The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association has officially taken over ownership of the Port Graham Hatchery. The organization has plans to begin pink salmon operations later this summer.
At full production, the Aquaculture Association expects salmon returns to the Port Graham Hatchery to generate between $2.2 and $5.6 million dollars annually. In a news release, Association Executive Director Gary Fandrei called the purchase a “great opportunity” for the association, the community of Port Graham and Cook Inlet salmon users.
Carolyn Cherry is Hatchery Operations Coordinator for the Association. She says the hatchery used to be run by the non-profit Port Graham Hatchery Corporation, under the Port Graham Village Council. When pink salmon prices dipped to a level that made the hatchery unsustainable in 2007, the corporation shut it down.
Cherry says the aquaculture association would own the existing building and equipment at the hatchery and would lease the land. She says the hatchery has been kept in good shape and costs to reopen should be minimal.
The reopening of the hatchery could also have an economic impact on Port Graham. Cherry says the hatchery would employee four people year-round and another 6 to 12 people in the summer months. If the hatchery is successful, the association hopes the now-dormant cannery in Port Graham could also be reopened, leading to more jobs and economic activity.
The Association collected broodstock from Port Graham Bay in 2012 and 2013 for incubation at its Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery. Those fish are expected to start returning to Port Graham Bay this year.