Cannery Creek is on the eastern shore of Unakwik Inlet, about 48 air miles (77 km) northeast of Whittier and 43 miles (69 km) west-southwest of Valdez, Alaska. The local name is after a salmon cannery that was built here in the early 1900s by the Unakwik Packing Company and later leased to the Pacific American Fisheries. The local name does not appear on area maps or charts of Unakwik Inlet, a fjord on the north coast of Prince William Sound that trends south for 19 miles from the terminus of Meares Glacier. The local name for Unakwik Inlet was reported in 1898 as “Unaguig Inlet” by Captain Glenn and its present spelling was given by Grant and Higgins of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1910.
The Cannery Creek Hatchery was built in 1978 by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as part of the fisheries rehabilitation and enhancement program for pink and chum salmon. In 1988, the State of Alaska contracted the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation to operate and manage the hatchery. The chum program was not successful due to the cold lake water temperatures during the winter months and was discontinued in 1990. The hatchery currently produces 187 million pink salmon fry annually which generates an average return of approximately 6 million adult pink salmon.
Pacific salmon are noted for their abilities to return to natal streams to spawn. This homing behavior isolates populations from one another and often leads to adaptations to the environmental conditions of a particular watershed. However, homing is not perfect and some wild fish stray into non-natal spawning areas. These background levels of natural straying may be adaptive by allowing populations to expand into new habitats and by supplementing populations with low genetic diversities. The straying of hatchery-reared salmon, on the other hand, maybe disruptive to wild populations. Hybridizations between hatchery and wild fish may decrease the adaptive fitness of wild populations. Recent studies have shown that streams throughout Prince William Sound now contain more than 10% hatchery pink salmon. This level of hatchery salmon strays is at a proposed threshold of 2–10% which confounds wild salmon escapement goals and may harm the productivity, genetic diversity, and fitness of wild salmon in this region. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cannery Creek here: