Alaska salmon ranching

Fact checking Fin on Alaskan salmon ranching

BC’s salmon farmers and Alaska salmon ranchers have the same goal but the ‘Great Land’ does not put its money where its mouth is, when it comes to fish farming.

The Canadian anti-fish farm lobby often points to Alaska when it makes its case to push British Columbia to ban open-net salmon farming. But as a new report shows, Alaska aka ‘The Great Land’ does not put its money where its mouth is, when it comes to Alaskan salmon farming. is reporting that while Alaska may have banned salmon farming in 1990, the state coffers are raking in big bucks by investing in the Alaskan salmon farming business.

The  Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation has invested in no less than seven of the world’s 20 largest salmon farming corporations, reports the news site that is run by an Anchorage-based journalist.

“The Permanent Fund holds more than 79,000 shares of Marine Harvest valued at about $1.6 million. The investment has increased its value by $657,000 since the Fund purchased it, according to its online portfolio,” states one of the examples cited in the report.

Let’s be clear, this is not a bad thing.

It’s the hypocrisy and willful manipulation of critical information and science by the Canadian anti-fish farm lobby, that smells.

This summer as part of a renewed campaign to oust BC’s sustainable salmon farming industry  which supports the livelihoods of 6,600 people, NDP MP Fin Donnelly (pictured) kept telling small gatherings on Vancouver Island that BC should follow Alaska’s lead.

“Alaska doesn’t do it,” said Donnelly, who has spent the last decade trying to kill open-net fish farms on BC’s coast.

What he does not say is more telling.

Atlantic salmon farming in BC and Pink/Chum salmon ranching in Alaska essentially operate the same way, with one key difference.

Both methods of aquaculture hatch eggs which are raised in a freshwater hatchery facility and both methods move fish from freshwater to saltwater net pens to continue growth.

While Alaskan salmon farmers culture their fish for its entire lifecycle to harvest them directly from the net pens in which they were raised, salmon ranchers release their fish from the net pens to complete growth and compete for food in the open ocean. They are harvested by fishermen when they return.

About five billion hatchery fish – mostly pink and chum – are released annually into the Pacific Ocean from hatcheries in Japan, Alaska and Russia concludes a new paper published in Marine and Coastal Fisheries by Greg Ruggerone of Seattle’s Natural Resources Consultants and James Irvine of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Close to half or 48% of the commercial Alaskan salmon catch now is hatchery fish.

“This high abundance, especially of pink salmon, is impacting the offshore ecosystem of the North Pacific and Bering Sea,” Ruggerone said, according to an article in Business in Vancouver.

“This impact may be contributing to the decline of higher trophic species of salmon, such as chinook salmon, in Alaska. Hatchery salmon are exceptionally abundant now, and contribute to this impact.”

Ruggerone adds that the potential impact of pink salmon abundance is also a concern for Fraser River sockeye.

Recently, 19 conservation groups petitioned the Alaskan Board of Fisheries to stop the expansion of its industrial salmon ranching operation until more is known about the implications for wild salmon.

Scientists studying the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) last year stumbled on a startling, statistical link between hatchery pinks and fading runs of wild sockeye salmon, said in an earlier report.

In a peer-review study published at PLOS-One, the scientists reported they could find no sign of lasting damage from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the Sound, but they found significant damage caused by pink salmon.

“All sockeye salmon stocks examined exhibited a downward trend in productivity with increasing PWS (Prince William Sound) hatchery pink salmon returns,” they wrote.

The bottom line here is that there are many reasons from climate change to ocean pollution as to what ails our wild stocks.

Despite any credible scientific evidence to back their claims, Alaska hatchery pink salmon imperil wild stocks

BC’s salmon farmers and Alaskan salmon ranchers have the same goal – sustainably grow salmon to provide healthy and affordable protein to the consumer, while allowing wild stocks to replenish after decades of overfishing.

Like BC’s salmon farmers, Donnelly’s passion to protect our iconic wild fish species is unquestionable.

However, the way he is doing it is not only questionable but short-sighted.

Instead of pushing for a new law to ban open-net salmon farming in Canada, Donnelly should support the call for a Federal Aquaculture Act, which will protect our oceans while allowing us to harvest the seas sustainably.


‘Aquaculture one of the best ways to save wild salmon’

Sustainable seafood, the solution for a healthier you

Alaskan ‘ocean ranching’ damages wild salmon fishery, B.C. conservation groups say