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Atlantic Salmon Off Alaska Worry Some

by Associated Press
Seattle Times, August 28, 2000

KETCHIKAN - Commercial fishermen in Southeast Alaska have caught more than 20 Atlantic salmon, raising concerns that the farmed salmon will spread disease to wild species.

All the Atlantic salmon were caught south of Ketchikan - some in the Tree Point area, said Phil Doherty, a state Department of Fish and Game biologist for commercial fishing.

"This is a real problem," Doherty said, pointing to the six 10- to 12-pound Atlantic salmon spread out on a conference-room table at Ketchikan's Fish and Game office.

Not only are the Atlantic salmon a threat to Pacific salmon because of competition for food in the open ocean, but they also carry a threat of disease - from viruses to external parasites.

Last week, more than 35,000 farmed Atlantic salmon escaped from a pen in Johnstone Strait, off the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

It was once believed that Atlantic salmon would not venture into freshwater, but several pen-reared salmon have been found in freshwater streams. In 1998, an Atlantic salmon was recovered north of Ketchikan at Ward Creek. The salmon was sexually mature and had a mate that eluded capture.

"If there's one here and there are thousands of freshwater streams in Southeast Alaska, it's very likely there are more in some of those streams," Doherty said.

Unlike traditional hatcheries where the fish are released to grow in the seas, farmed Atlantic salmon are supposed to spend their entire life in captivity. Atlantic salmon, of which there is only one species compared to five species of salmon in the Pacific Northwest, resemble steelhead trout.

Atlantic salmon also stay alive after spawning, unlike Pacific salmon that die.

Associated Press
Atlantic Salmon Off Alaska Worry Some
Seattle Times, August 28, 2000

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