Courtesy photo Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association  The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association bought the Port Graham hatchery Monday, shown in this 2013 photo, and has plans to incubate 84 million pink salmon eggs in 2014 at the facility.

Courtesy photo Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association bought the Port Graham hatchery Monday, shown in this 2013 photo, and has plans to incubate 84 million pink salmon eggs in 2014 at the facility.

Cook Inlet Aquaculture buys defunct Port Graham Hatchery

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:11pm
  • News

Pink salmon fishing in the Lower Cook Inlet could soon be revitalized as the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association finalized its purchase of the Port Graham Hatchery on Monday after nearly two years of planning, permitting and logistics.

The facility has not been operational since 2007 when low returns of pink salmon and poor prices forced the Port Graham Hatchery Corporation to close. In 2010 the group asked the aquaculture association to assume management of the operation.

Pink salmon reared by the aquaculture association, or CIAA, are expected to return to Port Graham Bay this year, allowing CIAA to begin collecting eggs for brood stock and harvest fish to recover some of the costs during its first year of operation.

“Our goal is to put 84 million eggs in the hatchery and any fish that are beyond that will probably be harvested as cost recovery, although some will be collected by local subsistence users,” said Gary Fandrei, executive director of the aquaculture association.

Though the association can recoup some of its costs under a permit to fish in the Port Graham Bay, Fandrei said the group did not expect to fully recover the roughly $1 million a year it will cost to operate the hatchery.

CIAA aims to have enough fish returning to the area by 2016 to recoup most of its cost.

“We should be able to do cost recovery (fishing) then and there would still be a common property fishery,” he said.

In the interim, the aquaculture association will borrow money from a revolving loan fund that the state provides for enhancement projects, Fandrei said.

Though commercial fishing is the primary source of income in Port Graham, an unincorporated village about 35 miles by air southwest of Homer, area residents also depend heavily on subsistence hunting, fishing and food gathering according to Kenai Peninsula Borough data.

Currently, the hatchery can handle about 84 million eggs which could result in just over 2 million pink salmon returning to Port Graham Bay.

CIAA estimated those fish would generate between $2.2 million and $5.6 million in exvessel, or commercial harvest, value annually.

Lloyd Stiassny, president of the Port Graham Corporation which owns the land where the hatchery was built, said having the site functional again was an important step in revitalizing the area.

The Port Graham Corporation owns a cannery facility that shares a wall with the hatchery, though the corporation never operated the hatchery, and Stiassney said he hoped the venture would allow the cannery to reopen. The remote location, high costs of fuel and low returns of pink salmon had forced the cannery to close.

“The dream, of course, is to produce enough fish returns in pink salmon to support cannery operations,” he said.

The increase in fishing activity could also bring in enough revenue for the town to replace its dock, Stiassney said, and in an area where fishing holds both cultural and commercial importance, a good dock is a necessity.

“They’ve been a little disconnected and there hasn’t been a strong buyer in the Port Graham area for many years,” he said. “It’s everybody’s goal to basically revitalize commercial fishing in Port Graham as well as in Nanwalek and Seldovia and return a vibrant fishery to the lower Cook Inlet.”

The aquaculture association plans to have eggs incubating in the facility by October.

At least four full-time employees and up to 12 seasonal employees per year will be required to run the facility, though Fandrei said it has been difficult to find hatchery managers.

“We’ve been really worried about that … hatchery managers are hard to find,” he said.

Still, despite the tight timeline and pressure to get fish into the facility, Fandrei said he aquaculture association was happy to take on the new project.

“We’re really excited about being able to do this and bring this facility back into production because it is an excellent facility,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to stabilize the industry economically and that is our mission.”

 

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska not included in feds’ proposed 5-year oil and gas program

The plan includes a historically low number of proposed sales

A copy of "People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska" stands in sunlight in Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Moose Pass to receive award for community historical effort

“People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska” was a collaboration among community members

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board Member Debbie Cary speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. Cary also served on the borough’s reapportionment board. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School board president receives award for meritorious service

Debbie Cary, of Ninilchik, is the Alaska Superintendent Association’s 2024 recipient of the Don MacKinnon Excellence in Education Award

Dr. Tara Riemer is seen in this provided photo. (Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center)
SeaLife Center president resigns

Riemer worked with the center for 20 years

Voters fill out their ballots at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Election 2023: When, where to vote Tuesday

City council, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, the local school board races are all on the ballot

Dianne MacRae, Debbie Cary, Beverley Romanin and Kelley Cizek participate in a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education candidate forum at Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
School board candidates wrap up forum series

The forum was the eighth in a series hosted by the Clarion and KDLL ahead of the 2023 elections

Signs direct visitors at the City of Seward’s city hall annex on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Electric sale referendums to be reconsidered next month

The two referendums aim to remove from the city’s Oct. 3 ballot two propositions related to the sale of the city’s electric utility

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Board of Fish proposals center on king salmon, east side setnet fishery

Many proposals describe changes to the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Senior Prom King and Queen Dennis Borbon and Lorraine Ashcraft are crowned at the 2023 High Roller Senior Prom at Aspen Creek Senior Living in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.
Senior prom crowns king and queen

In brainstorming options, the concept of putting on a prom turned some heads

Most Read