VFDA was established to enhance the common property fisheries resources in Prince William Sound. The salmon seine fleet is the primary beneficiary of the pink salmon that return to the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. There are 267 Prince William Sound salmon seine permits under the Alaska limited entry program. These permits give the fishermen a license to participate in the fishery. Alaska seine boats are limited in length to 58 feet.
The seine fishery usually starts targeting VFDA pink salmon in late June as they start migrating through the sound. The fishery peaks in mid-July and is usually complete by August first. Commercial fishermen are allowed to fish on a schedule established by the Department of Fish and Game, with breaks to allow for corporate escapement to the hatchery. During the summer, fishing boats can be observed from many shore-side locations around the Valdez community.
VFDA contributes substantially to the commercial fisheries in the sound. From 2009 to 2012, VFDA provided almost 125 million pink salmon worth an ex vessel value of more than $112 million. As an extended benefit of these fish, the seafood processing sector earned a first wholesale value of $266 million from VFDA fish from 2008 through 2012 (McDowell 2013). Revenues from this fishery find their way into local communities all around the United States.
The salmon stock selected for enhancement has one of the earliest run timings in the sound. By developing this early stock, VFDA has created one of the first commercially viable pink salmon fisheries in Alaska. The fishery starts around the first of July, well before the beginning of the natural pink returns, thereby extending the salmon seine fishery by almost two weeks each year.
Photo credit Pryce Brown.