TU, Leading NW Scientists Detail Strategies for Better Fish Hatcheries in "Blueprint for Hatchery Reform" Released Today
TU, Leading NW Scientists Detail Strategies for Better Fish Hatcheries in “Blueprint for Hatchery Reform” Released Today
Salmon Policy Coordinator
503.827.5700 x. 13
12/18/2003 -- Portland, Ore. -- Trout Unlimited (TU), the nation’s largest trout and salmon conservation organization, today will release “A Blueprint for Hatchery Reform in the 21st Century: The Landscape Approach,” a white paper authored by Dr. Rick Williams (Return to the River), Jim Lichatowich (Salmon Without Rivers), Dr. Phil Mundy and Dr. Madison Powell.
“Decisions being weighed right now involving hatcheries are arguably the most critical facing Pacific salmon and steelhead populations today and will affect those fish for decades to come,” said Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited.
Agencies within the Bush administration are currently reviewing the status of 27 stocks of West Coast salmon and steelhead to determine if continued protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is warranted. TU is concerned that the administration will “count” hatchery fish along with wild fish in determining whether salmon stocks should continue to be protected under the ESA.
“We didn’t want to see politics trump science, so we asked four of the Northwest’s best scientists to closely examine hatchery policies – past, present and future. ” Curtis said.
For example, TU is concerned that the administration will use the strong returns of Oregon Coast coho to justify delisting that stock, despite the fact that 80 percent of those fish were of hatchery origin and the prediction from biologists that the wild population will drop by more than 60 percent next year.
To the contrary, TU believes that the stocks should remain listed until habitat conditions exist that will support sustainable runs of wild salmon and that only wild fish should determine population strength of given fish stocks. In 2002, TU led a coalition which filed petitions with NOAA Fisheries to consider only the wild component of 15 Pacific salmon and steelhead stocks when judging the merit of ESA protection. Those petitions are still under consideration.
“Wild fish are the bedrock of salmon recovery,” said TU Salmon Policy Coordinator Kaitlin Lovell. “The further you get from naturally producing wild fish the more risk there is, and we’ve been in operating under a large amount of risk with our hatchery policies for over 100 years. We’ve done some things right and a lot of things wrong over the decades, and we’d be foolish not to consider those lessons now as we evaluate Pacific salmon recovery and the use of hatcheries to get there.”
Trout Unlimited maintains that hatcheries have a place in the future of Pacific salmon and steelhead recovery. However, the historical use of hatcheries intended to mitigate for habitat loss, hydropower, over-fishing and other detriments to salmon has amounted to more of a problem for fish than part of the solution.
“When wild fish are mixed with the wrong hatchery fish from the wrong river system using the wrong methods, wild fish lose,” said Lovell. “We need to incorporate an ecological context into our use of hatcheries that’s been missing historically. The landscape approach provides the answer to these problems.”
“Hatchery reform using the landscape approach requires factoring differences in genetics, ecology, climate and other environmental elements that are inherent among different fish stocks and different river systems,” Lovell said. “Historically we’ve ignored those factors and we’ve seen wild fish stocks blink out of existence. We can’t turn back the clock, but we can use smarter approaches to hatcheries that maximize the inherent strengths and survival skills of wild fish and minimize the harmful effects human influence has when it’s needed.”
To access the full report, Trout Unlimited’s recommendations for specific reforms, a table comparing conventional and landscape hatcheries and more, go to:
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.