Seattle Times: Thanks to hatchery change, prices up

The Seattle Times has a story about the Tulalip Tribes change to an earlier returning hatchery chinook broodstock:

Spring 2007 will be known as a time when Tulalip fishermen were pulling chinook salmon out of the bay — and selling them for $6 a pound.

Years from now, that’s the part that will likely garner a chorus of disbelief — “$6 a pound? In early June?”

Typically, fishermen expect about $1.25 a pound that early in the season.

But it’s true, and the tribal commercial fishermen on the Tulalip Reservation can vouch for it.

Thanks largely to chinook returning earlier, commercial fishermen were catching more fish this spring and selling them at a better price.

“Six dollars a pound — that’s the best ever,” said fish buyer John Burke, who works for Port Angeles-based High Tide Seafoods.

The secret to the fishermen’s recent boon lies about four miles from the Tulalip Marina at the tribal hatchery, which releases millions of salmon into Tulalip Bay each year.

Four years ago, the hatchery took a risk.

It started releasing chinook that would return earlier in the season, rather than a type that returns in the fall, as it had done for more than two decades.

The decision was made largely for environmental reasons. Chinook returning in May or June rather than September and October would mix better with the local wild chinook in the Skykomish River system — a key piece of salmon recovery, said Mike Crewson, a fisheries-enhancement biologist who works with the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department.

A majority of the tribes’ salmon catch is hatchery fish — for chinook, it’s up to 95 percent.