Processors chip in to support Alaska salmon science
Processors and seven hatcheries have agreed to contribute USD 850,000 (EUR 803,000) per year for seven years to keep an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) research project going. The project was started in 2012 and was intended to be a collaboration between ADFG, the Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA) and private nonprofit hatcheries.
Sam Rabung of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told the Alaska Journal of Commerce, “The State’s share (USD 3.5 million, EUR 3.3 million) got put in as a capital appropriation in 2012. It was a one-time deal. Our intention at the time – and times were better then – is we expected another increment. What’s going to carry this forward is the contributions from PSPA and (private nonprofit hatcheries).”
The study, conducted by the Prince William Sound Science Center, the Sitka Science Center and other contractors, looks at wild and hatchery pink and chum salmon in Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska. Alaska does produce some sockeye salmon in hatchery programs, but because the bulk of hatchery fish are pink salmon and chum salmon in Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska, the study focuses on those regions and species.
In 2015, half of the ex-vessel value of all commercially harvested hatchery fish was pink salmon and a third was chum salmon. The entire harvest of hatchery fish was worth USD 125 million (EUR 118 million).
PSPA President Glenn Reed explained that the project combines economic and sustainability factors. Alaska dropped out of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainability certification program in 2012 in part because of the high cost of certification, but also because the MSC raised concerns about the impact of Alaska’s hatcheries on its wild salmon. Securing a sustainability certification adds significant economic value to Alaska’s fisheries.
Alaska now certifies its seafood as sustainable through a program run by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, but stakeholders hope that this study will illustrate the sustainability of Alaska’s wild and hatchery salmon fisheries to all markets. With this private funding in place, research is expected to continue, as planned, through 2024.