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HomeThe 907Are over-pumping hatchery humpies disrupting food chain?

Are over-pumping hatchery humpies disrupting food chain?


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.

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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:

Emergency Petition

“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.

The board has 30 days to consider whether it will agree with the petitioners.

Must Read Alaska’s¬†initial story from May 3 is here:

Outdoor groups ask board of fish to slow pink salmon hatcheries


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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. They should stop the overstocking one species. It will wipe out another. I like king salmon. Don’t make it an extinct species for the sake of tourists.
    Kenai fishing died because there were no limits and was overfished. Halibut is going the same way. Can’t we be good stewards of our resources?

      • Says a commercial set net fisherman in the Kenai who catches many King Salmon. It was popular for many years until the commercial harvest went berserk. Now the sport and dip netters get very few. And Todd, as a set netters, you were one of the many who were part of the problem and not the solution. How many did you keep? How many dropped out of your nets then died and not reported. And how many are kept by the ESSN commercial fishers and not reported? No Todd, it is not so productive as you claim!

        • Please cite any data showing Kenai fishing to be A: Unpopular, or B: Unproductive. I dare you. While you’re at it, use your real name if you’re going to make things personal. Kenai fishing is productive and popular by all measures, and the data is available through ADFG and elsewhere. I won’t apologize for legally killing fish, and bet that I sport fish more than you.

  2. I have to agree with Caren…I’ve fished the Kenai and Kasilof rivers for 40 plus years. They enhanced the Sockeye run to benefit the commercial fishery and it has damaged the King salmon population in those rivers. Sports fishing on the Kasilof for Kings is miserable when they are netting right in the mouth of the river, which they allow when the Sockeye run is out of control. Which it is. Now we have Pinks running up every ditch they can find.

  3. It’s not just the kings in PWS, it’s the coho. Over the last decade, silver fishing out of Whittier has really fallen off. Bait balls are few and far between these days.

    PWS would make a great test case / pilot for rolling back pink hatchery stocking for commfish and converting to fish farming for pinks. Cheers –

  4. While there may be some merit in the petitioners argument that hatchery fish are adversely affecting the marine food chain, it is a big stretch to claim that is the reason why it is rare to catch a 80 pound king salmon in the Kenai River nowadays. A more likely cause of that is the explosion of the commercial/industrial guided sport fishery which targets the large spawning kings and the hordes of anglers trampling spawning beds along the Kenai.

    • So says another commercial fisherman. John, how many limited entry permits do you have now days. My recollection is that you were a high liner who regularly fished Cook Inlet. Do you think that the Inlet commercial fishers, either drifters or set netters should accept any responsibility for the low abundance of Chinook in UCI? Just wondering.

  5. I have never understood the logic of increasing the numbers of the LOWEST value salmon species. Can someone explain it to me?

    • The Japanese pay a lot for eggs. Anyone in the commercial salmon industry knows a lot is done for the eggs. I was a refrigeration man and the fish had to be kept at certain temps for the eggs. In the holding tanks, on the boats, in the slush totes. Not for the quality of fish but for the quality of eggs. They also love chum eggs, but the pinks can also be canned. They are trying to change the name from chum, or dog salmon to Kita so it will sound better. When they harvest the chum eggs, the chum go for mushers or meal or just get ground up.

      • My wife was a roe grader back in the day. That said, the vast production of pink and chum may raise the biological concerns highlighted in the petition. Besides, how does management of the resource for the common use fit with the pink and chum industry? We need some sober thinking and recognition that sport fishing and personal use are part of the equation.

  6. where are all the comments on lets build the knik arm crossing,also lets move
    on LNG lets get our state moving again. we have to many loosers making our state
    fall into bankruptcy and most of our problems are our legislators and our Governor.
    soon they will be gone.

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