Prince William Sound
Volume data of 78,873 metric tons is the annual average catch from 2002 – 2011. NPAFC provided catch volumes for Prince William Sound and the Copper/Bering Districts combined, and the catch proportion for each fishery was estimated using catches and fish weights from ADF&G area management reports (data from 2008-2012).
The Alaska salmon fisheries were some of the earliest fisheries to receive MSC certification, being first certified in December 2000. Since then, the fisheries were re-certified in October 2007 and again in November 2013. Four conservation groups filed an objection to the most recent certification effort, citing insufficient evaluation of harvest rates on depleted, non-Alaskan salmon stocks intercepted in Southeast Alaska fisheries. However, an independent adjudicator dismissed the objection. The Units of Certification (UoCs; sub-components of the fishery that are individually evaluated) have varied among assessments, with the most recent assessment defining 14 units based on geographic area. Thirteen of the units were scored to pass certification, but the Prince William Sound (PWS) UoC is still under assessment, likely due to issues regarding hatchery production and the potential impacts on local wild stocks. Indeed, one of the most important fishery concerns is the accelerating release of hatchery pink and chum in Kodiak, PWS and Southeast Alaska (SEAK). Another issue is that some fisheries may affect stocks with low abundances that are designated as ‘stocks of concern,’ which are specified as ‘yield concern’ (escapement goals met but expected yields not met) or ‘management concern’ (escapement goals not met). Although the Alaska salmon fisheries benefit from the availability of high quality spawning habitat and a management system that closely monitors catches and escapements, there are still improvements to be made.
The Prince William Sound fishery is located immediately north of the Copper/Bering District and east of lower Cook Inlet. Approximately 817 million hatchery salmon were released each year into PWS during 2007-2011, of which 78% were pink, 17% chum, 4% sockeye, and 1% coho. Approximately 90% of the salmon harvested in PWS are of hatchery origin, including high percentages for pink (91%), chum (86%), and sockeye salmon (88%). Overall there are 16 escapement goals for pink, 2 for sockeye, and 5 for chum salmon. Although pink, chum, and sockeye stocks have typically met the lower escapement goals, pink and chum salmon were achieving the goals while including large numbers of strays from the hatcheries. Fishery managers attempt to harvest all surplus hatchery fish, but because hatchery production is exceptionally large, many hatchery fish escape the fishery and spawn with wild salmon.
The high proportions of hatchery fish in the adult returns create a difficult situation for managers trying to achieve escapement goals for wild salmon. The percentage of hatchery-origin pink and chum salmon in PWS streams has been shown to be very high, leading to concern about adverse effects on wild salmon. For example, a study by ADF&G showed that straying of chum salmon into PWS streams led to changes in the genetic composition of wild chum populations. In pink salmon, competition from hatchery fish has reportedly reduced growth and survival of wild fish, amounting to a loss of at least 1 million wild adult PWS pink salmon per year (~20% of the wild population), and some published manuscripts suggest even greater impacts. Competition from hatchery pink salmon may also be the primary factor inhibiting the recovery of herring in PWS. In spite of these significant concerns and state policies that are designed to protect wild salmon against potential negative effects of large hatchery production, the management system has approved increased production of hatchery salmon in Prince William Sound within the past five years (2008-2013).
Purse Seine Vessels Owners Association (PSVOA; fishery client), Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Wild Salmon Center, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, David Suzuki Foundation, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Wild Fish Conservancy, American Bird Conservancy, Sustainable Fisheries Partnerships, Pacific Salmon Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Ecotrust, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation
Native Corporations involved in Alaska salmon fisheries:
Arctic Slope Native Association, Bering Straits Association, Northwest Alaska Native Association, Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs’ Conference, Cook Inlet Association, Bristol Bay Native Association, Aleut League, Chugach Native Association, Tlingit-Haida Central Council, Kodiak Area Native Association, Copper River Native Association
The 2013 Public Certification Report for the Alaska salmon fisheries was released on November 12, 2013. The MSC assessment team concluded that the Prince William Sound Unit of Certification should remain under assessment pending further analysis of 1) an ADF&G multi-year study relating to hatchery/wild salmon stock interactions and how outcomes might influence future management practices, and 2) effects of hatchery releases on the productivity of PWS herring.
A number of conditions (fishery improvement targets) from the 2007 MSC recertification had not been completed as of the fourth surveillance visit due to the complex nature of the conditions. Thus, it was anticipated that these conditions would be continued into the 2013 recertification period. The primary concerns about the fishery largely related to hatchery production: