July 26, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 30

Petersburg/Wrangell discuss new hatchery development

A joint resolution calling for the development of new fish hatcheries and releases was passed by Petersburg City Council Monday, July 16.

This resolution was drafted by City and Borough of Wrangell Mayor Jeremy Maxand with several members of the fishing fleet.

“There is a desire to see the development of a new hatchery in Southeast Alaska to expand the available number of fish for harvest, whether it be for commercial or sport fishing,” Maxand said. “We thought a joint resolution and letter from both Wrangell and Petersburg to the governor would be a good way to express that interest.”

According to this resolution the fishing industry in Southeast Alaska is estimated to be worth $1 billion and employ more than 7,000 people and many residents of Petersburg and Wrangell depend on the fishing industry to support their families. The management of fish in Southeast Alaska is recognized as one of the most sustainable in the world. Fish hatcheries in the Petersburg and Wrangell area are producing the maximum amount of fish with the water available at current facilities and there is competition between commercial and sport fishermen over the existing quantity of available fish and efforts are being made to develop new hatcheries and release sites.

“Starting up a new hatchery is a complicated process,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game PNP Hatchery Program Coordinator Sam Rabung said, “Applications for new hatcheries are rare and they haven’t opened a new one since the 1990s, and the main reason for this is a lack of location.”

“Most of the spots that were easy to identify as having a good water supply, a good segregated terminal harvest area and no significant stock in the vicinity have been used,” Rabung stated. “Another problem is finding a location to breed the young fish.”

Rabung also explained that the existing facilities statewide are at capacity and there is not enough water left at these facilities to produce a lot of fish, and it would take another facility to handle any increased production.

“State regulation says that a new hatchery cannot negatively impact the natural salmon runs,” Rabung said. “The hatchery fish all come from the same stock as non-hatchery fish.”

He explained that the state is starting a long term study to look at the genetics of hatchery fish impacting the genetics of natural runs.

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