All posts by aweiss

First Land-based Sockeye Farm in B.C.


In the province of British Columbia in Canada, the world’s  first land based sockeye salmon farm, owned by Willowfield Enterprises,   is ready for harvest.       This particular farm expects to produce up to 1100 pounds (or 500 kilograms)of sockeye a week.   They will be sold under the brand West Creek by Albion Fisheries, to be sold at Choice Markets.   The first fish to be harvested will weigh in at a little over 3 pounds (kilograms) and eventually they expect them to weigh in at around 5 pounds (between 2 and 3 kilograms).

Albion Fisheries president Don Read and biologist Larry Albright have been experimenting with sockeye for over 15 years in order to develop a system to produce sockeye salmon that they would be able to be put up on the commercial market.

The farm at Willowfield uses a flow-thru model that sort of filters water through trout ponds (this company has been farming trout for 20 years), and kind of acts as a sort of “biofilter’.   Don Read said “ Our water has been tested by   the Ministry of Environment,’   but I for one will definitely not be the first in line to buy one of these farmed fishes.

Fish farming is illegal in Alaska, however   hatcheries are not.   The difference between the two are quite simple.   Hatcheries are more natural.   They aid the indigenous fish of the area to spawn and reproduce and are eventually released at smolt stage, without introducing fish that can harm the fishes that are natural to the area.     Fish farms, on the other hand, use fish that are genetically selected for fast growth and have a ability to survive in net pens and are kept their until they are ready for the market.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT (or hopefully not):

B.C. produces 70,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon a year from fish farm’s net pens.

Farmed salmon:

Have seven times the levels of PCB’s as wild salmon,

Have 30 times more sea lice.

Are fed chemicals to give them color.

Are fed pellets of chicken feces, corn meal, soy, etc.

Are administered antibiotics at higher levels than any other livestock.

Are crowded into small areas causing disease.

Have less omega 3’s

Farmed salmon are also harmful to wild salmon because there is a risk of escapement and intermixing with wild salmon creating a sort of   “Frankenfish’

Farmed salmon are also a danger to many fishing communities and fishermen around the world, especially Alaskans.

So take my advice: “DON’T EAT FARMED FISH!”



ADF&G’s Board of Fisheries Meetings and WASSIP

The Board of Fisheries et recently in Anchorage, AK to discuss several proposals to change and or revise current policies regarding state subsistence, sport, and commercial fisheries, submitted by fishermen and others from around the state and beyond.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is made up of seven members that are appointed by the governor and must be confirmed by the Alaska State Legislature.     They deliberate over changes to regulations based on the region schedule, which is three years long.   Which means every region and fisheries gets discussed on a three-year cycle.

On February 26- March 4th of this year the Board met and discussed mostly the Alaska Peninsula/Aleutian Islands Areas (better known as Area M) salmon issues.
However, some non-Area M proposals were considered.


Area-M seiners and drifters lost 64 hours in their June Salmon fishery, very little changes were made for the Area-M July fishery save for changes to start and end times, no time was added or lost.   A proposal that deals with sockeye caps that was submitted in April 2012 without the benefit of the Western Alaska Salmon Stock Identification Project study (WASSIP)**that was recently released in November 2012, was considered, but failed and will likely reemerge in the future.


**The WASSIP study is geared to measure the stock composition and harvest rates of chum and sockeye salmon across Western Alaska from Chignik to Kotzebue.   The study produced an enormous collection of information. A study of this magnitude has never been compiled in this manner before.   It is a historical document that will be used for years to come whenever Western Alaska Salmon fisheries are concerned.

Some may argue that the study shows that way less Chum and Sockeye destined for Bristol Bay and AYK are being intercepted by Area M fishermen than previously thought, some maybe argue to the contrary.   There is too much information to make any determinations at this point.

A Weiss


Fishing Photo Courtesy of Jim Smith Jr.

Chinook Salmon Bycatch – an ongoing problem for all

Chinook Salmon, the largest salmon of the salmon species and to some the most valuable, is listed as endangered in Washington more specifically the Columbia River, and also endangered in California’s Sacramento River.   It is listed as threatened across the rest of the Pacific Northwest.   Although Alaska’s Chinook salmon stocks remain relatively healthy, their numbers are still declining.


Harvests in Alaska have significantly reduced over the past 18 years in average catches. From 1994 to 2005, to 2006 thru 2011 subsistence fishing seen a 7% decline in harvest, commercial fishing seen a 40% reduction, and sport fishing has reduced about 12%.

In 2010 the Gulf of Alaska polluck fishery fleet caught nearly 55,000 Chinook Salmon bycatch, the highest ever recorded (these numbers were gathered by observers, then only observing on the polluck fishing boats that were over 60 ft in length).

In efforts to generate and maintain healthy stocks of the Chinook Salmon, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council implemented a new bycatch management program in 2011; creating a hard cap of 25,000 fish for the Gulf of Alaska polluck fishery.   If the Gulf of Alaska polluck fleet exceeds this cap the fishery will close.

Since then additional measures have been made to gather more accurate numbers of Chinook Salmon bycatch by implementing an observer program (NOAA’s Observer Declare and Deploy System) for all groundfish trawl vessels in the Western Gulf of Alaska, including vessels under 60 ft. in length .   15-20% of the fleet is required to carry an observer who stays with the vessel until their catch is delivered to the processor, at which time, the observer counts and documents each fish caught that is not the target species.   This number is then averaged and applied to the rest of fleet.   The formula for the Chinook Salmon bycatch numbers in the Western Gulf is a weighted average formula, and applies to vessels that are fishing the same area (*Western GOA 610 is one area that extends over roughly 600 miles from about Sand Point, AK to Adak, AK), same target species, using the same gear type, and fishing in the same 3 week period. Chinook salmon bycatch has been an ongoing topic of concern for the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and alternative measures are continually being analyzed, and changes and revisions to current policies and regulations for these fisheries are frequently being considered.
Reporting Area
I agree with the goals that these regulations and observer systems have, however, I feel that a more accurate formula could be developed.   For instance: with this formula a vessel fishing in the   Dutch Harbor area that catches any amount of Chinook bycatch, that number gets   gets applied and averaged to the rest of fleet that may be fishing hundreds of miles away, like for instance in the Sand Point area.   A more accurate formula should be developed because the area thats being averaged is so large and over such a long time period. I think this would provide a more accurate count of what is really being caught.

Lawsuits have been filed challenging the federal governments newly implemented observer program calling it “substantial and unnecessary,’ and also having a negative impact on small commercial fishing communities and economies, “while it recognizes the importance of gathering at-sea data, NMFS has constructed an observer program that ignores the limitations of small boats and the data needs of specific fisheries.’

Something that is also scarcely talked about when it comes to Chinook Salmon stocks is the possible changes and damage to their spawning habitats, which may have contributed to the decline in these stocks.     Things like construction, bank erosion, heavy rainfalls or large storms, and pollution that can harm the spawning grounds of the Chinook. However, in October of 2012, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game published a Draft Gap Analysis of of the Alaska Chinook Salmon Knowledge Gaps and Needs, wherein the research team suggests that a stock assessment program be implemented.     They recommended a stock assessment   that would include escapement estimations, forecasts for returns, and more comprehensive studies and estimations regarding smolt and brood, and the gathering of more adequate local traditional knowledge concerning patterns and trends of stocks.   I haven’t been able to determine if any of these recommendations have yet been implemented.


A Weiss

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

King Salmon, tyee salmon, black salmon, Columbia River Salmon


Distinction and Description:

Males:   Distinctive hooked nose at the top of their mouth and a ridged back.   Females have no hooked nose, and no ridge. Chinook are bluish green on the back and top of the head, with silvery sides and black spots on body and tail, and a grayish black mouth.


Monogamous/polygamous.   Male and Female Chinooks pair up to breed. Some also say that after males spawn, they seek additional mates.

Spawning cycle:   From late summer to late fall Chinooks go upstream to larger, deeper, faster-moving streams and rivers than other salmon do to spawn. Female digs a redd (or nesting hole) and deposits eggs and male releases sperm. Male and Female guard the eggs to protect them from predators until they die, before the eggs even hatch.   Eggs hatch 90-150 days after they are deposited, and become fry. Fry stay in freshwater for 12-18 months, then they travel downstream to estuaries where they stay as smolts for up to 189 days. Then they began their journey to the open ocean.   They can travel the ocean for up to 8 years before returning to their natal stream (birthplace) to spawn.*

**Jack Salmon return to fresh water a few years earlier than Chinook Salmon and only grow to about half the size.


Trophic Level Status:

Predator. Chinook Salmon eat insects, amphipods, and crustaceans while young, and when they get older they primarily eat smaller fish.


Pacific Ocean and Pacific Coastlines.   Alaska, Western Canada, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Russia, Japan, New Zealand*, and the Great Lakes**. Chinook Salmon changes its habitat over its life span: freshwater rivers and streams, to estuaries, to open ocean, and finally back to its birthplace or natal stream.

**Chinook Salmon were introduced to New Zealand in 1800’s without much success. Farming of Chinook Salmon in New Zealand began in the 1970’s.   New Zealand now accounts for half of the global production of Chinook Salmon, and exports half of it, mostly to its largest market: Japan.

***In the 1960’s Chinook’s were introduced to a few of the Great Lakes along with Coho Salmon to control the alewife, a nuisance fish from the Atlantic.   They are now harvested in these lakes by sports fishermen.



Chinook Salmon migrate thousand of miles before returning to their birthplace.



Chinook are preyed upon by many different animals. Orcas, Seals, Bears, Birds, and their biggest predator: humans.


Interests/Interesting Facts:

Chinook Salmon are very active. That is why sports fishermen enjoy targeting this particular salmon, they put up a mean fight when hooked.

Valued also for nutritional content, Chinooks, like other salmon species, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Chinooks can grow to over 4 ft long and reach over 130 pounds!


“White’ King Variation: About 1% of all Chinooks caught are white-fleshed, where the meat is not the same brilliant red color as normal, it’s a very light colored pink, almost white. Years ago people regarded these strange fishes as garbage, today it is a delicacy found in top restaurant’s menus.   No one really knows why the meat is white, it is still being debated. Some say its diet, some says its genetic.



“Let me pose you a question. Can farm-raised salmon be organic when its feed has nothing to do with its natural diet, even if the feed itself is supposedly organic, and the fish themselves are packed tightly in pens, swimming in their own filth?’ — Mark Bittman (American Author)

“You ain’t supposed to get salmon when they’re swimming upstream to spawn. But if you’re hungry, you do.’– Loretta Lynn (American Musician)

White King Salmon
All photos were taken from this site:

Amberly Weiss