An adult Atlantic salmon caught in a commercial gillnet fishery Tuesday near Thorne Bay has Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials worried.
The presence of the species, which is not native to the Pacific Ocean, is biologically undesirable. They are raised along the West Coast outside Alaska in commercial fish farms.
In a press release Friday, Fish and Game said the 8.3-pound fish was turned in to the department's Ketchikan office and appeared to be in good condition, according to fishery biologist Glenn Hollowell.
Fish and Game said it was unclear whether the fish was one of 2,587 Atlantic salmon reported escaped from a farm in British Columbia between July 5 and 10, while being transferred into an uninspected net that had holes in it.
"Regardless of the origin on this fish, it is important to understand the potential danger that Atlantic salmon present to Alaska's wild salmon stocks," said Fish and Game Invasive Species Program Coordinator Bob Piorkowski. "Introduction of non-native species, including Atlantic salmon, into Alaska's fresh and salt waters could result in unexpected and potentially catastrophic consequences ranging from serious reduction of native species and habitat destruction to economic damage."
Some 577 Atlantic salmon have been found in Alaska waters since 1994, including in the Copper and Situk rivers. Fish and Game officials are urging the public to watch for Atlantic salmon in fresh and salt waters. They may be identified by a number of markings, such as black X-shaped spots on the back above the lateral line and black spots on gill covers.
Free, wallet-sized ID cards with this information are available at most coastal Fish and Game offices.
If you catch an Atlantic salmon, note its location and keep the entire carcass (freeze if necessary) and contact the Atlantic Salmon Watch Program at (877) 468-2748.
Captured Atlantic salmon should never be cleaned, but they should be delivered whole to the nearest department office.
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