Crawfish Inlet chum program is a Medvejie Hatchery satellite program (remote release) permitted for 30 million eggs. The goal of the program is to produce 700,000 adult chum salmon for common property harvest beginning in 2018 with the first four year olds. The NSRAA board designated the Crawfish Terminal Harvest Area (THA) for troll priority in 2017 and 2018.
Crawfish is expected to be an excellent opportunity for trollers due to proximity of a large troll fleet in Sitka, lack of any interception fisheries outside Crawfish Inlet except existing troll fisheries, and terminal area access. In order to minimize straying of returning chum salmon, regulations require that NSRAA mop up the terminal harvest area one day each week through a cost recovery harvest or a seine/gillnet rotation.
Crawfish Inlet went from concept to permit, to fish in the water within a twelve month time period. NSRAA has never executed a quicker timeline. The rearing net pens are located 40 water-miles south of Sitka, deep within the Crawfish fjord. ADF&G permitted the program in the spring of 2014 and eggs were taken at Medvejie in September. Fifteen million eggs were obtained the first year due to programmatic and broodstock constraints, although 30 million eggs is the target for 2015 and beyond. All 14 million rearing fry are being grown to 4 grams, a strategy expected to maximize marine survival. Rearing conditions were excellent for this first rearing group.
Spring 2016 rearing is underway, with fish being transported to the site as of this writing. Thirty million eggs were taken at Medvejie last summer. Half of the fry will be grown to 4.0 grams; half will be regular size at about 2.0 grams.
NSRAA invested $1.9 million in capital and $750,000 in operational monies in development and execution of the Crawfish Inlet program. Program monies were secured in 2014 and 2015 through the Alaska Revolving Loan program. This allowed NSRAA to act quickly without burdening financial resources in the short term. Loan repayment will begin in 2020.