Propagated Fish in Resource Management

Salmon Hatcheries in Alaska-Plans, Permits, and Policies Designed to Provide Protection for Wild Stocks

Steven G. McGee


Abstract.—The hatchery program in Alaska was initiated in the 1970s to rehabilitate depleted salmon fisheries. It was predicated on protecting wild salmon stocks through development of rigorous permitting processes that include genetics, pathology, and management reviews, policies that require hatcheries to be located away from significant wild stocks, use of local brood sources, laws that give priority to wild stocks in fisheries, requirements for marking hatchery fish, and requirements for special studies on hatchery/wild stock interactions. The program is comprised of state, federal and private nonprofit (PNP) hatcheries. Currently, 16 of 26 operating hatcheries are run by PNP aquaculture associations. In 2002, hatcheries accounted for 23% of the salmon harvested commercially. Hatcheries produce approximately 1.5 billion juvenile fish annually, the majority of which are pink salmon Oncorhynchus gorbuscha and chum salmon O. keta. Whether hatchery production adversely impacts wild stocks is debated in Alaska. Interactions between hatchery-produced and relatively smaller populations of wild salmon are unavoidable. However, obvious, adverse impacts from hatcheries on wild salmon are not evident. The success of the Alaska hatchery program can be attributed to the development of laws, plans, and policies that require continued protection of wild stocks and to favorable environmental conditions in the North Pacific Ocean.