Received this today from a concerned group. Thought some might want to follow up on this. Sounds bad to me.
In the House Fisheries Committee, a new bill that could have long term impacts on our salmon runs was discussed. HB 220 would create a new permit for individuals to "enhance" wild fisheries stocks on a small scale in Alaska waters if area escapement goals or subsistence harvest goals have not been met, or if local stakeholders have identified a decline in a species of fish.
We're concerned with this bill. The introduction of hatchery-incubated eggs into wild fish habitat poses risks to the overall health of a riverís wild salmon population. It has been a long running policy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's hatchery program to minimize wild stock interactions in order to avoid damaging wild stock genetics.
In a statement of opposition to the bill, one prominent Alaskan fisheries scientist highlights the well documented genetic problems that weaken wild stock when enhancement occurs: ďEnhancement increases the number of offspring of the broodstock used, so that the population ends up with a high number of closely related individuals. Successive generations of enhancement results in the majority of the population being highly related; this inbreeding can manifest genetic defects, and the loss of genetic diversity makes the population less able to adapt to environmental changes."
In other words -- the widespread introduction of hatchery-incubated fish could seriously damage our wild salmon stocks.
To be clear -- there was no evidence presented at the bill hearing that suggested existing hatchery and enhancement programs in the state are broken. Small pilot projects like the ones proposed in this bill are already allowed under a Research and Education permit. However, unlike that existing permit, HB 220 would create a program that assumes enough research and education has been done, and that widespread wild stock supplementation is the answer.
HB 220 was presented as a potential solution to the chinook shortfalls that weíve seen on the Yukon, Kuskokwim, and other Alaskan rivers. While ACV believes that these shortfalls are a devastating problem for Alaskans, small-scale supplementation programs like these would likely have a negative effect on the overall health of the resource. For a chinook population thatís already beset by climate change, bycatch and other human factors, weakening its gene pool is a step in the wrong direction.