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State Slams Salmon Hatcheries

ALASKA - State officials have accused Alaska's largest salmon hatchery operator of numerous violations, some of them termed "egregious."

The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., based in Cordova, has failed or refused to abide by its state permits, has been uncooperative with state officials and has failed to deal with what the state calls "large-scale straying" of hatchery-born pink and chum salmon, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Such strays can mix with wild salmon returning to their natal streams, potentially scrambling their genetic makeup or introducing disease, the department says.

The state officials also said the hatchery operator repeatedly failed to manage its salmon harvests to cover its costs, forcing it to borrow $3 million from the state two years ago, adding to the $25 million in state loans the operation already had.

Fish and Game Commissioner McKie Campbell's staff recommended "a strong course of action" against the hatchery operator, such as creating an oversight committee and revoking some of its permits for releasing young salmon into the sea.

Hatchery managers, in a reply last week to Campbell, said the problems the state raised are either outdated or overblown.

"We're very anxious to sit down with the commissioner and talk through some of these issues," said David Reggiani, general manager for the Prince William Sound hatchery operator.

Source: Anchorage Daily News