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Thread: Salmon Farming

  1. #1
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    Default Salmon Farming

    Since I've been following most of the recent biological/political discussions about the Kenai I have another salmon issue I'd like some opinions on.

    Info from F&G shows that in 2004 812 million salmon were released into PWS. Those salmon are eating food. Something else used to eat that food. What critters out there are going hungry because the salmon are getting their food. I've never seen this discussed.

  2. #2

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    I don't know that there are critters that are going hungry because of that. Besides, not all the salmon that are released end up surviving, and many become food themselves.

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    It is certainly true that the vast majority of the salmon released don't survive to maturity. However, for the many millions that do survive, when they eat a krill or herring, what would have happened to that krill or herring if the salmon hadn't eaten it? Something else would have eaten it, right? Even if that krill died of old age and sank to the bottom it would have been eaten by something on the bottom. Does anyone out there think that you can remove many millions of pounds (if not tons) of food that is shared by all the ecosystem and not have consequences. I'm not trying to condemn salmon hatcheries, I've just never heard anyone discuss the effects that these hatchery fish have on the environment. Alaska is always quick to list all the evils of salmon farming in cages, but they never discuss the effects of free range salmon ranching on the rest of the environment.

  4. #4

    Default Studies

    I'm sure there have been many studies on this subject. Because I don't have anything but guesses to your questions at this point, I'm going to bow out and we'll see if someone else cares to respond.

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    Angry Salmon Hatcheries

    I've boated in PWS since 1981, before the hatcheries arrived. Shrimping and crabbing have both declined and I don't blame the ExxonValdez (Spots are back but where are the Coonstripe, Sidestripe shrimp and Dungies, King and Tanner crab?). The hatcheries started releasing millions of pink fry and they release the fry at the peak of the plankton bloom, which is what the shrimp and crab larvae eat while in the upper water column before they drop to the bottom. Guess what? They eat all that plankton the shrimp and crab relied on. Hell of a trade, pinks that wind up on the bottom of the sound for lack of market for shrimp and crab. I've spoken to F&G about this and the person I talked to seemed to recognize my theory but didn't care.

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

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    Default

    I can't say that I dissagree with anyone thus far, but I am wondering how much a trade off there has been with food. It seems as though fry and spawned out salmon also provide food for shrimp, crab, halibut, etc. Just a thought. Personally I would love to drop a couple crab pots.

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    Thanks for the replys, I don't know what affect the ranched salmon have but the general opinion seems to be that all of these salmon come without a cost, I don't believe it. I certainly am not attacking these ranched salmon, they're here to stay, I'm just curious.

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    Default Ranched vs. Farmed vs. Hatchery Reared

    There's a big difference here so be careful of your terms. Alaska has outlawed farmed or ranched salmon and only allow hatchery reared fry to be raised and then released to the wild. That's what PWSAQ does at all their hatcheries in the Sound.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default This is a VERY SERIOUS problem

    Bearbait,

    Hats' off to you for introducing this topic! You are a hundred percent correct that this is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. We are systematically killing off our wild stocks because we are dumping millions and millions of fish into the system that would otherwise not be there. It's not just us, either. Japan is doing the same thing.

    An article I just read on this within the last two days talked about the perception that the north Pacific is considered by the commercial salmon rearing industry as "a huge pasture" for these fish. Well guess what? A salmon smolt released from a hatchery is roughly twice the size of a wild fish of the same age. When it comes to competing for food, who's gonna get the groceries?

    We will rue the day when we ever thought we were smart enough to monkey around with complex ecosystems like this just so our commercial fishing industry could make a few quick bucks. I'm not slamming the folks who work hard at sea to put food on our tables, I'm simply pointing out that we are WAY overstepping our bounds. I get the drift that ADFG likes the hatcheries because they put more fish in the water for anglers. More anglers equals more fishing licenses, which is how ADFG is funded. I have no problems with ADFG either, as a whole, however this cavalier attitude toward what is truly Alaska's last frontier is going to get us in serious trouble.

    I've written about this before, and told the story about my first conversation with a member of what was then called Prince William Sound Aquaculture Association. Their best answer to my question of whether any environmental impact studies had been done to determine the impact of these billions of extra fish might have on wild stocks was simply, "Well, y'know, the ocean is a really big place". I got the feeling I was talking to someone who had absolutely no concept of what I was saying. That concerns me deeply. Where are the intelligent thinkers who came up with this stuff? Perhaps someone out there knows someone who can post some reasonable arguments defending this practice. This is very dangerous stuff we're doing folks.

    Personally, I'd like to see it completely stopped at least until we can really figure out the long-term implications. Before we lose our wild fish. Let's prevent the problem rather than fix it after we've broken something.

    Please, could somebody at least give me some false hope (any hope will do) that there have been at least a study or two of this issue. Somebody please tell me that there are people in control who are making wise decisions about this, and that the money is a secondary consideration to the welfare of our environment!

    -Mike
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  10. #10
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Could it be...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fish Witch
    There's a big difference here so be careful of your terms. Alaska has outlawed farmed or ranched salmon and only allow hatchery reared fry to be raised and then released to the wild. That's what PWSAQ does at all their hatcheries in the Sound.
    Right you are, about the farmed salmon. But the motives of why it has been outlawed are what concern me. I'm hearing it discussed as if escaped Atlantic Salmon have the plague and will decimate our wild stocks. In fact this year we are being asked to report any incidental catches of Atlantic Salmon; there's a fear that they will become established in Alaska. This is a very interesting point, considering that the same folks asking us to keep an eagle eye out for an Atlantic salmon or two are authorizing dumping literally millions of extra fish in the ecosystem, hatchery-raised, inoculated fish that are far stronger than our wild smolts. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me. How can we be so concerned about escaped farmed fish, while producing millions of metric tons of salmon in the public's ocean with little thought of the consequences.

    I suspect that the impetus behind the "Atlantic salmon must die" campaign is the same one behind the "fill up the pasture with hatchery fish" efforts currently under way all over Alaska: Commercial fishing interests, and the various groups connected to it by the tentacles of money and politics. The simple truth is that the salmon fishing industry in Alaska isn't in the fish farming business, and are not going to re-tool to get into that game, so they want to kill it in order to get better prices for their product. They simply cannot compete with year-round product availability that is possible with fish farming. It's simple marketing. No, I don't think this Atlantic salmon issue has much at all to do with environmental concerns. It's about leveraging the salmon farms out of the ocean in the interest of competition. If they can prove that in even a single case, an Atlantic salmon has spawned somewhere in Alaska, they will take that to the limit to shut the farms down.

    I've made some strong statements here, and have put myself at risk for doing so, because I have not spent a huge amount of time studying this. All I am at this point is a guy with some serious questions and concerns about what's in store for my grandkids who will be left to clean up our messes. I hope I'm way off base. Anyone is more than welcome to set me straight on this, if they have FACTS to back themselves up. The truth should prevail here.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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  11. #11

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    somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that all of the salmon stocking programs that adf&g, pwsac, and ciaa do is to take the milt and roe from natural runs and raise the offspring under controlled conditions to increase the survival rate. It really isn't a "stocking program." Those that object to this program, how do you feel about the enhancement program for kasilof kings [which constitute 50% of the run]?
    How about the caribou transplant above tustemena lake? Perhaps goats and deer should never have been transplanted to Kodiak.

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    Gunner, I don't know that I object to the stocking programs, I'll be in Valdez in a few weeks thoroughly enjoying the silver salmon returning to the hatchery to be slaughtered after feeding off the environment for several years (Fish Witch, that sounds awfully similar to a ranching operation to me but since "salmon ranching" is outlawed in Alaska I'll be careful and won't use that term). And you are wrong about all salmon stocking programs just enhancing native runs. How many salmon do you think used to return to spawn in the lagoon on Homer Spit before salmon were stocked in there? Salmon don't spawn in salt water. Have you ever been to the hatchery in Valdez? How many salmon do you think naturally spawned there? You are correct that most hatchery salmon are enhancing natural runs, however, it is the amount of enhancement that may be an issue. 812 million salmon were released into PWS in 2004, that's a pretty big number.
    Does anyone out there think we are getting all these "enhanced" (not ranched) salmon at no cost? Who believes that there used to be millions of tons of food floating around in the ocean that was not utilized by other species (there are other critters in the ocean besides salmon)?
    I don't hate salmon hatcheries. I grew up on salmon and trout hatcheries and had a great time. I just wonder what we're giving up to get the salmon.

  13. #13

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    Thanks for correcting me ,Bearbait. Of course not all of the stocking programs are just enhancing native runs. Just a case of being a little defensive. I was disappointed with the court decision to halt the kasilof enhancement program and a little defensive I guess.

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    Cool pondering insomniac

    I hate to be an ignoramus, but if Pinks bring in 1/10 the $ for the Commercial fishermen for reds-why are so many pinks enhanced in PWS? Gunner-you made me think of other observations. Do you kow that F and G is still trying to eradicate the transplanted caribou on Kodiak-no success. "Bucket biologists" have released wild ferrel turkeys all over the Kenai (I have seen over a dozen and heard of fewer grouse). Pike have killed many Anchorage trout fisheries. What are we doing? Only time will tell.

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    Smile pinks not sockeye

    Pinks are used in PWS because they do not require a rearing lake. Sockeye, coho, and chinook all rear for at least one year in freshwater before they go to sea. Pinks and chum salmon go out shortly after hatching. So it is easier to raise them in a hatchery and send then on their way.

    I personally believe that history will look at the PWS pink program and some of the chum salmon programs in Southeast in a very negative light. Violations of egg take limitations and stocking levels, hatchery operation procedures, straying and other negative biological issues, use of State loan money and forgiveness of those loans will all add up on the negative side. In addition, the production out of PWS was in direct competition with natural produced pink salmon in southeast - which helped to drive down prices for both areas and create markety issues. When the hatcheries have to harvest the fish only to dump them at sea something is not right.

    Relative to marine rearing limitations a Dr. Salo (he is no longer with us) wrote a paper on chum salmon rearing limitations in the marine systems in the 80's. He was concerned that with Japan releasing large numbers of chum and the plans for United State production the marine system would be pushed beyound it's ability to rear fish. I believe he concluded that in the 80's the system could handle the production but when the system cycled back to more normal levels the system probably would crash.

    I have not followed up to see what others thought of his work but he spent his life studying chum salmon and was well respected in the field - he was a University of Washington, School of Fisheries, professor.

    Personally, I believe the use of hatcheries and artificial production should be severely limited. The Northwest should have taught us that hatcheries can and are used to allow for habitat damage by those that do not think salmon are very special - we can destroy stream X and just build a hatchery - that has not worked. Second, hatchery production complicates wild stock management to varying degrees. In all situations management must adjust - the degree is the issue. Third - we tend to treat wild salmon as weeds - we can have them or not - in reality society must choose to have salmon in their environment - it takes time and money to maintain wild salmon habitat and populations. Hatcheries offer an easy out on the surface - if we lose the salmon populations we can just build a hatchery - at the decision making level in legislatures around the country this choice has failed everyone.

    Sorry to be on a soapbox but hatchery practices in the State of Alaska are not what they should be. The formation of aquacultural associations was a poor idea and still is a poor idea. If they had formed aquacultural associations that focused on maintaining wild salmon habitat I would have said great. Cook Inlet Aquaculture does do some of that in the Susitna by removing beaver dams and conducting basic research but not enough in my humble opinion.

  16. #16

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    Nerka,

    Since stumbling on this website a few weeks ago, I've learned a lot thanks to your informative posts. I agree that more should be done with habitat management. I think pike removal should be on the front burner.
    What is your opinion about enhancement programs such as the ciaa program for kasilof reds that was discontued by court order?

  17. #17
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    Default Changing times?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan
    ...this is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. We are systematically killing off our wild stocks because we are dumping millions and millions of fish into the system that would otherwise not be there. It's not just us, either. Japan is doing the same thing.

    An article I just read on this within the last two days talked about the perception that the north Pacific is considered by the commercial salmon rearing industry as "a huge pasture" for these fish. Well guess what? A salmon smolt released from a hatchery is roughly twice the size of a wild fish of the same age. When it comes to competing for food, who's gonna get the groceries?

    We will rue the day when we ever thought we were smart enough to monkey around with complex ecosystems like this just so our commercial fishing industry could make a few quick bucks. I'm not slamming the folks who work hard at sea to put food on our tables, I'm simply pointing out that we are WAY overstepping our bounds. I get the drift that ADFG likes the hatcheries because they put more fish in the water for anglers. More anglers equals more fishing licenses, which is how ADFG is funded. I have no problems with ADFG either, as a whole, however this cavalier attitude toward what is truly Alaska's last frontier is going to get us in serious trouble.

    I've written about this before, and told the story about my first conversation with a member of what was then called Prince William Sound Aquaculture Association. Their best answer to my question of whether any environmental impact studies had been done to determine the impact of these billions of extra fish might have on wild stocks was simply, "Well, y'know, the ocean is a really big place". I got the feeling I was talking to someone who had absolutely no concept of what I was saying. That concerns me deeply. Where are the intelligent thinkers who came up with this stuff? Perhaps someone out there knows someone who can post some reasonable arguments defending this practice. This is very dangerous stuff we're doing folks.

    Personally, I'd like to see it completely stopped at least until we can really figure out the long-term implications. Before we lose our wild fish. Let's prevent the problem rather than fix it after we've broken something.

    Please, could somebody at least give me some false hope (any hope will do) that there have been at least a study or two of this issue. Somebody please tell me that there are people in control who are making wise decisions about this, and that the money is a secondary consideration to the welfare of our environment!

    -Mike
    Just a thought here: The American Great Plains were once populated by millions of wild bison, which were essentially killed off to make room for ranched beef cattle and sheep. The vast flocks of waterfowl of the Pacific, Mississippi, and Atlantic flyways were gunned into shadows of their original populations to feed a growing nation. Passenger pigeons were exterminated for the same purpose. The point here being that wild food sources have been replaced by ranched or farmed meat over the last couple centuries. Beef has replaced bison, chickens and turkeys have replaced waterfowl and wild pigeons. Entire ecosystems have been reoriented by humans.

    Given the above is an oversimplification, could we be seeing the same sort of progression from wild to farmed in the world's oceans?

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    Smile CIAA enhancement

    The program in Tustumena Lake was at first an ADF&G program. It was ill conceived from the start. First, the hatchery site at Kasilof was picked by a legislator with no biological background. The site has terrible water and a number of other problems. The State eventually turned it over to CIAA and they then shut it down. However, the egg takes still took place with fish being reared at Trail Lakes - another political hatchery.

    The first stocking in Tustumena in the early 80"s started out with low levels of stocking but quickly increased to 20 million spring fry. Believe it or not the local commercial fisheries biologist and the feds teamed up to say this was crazy without an evaluation of the lake's ability to rear fish. The USFW service funded the first serious investigations of the rearing capacity of the lake in the early 80's- the work was done jointly by commercial fisheries biologist and the feds. It was so political that the then director of commercial fisheries division said the local biologist could only work on the project on their own time - no funds from the State.

    As the studies progressed two things became obvious. The escapement goal was too low and needed to be raised and second the lake had rearing limitations that could be reached at escapements of between 300,000 and 500,000 fish. In one year 500,000 fish only replaced themselves for a 1:1 spawner return ratio - normally one gets 3-5:1.

    As the data became available the feds put on pressure along with the researchers from the state to lower the stocking level. A huge debate took place and the final resolution was that 6 million fry could be stocked as the data could not determine if that level was hurting anything. A number of the research group felt that the 6 million was just replacing wild fish that were rearing. However, they had to admit that in flood years the stocking program would probably increase production to some level.

    With natural fry being the majority of the fish in the system a 6 million spring fry stocking level is probably not an issue from a management perspective - however in a long answer to your question - I believe that the stocking program was a waste of money and time. CIAA could have spent their money doing research in the Susitna River on pike and beaver dam removal and made more fish naturally.

    I tend to favor natural production and allocation of monies to maintaining habitat. I do not like concrete and raceways. Some in the urban coho program in Anchorage may disagree but that program came into being after the natural habitat was destroyed or altered significantly by developement.

    Relative to Marcus question on farmed salmon - it will only replace wild fish if governments continue to pay the cost of production. It cost over 2 dollars a pound to raise a fish in a farm. This cannot be sustained in an open market if all the costs are passed on to the consumer. I think the issue of quality of the product will also come into play. However, on a world scale other species will be raised in a farm environment and contribute to the overall volume of food - you are correct on that point.

  19. #19
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    Default "Managing" the supply of food. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka
    Relative to Marcus question on farmed salmon - it will only replace wild fish if governments continue to pay the cost of production. It cost over 2 dollars a pound to raise a fish in a farm. This cannot be sustained in an open market if all the costs are passed on to the consumer. I think the issue of quality of the product will also come into play. However, on a world scale other species will be raised in a farm environment and contribute to the overall volume of food - you are correct on that point.
    A point of clarification: I'm not talking about "farmed" salmon as is currently practiced in pens. Rather I'm wondering whether we're seeing the beginnings of man's attempt to "farm" or "ranch" the oceans as he already does with America's farm and ranch lands, replacing as it were the original ecosystems bison, waterfowl, native grasses, etc. with "managed" sources of protein and carbohydrates?

    Also, were it not for government farm programs that sustain American agribusiness with massive subsidies, which prevent the true costs of production being passed on the the consumer, current meat prices could not be sustained in an open market either.

    Finally, quality of the product is already very much in play whether we're talking about farmed salmon, feedlot beef, or factory-farmed chicken and pork.

    Why would a system that has no qualms about losing "wild" wheat worry about losing "wild" salmon?

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    Default Complicating things

    This thread contains a lot of good information and comments, I enjoyed the read, thank you all. Back in the sixties PWS was very different than it is today. For starters the water temp was 1 to 3 degrees colder. Crab and shrimp fishing is disappearing as fast as the glaciers. Today, there are salmon splashing on the surface everywhere you look. Along with the increase in salmon, the predator and bottom fish populations are exploding. Big migrating sharks are having a field day, and, are being protected by regulations because, they say, "we don't know enough to have a commericial sized harvest". Logic tells me the trend away from "cold water" creatures like crab and shrimp, and toward the species that dine on salmon will continue parallel with the number of "new" fish being introduced into the system. Monkeying with very complicated delicately balanced elements is always risky and comes with a price.

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