The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

Emergency petition to halt VFDA pink salmon egg-take increase was denied

Hatchery humpies and other species statewide to go under the microscope in October

 

August 1, 2018

Steven Weber photo

VFDA will harvest an additional 20 million salmon eggs this season from the pinks returning to the hatchery after the state board denied a petition to halt the increase.

A planned increase in the number of pink eggs harvested and later released as fry will go ahead this season.

On July 18, the Valdez Star ran a story regarding Kenai River Sportfishing Association's (KRSA) filing of an emergency petition to halt the increase of pink salmon eggs at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery from 250 to 270 million. The increase was originally approved in 2014.

During a standing room only meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries on July 18, the board chose to not grant the emergency petition by a vote of 4-3, citing there was no evidence that egg-take at the hatchery constituted an emergency.

Board members John Jensen, Alan Cain, Robert Ruffner and Fritz Johnson voted against the petition.

Israel Payton, Reed Morisky, and Orville Huntington voted in favor of the petition.

Board members serve three-year terms and are chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. The current board was chosen by Governor Bill Walker, a former Valdez resident who maintains close ties with the community.

The board said hatchery issues will again be taken up by the board this fall during its work session meetings Oct. 15-16.

According to Mike Wells, executive director of Valdez Fisheries Development Association, the State Board of Fisheries rearranged itself during the March 6-9 statewide meeting - over two months before the petition was filed by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association - to better look at salmon hatcheries in Alaska, including Valdez.

"The October meeting in 2018 will provide more opportunity for the board to hear, in more detail, about hatchery concerns," Wells said.

The emergency petition was filed by KRSA and signed by a number of other area fishing organizations, citing high returns of hatchery salmon from Prince William Sound infiltrating the waters of Lower Cook Inlet. It also said studies that point towards a possible link between hatchery salmon out-competing wild salmon stock merit further examination.

At this time, no further increases are planned by VFDA and the phased increases which started in 2014 were the first in 25 years according to Wells.

 

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