Alaskan hatcheries could play role in salmon decline –

Alaskan hatcheries could play role in salmon decline Published:  04 October, 2007

ALASKAN hatcheries could be a major factor in the decline in the abundance of British Columbia salmon, according to a former salmon farmer.

Semi-retired fish farmer Bill Vernon recently published an article in the North American trade press entitled ‘Salmon Ranching Examined’, in which he discusses the impact of the release of over 5 billion hatchery grown juvenile fish into the common pasture of the Pacific Ocean, every year. Most of these fish originate in Alaska, Japan or Russia. In the ocean, they compete with truly wild fish, foraging for the available feed.

Drawing on his farming experience, Mr Vernon calculates that these hatchery-raised salmon could consume as much as 11 million tonnes of ocean feed resources every year. Considering the sheer scale of this volume of feed, and the fact that that the hatchery fish are generally larger at release than their wild counterparts, he concludes that it is likely that the wild fish are losing out to the competition – and that this could be a major factor in the decline in the abundance of BC salmon.

According to Mr Vernon, further research reveals that several world-renowned scientists have published papers on this very subject in recent years. They have discussed the impact on wild salmon of the introduction of hatchery fish into the Pacific Ocean, and expressed concern about dilution of the native gene pool and the survival prospects for the truly native species.

Bill Vernon has worked in aquaculture-related businesses for over 20 years. Starting in 1989 he helped build Tofino-based Creative Salmon to become a successful farming company growing Pacific salmon. He has also been a strong supporter of salmon enhancement efforts as well as the Streamkeepers programme in Clayoquot Sound. Now semi-retired, he concentrates his efforts on a small oyster/scallop farm near his home in Powell River, BC. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.