Board of Fisheries to take up hatchery questions in Seward

Nov 26, 2019

Several proposals are aimed at the Tutka Bay hatchery operated by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. The impact of hatchery-produced pink salmon has been debated in Lower Cook Inlet for years.
Credit Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association

When the state Board of Fisheries meets in Seward next month, it will entertain a suite of proposals aimed at hatchery regulations. More than half a dozen proposals have been submitted and the deadline for comments on those proposals was Monday.


The proposals submitted ask the board to do a number of things, like limiting the number of salmon a hatchery can take in for cost recovery.

Another asks the board to suspend, revoke or alter the permits for the Tutka Bay hatchery in order to reduce capacity. That would be a big change, largely shouldered by the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. 

“Some of the proposals are kind of far-reaching,” says Dean Day, the association’s executive director.

“For example, Proposal 22 is a statewide proposal. It’s addressing issues statewide, trying to reduce production numbers, and really lacks an understanding of what kind of legislation, rules and regulations are already in place.”

The proposal Day referenced there would cap how many fish, generally pink salmon, the hatchery could harvest to pay for its operations. The argument being that cost recovery has grown to the point that the common fishery has been shut out of the harvest of returning hatchery fish.

“Cost recovery is essentially the means by which we recover a portion of the return and sell that to the processors to provide funding for the operation to continue.”

Tutka Bay is named specifically in several proposals. That state-owned facility is operated, and kept up, by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. Day says, like in so many other areas, the costs to do the work there don’t ever go down and the recovered funds aren’t limited to the fishery where they occur.

“We continue to have to do infrastructure upgrades or repairs. Cost recovery is not specific to one location. Cost recovery that we take in Resurrection Bay, that doesn’t just go toward Trail Lakes; stuff we do in Tutka Bay, those monies are not just for Tutka Bay. Those monies are used for all the other work we do, which is habitat restoration, invasive species work, helping provide for dipnet fisheries like China Poot Bay, which is a popular area that continues to grow. Those monies come from a cost recovery process.”

At least four proposals seek to reduce the size of or eliminate the Tutka Bay Special Harvest Area. Again, cost recovery is cited as the reason. Day says there are some underlying assumptions in some of the proposals that he doesn’t agree with.

“The way I take it is there’s almost an assumption that we’re unregulated. Every other year we have pathology inspections where ADF&G comes on site and goes through our entire process to ensure that we’re utilizing our best practices and doing all the things we’re supposed to be doing. It’s an entire process that has to be gone through and the understanding really comes through when people are just arbitrarily picking numbers (saying) ‘we should only be raising this many (fish)’. Well, based on what? What we do is based on established science that’s been going on in this industry for decades now.”

The Board of Fisheries meets in Seward December 10th through the 13th to discuss all things regarding Lower Cook Inlet finfish.