Our Journey on Scolamanzi II
Our Journey on Scolamanzi II

Hatchery at Kitoi Bay

19th – 21st   July

With the wind remaining at 25knots+ from the west, we were confined to the lee of Kodiak Island. We decided to visit the salmon hatchery in Kitoi Bay which is part of the larger Izhut Bay.

What a phenomenally interesting visit this was to see firsthand how the Alaskan salmon fishing operates and how sustainable it all is. Year round the hatchery, which is self-funded by the fisherman and is not for profit, employ about 20 workers. The hatchery produces about 25 million fish annually to be released into the sea. About 90% of the released fish return 2-3 years later to this same bay to spawn. In the larger bay purse seiners will set their nets and make a good living catching salmon. Some salmon will get thru into Kitoi Bay by their instinct to return to the water where they were raised. As they enter the bay they swim into a holding area surrounded by nets. Upstream from the hatchery is a large freshwater lake and the lake water is channelled thru the hatchery and down a stainless steel salmon ladder. So to spawn the salmon will swim up the ladder and into the hatchery.

Here the process is automated to lift 20-30 salmon at a time from the salmon runs onto the sorting table where male and females are separated. The fish is stunned by an electric current so they can be handled and not flap about. Workers then open the females to get to the eggs and the sperm is milked from the males to fertilise the eggs. These fertilised eggs are collected 30000 to a bucket which gets quality checked before going into hatching trays for 3-4 weeks to hatch. When the fish hatch they get transferred into larger trays and fed till they are ready for release in one year. When mature enough they are released into holding pens in the salt water of Kitoi Bay. There they are kept for 2 weeks to imprint their natal river before they are released into the ocean. The fish apparently head to the Japan area of the Pacific Ocean before they return to Kodiak waters in a few years’ time to complete their life cycle. The photos show most parts of the process very well.

Needless to say thousands of fish in the shallow waters of the holding pen is a huge temptation for bears, bald eagles and gulls. We saw thousands of gulls, more than 100 eagles and regular visits by bears to make use of this take-away facility.

As Kitoi Bay is quite cramped and the strong westerlies were bombarding us with williwaws, we moved to nearby Saposa Bay for a change of scenery and better protection from the wind. It was a pleasant surprise to have a big old brown bear appear on the one shore and then proceed to swim to the other side of the bay right under our stern. He did not appear to take notice of us at all.

With no letup in the winds from the west we returned to the shelter of Afognak Bay the next day to await a change in weather.


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