Letters to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Few wild runs of salmon left in Alaska because of hatcheries

Regarding your editorial of Oct. 26 about Alaska's wild salmon: I agree with your statement that Alaska's wild runs are superior to farmed fish. The sad truth of the ongoing organic, wild or natural debate is that Alaska has very few actual wild runs of salmon left. The reason: hatcheries.

Here are some dictionary definitions of:

1. Organic: involving, producing or dealing in foods produced without the use of laboratory made fertilizers, growth substances, antibiotics or pesticides.

In hatcheries, we inoculate the artificially spawned baby salmon to ensure maximum survival. When we release these artificial babies into the wild, we fertilize lakes to ensure survival of both wild and hatchery stocks, because of the increased population pressure on the system.

2. Natural: determined by nature; of or relating to nature; not artificial.

How is a farmed salmon any less natural than an Alaska hatchery produced salmon? Perhaps because we dump hatchery fish into the wild, they suddenly become natural and thus deserve the natural label. I am having a difficult time accepting this argument.

At the point of artificial spawning, hatcheries displace nature. Our natural runs must compete with unnatural numbers of unnaturally produced hatchery salmon. Sadly, hatchery stocks are able to co-mingle with natural stocks on the spawning beds, the result being less than natural progeny. This fact should be no less alarming than farmed salmon escaping pens and co-mingling with wild runs.

3. Wild: growing or produced without human aid or care; a natural or undomesticated state or existence.

Plain and simple, human-run hatcheries grow and produce, in an unnatural state, millions upon millions of salmon, which are then dumped into systems already fully utilized by existing runs.

Why then, do we have hatcheries in Alaska? The answer is simple: Hatcheries exist in Alaska to increase commercial fishing harvests, thus larger paychecks for commercial fishermen and processors, and more money in communities surrounding commercial fishing activities.

Philosophically, for some people this is a good system. However, the co-mingling of hatchery salmon stocks with wild salmon stocks is every bit as alarming as escapement of farmed salmon from their pens. This practice may eventually cause some very real and serious problems with our existing runs of salmon. The costs could far exceed any present benefits derived from hatcheries.

Are Alaska salmon safe, healthy, real and as good as it gets? Probably. Are our runs natural, organic, 100 percent wild? Probably not.

Rod Berg


Wild fish valuable for heart reasons

Your editorial regarding labeling of wild salmon as organic must be well received by all.

The only point left out was of the value in wild fish as regards Omega 3 fatty acid. Omega 3 is vital in restricting cholesterol, important for a healthy heart, like mine.

James V. Arness

North Kenai

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