Alaska’s salmon catch of 273 million salmon set a record last year; so did the number of salmon returning home to state hatcheries.
The 2013 Fisheries Enhancement Report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shows a return of 112 million hatchery-reared salmon contributed 36 percent to the state’s total salmon harvest.
The breakdown by species was 63 percent for chum salmon, 38 percent pinks, 23 percent Chinook salmon, 22 percent cohos and 5 percent of Alaska’s sockeye salmon catch can be credited to hatchery returns.
Unlike farmed fish — which are crammed into nets or pens until they’re ready for market — Alaska salmon begin their lives in one of 35 state and/or privately run hatcheries and are released as fingerlings to the sea.
Prince William Sound has the greatest amount of hatchery action. Last year, 80 percent of the Sound’s salmon catch was hatchery-produced, including 88 percent of chums and 80 percent of pinks. Some 45 percent of sockeye were hatchery-produced. The hatchery catch was worth $113 million to PWS salmon fishermen; 68 percent of the total value.