Feds' New Hatchery Policy Defies Scienceand Common Sense, says Trout Unlimited


News Release June 16, 2005

ATTN: Environment Editor/Reporter

Dr. Jack Williams, Senior Scientist: 541.482.6325
Kaitlin Lovell, Salmon Policy Coordinator: 503.827.5700 x. 13; c. 503.789.7549
Jeff Curtis, Western Conservation Director: 503.827.5700 x. 11; c. 503.419.7105

Feds’ New Hatchery Policy Defies Science
and Common Sense, says Trout Unlimited

Policy finalized today essentially equates hatchery, wild salmon under ESA

(PORTLAND, Ore.) – Conservation group Trout Unlimited (TU) today said it was relieved that 16 stocks of Pacific salmon previously listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) would remain protected for now, but also said that a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries) policy would lead to more controversy and lawsuits, and ultimately diminish the protection and hinder the recovery of Pacific salmon and steelhead.

The policy, finalized today, requires that salmon and steelhead born and reared in hatcheries and then released be considered alongside wild fish born and reared in rivers when weighing the need for ESA protection. Those considerations then become integral in assessing the overall health of a stock, ESA listing decisions, strategies for recovering imperiled stocks and more. Trout Unlimited said today NOAA’s announcement reflects a policy reversal that undermines decades of recovery strategies and actions targeted toward wild fish.

TU said the implications of combining wild and hatchery fish to determine protection levels is wrong-headed, and runs afoul of the judgment of legions of fisheries scientists who have examined the question of wild-versus-hatchery fish management.

“The conclusion of the vast majority of fisheries science’s finest minds who’ve studied this problem is that hatchery fish and wild fish are different animals and must be managed accordingly, especially under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act,” said Dr. Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited. “It’s puzzling that NOAA Fisheries would issue a policy that contradicts the advice of its own scientists.”

Jeff Curtis of TU pointed out that “the problem is that if you include hatchery fish – which in fact can be a threat to wild fish – in determining which fish qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, then you will always have trouble determining whether and how those hatchery fish will be protected. It is not only bad science, it is also goofy policy.”

Under the new policy, for example, fish raised in concrete hatcheries and spawned in white plastic buckets from over 160 hatcheries which swim alongside wild fish will be protected under the ESA.

Several groups of fisheries scientists have published findings supporting the conclusion that hatchery fish should be excluded from ESA listings (please refer to Web links below). In addition, the policy appears to disregard what is reported to be some 90 percent of the over 27,000 public comments which supported listing only the wild component of individual salmon stocks.

Trout Unlimited said the new policy leaves the door wide open for a spate of new litigation.

“We’re pleased that the wild fish that were protected before will have continued protection in the near term under this policy,” said Kaitlin Lovell of Trout Unlimited. “But at the same time it’s disappointing that NOAA has seemingly squandered the opportunity to adhere to the science, address wild salmon recovery head-on and resolve the issues that landed us all in litigation the first time around. There’s little in this policy to give us hope we won’t end up there again.”

Please refer to the following links to view scientific publications supporting exclusion of hatchery fish from ESA listings:

Salmon Recovery Science Review Panel:


Independent Scientific Advisory Board:

Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.