300,000 Atlantic salmon may be headed to Alaska after commercial net pen fails

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is warning anglers that non-native Atlantic salmon may be heading to Alaska.

In a post on social media the ADF&G states, "Last Saturday, a commercial net pen in Puget Sound holding ~ 300,000 Atlantic salmon failed and thousands of fish escaped. It is not uncommon for escapee Atlantic salmon from Washington and British Columbia fish farms to school up with Pacific salmon heading north to Alaska."

Tammy Davis, the invasive species coordinator with ADF&G, says this situation resembles a similar invasion from Atlantic Salmon in 2008.

Davis says when the Atlantic Salmon came up from British Colombia, ADF&G received 39 confirmed cases of the invasive species. Moreover, she adds that there are multiple concerns with Atlantic Salmon coming to Alaska, because they are fully-grown adults that can predate on juvenile Pacific Salmon.

Davis also says there is a very unlikely risk that the fish could cross-breed with Pacific Salmon breeds.

The biggest concern Davis identifies is that the Atlantic Salmon may be carrying pathogens that are then spread to local species. But she says the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had been in touch, saying that these fish had been given medicated feed, which reduces the risk of diseases spreading.

In response to the Atlantic Salmon coming north, ADF&G asks that sports anglers and commercial fisherman report if they harvest Atlantic salmon.

According to the post, "There is no daily bag, size or possession limit for sport-caught Atlantic salmon from marine or freshwaters, and the fishing season is open year-round."