Fish Hatcheries Support Local Fisheries
Wild salmon are among Alaska's most treasured resources for both private and commercial fishermen. But even Mother Nature sometimes needs a little help - and Alaska's extensive system of hatcheries help support and supplement local salmon fisheries.
The first salmon hatcheries in Alaska were built in the early 1900s. The large numbers of existing canneries were taking vast quantities of wild fish out of the ecosystem. Fish hatcheries were designed to help replace what they took. But the early efforts were primitive and unsuccessful, and from the mid-1930s to 1974, no hatcheries operated here. That year, when commercial catches dropped to a historic low of 20 million fish, the Alaska Legislature approved an ambitious hatchery construction program.
Today there are 13 state, 21 private, and two federal hatcheries in the state. Hatchery-spawned salmon make up more than a third of commercially caught salmon in Alaska.
In Juneau, the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery incubates, rears, and releases four species of Pacific salmon - chum, Chinook, coho, and sockeye. The chum species is produced for the commercial fleets, whereas the Chinook and coho were initially produced for the Juneau and Haines sportfishing fleets.
Sockeye production benefits both commercial fishermen and the sportfishing fleets. At the Macaulay Hatchery, around one hundred thousand visitors each year watch an unforgettable and easily accessible miracle - the entire life cycle of salmon, including between five and ten million fish returning here to spawn.