A Surprising Number of Pink Salmon Aren’t Returning to a Local Hatchery

Joe Serio/ USFS/ Flickr

Mitch Borden/KMXT

A healthy number of pink salmon are returning to Kodiak’s waters this year, but not all pink salmon are doing well.

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Pink Salmon have filled Kodiak’s rivers and streams by the millions this summer, but a large segment of the population didn’t show up. The Kitoi Bay Hatchery was expecting to see way more fish return than it did.

Tina Fairbanks is the executive director of the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association, also known as KRAA, the nonprofit running the hatchery. She says their estimates were fairly off.

“Our forecast was approximately 10 million and we looked to be trending 1.5 million adult salmon returning this year.”

Once the pinks began to run, it only took the Hatchery three days to realize it wasn’t seeing anywhere near the number of fish it should be. Immediately, it switched from harvesting fish, to recoup the costs of raising them, to catching pinks to collect their eggs, so it can release a healthy amount of salmon this year.

Fairbanks says, she can’t be sure why the hatchery pinks are having such a rough time.

“I have a lot of ideas for possible reasons, but our ability to pin that down is fairly limited at this point in time.”

What she does know is, in 2015, when this generation of fish were born, it was dry in the Kitoi Bay area. That, along with other factors, could have something to do with the low turn-out.

The hatchery was able to gather enough eggs, and cost recovery fishing has resumed.

“When we had collected sufficient brood stock, we notified the processors who had been the successful bidders this year for the cost recovery fishery and had been working with them to catch the fish that are now moving in.”

KRAA offered an estimated 6 million pounds of salmon for bid to three local seafood processors. But, so far, only 900,000 pounds of fish has been harvested. Fairbanks is staying positive though. She says, the run is still going, so that figure will only increase.

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