OLYMPIA — A long-prohibited method of salmon farming is gaining support among state fisheries managers.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is dusting off the idea of allowing private companies to raise and release salmon for commercial harvests. Known as salmon ranching, the practice boomed in the Northwest during the 1970s. It went bust in Oregon and was outlawed in Washington but continues to thrive in Alaska. Norway and Japan are world leaders in the business, producing huge quantities of ranched salmon, lobster, cod and other species.

As wild salmon runs decline and government hatchery production wanes, some Fish and Wildlife leaders believe the private sector could have a role in boosting the supply of fishable salmon.

"The understanding is that hatchery funding will continue to decline and we should be planning alternatives," Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Miranda Wecker said.

Commissioners discussed salmon ranching at a June 10 meeting in Olympia and have directed staff to continue researching the issue.

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