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Study indicates Prince William Sound salmon hatcheries pay off big

Margaret BaumanThe Cordova Times
Courtesy CR/PWSMA

An economic study by the McDowell Group shows that Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatcheries have yielded a big return on investment, producing $271 worth of salmon for every dollar of state grant funding since 1975.

The Juneau-based economic research group also found that commercial fishermen received $23 worth of Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. salmon for every dollar of enhancement taxes they have paid since 1990, and that those salmon created an annual average of $51 million in labor income for an average of 2,495 workers.

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. operations are financed through periodic state grants, licensing a portion of the returning salmon for a fee to seafood processors who, in turn, catch and sell the fish through a cost recovery program, and by a 2 percent voluntary salmon enhancement tax paid by commercial fishermen.

Dave Reggiani, the corporation’s general manager, was not available for comment on the report, which was released to the public Dec. 4. The company received it in October.

The report also said that commercial harvesters collectively earned average gross revenue of $48 million annually harvesting and that seafood processors earned a gross margin of $1.2 billion from processing and selling Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. salmon.

"Providing additional pink salmon to PWS fisheries would have a clear financial impact on fishermen and processors in the short term," the report said. "However, in the long term the added earnings boost to fishermen and processors would also create additional jobs in Alaska's economy.

"It is estimated that contributing an additional 26 million pink salmon to PWS fisheries, from 2009 to 2011, would have created seasonal jobs for 211 additional fishermen and processors plus indirect and induced jobs for an additional 69 Alaska workers."

The corporation, established to bolster the returns of wild salmon, operates five hatcheries in the Prince William Sound and Copper River regions. They largely produce pink salmon, but also pump out chum, silver, red and king salmon for an array of users.

Controversy is growing on whether hatchery salmon have an effect on wild stocks. Among the unanswered questions: whether hatchery rearing affects the strengths of certain genetic traits that protect young salmon from predators when they are released into the ocean.

The complete study is at http://pwsac.com/economic-impact/economic-impact-studies/