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This paper was written as part of the 2000 Alaska Ocean Sciences Bowl high school competition. The conclusions in this report are solely those of the student authors.

Analysis of the Status Quo of Salmon Populations
in Cook Inlet

Written in part by each of the following:
David Breiler
Amy VanCise
Monica Anderson
Elizabeth Spalinger
Zachary Pickett

Chugiak High School
PO Box 770218
Eagle River, Alaska 99577


The Alaskan salmon fisheries are one of the most critical elements to the people of the State of Alaska and to the entire world. For years, the Pacific salmon have run the pristine waters of the Alaskan rivers and have migrated through the frigid waters of the Bering Sea. Only in recent years, scientists and biologists have truly understood the complex ecosystem and habitat of the salmon.

This paper will address many of the elements that have shaped and molded the population of the salmon in the Cook Inlet region. The main focus will be concentrated on Alaskan commercial fisheries, subsistence fisheries, and sports/recreational fisheries. However, in attempt to expand the scope of circumstances that may encourage and discourage salmon populations many other issues have been addressed including the characteristics of Cook Inlet, history of the five species of Pacific salmon in Cook Inlet, and the role of hatcheries in the Cook Inlet.

To the conclusion of the report, the method of regulating salmon habitat and populations will be discussed and presented. The goal of Chugiak High School in presenting the theme of the year will be to use the computerized, system dynamic program, Stella v. 2.0 to simulate and regulate authentic scenarios concerning the Pacific salmon in Cook Inlet. The justifications to defend our proposals concerning the salmon habitat and population will be derived from this report, the presentation that is to be conducted at Seward, and the Stella v. 2.0 program.

Cook Inlet--Natural Environment

The entrance to the Inlet is occupied by the unpopulated Barren Islands. Two large bays flank the entrance to the Inlet, Kamishak on the west and Kachemak on the east. On the west a series of smaller but significant bays, the Iliamna, Iniskin, Chinitna, and Tuxedni are found north of Kamishak Bay, each consisting of a narrow and fairly lengthy structure intruding into the shore. Above these bays on the west side are the Redoubt and Trading Bays. Between Redoubt Bay on the west and the mouth of the Kenai River on the east lies Kalgin, the largest island in the Inlet and the most significant from the perspective of a salmon fishery (Logan 9).

The upper end of the Inlet branches into two major arms, the Knik Arm to the north and east and Turnagin Arm to the south and east. In addition, Fire Island and the Municipality of Anchorage lies in the fork. The lower portion of the Knik Arm serves the commercial maritime traffic of Anchorage.

Depths in the central portions of the Inlet range between 100 and 200 feet. The upper portion of the Inlet is bounded on the west side by large tidal flats that are regularly exposed in the fluctuations of the 34-foot tidal range (9).

Cook Inlet's elongation and length provide a wide variety of habitats for the salmon resources. Also, sizeable tidal ranges have a direct bearing on land oriented harvest techniques. Salmon are subjects of a sequential harvest pressure due to their movement into the Inlet at the south and progression in some cases into the Susitna River drainage at the north. Moreover, the dimensions of the Inlet are great enough to provide a situation in which, because of their migratory characteristics, not all runs of fish are exposed to harvest at the same locations (Figure 1).

Mountain Systems
The mountain ranges that define the watershed of the Inlet include the Aleutian Range along the southwestern edge and close to the shore and the Alaska Range in the northwestern region. In addition, the eastern side of the Inlet includes the Talkeetna Range and the boundary between Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound/Gulf of Alaska is formed by the Chugach and Kenai Ranges.

Many of the major ranges hold one or more substantial ice fields that spawn glaciers at the heads of a number of the major river systems. In some zones such as the northern edge of the watershed, the mountains are approximately 120 miles from the shore. The drainage from the major ice fields and glaciers provide a secondary source of water, excluding the danger of susceptibility to low annual precipitations to maintain flow regimes. A well-balanced supply of water and oxygen are crucial element to the restoration of salmon habitat and resources (9).

Surface Waters
The Cook Inlet drainage contains at least 104 lakes, 322 creeks, and 80 rivers. The major lakes on the west side of the Inlet include Crescent, Kenibuna, Chakachamna, Beluga, and Lower Beluga. In the northern portion of the Inlet the larger lakes include Upper Lake George, Inner Lake George, and Eklutna. On the Kenai Peninsula are Kenai Lake, Ptarmigan Lake, Grant Lake, Upper Trail Lake, Crescent Lake, Cooper Lake, Skilak Lake, Hidden Lake, Upper Russian Lake, Bradley Lake, and the largest lake in the entire drainage system and the fifth largest in the state, Tustumena (10).

The identified creeks are quite evenly distributed throughout the entire drainage system. In terms of watershed area and flow the Susitna River is by far the largest within the drainage area of the Inlet. To the west and south of the Susitna the following rivers are among the more notable; the Chulitna, Yentna, Kahiltna and the Skwenta, the Beluga, The Chakachana, the McArthur, the Kustatan, the Big, the Crescent, and the Paint. To the east and south of Susitna are the Talkeetna and Kashwitna (10).

The surface waters are crucial to the salmon population of Cook Inlet because these systems remain as the leading habitat for salmon development and spawning. Generally, the rivers on the east and west sides of the Inlet are shorter and have a more clearly defined channel which makes understanding of the individual system somewhat easier, therefore easier to control. However, even this is a danger because it they may fall victim quite easily due to single altering factors. The rivers in the northern part of the drainage have much longer and much more braided courses making them ore difficult to inventory.

Three broad climatic zones encompass Cook Inlet. The Maritime Zone receives its major influence from the water. It has comparatively heavy precipitation, cool summers and warm winters (Matanuska-Susitna Borough). The Continental Zone exhibits summer and winter temperature extremes, but surface winds and precipitation are generally light. Transition Zone occurs between the other two and generally exhibits some of the characteristics of both (Logan 15).

The climate plays a very active role in the Cook Inlet salmon fishery. The long, periodical rains can cause flooding that scours stream channels presently harboring salmon eggs. Furthermore, with low flow and an extremely cold period anchor ice may appear in the smaller streams which will cause high egg mortality. Also, strong winds during the fishing season may cause changes in the timing and pattern of fish movement in the Inlet (Trim, 31).

Geologic Activity
Southcentral Alaska and the Cook Inlet area are situated on the edge of the teetering North Pacific Plate. Therefore, a great deal of seismic activity is experienced, varying in magnitude. The historic 1964 earthquake leaves devastated the region and remaining scars can still be observed today. Another facet of this very physically active region is the presence of volcanoes along the western side of the Inlet. Five prominent peaks have recorded volcanic activity historically. They are Mounts Augustine, Iliamna, Spurr, Redoubt, and Douglas (Logan, 15).

Seismic activity interrupt salmon populations through blocking or opening stream channels. Full-scale volcanic activity can cause widespread stream blockage, high turbidity, and excessive sedimentation of streams. Pacific salmon require clean, natural water in order to spawn. Some other forms of geologic activity include glacial flour and other soil material that is carried by stream. They can inhibit stream productivity and substantially hinder the accurate counting of salmon escapement (Trim, 73).

The watershed of Cook Inlet contains essentially the full complement of terrestrial wildlife associated with Alaska with the major exception of the polar bear. Because many of these species are game species, sought both in sport and subsistence, they reinforce the concept of resource management. Furthermore, some of the wildlife species depend on the streams and lakes as significant necessities of their habitat requirements. In this context, the wildlife directly acted the salmon resources. This may be as direct as the predatory character of the feeding Brown bears on the McNeil River or somewhat indirect as the habitat alteration created by beaver dams (Logan, 16).

Four forest types exist in wide distribution in Cook Inlet. The Coastal Western Hemlock-Sitka Spruce Forest is found in the vicinity of Kachemak Bay, Chinitna-Tuxedni Bays, and the Turnagain Arm. The Bottomland Spruce-Poplar Forest is found along the Susitna River and along the banks of the Kenai River. The Upland Spruce-Hardwood Forest is found in the vicinity of Tyonek and near Skilak Lake. The Lowland Spruce-Hardwood Forest is found north of Kenai and the Sterling Highway. The five non-forest types include the High Brush community, Low Brush Bog and Muskeg communities, Moist Tundra, Wet Tundra, and the Alpine Tundra (16-17).

The regional vegetation must be considered greatly in the planning of salmon resources primarily in areas where mature spruce, hemlock, or hardwood invite timber harvest. This attraction can cause a substantial local and habitat change, which could directly or indirectly affect the salmon population.

Cook Inlet--Human Environment

Land Status and Use
Land status and ownership with the Cook Inlet region is very complex. In a simplified system, present are federal, state, borough, municipality, native villages, regional association, and individual ownership. There are ongoing actions that continue to transfer parcels of land between these various owners. Adding further complexity to this picture are the situations where there are two or more overlapping claims to the same property.

Direct impacts can be expected when there is any change in the use of land (Logan 22). It is generally true that the magnitude of the impacts increases in proportion to the scale of the project. There are, at least, three examples of this type of change in land Inlet area. They are the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project, the Susitna Hydroelectric Project, and the development of the Beluga coalfields.

The population of the Cook Inlet region had increased rather continuously since prior to World War II until very recently, and the rate of that increase in any given period has reflected the "boom-bust" character of Alaskan development. The 1980 census indicates that over 52 percent of the state's population resides in Cook Inlet. Of the 217,000 persons residing in the region nearly 80 percent approximately 174,000 live within the Municipality of Anchorage. Of course, presently as of 2000 the population has boomed considerably even larger with migrations of people into the city (22-23).

The initial affect of population on salmon population will probably be slow. However, with increase concentration of people living in one region, it is inevitable that development will follow and therefore, the destruction of salmon habitat. In addition, economic preferences, which will be addressed in the next section, may override importance over the issue of salmon management.

Economic Sectors
Oil production once dominated the economic scene of Cook Inlet between 1965 and 1975. As Cook Inlet oil production decreased after 1970 and fishing production and value increased 1976--1978, there was a large change in the contribution of each segment to the basic economy, excluding Anchorage. Gas production continues to be relatively strong and discoveries near Kenai may inhibit further growth. In 1978, the Cook Inlet region yielded 42% of Alaska's total gas production (Logan 24). This intensity in economic growth might spell doom for the salmon population and ecosystem. The dangers of oil and gas production as experienced in the Exxon Valdez spill are still prevalent today. Even though the salmon population drastically increased following the spill since major predation was limited, the salmon were recorded as record, small sizes.

Employment and Labor Force
The Cook Inlet region has been divided into four statistical units. The divisions are Anchorage, Kenai-Cook Inlet, Seward, and Matanuska-Susitna (Matanuska-Susitna Borough). In 1977 the State labor force was 174,000. Of these, 99,496 were in the Cook Inlet area (Logan 24). The projections for the five-year period 1978 to 1983 show those job openings resulting from industry expansion plus death and retirement separations will be greatest for clerical occupations. The service worker category is expected to increase nearly as much. A decline is projected for the craft, operative, and laborer occupations. Once again, as mentioned previously, the expansion of employment, jobs, and economics will only lead to a further concentration of human induced projects that can potentially destroy or harm the salmon habitat.

History of the Salmon in Cook Inlet

Commercial fishing plays the largest role in the number of salmon caught in the Cook Inlet. The number of salmon caught commercially can often show the productivity of a salmon run. As is true with many other animal populations, the salmon population fluctuates on a year to year basis.

Sockeye Salmon
A typical sockeye salmon is five years old when they return to spawn, but it is not uncommon to have a four-year-old return to spawn. When mature they reach an average weight of six to seven pounds per fish. It is considered that four salmon reach maturity for every one fish that spawns. Generally sockeye salmon have had the largest returns out of all five species of salmon in Cook Inlet. The most commercially caught occurred in 1978 with 2,769,751 sockeye harvested. The greatest long-term average occurred between the years of 1932 to 1951 when there was an average of about 1.8 million salmon caught annually. After 1951 the average harvest has been about 1.2 million (Logan, 1981).

Pink Salmon
Pink salmon return to spawn when they are only two years old. This makes them the salmon that matures the quickest. Since they return when they are only two years old, there tends to be dominant and non-dominant years between their runs. Every once in a while, a dominant year will replace non-dominant year disrupting the cycle. A mature pink salmon averages about 3.5 pounds. It is considered that three salmon reach adulthood for every one salmon that spawns. Due to the dominant and non-dominant runs, the fisheries for pinks are affected by the years. The lower Cook Inlet may be on a different dominating pattern than the upper Cook Inlet, making one area more successful then the other. The largest catch of pinks occurred in 1962 with 4,960,030 salmon caught. During this year, the lower and upper Cook Inlet runs were both on their dominant years. The highest average number of pinks caught over a long-term occurred between 1961 to 1980 with an average of about 1.6 million per year. Although this is an average value for the time period, the actual values from a year to year differ drastically. Between the nineteen years, nine of the years produced less then 658,000 salmon (Logan, 1981).

Chum Salmon
Chum salmon generally mature and return to spawn when they are four years old. Adults average a weight of about eight pounds. It is accepted that three salmon reach maturity for every one that spawns. The most commercially caught chum salmon occurred in 1964 when 1,402,419 salmon were harvested. The highest average long-term chum salmon catch occurred between the years of 1956 to 1979 with an average of 751,340 harvested annually (Logan, 1981).

Chinook Salmon
Chinook salmon have the longest life cycle ranging from four to seven years, and grow to be the largest of the five species. There are typically three chinook salmon that reach maturity for every one salmon that spawns. Chinook peaked in 1951 with 187,513 salmon caught commercially. The highest long-term average catch occurred between the years 1934 to 1953 with an average of 92,822. In contrast to this high average, between 1954 to 1976 there was only an average of about 13,500 Chinook caught annually (Logan, 1981).

Coho Salmon
Coho typically reach three to four years old before they return to spawn, and on average grow to reach an adult weight of 6.5 pounds. The highest commercial catch occurred in 1942 when 644,823 Coho were caught. The highest long-term average occurred between the years 1927 to 1948 with an average of 345,878 coho caught annually. On the comparison to this high average, between 1971 to 1980 there was an average of 193,256 coho were caught annually (Logan, 1981).

Commercial Fisheries

Commercial fishing has long been a mainstay of the Alaskan economy since its initiation in the 1870's. During the time Alaska was a Federal Territory fisheries were not regulated or records maintained. Consequently, stocks of fish were decimated due to over fishing. The most common method of fishing employed the use of giant fish traps, which captured enormous numbers of fish and seriously limited the required escapement to maintain a healthy fishery. When statehood was attained in 1959 the use of giant fish traps were abolished and management of fisheries was instituted. By the 1980's, fish stocks returned to normal levels.

In the United States, Alaska stands alone as the leading producer of seafood both in quantity landed and commercial value of the catch. For most of the 90's, Alaska has recorded record catches of salmon and other species, even as far as half of the United States seafood production. However, 1997 and the first half of 1998 has brought extremely low returns of salmon. The large sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay has failed miserably the last two years bringing extreme economic hardships. The Yukon River king and chum salmon fisheries are down considerably as well. Although the causes have not yet been found research into the matter is being conducted night and day to preserve Alaska's thriving fisheries (Gay, 1997).

Presently, all 5 species of North American Pacific salmon are being commercially harvested. Commercial salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet began in 1882, although no records of such catch are recorded until 1884. Sockeye salmon have been the dominant species in the last 20 years, although pink salmon have risen considerably in the last 15 years from 12,510,000 in 1986 to 128,333,000 in 1995. Generally, pink salmon have comprised 44% of total Cook Inlet commercial catch, followed by sockeye at 29%, coho at 6%, and king at 1%. The average annual salmon harvest in Cook Inlet from 1960--1975 was approximately 3.4 million fish; between 1992--1998, the annual harvest increased to 5.8 million fish. (Appendices A-B)

The Cook Inlet region includes 6 salmon fishing districts. Set and drift gill nets are utilized inside waters, and purse and beach seines are utilized in outer waters. Trolling was allowed in specific areas before, but was abolished in 1974. Traps were commonly operated during the period from 1897 until 1958 with the implications of industrial growth and statehood. Present fisheries are basically characterized by a purse seine fishery (Figure 2) for pink and chum salmon in Lower Cook Inlet south of Anchor Point and a gill net fishery for sockeye salmon in Central and Upper Cook Inlet. The amount of registered salmon gear has steadily increased since 1960. Currently, Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission has established maximum gear levels at 691 set nets, 547 drift gill nets, and 68 purse seines but these are subject to change (Alaska's Fisheries Atlas, 1970).

Commercial fisheries are relatively important to the Cook Inlet economy. In the Upper Cook Inlet area, fishing offers seasonal employment to many individuals who hold other jobs during the year. In the Lower Cook Inlet, communities such as Seldovia, English Bay, and Port Graham are heavily dependent upon the commercial fishery, and many residents alternate summer salmon fishing with shellfish fishing in the winter.

The 16-year period (1960--1975) average annual value to the fisherman of the Cook Inlet was approximately 4.1 million dollars. During this period, sockeye salmon accounted for 50% of the total salmon value to the fisherman, while pink and chum salmon represented 20% and 19% of the value. With the rise in ex-vessel prices, the 1974 salmon fishery was worth over 8.3 million dollars to fishermen. In 1998, the estimated ex-vessel for all five salmon species was $12,690,000, a tremendous increase. In 1997, the value was $35,150,000, 1996 was $30,690,000, 1995 was $25,840,000, and 1994 was 35,300,000. (Appendices C-D); (Alaska's Fisheries Atlas, 1970)

Status and Economics
Alaska's limited entry program has created over 11,700 salmon permits, 77% of which are held by Alaska residents. The average price of an Area M drift gillnet permit in 1995 was $305,000, according to the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, and the average permit holder grossed $135,000 statewide.

Besides 1992, where the total commercial catch was approximately 11,270,000, the numbers are now steadily dropping. Since the commercial boom in the 90's, the total commercial catch is now decreasing and closing in on dangerous population levels. In a statewide preliminary report (not finalized), the Regional information report No. 5J99-01 predicts:

"The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is expecting 1999 commercial salmon harvests to be similar to 1998's levels. The 1999 commercial catch all-species projection of 148 million is distributed as 0.613 million chinook, 29.0 million sockeye, 5.86 million coho, 92.8 million pink, and 19.4 million chum salmon."

The report continues on to say:

"The ex-vessel value of the commercial harvest continued on its long downward trend. The preliminary estimate for the total value of Alaska's harvest is $259 million--below the estimates of $296 for 1997, $387 for 1996, $466 for 1995, and $489 for 1994."

The numbers clearly show that due to the rise in commercial catch in the 90's the ex-vessel values have decreased due to the relative abundance (Hart and Geiger, 1999).

An interesting result has come about due to the decrease in ex-vessel values. Unlike salmon ranching done in Alaska, in which juvenile fish are released into the ocean and then harvested alongside wild salmon when they return a year or more later, salmon farmers raise the fish in floating net pens from juvenile to adult. This new system has been termed salmon mariculture. With harvest time set by the market, salmon are now available in seafood shops and restaurants year-round. The response to farmed fish has been nothing short of phenomenal. In 1980, just 15 million pounds were sold worldwide. In a decade, sales had hit 620 million pounds, and are anticipated to top 1 billion pounds by the year 2000 (Gay, 1997).

Sports/Recreational Fisheries in Cook Inlet

One of the most popular past times in Alaska is recreational salmon fishing. Residents and non-residents alike spend a great deal of time trying to catch salmon (Figure 3). Currently, all five species are caught recreationally, but chinook, sockeye, and coho are the most prized.

Cook Inlet recreational fisheries are regarded as some of the most fished in the state of Alaska. With nearly 470,000 days worth of fishing a year, Cook Inlet makes up over 50% of the statewide time involved. Currently about 95,000 salmon are harvested annually in this fishery. Fresh water provides a more desired environment for the fisherman due to Cook Inlet's strong tidal currents and stormy weather (Stratton and Cyr, 1999).

In correspondence to the rest of the state, Cook Inlet's recreational fishery has been growing. When examining the Anchorage area fishery, the number of days worth of fishing went from a total of 55,060 in 1977 to 142,277 in 1994 annually (Stratton and Cyr, 1999). Actual harvest of salmon has also been rising with the increase of fisherman. In 1977 the Anchorage area produced 4,1157 fish caught, while in 1994 20,403 salmon were collected.

Another recreational fishery that has been gaining popularity in Anchorage is landlocked salmon. This fishery has shown a tremendous growth in recent years. In 1977, only 129 landlocked salmon were harvested, but by 1993 the fishery peaked when 28,648 were caught and 13,280 were kept. Alaskan fish hatcheries make these high catches possible. During 1995, about 65,000 chinook and 20,000 coho were stocked in thirteen Anchorage lakes. Landlocked salmon provide an excellent ice fishery. The fish are very aggressive year long and feed regularly throughout the year (Stratton and Cyr, 1999).

Status and Economics
There are few streams that have an adequate coho and chinook run to support fisheries. Stream enhancement programs provide the numbers of fish necessary for the fisheries. The streams that are not enhanced usually are closed to recreational fishing. Ship Creek and Eagle River were two rivers that were enhanced providing an Anchorage fishery. Ship Creek opened as a recreational chinook stream in 1987 and has become a large fishery. Due to the success of Ship Creek, Eagle River was opened in 1990. With little participation and harvests the stream no longer received enhancement.

The coho fishery provides more opportunity then chinook fishery. Streams that do receive annual runs large enough for fisheries are Campbell, Rabbit, Bird, Peters, Glacier, California, and Portage Creeks and Eagle, Eklutna, Twentymile and Placer Rivers (Stranton and Cyr, 1999).

Anchorage also receives pink, sockeye, and chum, but does not receive the enhancement programs coho and chinook received. Pink, sockeye, and chums usually receive adequate runs in certain creeks and rivers around Anchorage allowing recreational activities to occur. Pink salmon often have the largest of the three runs. The fishery peaked in 1996 when 14,826 salmon were caught, and 2,769 harvested. The Anchorage area tends to be on an even year cycle making even numbered years more successful. Sockeye salmon produce large runs, but not to the same extent as pink salmon in Anchorage. In 1997, 1,505 sockeye were caught and 748 were kept. Chum salmon is the final salmon that does not receive enhancement in Cook Inlet. Chum salmon are not fished for as much as other species. They are usually caught when fishermen are attempting to catch coho and pink salmon.

Subsistence Fisheries in Cook Inlet

The people of Alaska have always depended on salmon for survival. Subsistence laws enable people who depend on the resource more a greater access to it. The federal law qualifies rural residents and Alaska Natives for subsistence, while the state law qualifies every Alaskan resident. Alaskan subsistence harvesters rely heavily on the fish resource. Nearly 60% of the total amount of food harvested consists of fish (Wolfe, 1994 update). Today, the majority of subsistence fishing is conducted or operated by Alaskan natives (Figure 4).

Historically fish has played an important role in the Alaskan diet. Due to Cook Inlets' urbanization, subsistence plays a smaller role then more rural areas of Alaska. In the 1990's Urban residents harvested an average of twenty-two pounds per person, while rural residents harvested 375 pounds per person. When looking at certain areas around Cook Inlet, it is apparent that some areas harvest more then others. Anchorage in the 1990's harvested about nineteen pounds a person, Mat-su area harvested twenty-seven, and the Kenai Peninsula harvested an average of forty pounds a person.

The method of harvesting fish has changed from traditional techniques: modern nets, motorized boats, and fish wheels are all utilized by current harvesters. One factor that contributes to the use of modern equipment is the way the subsistence law is set up. The laws require that safe and economically sound techniques must be used when harvesting a resource. Subsistence is still strong in Alaska, and it is probable that it will remain so for years to come. Children are learning the techniques and values of subsistence, which is preserving the tradition.

Status and Economics
Since Cook Inlet is so urbanized the percent of people taking advantage of subsistence is smaller in comparison to the state. With the small percent of Alaska natives in Cook Inlet, the number of people that qualify under federal law is considerably smaller then other areas. The Cook Inlet subsistence fishery is viewed more as a recreational fishery. The average annual harvest for the fishery is approximately 3,000 fish. Techniques that are commonly used are set nets, seines, and drift nets, with set nets making up about 95% of the total accumulation.

The participants of subsistence tend to benefit economically. It is estimated that an average replacement rate for the foods that are collected is about three to five dollars a pound. Although there is a lot gained by subsistence fishing, an investment of money is still required. Money is needed to buy harvesting equipment such as boats, nets and other fishing necessities.

Hatcheries in Cook Inlet

Hatchery efforts have been increasing throughout the state of Alaska for over the twenty-five years. The Cook Inlet region in 1997 had seven percent of the hatchery fish throughout the state. In 1976 there were only a few million salmon fry released statewide, but by 1997 there was over 1.5 billion fish released. The numbers of hatchery fish that returned during those time periods have fluctuated from year to year. In Cook Inlet there are currently six hatcheries operating. (Appendices E-F)

The first step a hatchery must take when raising fish is collecting the eggs and milt. This is done by capturing spawning salmon, and removing the eggs and milt by cutting the fish open. The next step is to mix the eggs and milt together fertilizing the eggs. After the eggs are fertilized, they are placed on a tray for incubation.

The salmon remain in incubation for fifty to one hundred days. During this time the eggs grow into alevins. When the salmon are in the alevin stage they have a yoke sack which they can sustain them until it is consumed by the growing fish. Once the fish can no longer live off there yoke sac they must rely on an outside source for food. During this time the fish are removed from their trays, and put into holding tanks. There they grow until they reach the smolt stage of their life cycle. This is usually when the salmon has reached about six inches in length. When the salmon reach the smolt stage, they are released into the wild. The hatchery cycle is now complete, and starts over with the collection of eggs and milt.

Federal/State Enhancement and Regulation of Hatcheries
Currently, the majority of the fish hatchery efforts in Cook Inlet are going towards the enhancement of recreational fisheries. The two species of salmon that are utilized the most by the fish hatcheries are chinook and coho. Several streams and lakes are enhanced with these two species. The salmon that are released into the lakes provide a landlocked fishery (Figure 5).

Hatcheries are designed to add salmon to lakes and streams that do not have a large enough population to support a fishery but would generate a fishing interest. If an enhanced stream does not produce the anticipated runs or fails to draw enough attention enhancement program is usually removed. One of the many examples of this happening occurred in Ingram Creek between 1985 to 1990. Coho smolt was added to the creek in order to establish a fishery in 1985. Poor returns were observed, and the program was dropped. (Appendix G)

Stella Program

The Struggle for Balance
Balance is defined as a state of equilibrium or the conditions that lead to the state of equilibrium. Generally, when considering balance, one overlooks balance as a necessary force in systems. In the natural world, the struggle for balance creates prey-predator relationships and the diffusion of water from outside of a cell to inside of a cell. Social systems involve a balance between the needs of the diverse members within the society and the needs of the society as a whole. Political systems within the society are a result of trying to balance viewpoints and attitudes. People's lives are motivated toward the need to balance time, finances, and personal relationships. Balance, or a lack of balance, is a force that drives many types of systems.

As elements within a system become imbalanced, a factor within the system attempts to reestablish equilibrium. Too often, these adjustments may be quick and uncontrolled or even delayed. This unmanaged or postponed adjustment may create an outcome which is violent or, in social and personal areas, one of anger, discouragement, and disillusion. If the matter is not brought under control the situation may lead to additional imbalances, which in turn may create the need for further adjustments. This cycle may continue for an indefinite period of time. The adjustments made to imbalances may cause a disaster, worsen an existing disaster, or create a sequence of related disasters.

In recognizing elements that are imbalanced, one may direct their efforts at rebalancing these elements or harboring the energy produced by the imbalance. The identification of the imbalanced elements is vital to maximize the positive effects from an imbalance or to minimize its negative effects (Heinbokel, 1996).

What is Stella?
The Stella is a computer program that will enhance and calculate systems for various scenarios including personal finances, fish population, production rates, body temperature, and many more. The version utilized in this report was the v. 2.0 (Stella I) although more advanced modern versions exist such as v. 5.0 (Stella II). The Stella v. 2.0 is not Y2K compliant; however, the program can still be operated for the project.

Stella I and Stella II are produced by High Performance Systems, Incorporation. Their e-mail address is The Stella programs operate on the concept of system dynamics. First, before system dynamics can be defined the interpretation of a system must be presented.

A system is a group of interacting and interdependent objects, classified into "stocks" (amounts, reservoirs, or accumulations; denoted by an S) and "flows" (rates; denoted by an F), which serve as inputs and outputs to stocks. Systems often contain one or more feedback loops. Examples of systems include regulating bank accounts or harvesting the amount of predators verse prey.

People are always trying to manipulate systems to their advantage. The systems may be personal, national, or global. To obtain the desired results, sometimes the necessity to change the value of one or more pieces in the system (e.g. rate of saving) is required. On the other hand, sometimes the necessity to change the structure of the system (e.g. invest rather than save) is required. Today, systems are highly relevant to biological and ecological issues. An understanding of systems can help preserve the environment, conserve resources, and cure diseases.

System dynamics was developed in the 1960's by Dr. Jay Forrester at MIT. It is a conceptual system that allows people to examine the organization and behavior of a system as it changes over time. System dynamics is especially effective for describing and investigating the effects of feedback loops. This abstraction is the building blocks to the Stella program.

System dynamics consists of two major components:

(1) Stock-and-Flow Diagrams

A stock-and-flow diagram is a simple and effective way to illustrate connections and interactions among the pieces of a system.

(2) Computer Simulations

Computer simulations allow the observer to study the behavior of the system over time. The software produces graphs and tables for the user. System behavior can be studied under varying conditions and time frames, from seconds to centuries. One can examine how to manipulate the system in predictable ways, and how to avoid undesirable system responses (Gallaher, 1996).

In this project, the Stella program will be used effectively to predict and promote salmon harvest for the future. The Stella program is a basic advantage because it can be manipulated in predictable ways, and opposes actions that will be undesirable to a system. Another advantage of the Stella program is that it allows real life situations to be observed with minimal consequences. Therefore, theories and notions can be tested with high a regard for the protection of salmon habitat and population.

The Stella program will be used to set up and enhance the basic system of a hatchery. A common hatchery within the state of Alaska has already been reviewed in section VI. The basic objective will be to consider how many salmon eggs will be nurtured and eventually released to allow for maximal production in the areas of commercial fisheries, subsistence fisheries, and sports/recreational fisheries. An example of a possible Stella program is presented in Appendix H. The Stella program will also be used to develop methods to balance imbalanced systems. These imbalanced systems may have been altered by social, ecological, or economical factors. The ultimate goal of the entire project is to satisfy the procurements of all parties reliant on the salmon population in the Cook Inlet, and to prepare for future disasters. The results of the institution of the Stella program will be considered in greater depth at the presentation in Seward, Alaska.

In the natural world there are millions of factors that can affect a system. The specific factors that this project will be concerned with are weather patterns (El Nino 1997-98), natural predators (salmon sharks), and overpopulation of salmon in the Cook Inlet.

The El Nino of 1997-98 had significant effects on the fish patterns and populations all over the world. During the El Nino, sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea were abnormally high, from 3.0 C to 3.5 C above the 1985-93 base period.

Due to the alternation in temperature fish patterns were strangely altered. Reports of barracudas were caught by purse seiners off Noyes Island in July. Blue shark, ocean sunfish, pomfret, and saury were observed during research long-lining and surface gillnetting in August off northern Southeast Alaska.

The El Nino has also affected commercial fisheries. The warmer temperature has benefited some fisheries, but they have also been detrimental to others. Some commercial fishes, especially salmon, respond to slightly warmer waters in the Gulf of Alaska with increased growth. Some fishermen and biologists have attributed declines of some salmon stocks to increased predation by chub mackerel and jack mackerel which have moved north with the warmer water.

The warm surface waters in the Gulf of Alaska are also affecting the depth distribution of salmon. Commercial trollers near Sitka have reported catching coho salmon at depths usually fished for chinook salmon. Salmon harvests statewide have also been disappointing. Western Alaska was declared a disaster area, and fishing regulations were tightened in Southeast Alaska to increase coho escapement. This analysis of the El Nino is one factor that can affect salmon populations and is a serious consideration that must be acknowledged in the Stella program in preparation for future incidents (Bruce Wing and John Karinen, fall 1997).

Another factor to the salmon habitat is natural predators such as the salmon shark. The salmon shark, Lamna ditropis, is the predominant large predatory fish in the upper pelagic zone of the subarctic and northern temperate waters of the north Pacific. They are a coastal and oceanic inhabitant ranging north to the Gulf of Alaska and west to the Bearing Sea, Okhotsk Sea, and Japan Sea. Salmon sharks have been reported as long as 3 m, although normal size range appears to be between 180 and 240 cm in Alaska coastal waters.

Sharks in general have an extremely low intrinsic rate of population increase due to slow growth, late maturity and low fecundity. In the 1990s, however, sightings of salmon sharks in Prince William Sound (PWS) and the eastern Gulf of Alaska increased dramatically. The cause and ecological consequences were not completely known. The effect of the increase of salmon shark could have been very detrimental to the salmon habitat and population, although in this incidence the consequences were minor. Yet, stomach samples from sharks during a period of local salmon abundance in PWS contained as many sablefish as salmon, Pacific herring, walleye pollock, rockfish, halibut, and squid. In the future, emergence of new or increased predators could seriously affect the well being of the salmon in Cook Inlet and Alaska (Hulbert, Fall 1999).

The final factor that must be considered is overpopulation. If Alaska was to harvest too few fish, the population of salmon would exceed the magnitude of the food supply. Ultimately, the population of the salmon would decrease dramatically and hence affect the commercial, subsistence, and sports fisheries of Cook Inlet and Alaska. This fact emphasizes the need to study and predict future salmon patterns to avoid such an outcome.


Where would Alaska's economic, social, and political status be today if salmon fisheries did not exist? And where would Alaska's salmon fisheries be without the Cook Inlet fisheries?

The commercial, subsistence, and sports/recreational fisheries are extremely important to the well being of the State of Alaska and to the financial status of the United States. Commercially, between 1960 and 1975 the average annual value to the fisherman of Cook Inlet salmon fisheries was approximately 4.1 million dollars. Cook Inlet's recreational salmon fisheries, particularly those of the Kenai Peninsula are regarded as the largest and most intense in Alaska; and many people regard fishing as a form of sport fishing in which they not only derive recreational benefits, but at the same time supplement their food stocks.

Mr. Randy Thorne has a long standing of experiences in the fisheries business. He has fished for crabs and oysters in Chesapeake Bay for one year, Dungeon es crab for 3 years, Red salmon in Bristol Bay for one year, and finally he has lobbied considerably for the Fishing Association located in Olympia, WA. He even owns a web site called "Alaska's Fisherman's Express" at http://www.Alaska'sFisherman' When interviewed, Mr. Thorne was presented with one question, "Where do you think Alaska's fisheries are headed in the future?"

"The pattern of decline in Alaska's fisheries will continue to do so. The fate of Alaska's waters may very well follow the trend of New England, Florida Atlantic, and Puget Sound. Although there is a slight possibility for growth and enhancement, I believe the federal and state governments are not willing to take the necessary actions. The only way to regulate salmon for the future is an international resolution (Thorne, 1999)."

Many fishermen including commercial fishermen of Cook Inlet share the opinion of Mr. Randy Thorne. The evidence presented in this paper demonstrates the need to enhance, support, and regulate all fisheries in Alaska with an international resolution. Annually, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, and Canadians all fish the waters off of Alaska. Without any regulations these waters will be over fished and ultimately lead to detrimental consequences.

With the initiation of state management in 1959, the amount of salmon caught has increased considerably. However, with additional harvest and mariculture the State of Alaska has endured. Certainly, this proves that regulation can be successful. Therefore most importantly, for the salmon habitat and fisheries of Alaska to improve and thrive, participation must come from all parties involved. Theodore Roosevelt was once quoted on saying, "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much."

Literature Cited

  1. ____. Alaska's Fisheries Atlas. Alaska: Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 1970.

  2. ____. "Community Profiles." Alaska Visitor Information. (11 December, 1999).

  3. ____. "Community of Palmer." Cyber Alaska. (11 December, 1999).

  4. ____. "Fishing." Clear Creek Camp Chitnitna Bay, Alaska. (14 December, 1999).

  5. ____. "Location of Hatcheries in Prince William Sound, Interior, and Southcentral Alaska." Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (11 December, 1999).

  6. ____. "Subsistence--Nerangnaqsaraput." Akula Elitnaurvik. (14 December, 1999).

  7. Gallaher, Edward J. What is a System? What is a System Dynamic? Center for Biological System Dynamics. 19 February, 1999.

  8. Gay, Joel. "Commercial Fishing in Alaska." Alaska Geographic. 1997: 20-21, 32.

  9. Hart, Deborah and Harold J. Geiger. "Run Forecasts and Harvest Projection for 1999 Fisheries and Review of the 1998 Season: The Short Version." (4 December, 1999).

  10. Hienbokel, John. "A Matter of Balance." The Exchange: Creative Learning. 19 Feb. 1996.

  11. Hubert, Lee. "Alaska Salmon Sharks." Oncorhynchus Newsletter of the Alaska Chapter, American Fisheries Society. Fall 1999 vol. XIX, No. 4: 1.

  12. Joseph, Dorothy Savage. Fishcamp. Bend, Oregon: Maverick Publications, 1997.

  13. Kosh, A.M. Pacific Salmon: Alaska's Story. Santa Barbara, CA: Albion Publishing Group, 1996.

  14. Logan, Sid. Cook Inlet Regional Enhancement Plan: 1981-2000. Juneau, Alaska: Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 1981.

  15. Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Knik, Matanusk, Susitna: A Visual History of the Valleys. Sutton, Alaska: Bentwood Press, 1985.

  16. McNaire, Marianne. "Alaska Salmon Enhancement Program 1997 Annual Report." Alaska Department of fish and Game. (13 December, 1999).

  17. McNaire, Marianne. "Regional Information Report 5J98-03." Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (13 December, 1999).

  18. Savikko, Herman. "1998 Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvests-Exvessel Values." Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (11 December, 1999).

  19. Stratton, Barry and Paul Cyr. 1997. Area management report of the Anchorage area, 1995. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Fishery Management Report No. 97-1, Anchorage.

  20. Thorne, Randy. Personal Interview. 14 December 1999. "What Happens at a Hatchery?". What's Wrong With Pacific Salmon Hatcheries?. (11 December, 1999).

  21. Trim, Marj and R. J. Childerhose. Pacific Salmon. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979.

  22. Wing, Bruce and John Karlnen. "El Nino 1997-98." Oncorhynchus Newsletter of the Alaska Chapter, American Society. Fall 1997 vol. XVII, No. 4: 1,4.

  23. Wolfe, Robert. "Frequently Asked Questions: Myths; What Have You Heard?". Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (15 December, 1999).

  24. Wolfe, Robert. "Subsistence in Alaska: 1994 Update." Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (15 December, 1999).

For more information on the appendixes, please contact the authors.


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