The Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) conducted a comprehensive review of 178 hatchery programs and 351 salmon and steelhead populations in Puget Sound/Coastal Washington and the Columbia River Basin. The resulting population-specific recommendations are intended to provide scientific guidance for managing each hatchery more effectively in the future.
The HSRG concluded that hatcheries play an important role in the management of salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, the traditional practice of replacing natural populations with hatchery fish to mitigate for habitat loss and mortality due to hydroelectric dams is not consistent with today's conservation principles and scientific knowledge. Hatchery fish cannot replace lost habitat or the natural populations that rely on that habitat.
Therefore, hatchery programs must be viewed not as surrogates or replacements for lost habitat, but as tools that can be managed as part of a coordinated strategy to meet watershed or regional resource goals, in concert with actions affecting habitat, harvest rates, water allocation and other important components of the human environment. Hatchery programs should be used only to the extent that they provide a better option—from the benefit-risk standpoint—than available alternative methods to meet the same or similar goals.
The HSRG has reached several critical, summary conclusions regarding areas where current hatchery and harvest practices need to be reformed. Each of these conclusions (listed below and described in detail in the System-Wide Report on Columbia River Basin Hatchery Reform) must be addressed through policy, management, research and monitoring:
- Manage hatchery broodstocks to achieve proper genetic integration with, or segregation from, natural populations;
- Promote local adaptation of natural and hatchery populations;
- Minimize adverse ecological interactions between hatchery- and natural-origin fish;
- Minimize effects of hatchery facilities on the ecosystem; and
- Maximize survival of hatchery fish.
Principles and Recommendations
The Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) has developed three principles for hatchery management and 17 system-wide recommendations (applicable to programs across the Puget Sound/Coastal Washington and Columbia River Basin hatchery systems). These principles and system-wide recommendations represent the key findings of the HSRG. The more closely hatchery programs adhere to these principles and recommendations, the greater the likelihood of their contribution to the managers' harvest and conservation goals.
The three principles are listed below. They are described in detail in the System-Wide Report on Columbia River Basin Hatchery Reform, alongside the system-wide recommendations, each of which is provided in the report under the principle from which it is derived:
- Develop clear, specific, quantifiable harvest and conservation goals for natural and hatchery populations within an "All H" (Hatcheries, Habitat, Harvest, Hydro) context;
- Design and operate hatchery programs in a scientifically defensible manner; and
- Monitor, evaluate and adaptively manage hatchery programs.
Implementing Hatchery Reform
Hatchery management and the reforms recommended by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) could affect many entities—fishery managers; funding entities such as utilities, the Bonneville Power Administration and Congress; and regulators such as NOAA Fisheries. All of these entities will have important roles in the implementation of hatchery reform. Hatchery reform is also important to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, which is mandated to develop a comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Program. Additionally, proper hatchery management affects the full range of land and water users, since hatchery practices greatly influence the success of investments in habitat protection and restoration for steelhead and salmon conservation. The entire region, therefore, has a stake in hatchery reform.
The work of the HSRG can add significant value to the management of salmon and steelhead only if the principles and system-wide recommendations are fully integrated into everyday hatchery and harvest planning and operations. To this end, the HSRG has provided several recommendations for implementation. Those recommended next steps are listed below and described in detail in the System-Wide Report on Columbia River Basin Hatchery Reform:
- Institutionalize and apply a common implementation framework;
- Use the framework to set priorities, guide project review, make funding decisions and determine return on investments;
- Provide training of fishery staff;
- Perform regular programmatic performance reviews; and
- Maintain and update data sets and a website.