Nations around the Pacific Ocean may have to cap the number of hatchery salmon they release if sockeye salmon runs are to return to sustainable levels, according to a new study.
Record high numbers of pink salmon in the North Pacific coincided with the disastrously small 2009 Fraser River sockeye return, while the unexpectedly large 2010 sockeye return interacted with 40-per-cent fewer pinks, said Brendan Connors, co-author of the article published by the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
The findings have implications for fisheries management and hatchery programs in Russia and Alaska that produce most of the five billion hatchery fish released into the Pacific each year.
“ … Even though overall abundance of wild pink salmon has been exceptionally high during the past 30 years, hatchery operators have proposed substantial increases in hatchery pink salmon in Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Yakutat, Southeast Alaska, and Russia,” the authors write.
But there has been little cooperation between nations about the release of hatchery salmon, even in the face of evidence that large-scale hatchery programs can have far-reaching effects, according to fisheries scientist Randall Peterman, a professor emeritus at SFU.
“Getting an international agreement on who should get how much of the ocean’s carrying capacity for salmon is a major policy stumbling block, …