Medvejie Hatchery is located near Sitka, Alaska and produces chum, Chinook and coho salmon. A temporary hatchery was built on the site in 1981 and construction of a permanent facility occurred in 1984. Funding for additional production allowed the expansion of Chinook capacity in 1987.
Chum salmon returns have averaged 1.3 million fish over the last ten years, 2001-2010. Return numbers have exceeded 1 million fish in fourteen of the last eighteen years, with a record 3.66 million chum return in 1999. The commercial harvest has averaged 986,000 fish over this same ten year period. Most of the fish are harvested in the Deep Inlet harvest area located across Eastern Channel from Sitka by seiners and gillnetters. Trollers also harvest these chum salmon, primarily just outside of the terminal harvest area. Over the past ten years the troll catch has averaged 127,000 chum per year.
Medvejie’s chum program has a release goal of 60 million fry. Of this number, about 10 million are released at the hatchery and 50 million in Deep Inlet. The Deep Inlet release includes 52 million NSRAA fry and 8 million fry reared in a cooperative arrangement with Sheldon Jackson Hatchery.
Beginning in 2012, the release goal will increase to 68 million fry, with the additional fry being released at Bear Cove.
In recent years, Medvejie has been the most successful Chinook program in Southeast in terms of commercial and sport contribution. Returns have averaged 34,000 Chinook over the past 10 years. These fish are primarily harvested during special May and June openings for trollers. Contribution to the troll fleet has averaged 9,500 Chinook over the past 10 years (2001-2010). The sport catch of Medvejie Chinook has averaged nearly 1,950 fish over this period.
Medvejie began a major expansion of its yearling Chinook program in 1997. This expansion, which involves rearing fry in net pens in Green Lake, doubled the hatchery’s Chinook production at that time. This increased production has had a large impact on the number of Chinook returning since 2002.
Beginning in 2012, Medvejie will release about 3.1 million yearling Chinook smolts each year.
An experimental zero-check Chinook program began with brood year 1999, with the first zero-check smolts released in the spring of 2000. Zero-check smolts are released in late June to mid-July of the first rearing year. (Traditionally, smolts are reared an additional year at the hatchery, and released during May of their second rearing year. These are called yearling, or one-check smolts.) The zero-program has shown some promise, with almost 20,000 adults returning to date, but survival rates have been very inconsistent from year to year. In 2011 the zero-check program was discontinued due to poor performance and an unacceptable benefit to cost ratio.
Medvejie’s coho program is currently undergoing a brood stock development phase using Salmon Lake stock three miles from Medvejie at the head of Silver Bay. In 2012 Medvejie will see its first adult returns of Salmon Lake stock. Production should ramp up to half a million smolt annually through 2018 (see Sawmill Cove Project).
Medvejie will produce all broodstock destined fry for onsite release in order to imprint the broodstock portion so they return as adults to perpetuate the program. Production targeted at common property fisheries will be incubated at Sawmill Cove Hatchery and imprinted/released at Deep Inlet.
The coho program primarily benefits the troll fishery, but also contributes to the sport fishery and will be of increasing importance to the net fisheries with the adult returns to Deep Inlet.