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Study Highlights Critical Contribution Of Hatchery Fish

Sustainability +1 more

US - The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation [PWSAC] has released findings from an economic study that confirms a long-held suspicion: hatchery fish are critical to the sustainability and health of Alaska's commercial salmon fishery, the sport fishery and to regional and statewide economies.

Cordova-based PWSAC operates five hatcheries in the Prince William Sound/Copper River region, all of which generate millions of pink, chum, Coho and sockeye salmon for the common property commercial fleet, sport fishery, subsistence and personal use fishermen. In fact, the 2010 season produced the largest run of pink salmon in the history of the fishery, said Dave Reggiani, PWSAC general manager, and the huge return has added to the importance of PWSAC's presence and economic impact around the state.

The new snapshot, done for PWSAC by the McDowell Group of Anchorage and Juneau, examines the impact of those hatchery-produced fish, and found that in 2010, PWSAC salmon accounted for:

  • 30 per cent of the statewide salmon harvest
  • $317 million in total economic output
  • 2,750 jobs
  • $67 million in labor income for more than 30 regional economies, and,
  • $1.8 million in fisheries business tax revenues to the state and nearly another $1 million in revenue to other local government treasuries.

"One of the things that has made this program so successful and sustainable from a financial point of view is that the fish pay for themselves," Mr Reggiani said. "We sell a portion of the fish returning to the hatchery and that helps pay for the next generation. Our hatcheries also are critical to the sustainability of jobs, strong local economies and the continued growth and investment by processors. They are a tremendous resource and a huge economic engine."

Cordova Mayor Jim Kallander agrees. "PWSAC is driving the economy of the entire North Gulf region," he said, "and aquaculture is vital to their future. The millions of pounds we ship out of here in finished and raw product, through other regional communities and through Anchorage do support jobs... we provide a lot of jobs, we put a lot of kids through college throughout Alaska and throughout the world who come here to work."

Markets for Alaska seafood and value-added salmon products enhance the demand for hatchery fish, Mr Reggiani said, and that makes a reliable return even more critical.

Clay Koplin, CEO of the Cordova Electric Cooperative, remembers when there were empty storefronts on main street: "There isn't a vacant storefront these days... It's jobs, jobs, jobs. It's the economy. The more sustainable the fisheries, the more reliable the fisheries, the more reliable the volume, it will continue to grow, and people can have confidence that the economy is going to be sustainable."

According to the McDowell study, in 2010 hatchery-born fish accounted for:

  • 188 million pounds of PWSAC pink salmon harvested by the commercial fleet;
  • $51 million PWSAC salmon harvested by the common property fisheries;
  • $196 million in the ex vessel value of PWSAC salmon [price paid to fishermen];
  • The first wholesale value of salmon [value of fish after it is sold out of the processing network] is not yet available. However, the record ex vessel value of the 2010 harvest suggests that processors will see those values rise well above those in 2008 when processors sold PWSAC salmon for $193 million.