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Anglers in Alaska seek emergency intervention in conservation policy

Charter captains like Andy Mezirow with Gray Light are frustrated the scarcity of king salmon.

Charter captains like Andy Mezirow with Gray Light are frustrated the scarcity of king salmon.

Alaska outdoor sporting groups, who filed an emergency petition to stop an increase of hatchery fish being released in the wild last May, are asking recreational anglers nationwide to weigh in before the deadline today.

Millions of pink salmon are raised in hatcheries and released as fries so that commercial fishermen will have lucrative catches, said KRSA president Ricky Gease. But studies show that the pink salmon cultivated in hatcheries are part of the reason populations of wild chinook, coho, sockeye and other species are declining.

That has resulted in closures and hardships for charter captains, lodges and those who rely on visitors who travel to Alaska to fish, Gease said.

“Ninety-nine percent of the fish out here have been used for commercial purposes,” said Gease from a charter boat out of Seward, Alaska. “They’re trying to make money from volume, but the recreational industry is critical in helping drive the economy here.”

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Pink salmon typically have a 2-year life cycle and have the fastest growth rate of the Pacific salmon, which is why they’re favored by hatcheries.

From 1990 to 2015, pink salmon comprised 66 percent (two of every three) of adult salmon in the North Pacific. Chum salmon comprise 19 percent, sockeye 12 percent, coho 2 percent and chinook 1 percent.

In 2016, the total number of pink salmon eggs taken for rearing in hatcheries was 740 million, and 643 million pink salmon fry of hatchery origin were released.

Nine groups signed the emergency petition to the Alaska Board of Fisheries asking it to postpone implementation of an additional 20 million pink salmon eggs to the hatchery.

Weigh in to the board here.

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