A hatchery chum salmon run in Southeast this summer will be using a new tax assessment to help pay for its operations. It’s the first time a hatchery organization in Alaska will use the tax assessment instead of raising money in “cost recovery” fishing by several contracted boats.

The Hidden Falls hatchery on Baranof Island is operated by the Sitka-based Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, or NSRAA (en-sir-ah). Like other hatcheries in Southeast, Hidden Falls has operated on money from cost-recovery fishing on its annual chum salmon runs.

NSRAA general manager Steve Reifenstuhl explains that its not uncommon for fishery managers to keep the seine fishery closed while the cost recovery fish are caught.

“The normal conduct of the seine fisheries, especially on smaller runs, tends to really harvest all the fish in the area and it takes a period of days or several days before the fish build up enough and by that time there’s another planned opening. So in many years if we were gonna get cost recovery done we’d have to opt to shut down the fishery or not allow that opening so we could get cost recovery done,” he says.

The new assessment will ensure seine openings happen in the common property fishery as long as chum are returning to the hatchery and enough salmon are captured for brood stock, or future generations of fish. Hidden Falls chums are an important early season catch for the region’s seine fleet. The hatchery run can also take some fishing pressure off of returns of wild pink salmon, especially in low pink years like 2012 is forecast to be.

The state legislature passed a law in 2006 allowing for the new method of funding hatchery salmon. The Alaska Department of Revenue determines the tax rate, based on information submitted by the hatchery. Reifenstuhl says the rate for the 2012 Hidden Falls fishery will be 20 percent.

“Any of those terminal harvest areas that are open and if a boat participates even one set in the area, then their chum salmon catch will be assessed at a 20 percent tax rate,” he says.

That tax will be collected by seafood processors, submitted to the state and eventually returned to the hatchery. The first opening at Hidden Falls could happen on June 17.