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Hatcheries - Reform

Hatchery Reform Overview

Hatchery Pond with series of gates WDFW worked with federal natural resource agencies and a newly-appointed regional science panel, the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG), to identify ways to minimize adverse impacts of hatchery operations on depressed wild stocks, while contributing to sustainable fisheries.

The 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 improved hatchery management.

These ongoing efforts, including the Fish and Wildlife Commission's adoption of a Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy are all clear roadmaps for hatchery operations to meet conservation objectives and provide sustainable fisheries. Details associated with specific hatchery programs and associated operations can be found in the Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) for more than one hundred state hatchery programs.

Implementation of these above initiatives relative to WDFW hatchery programs will occur through the development of Hatchery Action Implementation Plans (HAIP) and then be documented in Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans submitted for federal ESA coverage.

Hatchery Action Implementation Plans align salmon and steelhead production by population with watershed level priorities. This ensures the hatchery production is consistent with conservation goals and/or harvest management objectives.

Changes in hatchery programs will occur through two principle fronts:
  1. Operational changes: adjusting juvenile fish rearing and release numbers, as well as adult fish collection and reproduction.
  2. Facility infrastructure improvements: removal of hatchery barriers and ensuring compliance with environmental regulations, development of watershed specific adult salmon collection and handling structures to reduce the number of hatchery fish spawning naturally and collect wild salmon and steelhead as appropriate to increase the productivity and diversity of the population overall.
For more information on Hatchery Reform go here >> Reform

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Policy

Fish swimming at hatchery pond with water coming out of pipes OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to adopt a new state hatchery and fishery reform policy designed to accelerate recovery of wild salmon and steelhead while also supporting sustainable fisheries.

The new policy, which has been under review by the commission and the public since last spring, establishes guidelines for realigning state fisheries and hatchery programs to meet conservation and harvest goals for salmon and steelhead in each watershed.

To read the full policy details, please go here >> Commission Policies

WDFW priorities for state hatchery programs

Region 6 - Person in stream taking statistics Hatchery programs must be designed and evaluated relative to our conservation and fishery goals rather than as isolated fish production factories.

Significant modifications to hatchery programs are required to provide fishery benefits with reduced risks to natural populations of salmon and steelhead.

WDFW must:
  • Reduce the number of hatchery fish spawning in rivers and as appropriate, use wild salmon and steelhead as broodstock to increase the productivity and diversity of wild populations
  • Ensure that hatchery facilities are "wild salmon friendly" with passage facilities, intake screening, and pollutant control systems that comply with environmental regulations
  • Eliminate programs that cannot be modified to meet conservation and fishery objectives in a cost-effective manner
Significant changes to hatchery programs can be found here >> Hatcheries: Then and Now

Mass Marking

Machine where mass fish is going through Perhaps the single biggest change in salmon fishing over the past decade was the expansion of coho and Chinook selective fisheries to include the Washington coast and many inland waters.

Selective fisheries are designed to protect wild stocks and provide harvest of healthy hatchery runs: this program allows fisheries managers to better assess hatchery/wild stock composition in various fisheries, providing an important tool in establishing harvest quotas during fishing seasons, as well as determining stray rates of hatchery fish into natural spawning areas.

To make it possible for fishers to distinguish between hatchery and wild salmon, WDFW crews started clipping the adipose fins (mass marking) of hatchery coho in 1996, and hatchery Chinook in 1999.

On average, state hatchery crews mark more than 100-million fish each year for release from state and tribal hatcheries. Significant coho selective fisheries were allowed in 1999 and 2000 (from juveniles clipped in 1997 and 1998), and Chinook selective fisheries have incrementally expanded towards the end of this decade, in which 2010 saw the first coastal Chinook selective fishery.

For more information, please visit our main website here >> Mass Marking
For more information on
salmon recovery and conservation, please contact
the WDFW Fish Program.

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