Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Are hatcheries bad for wild salmon?

We've been talking a good bit recently about Alaska's network of big salmon hatcheries, and specifically their expansion plans.

Hatcheries are always good for debate, and certainly the fish talk will be running strong this week in Portland, where a four-day conference starts tonight on this intriguing topic: "Ecological interactions between wild and hatchery salmon."

None other than Tom Brokaw is slated to deliver welcoming comments this evening.

The agenda includes a number of speakers with a history of involvement with Alaska salmon including Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington; Greg Ruggerone of Natural Resources Consultants Inc.; John Burke of the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association; and Rich Brenner, Steve Moffitt and Eric Volk of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Deckboss is especially interested in Volk's topic: "Balancing benefits and risks of large-scale hatchery salmon production in Alaska."

Click here to learn more about the conference and see the agenda.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting how they scheduled this conference at a time when fishermen can't attend because they are gearing up for the season, when they could have done it at any time during the winter and it wouldn't conflict with the salmon fishing.

Anonymous said...

Everyone worries about wild salmon but I have been worried about other wild fish - herring and blackcod in particular -cohos eat lots of blackcod. Someone should study the trophic effects of hatchery releases!

Randy said...

Send Tom Brokaw home

Anonymous said...

The problem is that hatcheries and hatchery-dependent communities don't give a cod-piece whether hatcheries are bad for wild salmon or other species. Scientists get to hold conferences, do studies, but feel no responsibility following through on the policy-implications of their studies. In fact, there jobs and/or professional credibility are threatened if they do so; so they've learned not to do so (that's why they're scientists). Some hatchery-dependent fishermen assuage their conscience by supporting "more" studies, while most other hatchery dependent fisherss deride any further study as a waste of time and a few even argue that hatcheries are actually good for wild salmon (word has it they also believe in Intelligent Design--that's what they believe a hatchery is after all). Meanwhile, fish managers let themselves get jerked around by salmon ranchers. The tail wagging the dog. What a perfect system -- for the hatcheries.

Anonymous said...

I'm Guessing the previous commenter didn't read over the schedule for the salmon summit, otherwise they would have noticed that three quarters of the presentations are anti-hatchery. There are a lot less studies showing how hatcheries have benefited fishing communities and the world with a supply of healthy food.
This Salmon Summit looks to be interesting and something that could lead to a better understanding of hatcheries and salmon in general, which are still not fully understood. But taking sides before you understand they issue won't benefit anyone.
Also I hope Deckboss can do a follow up on this.

Anonymous said...

Of course, commenter #4 read the agenda prior to commenting. Look, the preponderance of the science during the past 3 decades -- not just recent studies -- has strongly brought into question the supposed wisdom of letting billions of young salmon escape from their concrete prisons into the wild. Meanwhile, many of those fish managers and fisherman, who steadfastly assert the need for more and more studies to "prove" salmon ranching poses signficant threats to wild salmon,are the ones who presume science supports their "bashing" salmon farming. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

An Ecotrust meeting about salmon hatcheries? I wonder how a PETA meeting about wildlife management would have turned out?

Anonymous said...

Probably better than a PWSAC meeting on fishery management.

Anonymous said...

Stan is still right.

Anonymous said...

A direct quote from "State of the Salmon" a presentation by Pete Rand

Manage harvest conservatively, recognizing uncertainty associated with population identification, population status and contributions from enhanced stocks in mixed stock fisheries; shift to terminal fisheries.

In other words push commercial fishermen into the tightest corner possible to protect the salmon from them, instead of using the fisheries management tools that have worked for the past 25+ years that hatcheries have been operating. But thats just my opinion as an environment destroying comm fishermen.

Anonymous said...

Commercial fishing of wild stocks, as it has been and is presently conducted in Alaska, inevitably reduces the number of spawning populations in a given stock. Depending upon environmental conditions in the freshwater watershed and in the ocean environment, different spawning population are more or less productive. Therefore, decreasing spawning populations inevitably reduces total production over time. So, if commercial fishing of wild stocks is to be
"sustained," don't place additional man-made hazards on wild stocks, whether that hazardous concrete comes in the form of dams or hatcheries. And don't go blaming scientists for a fate that is of your own making.

Anonymous said...

I don't pretend to understand how the salmon life cycle works, and I am definitely not a degree holding fisheries scientist, but I have grown up around a lot of fishing. I can't say if the previous commenter is wrong or right but I have learned some about a situation in which their opinion might not be true.
Example, Coghill Lake in Prince William Sound, they regularly let approximately 200,000 salmon spawn in the lake and it returned steady runs and fishing for many years. Until a manager came along who thought 400,000+ salmon should be allowed to spawn in the lake. And the run to Coghill collapsed and has never been a target area since. Maybe the topic of over escapement has been left out of the salmon debate or maybe it has been down played, either way it is a real thing that fisheries managers and fishermen especially know exists, and it is something that can significantly alter a fishery, mixed or completely wild. So remember that salmon populations vary from year to year now just as they did when they were totally wild. And its worth considering that hatcheries are not the problem.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Stan is only about 20% right.

Anonymous said...

It might be your personal observations and experience would be enhanced through a better understanding of salmon biology and ecology? (A good place to start is with Pacific Salmon Life Histories by Kroot and Margolis.)

Your observation about Coghill Lake does not necessarily lead to your conclusion about the biological consequences of "over-escapement."

In natural systems without anthropogenic interference (e.g. fishing technology), nothing goes to waste. Dr. Bruce Finney at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks has demonstrated that prehistoric salmon abundance in Alaska watersheds was consistently greater than in the era of commercial fishing. In the precommercial fishing era, salmon were obivously continuously "over-escaping."

Anonymous said...

Correction: GROOT and Margolis

Anonymous said...

However, there is a direct corelation, even in evidence such as the one that you are citing, that over-escapement leads to a smaller return in years to come. Ask the good folks in Karluk or those who "manage" red river about escapement.