Monday, February 2, 2009

Importance of Salmon Hatcheries

In Alaska, salmon are one of the major providers of food for the people living there. Over the past few decades there has been a major increase in the usage of hatcheries to help the declining wild salmon population grow back to the numbers needed for them t o continue reproducing for the Alaskan people and its economy. To help make this process be a success, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game operated these salmon hatcheries to take in salmon that were preparing to spawn and put them in these hatcheries where their eggs are protected from other predators and the weather. These hatcheries are playing a big role in the comeback of the salmon, but they are imposing a problem on the wild population. The genes in the salmon that live in these hatcheries are no longer adapted to the environment of the wild salmon and are actually wiping out their population. Genes that are needed for the salmon to survive in their normal environment will no longer be passed down because the wild population is being wiped out. If the wild salmon become wiped out, then these hatcheries are more important than ever. If humans decide to quit this intervention once salmon population levels are steady, they are likely to go right back down because the genetic makeup has been altered and they will not be able to survive. By 1998, 75% of the salmon quota were hatchery salmon and in 1999, 84% of the pink salmon caught were also grown in these fish farms. This could slowly become a problem if the genes in these salmon are not watched carefully, but these fisheries have not found any harmful effects to people who indulge in this delicacy.

This is an example of human intervention that has not had too much of a negative effect, but actually has a positive effect. Alterations in genetics can be a good thing for food production if and only if they are monitored carefully.

*the vitamins that fish normally give are not as strong in the salmon grown in fish farms as they are in the wild salmon.


  1. I am wondering if you can clarify what you mean by "their genetic makeup has been altered." Removing species from the wild and placing them in captivity, or in this case, aquatic farms would not physically alter the organisms in any way. They may lose instinctive skills over a long period of time, but those can be easily recovered. Gene alteration cannot simply occur over a small time scale without physical genetic engineering. Please help explain.

  2. I guess what I meant by the salmon being "altered" was that human intervention, though it was clearly needed, has helped to wipe out the salmon population because by keeping them in these hatcheries, they are slowly losing the genes needed to survive on their own. The hatcheries are made to be a rest stop kind of thing for the salmon to get back on their feet, but because they do treat these salmon like pets, their genes become altered to where they no longer need the ones for survival on their own. So then as these numbers grow in the hatcheries, the wild population is losing its own genetic make-up that will be unable to pass down to generation and the only salmon that will be reproducing are the ones living in the fisheries. This will be a huge loss to the villages who depend on the salmon for food as well as the animals who eat them. Physically the salmon are not being altered strictly from human contact, but their genetic make-up is being changed.