Where do these fish come from?

Remarks  by  NS_Crabber here , a few threads back, clearly and succinctly pull together some of the largest issues facing fisheries in Western Alaska:

“The URL you reference is the decision in Elim vs State of Alaska on whether or not chum salmon interception in the Area M aka False Pass June fishery is consistent with laws protecting subsistence. The court’s rational for ruling against Elim is worth reading because it is a lot different than what most of us in western Alaska were expecting.

The result was that Area M was not restricted and in 2009, the June fishery took more than 700,000 chum salmon. The available genetic data suggests that 60% of those fish were headed for western Alaska spawning streams from Bristol Bay to Kotzebue when they were intercepted. Unfortunately, the scientists can’t break it down to the level of detail we would like and tell us how many fish from a specific drainage.

The issues are the same as for salmon bycatch in the pollock trawl fishery and no one can predict how another court would rule if this were brought before them. Interestingly, during 2005, the pollock trawlers also killed and wasted more than 700,000 chum salmon. What is remarkable is that between the two intercept fisheries that any chum salmon are left to spawn in western Alaska rivers. “


Here’s hoping much , much more data will be available by the time the next state BOF cycle comes round…

And that we end up with real information about salmon lost as bycatch in the pollack trawl industry in federal waters…


Reprinted with permission from The Tundra Drums

Published on March 18th, 2010

State examines salmon DNA to pinpoint origins


Scientists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are pushing the genetics frontier with a multi-million dollar study designed to verify stock composition of sockeye and chum salmon harvested in Western Alaska, from Chignik to Kotzebue.

The study is scheduled for release to the public in the summer of 2012, to allow time for writing allocation proposals to be considered at an Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting later that year.

Meanwhile in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s gene conservation laboratory in Anchorage, geneticists and biologists are busy extracting and analyzing DNA from about 140,000 samples of tissue known as the axillary process from chum and sockeye salmon.

 Eric Volk, chief fishery scientist for salmon with the state’s Division of Commercial Fisheries, said the magnitude of the project, known as the Western Alaska salmon stock identification project, is unprecedented.

 DNA is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in development and functioning of all known living organisms. DNA is a blueprint or code carried in the genes. By comparing samples of DNA in fish harvested in Western Alaska with DNA samples taken from fish in natal streams, geneticists will know where the harvested fish were headed to spawn.

 Stock composition is a heated issue in Western Alaska, where salmon harvesters north of the False Pass area, known as Area M, have voiced concern for years that their fish are being caught in Area M commercial fisheries, rather than the commercial and subsistence fisheries of Bristol Bay and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

Yukon River commercial and subsistence harvesters likewise have expressed concern about the numbers of chum and chinook salmon caught incidentally in pollock fisheries in the Bering Sea, and a similar study will be used to verify the stock composition of those salmon harvested as bycatch by trawlers. Most of the sampling of salmon caught as bycatch in the Bering Sea is being done by National Marine Fisheries Service at its Auke Bay laboratory.

 Chris Habicht, the agency’s statewide stock status geneticist, is the project’s ground level coordinator, charged with making sure deadlines are met for running samples, data analysis and statistical report writing, in advance of the December 2012 Board of Fisheries meeting. One of the challenges in getting the stock study started in the first place, said John Hilsiger, deputy commissioner of Fish and Game, is that all the money for all sampling had to be in place before testing of any samples could begin. The process also had to be approved by the stakeholders, represented by an advisory panel of varied interest groups.

 Preserving fish value

 Bill Templin, principal geneticist for the gene conservation laboratory, said biologists decided to take the DNA samples from the axillary process because it is easy to clip and does not decrease the value of the fish. Each sample is catalogued by date and place where the sample was taken and run through a series of chemical processes to identify its DNA markers. Test results are then compared with those of baseline studies of salmon from natal streams up and down the west coast of Alaska, so scientists can determine where harvested fish were headed.

Templin said to assure a high level of accuracy, the lab is also running new DNA analyses on all DNA baseline samples of chum and sockeye. “With one or two DNA markers, we can determine if they are from Asia or North America,” he said. “The more markers, the more groups we can break into, and the more precise we can be in estimates.”

Samples in the baseline studies themselves were gathered in a cooperative effort with the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, whose membership includes Russia, Japan, Korea, Canada and the United States. Templin said the baseline studies are being done in collaboration with other salmon genetics laboratories from all these countries.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is also working with a technical committee of scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the University of Washington and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a group with broad background in biometrics, statistics, modeling, salmon ecology and genetics, Volk said. “The more complete the baseline is, the more likely the ability to match the fish to the specific areas” (using DNA identifiers).”

The more markers that geneticists can develop in the DNA tissue samples, the greater the chance of differentiating between different stocks of sockeye and chum salmon, he said.

 The sockeye baseline includes tissue samples from more than 50,000 fish and the chum baseline will include more than 25,000 fish, he said.

To date geneticists have 45 markers for sockeye and are working toward 96 markers. For chum they have 53 markers and are working toward at least 96. The answers lie in the genes, a section of DNA that codes for specific proteins.

 “It’s kind of like a blueprint for building a house, Templin said. “We are looking for those little changes.”

The use of genetic studies to determine stock identification dates back to 1980, when scientists from the University of Washington did a sockeye fish genetic stock study in Cook Inlet. Since then the process has seen great technical advancement, with new research and development of new chemical processes to identify markers in DNA.


A special thank you to The Tundra Drums.

 They do a fine job trying to cover  the news across a huge  part of this state. They have been very helpful in passing on info when requested  and have granted permission to reprint some of their stories when asked.

  I want to thank all of those who make up the “they” who help get news about rural Alaska out and about and news rural  folks  can use into the bush .

 To  the “they” who are the  folks at The Tundra Drums-

Thank you, neighbors.

A special thank you to NS_Crabber.

Those of you familiar with fish policies and politics in Alaska are already familiar with this strong intelligent voice who weighs in sensibly and forcefully on so many of the issues fisheries face here.

We don’t have enough of these voices …

Thank you neighbor.

Published in: on March 19, 2010 at 12:29 pm  Comments (6)  

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I agree that we need to recognize NS_Crabber as Alaska’s “strong intelligent voice” on fish policies and politics in our state. Way to go AkPi and keep on writing NS_Crabber. I’ve learned a lot from that blogger over the course of three years. He keeps the truth on the table because he knows what’s going on.

  2. This is such an important study and HOPEFULLY we can use it to hold the BOF and NPMFC accountable for managing our fish to the ‘sustainability’ they CLAIM they are!!

    I know Bristol Bay has a smaller study they have been doing each year that will add to this.

    My hope is we are moving in the right direction!!

  3. I’m having a bad day …
    So, how many fisheries will be fully or heavily restricted THIS year?
    What were their historical fish populations?
    Are these cyclical declines or are we gonna play pretend about what may or may not be going on til it’s too late?

    Many apologies.
    Giving into disgust and sadness today.
    Will try to get myself back on track …
    Would really like to say a whole lot of bad words and kick a rock…

    • I predict that we’ll have restrictions in the Nome Area rivers up here in the Norton Sound – been that way for over 20 years now. I’ll also predict that the Yukon River will have restrictions on both the King and Chum runs. It’s not Global Warming or Over-escapement either. It’s what’s happening in the Bering Sea.

  4. It’s spring and the poor peoples hopes are for the upcoming summer and hopefully a good run of Salmon for food. It’s looking pretty bleak up in the Norton Sound area. It doesn’t stop the blow hards from bleeping their baloney, some of these dudes haranging the same old tune for 30 years! Wake up people. We know who is destroying our livelihood. Shake ’em off for once and for all.

  5. Big time Baloney going on up here in the Norton Sound. It looks like the Information Holders love money more than they love Salmon. I wish I was making “one thousand dollars” a day – that’s $1,000.00 which averages out to “thirty thousand” a month – $30,000.00, times that by twelve months: $30,000.00 X 12 = $360,000.00 a year. Holey Moley, that’s rolling in the bucks! That’s about 37% of a Million Dollars, $1,000,000.00. Holey Moley, rolling in the dough. Poverty is still a big problem after 18 years of the CDQ program. It’s time for an OVER-HAUL. That means “clean out the crap” for those of you who don’t speak the fishing language. Way, Way overdue for an OVER-HAUL. What they pay themselves for doing WHAT? Stakeholders want to know.

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