, Commissioner, Comm fish director, the BOF members (ones they do not agree with). You think Mike D. will do any better? Parnell (former ConocoPhillips executive) is backing Mike D. How much more do we have to give to the oil companies? Pay them to pump the oil out of the ground?

  14. The purse seine fleet’s 14 hour opener, on VFDA hatchery stocks, that occurred on 7/16/18, in the Valdez Port & Arm, produced an average weight of 3.9 lb per pink salmon.
    Craig, you state 5-8 lb fish. That weight is only at the very end of the spawning cycle.
    Vast majority of Alaskan pink salmon harvested, by the commercial fleet, has a average weight of 3.5-3.9 lb fish.
    Just to set the record straight.
    Also, all Pacific salmon do stray, though pinks by their very nature, probably most of all, since they do not actually care where they spawn and die.

    • thanks. fixed it. don’t know what happened there. i was having computer issues yesterday and twice lost the last half of the story and had to rewrite. damn irritating.

      pink salmon do have high straying rates, and it’s interesting that only six years ago state bios were saying this: “The level of hatchery salmon strays in many areas of PWS are beyond all proposed thresholds (2–10%), which confounds wild salmon escapement goals and may harm the productivity, genetic diversity and fitness of wild salmon in this region.”

      and now the state is saying straying is natural, and ADF&G doesn’t know what the threshold should be.

      i wonder what changed. i wonder more when the Department will explain what changed. we have now hit levels of 70 percent hatchery strays in some streams of Lower Cook Inlet. there doesn’t seem too much concern about that.

      so is the threshold now over 70 percent, or is there simply no threshold? has straying been abandoned as a concern in favor of seeding every possible trickle of water in Southcentral Alaska with hatchery pinks in the hope that some of them will reproduce naturally and thus boost Alaska pink salmon returns even higher?

      • Craig, I understand you are frustrated with the process, which is not asking for a full investigation, into the question: Is the amount of pink salmon fry/smolts, being released each spring into PWS, harming wild stocks in PWS and CI?
        Evidently the current BOF, did not view it as an emergency need to know now.
        It is, though now on the radar, of all parties concerned, and probably an ACR, will be sent in for the BOF work session, at Oct mtg.
        In the meantime, a disaster of one season, does not necessarily make a trend. In management of any Alaskan fishery, you need three points or more, to know what you have. That is what shut down the CR comm fishery, after 3 openers, no fish, season over.

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