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Domestication Issues in Alaska Chinook Salmon:
Maturation Timing, Egg Size, and Fecundity of Hatchery
Chinook Salmon and Wild Donor Stocks


photo of vertical raceways at Little Port Walter field station

Chinook salmon from experimental groups were held in vertical raceways at Little Port Walter field station for about 1 year before release.

A unique opportunity to compare wild salmon populations with hatchery salmon stocks exists at the Little Port Walter (LPW) Research Station in southeastern Alaska.  The LPW facility is Alaskaís oldest year-round biological research station.

Since 1976, scientists at LPW have conducted research on chinook salmon. Two distinct chinook salmon stocks have been developed through ocean ranching of tagged smolts. The Chickamin River stock resulted from a small collection of wild brood stock in 1976. The Unuk River stock was also developed in 1976, but from a larger number of individuals; the stock has periodically been infused with gametes from wild salmon. Scientists at LPW are now able to compare undisturbed wild populations of chinook salmon with fifth and sixth generation hatchery stocks that originated from the wild fish. Using the stationís fish culture facilities, progeny of the various experimental groups can be cultured in a common environment,minimizing environmental bias.

In ongoing research that began in 1996, scientists at LPW are examining the two hatchery brood stocks of chinook salmon and comparing them with the native donor stocks to collect evidence of divergence in important life-history characteristics. Research to date includes remote egg takes, genetic analysis, and experimental behavioral trials with juvenile salmon. Scientists have also done morphometric comparisons of hatchery and wild fish, and studies of marine survival.

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