FISHING GROUPS WORRY PINK SALMON ARE LEADING TO SMALLER KING RUNS
Alaska sport fishing groups have refiled a petition with the Alaska Board of Fisheries, asking the board to stop the planned 20 million egg increase of pink salmon to be reared and released by hatcheries in Prince William Sound.
Too many humpies are causing a crisis, the groups say.
The latest salvo came two days after the board failed on a 3-3 vote to take action on the group’s first petition.
The groups claim that adding more pink salmon into the food chain is having a dramatic impact on other species, including competition for food with king salmon associated with streams and rivers from Kachemak Bay to the Kuskokwim River. Kings and sockeye are getting smaller — gone are the days when Kenai sports fishers could haul in an 80-pounder. The runs are thinning out, too. And pinks are showing up in streams where they don’t historically belong.
Think of it like going to the Golden Corral for dinner and arriving just after a basketball team from Service High School came through the buffet line. Those kids load their plates and eat every drumstick in sight, and by the time you get to the protein, it’s picked clean. You’re stuck with the kale garnish.
Hatchery pink salmon are voracious, fast-growing youngsters in the food chain, but they also may be disrupting the entire balance for other species, not just salmon.
Eight Alaska fishing groups have joined in the emergency petition.
“The State of Alaska law mandates that hatcheries shall operate without adversely affecting natural stocks of fish, and that wild salmon stocks and fisheries on those stocks should be protected from adverse impacts from artificial propagation and enhancement efforts. In 2017, straying PWS hatchery pink salmon showed up in large numbers across the streams of Lower Cook Inlet, with some locations registering more than two-thirds PWS hatchery-origin of all pinks sampled,” the groups said in their letter.
Earlier this month, the groups asked the board to write a letter to the commissioner of Fish and Game, asking him to take action.
Now, it’s beyond the letter writing stage; the groups are asking for the Board of Fisheries to simply act under its own authority and stop the over-pumping of humpies into the ocean.
The entire letter sent to the Board of Fisheries is here:
“For the past 15 years or so, they’s been adding 20 million more, then 30 million more,” said Ricky Gease, of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. “The rate we’ve grown the number of hatchery fish is phenomenal. There are more salmon in ocean than at any other time period, but one third or more is from hatcheries.”
The consequence? Gease says the science is coming in, and it agrees with the petitioners. It’s time to stop adding more pinks until the ecosystem changes are better understood.