The proposed project monitors Chinook and sockeye escapement to important Alsek River sub-drainages. It permits estimation of Chinook salmon escapement drainage-wide, and when coupled with GSI permits estimation of sockeye salmon escapement drainage-wide. It is the primary tool for identifying whether or not Klukshu and Alsek river escapement goals and fishery management targets have been achieved under Chapter 1 Paragraph 4 of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Aspects of the project being developed in recent years have added significant diversity and strength to our understanding and management of Alsek River salmon stocks.
DIPAC took over raising Chinook salmon for the Juneau Area Recreational Chinook program from ADF&G in 1994 when Snettisham Salmon Hatchery was being converted to a sockeye facility, and a cooperative agreement has been in place ever since for production of Chinook around Gastineau Channel in District 111. Prior to this cooperative agreement, the State operated this recreational fisheries program since 1986. Maintaining Chinook production is an important aspect of DIPAC and ADF&G’s relationship with the Juneau fishing community by providing harvest opportunity. Although this program is intended primarily for sportfish enhancement, it provides direct and tangible benefits to local sport and commercial groups alike. The harvest of hatchery fish throughout Juneau, or specifically in Terminal Harvest Areas, at times provides the only fishing access for Chinook when there are other more restrictive management actions to protect wild stocks as has been the case in recent years with conservative management measures in place to protect the transboundary Taku River stock and the Chilkat River stock. These funds will go directly into rearing and releasing healthy Chinook smolt into Juneau waters.
Chinook salmon produced at Crystal Lake Hatchery support commercial and marine sport fisheries in District 108 and 103, along with terminal sport fisheries near the communities of Petersburg, Wrangell and Craig. Hatchery production from this facility has become increasing important in recent years as Southeast Alaska and Transboundary River stocks have experienced a persistent period of poor productivity resulting in the designation of several Stocks of Concern and subsequent harvest restrictions. These harvest restrictions were put in place to achieve escapement goals per State of Alaska policy and per Treaty obligations specified in Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 of the 2019 Treaty Agreement and have resulted in significant impacts on the coastal communities reliant on Chinook salmon. There is no doubt that this is a critically needed facility, the loss of which would be catastrophic for Southeast chinook fishers. The requested funds will support the production of 1,700,000 Chinook, maintaining releases from Crystal Lake (600,000), City Creek in Petersburg (100,000), Anita Bay (500,000), and Port Saint Nicholas (500,000).
This project will assure the efficiency of an operation that contributes pink, chum, coho and chinook salmon to commercial fishermen in the waters of Southeast Alaska. This enhancement project will put salmon into the common property fisheries of Sitka Sound. Salmon that have originated from the Sitka Sound Science Center Sheldon Jackson (SJ)Salmon Hatchery have demonstrated in recent years to be financially beneficial to the commercial fleet of Southeast Alaska. The Sitka Sound Science Center’s Spawning and Incubation Facility (SpIFy) will co-locate incubation and spawning in one area which will not only increase efficiency by utilizing existing technology to produce salmon that will return to Sitka Sound and caught by fishermen from the region, but it will also create a stronger research facility for examination of these stocks in the future.
Juvenile sockeye salmon rearing capacity for the following nursery lakes would be determined through detailed limnology sampling and the measuring of physical features at: King Salmon lake, Kuthai Lake, Little Trapper lake, Nakina Lake, Tatsamenie Lake, Trapper Lake, and Victoria Lake. By collecting these data sets, each lake can be evaluated to model juvenile rearing potential. In addition to establishing current conditions these data would also allow for a direct comparison at each lake to previous assessment results. The previous assessment results would be used to ensure repeatable sampling was conducted and that any changes to habitat are recorded.
Enhanced sockeye salmon outplanted as part of enhancement projects in the Transboundary Rivers area have their otoliths thermally marked as fry to allow later identification to stocking origin and brood year. Transboundary Rivers (TBR) stock assessment and monitoring projects collect otoliths from both outmigrating sockeye smolts and returning sockeye adults through a variety of projects. The proposed thermal mark recovery project will fund the preparation, interpretation and analysis of these samples, which will provide critical data to stock assessment and enhancement activities; wild/enhanced ratios, scale aging validation, fry to smolt survival, smolt to adult survival, contributions of enhanced fish to returns, straying rates, etc. These data are vital elements of Transboundary stock assessment, enhancement, and fishery management programs. Data are used in enhancement planning and evaluation for multiple stocks, forecasting of returns, annual run reconstructions, and monitoring fishery management performance.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game in concert with Alaska Salmon Hatchery Operators and financial support from the salmon processing community has undertaken a long-term study concerning interactions of hatchery and natural origin salmon in natural systems. Samples have been collected from 4 chum salmon streams in Southeast Alaska (SEAK) for studies of potential relative difference in survival of offspring between hatchery and wild fish spawning in wild stock streams. This information will allow us to assess the ecological and genetic consequences of hatchery strays on fitness of wild spawners at the drainage scale. Evaluation of this scale is important because it will provide insight into how much these consequences can vary locally (and, potentially, why). Adult chum were sampled in 2013 and 2014 to establish genetic markers for identification of progeny in subsequent years. Otolith analysis reveals if a spawner is of hatchery or natural origin and tissue samples will be used to identify parentage of progeny beginning in 2017 and continuing in 2018 – 2023. Fish spawning in the 4 study streams will be similarly sampled for two complete generations; for chum salmon, sampling in each stream will occur over 11 years with the goal to sample F1 and F2 progeny from the first years of the project.
Rivers Inlet Chinook are harvested in recreational fisheries, commercial and subsistence fisheries in BC and Alaska, and some of the largest Chinook salmon caught in marine waters originate from Rivers Inlet streams. This project is consistent with the 3rd goal of the Northern Fund, specifically, to enhance wild stock production through low technology techniques using capacity in existing facilities. This Kilbella-Chuckwalla Chinook enhancement project that will promote production for a wild stock that is currently well below its production potential without creating any long-term operational obligations.
The Thermal Mark Laboratory at the ADF&G Mark, Tag and Age (MTA) Laboratory is responsible for examining sockeye salmon otoliths recovered from commercial fisheries in southeast Alaska for thermal marks indicating hatchery origin, and for making the associated data available to biologists for management of sockeye from the transboundary Taku and Stikine Rivers.