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Prospects for farm-hatched salmon to supplement wild populations


The correspondent of "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" (RG) interviewed the Deputy Director of the All-Russian Fisheries and Oceanography Research Institute (VNIRO), the head of the Pacific branch Alexei Baytalyuk (AB).

RG: Alexey, they say, in some regions, most of the salmon caught falls to farmed fish for restocking. Isn't that dangerous for the wild salmon population?

AB: Yes, it is feared that artificially bred individuals could spoil the wild salmon gene pool. Farmed salmon for restocking are obtained from ordinary wild parents; they cannot influence the salmon gene pool in other rivers as they return to where they were released. This mechanism is called homing. Of course, to some extent, gene swapping is happening, but this is a natural process.

In winter, they form mixed feeding accumulations, but then each follows its own breeding place. The timing of the release of the fry from the hatchery and the timing of hatching and migration of wild salmon differ according to the periods.

RG: Do you expect artificially raised salmon to support the species?

AB: We don't expect it, but we see that it is so. In regions with undermined nature reserves, like the Kuril Islands, for example, work has been done on certain rivers for almost 15 years, and we understand that only this salmon contributes the amount of catch. Almost half of the salmon caught in 2020 in the Sakhalin region can be attributed to artificial herds.

RG: You have surveyed the Arctic rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean. Is there really salmon there?

AB: We have never done a salmon study there, but now the harsh conditions for redfish breeding are softening in the north. Until I reveal all the secrets, I'll just say there is salmon there. So far it is not enough for fishing, but the process is indicative as a marker of climate change.

RG: The Federal Fisheries Agency (Rosrybolovstvo) declared this year the Year of Salmon. The target program "Salmon-2021" was adopted. Which studies would you highlight first?

AB: Last year turned out to be ambiguous for the Far East. In some regions, the fishing was successful, but for one of the main salmon farming regions, eastern Kamchatka, the forecast was not confirmed.

Today we understand that climate changes in the Pacific Ocean affect the survival of juveniles in winter. First, they affect the shortest cycle object: pink salmon. He has only lived two years. It is quite difficult to establish clear criteria that affect your population in a given period. But when we define them, they operate in conditions of relative stability. And we will definitely find out why the pink salmon that migrated to the sea decreased to the number that reached the spawning grounds.

RG: This is also important to us, the consumers. For many, pink salmon is the most affordable delicacy.

AB: This is not a quick process. For now, we will focus on ship research, much of which is planned for 2021 across the entire Far East basin. They will start in early summer and end in fall.

RG: What new technologies do you use in your work?

AB: We are starting a program for the implementation of artificial intelligence and digitization of visual research. For two years, we conducted trial activities: we learned to work with automatic systems to record the entry of Pacific salmon into rivers.

The program is equipped with an artificial intelligence system. At the lowest cost, we should get the most accurate answers to the questions: how many fish passed into the spawning grounds, what is the intensity of migration, etc. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, attached video equipment, image recognition systems allows these jobs to be done very quickly and with high quality. But we are not going to abandon the existing system of coastal surveys. These are walking tours of large territories, evaluations of observer pilots. The use of drones is not possible everywhere: there are bodies of water where walking tours are more effective.

However, experiments carried out by the institute in Kamchatka and in the Magadan region showed the possibility and need for a rapid transition to digital research methods. This year we plan to carry out such works in Chukotka, Khabarovsk Territory, Kolyma and Kamchatka. They will not be limited to salmon, but will also fly over herring and pinnipeds.

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta (translated from original in Russian)

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