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

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By LEE REVIS
Valdez Star 

Salmon hatchery under attack by outside interests

Valdez City Council again passes resolution supporting Alaska salmon hatcheries

 

October 3, 2018

Steven Weber photo

Pink salmon swimming upstream at the weir towards the Solomon Gulch Hatchery in Valdez during the 2018 salmon run.

Special interests are seeking an order that if approved would require the local salmon hatchery to destroy millions of fertilized salmon eggs incubating for release into the wild this spring.

Mike Wells, executive director of Valdez Fisheries Development Association (VFDA), appeared before the Valdez City Council Tuesday night to urge members to approve passage of a new resolution supporting the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and its programs.

"Twenty-one percent of the state catch came out of the hatchery," he said in support of the resolution.

Last July, council passed a resolution supporting salmon hatcheries after the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association (KRSFA) filed an emergency petition with the Alaska Board of Fisheries to halt a planned increase of pink salmon eggs at Solomon Gulch Hatchery from 250 million eggs to 270 million.

That petition was denied by the board, which found no emergency existed. There are two new petitions (Agenda Change Request or ACR) before the fisheries board that affect hatcheries statewide and a special session of the board is slated in Anchorage on Oct. 16.

The board said on its website it will host "...a townhall style public forum moderated by the board with open public participation."

The first ACR, submitted by KRSFA, asks the board specifically to prohibit Solomon Gulch Hatchery – which is operated by VFDA – from incubating and rearing or releasing salmon above numbers that were permitted before 2017.

Valdez Star photo

You can learn more about VFDAs Solomon Gulch Hatchery by taking a walk around the facility on Dayville Rd.

"The magnitude of releases of hatchery produced pink salmon in Prince William Sound (PWS) poses a threat to wild stocks of salmon in the Gulf of Alaska,s" the Kenai group claims in documents submitted to the board. "Further expansion of pink salmon production by PWS hatcheries increases the risk to wild salmon."

The group claims up to 70 percent of salmon streams in Lower Cook Inlet had PWS salmon show up and compete with wild stocks.

The second ACR was filed by Virgil Umphenour, a Fairbanks big game guide, former fisheries board member and activist. He claims in the ACR that an agreement was reached in 2001 that would require hatcheries statewide to hold egg take by hatcheries to 75 percent of level allowed in the year 2000.

Wells on Tuesday told city council members that the proposals if eventually passed would require Solomon Gulch Hatchery to destroy millions of incubating eggs and cause a financial disaster for local fisherman and related industries.

Council passed the second resolution Tuesday night supporting hatchery salmon in PWS.

 

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