Saturday, November 28, 2009


Washington Refuses to Protect Juvenile Steelhead in Fisheries

By Sam Wright, WDFW biologist (retired)


Ever since the ESA-listing of Puget Sound steelhead as Threatened, I attempted to convince the Commission and WDFW that existing regulations for trout fishing in streams were exerting a high fishing mortality rate on juvenile Puget Sound steelhead. The standard response by WDFW had been that comments in the listing decision documents clearly stated that fishing mortality was not a significant problem for Puget Sound steelhead. While all of these Federal comments were clearly made in the context of only adult steelhead, they were mistakenly being applied to juveniles by WDFW. In reality, the fishing mortality rate on juveniles may be an order of magnitude higher than the fishing mortality rate on wild adult steelhead.
The changes proposed for 2010-2012 have finally recognized both the Puget Sound and State-wide problems and the solution is the correct one. It will be the beginning of the end for the long Washington tradition of providing widespread “trout fishing” on juvenile steelhead. It is also being proposed in the correct CLOSED unless OPEN harvest management strategy that limits fishing mortality to times and locations where there is a reasonable expectation of a harvestable surplus for one or more species. In addition, it will make management of trout fishing in streams parallel to the same CLOSED unless OPEN format that has been used for decades to manage both salmon and steelhead fisheries in the same streams.
The primary purpose of the comments to follow is to describe why the net result of existing regulations is a high fishing mortality rate on juvenile Puget Sound steelhead. The basic reference that I will be referring to (unless noted otherwise) is the following: Wright, S. 1992. Guidelines for selecting regulations to manage open-access fisheries for natural populations of anadromous and resident trout in stream habitats. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 12:517-527.
The existing Statewide Freshwater Rules that apply to all Puget Sound streams not identified under Special Rules are a five month fishing season from the first Saturday in June through October 31, a two fish daily bag limit and an 8 inch minimum size limit. In practice, the effective minimum size limit is about 7 inches since there is a tolerance policy (just like everyone knows that they can always go 5 miles over the posted speed limit and never get a ticket). Every length frequency distribution for any fishery with a minimum size limit will show this artifact. There is no restriction on the use of bait even though numerous studies have indicated the expectation of a 30 to 50 % mortality rate for any fish that are hooked and released. This is recognized in WDFW regulations since fish caught with bait count as part of the daily bag limit, while you can continue to catch and release fish caught on artificial lures or flies. However, the regulations also state that, if any fish has swallowed the hook or is hooked in the gill, eye, or tongue, it should be kept if legal to do so. Obviously, these types of regulations can never be effectively enforced in actual practice. Fishing with bait produces a much high incidence of serious injuries since fish are attempting to swallow bait as opposed to capturing a lure or fly.
The net result is that hundreds of the smaller named and unnamed streams in the Greater Puget Sound Basin are open under Statewide Rules to harvest fisheries on juvenile steelhead plus a high hooking mortality rate on smaller fish. There are 56 stream reaches listed under Special Rules that have a 14 inch minimum size limit to prevent retention of juvenile steelhead but this does not apply to most of their tributaries and 51 of the 56 allow the use of bait. There are an additional 24 stream reaches with catch-and-release fisheries but this does not apply to most of their tributaries. There are also 23 stream reaches closed to fishing that lack tributary protection. These three categories total 98 stream reaches where protection has not been extended to most named and unnamed tributaries (a small percentage of named tributaries are identified under Special Rules). Research conducted in Idaho in the early 1970s demonstrated that 70 to 100% of 2-year-old juvenile steelhead could be removed from 400 foot reaches of streams with only four angler hours of fishing effort. Thus, it is possible to severely deplete or even eliminate any juvenile steelhead populations with only a very modest amount of fishing effort.
One source of information that can be used to quantify impacts from fishing comes from the WDFW long-term research station at Big Beef Creek on the Kitsap Peninsula. Smolt production of juvenile salmonids has been measured every year since 1978, while the regulations needed to eliminate significant fishing mortality on juvenile salmonids have been implemented in several increments extending from 1987 to 1999. The end result is a catch-and-release fishery with a prohibition on the use of bait. In the 10-year “before” period from 1978 through 1987, the average annual production of anadromous trout smolts (steelhead, cutthroat, and hybrids) was 1723 fish. The average annual anadromous trout smolt production in the 9-year “after” period from 2000 through 2008 was 2638 fish. This represents a 53% increase in anadromous trout smolt production.
Another quantitative expression of impacts from fishing can be seen in the end result at Chambers Creek, the original brood stock site for most Washington hatchery steelhead. Biologist Bruce Crawford described the history of this resource in a 1979 report entitled “The origin and history of trout brood stocks of the Washington Department of Game”. The natural steelhead run in Chamber Creek had the normal run timing of Puget Sound winter run steelhead and early egg takes were made mainly from February through April. However, the run was shifted a full two months earlier in run timing by continually selecting the earliest returning adults. Egg takes were then made mainly in December and January and the trap was generally opened to unimpeded upstream fish passage in early February. The early run hatchery fish gradually died out due to exceptionally poor smolt to adult survival rates. However, everyone assumed that a natural run still existed in the normal winter steelhead run timing period beginning in early February. WDFW installed a fish counter in the fish ladder during 2008 but not a single adult steelhead was detected. The only plausible cause for this extinction is the “trout” fishery that was provided for decades with only 6 and then 8 inch minimum size limits. This is a 149 square mile watershed with over 330,000 people living in it. New regulations to supposedly “protect steelhead” have recently been adopted for the 2009-2010 period but were applied only to the main stem of Chambers Creek. At least half of the juvenile steelhead rearing potential occurs in four named tributaries and these remained unprotected.
The problems that I have attempted to describe for juvenile Puget Sound steelhead are generic statewide problems that extend to other ESA-listed and unlisted juvenile steelhead populations, ESA-listed bull trout, ESA-listed and unlisted juvenile Chinook salmon populations with significant yearling production, ESA-listed and unlisted juvenile coho salmon populations, juvenile sea-run cutthroat, and immature resident rainbow and cutthroat trout.



As wild salmon and steelhead populations decline toward extinction in the Northwest, and many have already gone extinct, recovery has been based on the assumption that wild salmonids can be rebuilt using hatchery technology.

Since the first wild salmon and steelhead populations were listed in 1991 in the Columbia River basin more than $8 billion dollars have been spent on salmon recovery. If money were enough wild salmon would have increased rather than continued to decline. The federal response to the court has been that “trending toward recovery” is good enough to justify this investment of public funds.

During the past eighteen years of salmon recovery efforts, attention has been on hatchery supplementation of wild salmonid populations rather than on developing a recovery program for wild populations. A program for wild salmon and steelhead recovery would adopt river specific conservation requirements. But this has not been done. Consequently, the vast amount of public funding for salmon recovery has not been effectively applied. It is not how much money has been spent, but how it is spent.

There are now two opposing recommendations on the use of hatcheries to rebuild wild salmonid populations. Congress recently funded a hatchery review by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) that has recommended many important hatchery modifications to improve their operations and reduce their impact on wild salmon and steelhead. However, the HSRG has recommended an untested premise. By including wild fish in the hatchery brood stock and limiting the number of hatchery fish that spawn naturally with wild fish this so-called integrated hatchery concept can be used not only to protect the wild population, but increase its size.

The other recommendation comes from a separate research project that evaluated the effect of hatchery fish, derived from native, wild brood stock, on wild fish when they spawn together naturally in streams. This study concludes that the hatchery fish that spawn naturally with wild fish are a drag on the productivity of the wild population, reducing their fitness and reproductive success. Wild fish the hatchery program was intended to help are exposed to greater risk. This study also shows that this effect spans several generations, that is, when progeny from wild born hatchery fish return and spawn, their progeny are less productive than wild fish, producing fewer surviving adult progeny. And when these fish spawn naturally with wild fish the reproductive fitness of progeny is reduced. In addition, this detrimental effect is genetic and is not erased by natural selection in the stream and ocean.

The findings of this research and the recommendations of the HSRG are in conflict. The HSRG says that some naturally spawning hatchery fish is okay, but the research says that naturally spawning hatchery fish degrade the fitness and reproductive success of wild fish and that this impact increases with each generation.

The following are some quotes from a 2009 scientific paper that describe this hatchery effect on wild fish:

“…relative reproduction fitness was only 37% in wild born fish from two captive-bred parents and 87 per cent in those from one captive-bred and one wild parent (relative to those from two wild parents. Our results suggest a significant carry-over effect of captive breeding, which has negative influence on the size of the wild population in the generation after supplementation. In this population, the population fitness could have been 8 per cent higher if there was no carry-over effect during the study period.”

“…genetically-based loss of fitness in the wild has been well documented (Reisenbichler and McIntyre 1977, Reisenbichler and Ruin 1999, Araki et al. 2007, 2008). Thus, captive-bred organisms could potentially drag down the fitness of the wild populations they are meant to support, even while temporarily boosting their numbers.”

“We examined the reproductive fitness of captive-bred fish in the wild using the same molecular technique, in the same population (Hood River, Oregon). The results suggest that first-generation hatchery fish were reproductively less fit than wild fish, and that second generation hatchery fish were even less fit than first generation fish.”

“The estimated reduction in fitness of captive-bred fish was up to 40 per cent per generation. Now we ask whether their wild-born offspring, which successfully survived a full generation of selection in the wild, can have as many adult offspring as wild fish that have not been influence by captive-breeding.”

“Now we ask whether their wild-born offspring, which successfully survived a full generation of selection in the wild, can have as many adult offspring as wild fish that have not been influence by captive breeding. This comparison provides a unique opportunity to estimate the change in wild population size owing to any carry-over effect of captive breeding. “

Over all three years there is a clear pattern of decline in reproductive fitness in order of W (w x w) > W (derived from captive x wild origin parents ) > W (derived from captive x captive origin parents).

“The fitness difference persisted despite a complete life cycle of natural rearing, during which time natural selection had the opportunity to eliminate less fit individuals from the population…”

“We estimated that this carry-over effect reduced population fitness by 8 per cent relative to a purely wild population of the same size.”

“Given that the genetic effect of captive breeding was not erased by a full generation in the wild, supplementation programmes could have a cumulative impact on wild populations.”

“The message should be clear: captive breeding for reintroduction or supplementation can have a serious, long-term downside in some taxa, and should not be considered as a panacea for the recovery of all endangered populations.”

Until this research was done, it was assumed that by using native brood stock, the hatchery and the wild fish were the same, that they had the same reproductive fitness. The wild fish would be enhanced and hatchery fish survival increased. On that basis the fish management agencies initiated numerous native brood stock hatchery programs. Now that this research points out the fallacy of this assumption, will the agencies correct the problem?

This study also points out a fallacy in the HSRG recommendation that would allow a proportion of the naturally spawning population to be of hatchery-origin fish. If this advice is followed the hatchery fish (even those derived from wild parents) would negatively impact the reproductive fitness of the wild population they interbreed with.

It is evident that hatchery technology cannot be used to recover wild salmonid populations. However, this research implies, but does not profess, that hatchery fish survival can be improved by incorporating wild fish into the hatchery broodstock, but it is necessary to have access to healthy wild populations. This higher survival could increase contribution to the fisheries and reduce the cost of putting a fish into the catch. However, in doing so, the wild fish are exposed to higher risk.

This illustrates a fundamental conflict ingrained in the fish management agencies between conservation and utilization. If this conflict did not exist, the fish agencies would not have assumed wild salmonids could be recovered with hatchery fish with out proof and they would not have moved ahead with native brood stock hatcheries on the assumption there was no risk to the affected wild populations.


Araki, Hitoshi, Becky Cooper and Michael S. Blouin. 2009. Carry-over effect of captive breeding reduces reproductive fitness of wild-born descendants in the wild. Conservation Biology. Biology Letters. Rsbl. 2009.0315.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NOAA Fisheries Calls For Improved Fish Management

The following quotes are taken from a guidance letter from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the state and tribal fish managers for monitoring recovery of ESA-listed salmonids (2009). This guidance document would vastly improve management for wild, native salmonids and provide the basis for recovery of ESA protected fish, and it is similar to adopted criteria for Atlantic salmon conservation in Eastern Canada. These criteria place conservation management emphasis on specific stream management and a conservation requirement for each river and each stock of salmon. This upgraded management is needed on the Pacific coast and this guidance by NOAA Fisheries is scientifically sound and should be carried out by those managing harvest and hatchery programs. There is nothing in this guidance that the fish managers do not already know and have known for many decades, so the issue is compliance. Will the fish managers comply with this guidance? If they do not, then will NMFS do more than make suggestions?

This guidance letter to the fish managers by NOAA Fisheries improves management of harvest and hatcheries so that ESA-listed salmon and steelhead can be recovered and all wild, native populations can be managed for health and productivity. It recognizes that the more these populations are aggregated into large groups for harvest and hatchery programs the more risk individual populations are exposed to, making fish management less likely to protect individual populations. The long history of this kind of management has brought us threatened species, extinction, loss of productivity, restricted fisheries and has wasted public funds.


“Harvest of listed species, though incidental can have a major impact on small populations.

“It is important that the management agencies and tribes directing harvest regimes can demonstrate that harvest is not a threat to recovery.

“In the past hatchery fish have been used to determine harvest percentages in coastal fisheries because they are easily accessed and marked with a CWT (coded wire tag). It has been assumed that nearby natural stocks will migrate in a similar manner to hatchery fish and also encounter fisheries in a similar manner. These assumptions may not hold true for many populations.

“These tag recoveries have been used in run reconstruction scenarios to estimate the percent harvest and harvest exploitation rate in each of the identified coastal and inland fisheries. Although this system provided huge improvements in stock management, the “stocks” managed have been by necessity aggregates of hatchery and wild populations based upon assumed common migration routes and common geographic origins. Hatchery CWT recoveries have been used as the surrogate for estimating interceptions of wild populations as part of stock aggregates but not successful in delineating individual populations within the stock aggregate.

“It is recognized that stock aggregates no longer provide the management resolution necessary for estimating harvest impact to recovering populations listed under the ESA. (emphasis added) Therefore, either a shift must be made from stock aggregate management to population management, or existing fisheries will no longer be able to function due to the inability to quantify their jeopardy impact on listed populations and ESUs.

“Harvest curtailment to address ESA listed species has been used as a strategy to increase spawner escapements and therefore viability of listed populations. However, monitoring is needed to demonstrate that these strategies have been effective in meeting the desired reduction in interception of ESA populations.

“Because harvest removes potential spawners from the population and thus reduces the potential number of eggs that could be deposited and the potential number of emergent fry available to fill the habitat, it is important to understand what impact exploitation rate regimes are having on the rate of recovery in terms of time and spatial distribution.

“If it can be shown that the number of available spawners is fully capable of seeding all available habitats, then recovery rates will depend upon improvements in habitat or some other threat. If it cannot be demonstrated that sufficient spawners are available to fully seed the habitat, then any allowable exploitation rate will potentially prolong the recovery process. Those impacts should be modeled and available for all recovery participants to evaluate.

“Monitoring of natural origin adults should demonstrate that harvest exploitation rates on natural origin listed populations were minimal and that the escapements necessary for building populations back to target viability levels were achieved.

“In conjunction with selective harvest strategies targeting hatchery fish, the states and tribes should continue their evaluation of selective fishing gear and methods to demonstrate reductions in impacts to natural origin spawners.

“The effectiveness of harvest curtailment strategies is validated when the adult to adult productivity ratios are calculated and the percent of total natural production that is harvested is determined to be at the level that does not interfere with meeting or achieving viability productivity goals.

“Although spawner abundance is the defining information needed to determine viability, one of the metrics of interest to those working toward recovery is the total number of adults returning from the sea and how did harvest affect the number available for spawning and recovery. This metric is crucial in validating that the management actions taken by federal, state, and tribal harvest managers have been sufficient.”


“Although it is challenging to quantify the impact of changes in specific diversity traits, such as run timing or age at maturity, on eventual population and species persistence, one likely outcome of adverse changes in diversity is loss of reproductive success.

“…hatchery reared fish are believed to genetically diverge from wild fish as they adapt to survive in the novel hatchery environment. A number of studies (e.g. (Leider, 1990); (Kostow 2003); (Berejikian 2004; (Araki 2008) have reported that when such hatchery fish return and spawn under natural stream conditions among themselves or with a wild fish, their ability to produce viable offspring is much reduced relative to paired wild fish in the same environment. The magnitude of this difference has generally been found to be quite large and may be related to population productivity. For example, Chilcote (2003) found that a spawning population of equal numbers of hatchery and wild steelhead would produce up to 63% fewer recruits per spawner than one comprised entirely of wild fish. If these findings can be applied broadly, then there could be situations where wild production of smolts could be increased by up to three times by restoring genetic diversity to the natural wild populations where such diversity has been lost and by excluding hatchery fish from spawning areas so that additional erosion of genetic fitness cannot occur. (Emphasis added)

“…a successful (integrated hatchery) program would have few hatchery fish straying into the spawning grounds and many natural fish available for cross spawning in the hatchery. “

(Note: This suggests that integrated hatchery programs are dependent upon having access to viable, healthy and abundant wild salmonids in order to function properly While the HSRG prescription is to allow a fraction of the natural spawners to be hatchery fish, this statement takes a more cautious approach. Based on the best available science, there is no justification to manage for an integrated hatchery program recommended by the HSRG. The integrated hatchery program would mine depleted wild populations for eggs and allow hatchery-origin fish to spawn with wild fish, causing further depletion of wild salmonid populations while blending them so that they are more like hatchery fish. Since this HSRG theory has not been tested, applying it broadly throughout the West Coast would be scientifically indefensible.)

“…growing evidence has indicated that hatcheries can have substantial adverse impacts upon wild populations due to competition, genetic introgression, harvest exploitation rates and disease.

“McElhany (2000) concluded that valid estimates of natural productivity are impossible to obtain for supplemented populations in which the abundance of naturally produced and hatchery produced fish on the spawning grounds are not estimated separately.

“…we are recommending that all hatchery fish not marked externally be coded wire tagged so that they are detectable with CWT wands in the fisheries, at counting facilities, and on the spawning grounds.

“Programs need to monitor the genetic characteristics of brood stock to prevent the homogenization of the stock or alteration of gene flow over time. Baseline genetic monitoring is essential and should support current GSI (genetic stock identification) work with salmonids across the Pacific Northwest.” (Emphasis added)

(Note: In the1994 Fish and Wildlife Program adopted by the Power Planning and Conservation Council I was successful in securing a genetics baseline study for the Columbia River Basin, however, this was never funded.)


Crawford, Bruce A. and Scott Rumsey. June 12, 2009. Guidance for monitoring recovery of Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) National Marine Fisheries Service. Northwest Region. Pp 129.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Low Risk of Establishing Salmonid Whirling Disease in the Deschutes River Basin
Whirling Disease Mini-Workshop – Central Oregon Environmental Center

Don Ratliff, Portland General Electric
November 17, 2009

After more than 10 years of monitoring and study, final conclusions indicate that under current conditions salmonid whirling disease should not be a problem causing disease in native salmon, steelhead, or trout. The parasite, Myxobolus cerebralis, could become established at low levels both downstream and upstream of the Pelton Round Butte Project (PRB). In anticipation of having fish passage at the Pelton Round Butte Project, the Licensees have funded continuing studies of M. cerebralis, the aquatic worm Tubifex tubifex (alternative host for M. cerebralis), and its affect on Deschutes salmonids. Final recommendations are for continued vigilance and monitoring as T. tubifex. This aquatic worm does best in areas of high sediment and high organic nutrient enrichment. For instance, high populations of T. tubifex were found in the settling pond at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. In my presentation I will highlight the major findings by OSU microbiologists and ODFW Fish Heath Specialists that should limit disease expression. Study findings include:

1. Myxospores of M. cerebralis, the causative pathogen, have been deposited by stray steelhead and Chinook annually into the lower Deschutes River basin since 1987.

2. Sentinel live-box studies using very susceptible fry have only detected the triactinospore (TAM) stage, the stage that infects salmonids, in very low numbers some years in lower Trout Creek, Mud Springs, near Oak Springs, and Buck Hollow Creek. Most diagnoses were by PCR, a very sensitive genetic test. Characteristic myxospores were only observed from a small percentage of sentinel fry exposed to lower Trout Creek in 1997. Disease was not observed in these sentinel fry. Myxospores have not been found in juvenile or adult wild steelhead from Trout Creek.

3. No Deschutes Basin resident or anadromous salmonids have ever been found to have myxospores after more than 10 years of looking.

4. Studies of water temperatures, and the alternative host, T. tubifex, show why whirling disease has not become a problem over the 20+ years of introduction of M. cerebralis into the lower Deschutes Basin by stray adult steelhead and salmon from Snake River watersheds. These studies also indicate that if the parasite is introduced with adult salmon or steelhead passed above PRB with fish passage, it should not result in whirling disease within the middle Deschutes Basin because of the mitigating factors of water temperatures, and the alternate host not aligned for parasite proliferation.

Study results that determined these factors include:

 Water temperatures in most of the Deschutes Basin are either too cold or too warm for high production of TAM stage of M. cerebralis when salmonids are in the susceptible fry stage. In T. tubifex, water temperatures below 10oC (50oF) significantly delay the development of the TAM stage, and those above 20oC (68oF) disrupt the parasite’s development.

 T. tubifex are not abundant in the Deschutes Basin. Where found they normally make up a very small percentage of the aquatic oligochaete (worm) population. In other words, of the worms in the sediment, most all of them are not T. tubifex. An exception is lower Trout Creek where T. tubifex is more abundant.

 In many of the T. tubifex populations, the M. cerebralis-resistant, genetic lineage VI worms will actually reduce the numbers of TAMs produced.

 Even in the susceptible lineage III populations, there is low potential production of TAMs from most populations as demonstrated in laboratory studies at the OSU Salmon Disease Laboratory. In these studies different T. tubifex populations were fed myxospores, and the TAMs produced enumerated. The exception is the T. tubifex population from lower Trout Creek that produced relatively large numbers of TAMs. This may be why lower Trout Creek is the only place where some transmission has been documented by actually observing myxospores in a small percentage of susceptible fry exposed during sentinel live-box studies.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Protecting wild salmonids from releases of hatchery fish

The impact of releasing juvenile hatchery steelhead into streams on wild steelhead is one of the first effects of a hatchery program on wild salmonids. All the attention to the genetic effects of the hatchery program on wild salmonids is appropriate and necessary. However, the emphasis on it has been given more importance and attention than the effects of competition for space and food between the two types of steelhead. The first impact of a hatchery program is one of competition and displacement of rearing wild fish.

A study of juvenile salmonid behavior by Hillman and Mullan in 1989 shows that downstream migration of salmonid smolts pulled wild steelhead downstream with them and exposed them to higher predation rates. Their name for this is the “pied-piper effect.”

Ten years later McMichael et al. (1999a) recommended releasing hatchery juveniles that are smaller than wild fish in order to minimize their impact because the larger hatchery steelhead dominated the smaller wild fish.

McMichael et al. (1999b) said, “Hatchery steelhead displaced wild steelhead in 79% of the contests observed between these groups. Our results indicate that the behavior of hatchery steelhead can pose risks to pre-existing wild steelhead where the two interact. Strategies to minimize undesirable risks associated with behavior of released hatchery steelhead should be addressed if protection and restoration of wild steelhead stocks is the management goal.” (emphasis added) Apparently protecting wild salmonids is optional.

In those situations where hatchery steelhead are released at a larger size than the wild steelhead in the stream, the agency releasing them is obviously not concerned with protecting wild steelhead. It is unlikely that this research has gained much traction in hatchery management decisions because the managers have concluded that by releasing large steelhead smolts survival is increased. I am not aware of any evaluation that determines how many wild steelhead populations are affected by this practice. Given the emphasis on hatchery production in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California, it would be surprising if any hatchery program is managed to reduce competition and protect wild juvenile steelhead in streams where these hatchery fish are released.

McMichael concludes by saying, “Acknowledging that releases of hatchery salmonids may affect pre-existing wild salmonid populations is an important step toward protection and recovery of imperiled populations of wild anadromous salmonids. Thorough evaluation of rigorous monitoring programs should be required in watersheds where depressed stocks of wild salmonids occur, even though these precautions will not ensure that wild stocks are protected or restored.”

This research was conducted on a Washington state stream, so if one were to apply a requirement to protect distressed stocks of wild salmonids in this state it would mean that of the 435 wild salmonid stocks in Washington, 134 (31%) are imperiled, needing protection. By following McMichael’s advice, these distressed wild stocks would be further harmed by the state’s hatchery practices. Since the status of 113 stocks is unknown (26%) a precautionary approach to hatchery practices would be in effect on 57% of the wild salmonid stocks making an impressive effort to do a better job of protecting 247 wild populations in Washington. But don’t hold your breath.


Hillman, T.W., and J.W. Mullan. 1989. Effects of hatchery releases on the abundance and behavior of wild juvenile salmonids. Pages 265-285 in D.W. Chapman Consultants, editors. Summer and winter ecology of juvenile chinook salmon and steelhead trout in the Wenatchee River, Washington. Report of D.W. Chapman Consultants, Boise, Idaho, to Chelan County Public Utilities District, Wenatchee, Washington.

McMichael, G.A., T.N. Pearsons, and S.A. Leider. 1999a. Minimizing ecological impacts of hatchery reared juvenile steelhead trout on wild salmonids in a Yakima basin watershed. Pages 365-380 in E.E. Knudsen, C.R. Steward, D.D. MacDonald, J.E. Williams, and D.W. Reiser. Sustainable fisheries management: balancing the conservation, and use of Pacific salmon. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

McMichael, G. A., T.N. Pearsons, and S.A. Leider. 1999b. Behavioral interactions among hatchery-reared steelhead smolts and wild Oncorhynchus mykiss in natural streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. 19:948-956.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 1992. Salmon and steelhead stock inventory. Olympia, Washington.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Wild steelhead in Puget Sound were recently added to the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species and subject to federal protection. The ESA listing has created a momentum for steelhead research and funding that may not have been available prior to being given protected status. The wild runs have been declining for over 20 years, but recent declines are a worry. Even though there has been a reduction in harvest of wild steelhead over the last decade, increases in wild steelhead abundance has not happened.

Research has revealed that Puget Sound smolt to adult steelhead survival rates have declined over the last 20 years, contributing to a marked decline in the adult runs.

A recent study by Moore, Berejikian and Tezak looked at steelhead migration time, behavior, and survival in Puget Sound and Hood Canal and came up with some answers.

“The estimated population specific survival rates for wild and hatchery smolts from the river mouths to the northern end of Hood Canal (18.6 to 50 miles) ranged from 55% to 86% in 2006 and from 62% to 84% in 2007.

Survival was much lower (23% to 49%) from the northern end of Hood Canal to the Strait of Juan de Fuca (89 miles) in 2006.

Travel rates through Hood Canal (5 miles to 6.2 miles per day) were significantly lower than those estimated as the fish migrated through northern Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca (16 to 17.4 miles per day), while the mortality rates per unit of distance traveled were very similar in the two segments.

The high daily mortality rates estimated during the early marine phase of the steelhead life cycle (2.7% per day) suggest that mortality rates decrease substantially after steelhead enter the Pacific Ocean.”

The authors found that smolt release timing influenced migration rate. Those fish that were released later traveled faster from Hood Canal Bridge to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They speculate that this suggests there may be an optimal time for smolts to reach the ocean, a window for maximum survival related to sea temperature, stability, and the amount of prey available. These ocean conditions affect the amount of prey available, influencing smolt survival.

Wild steelhead have a higher survival rate than hatchery steelhead. The authors refer to research by Beamish et al. (2006) indicating that salt water entry timing of wild coho salmon may be an important adaptive trait and help to explain why wild coho salmon have a higher survival rate than do hatchery coho.

The authors say that “Migration timing is likely an important factor in the survival of both hatchery and wild salmonids; however, hatchery practices that include single or few release dates probably limit the ability of smolts to regulate ocean entry time.”

The authors said they “found no differences in survival or migratory behavior between hatchery and natural origin steelhead smolts over the approximate 2 week residence in Hood Canal.” But they did find that hatchery fish suffer a greater mortality later in the marine environment compared to wild steelhead. “Overall smolt-to-adult survival of naturally produced steelhead has been shown to be substantially higher than smolt-to-adult survival of hatchery fish released in the same environment” according to research by Ward and Slaney 1990 and Kostow 2004.”

Over the last 40 years there have been large fluctuations in Puget Sound steelhead survival, and in recent years, “the low smolt-to-adult return rates…coincide with declines in population abundance,” the authors say. They also note that steelhead from coastal rivers have had higher smolt-to-adult survival rates and adult abundance than those in Puget Sound.

In Puget Sound the “early marine mortality probably is a strong limiting factor on these populations as over 58% of the population perished within 3 to 4 weeks,” the authors noted.

“In summary,” the authors say, “the mortality of the steelhead smolts migrating through Hood Canal appeared to be strongly related to the distance they traveled and less related to their rate of travel. Survival rates through Hood Canal were very similar between years. The estimated rates suggest that mortality for steelhead is greater during the first few weeks of their marine residence than it is later, when they grow larger and enter the open ocean.”

Upon reading this paper, Bill McMillan, said “I bet if they ever tracked steelhead smolts going out of the Nisqually, Puyallup, Green, and Cedar they would find even higher mortality than for the rest of Puget Sound. I have tried to indicate the high probability that southern Puget Sound stocks are the hardest hit because they have to migrate through the greatest density of competing hatchery fish, and potentially are even preyed on by resident hatchery stock chinook called "blackmouth" in these waters that sports fishermen love, as well as resident coho. Nevertheless, good to see that this work is being done.”


Moore, E, Megan, Barry A. Berejikian and Eugene P. Tezak. 2010. Early marine survival and behavior of steelhead smolts through Hood Canal and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 139: 49-61

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The high stray rate of barge transported steelhead, primarily form Snake River hatcheries, are a growing threat to wild John Day River steelhead. There is no hatchery program on this river, but the strays have fixed that with 29-41% of adult steelhead found throughout the John Day Basin are of hatchery origin. The Mid-Columbia Steelhead Recovery Plan notes this problem on the John Day and Deschutes Rivers. The ODFW and NFS have begun to place weirs on tributaries of the Deschutes River in order to excluding hatchery fish from spawning naturally with wild steelhead. A similar program is needed for the John Day River. The steelhead are listed as threatened and the state manages it as a wild salmon and steelhead reserve. The stray, barged hatchery steelhead are a threat to wild steelhead and to their recovery under the ESA. Bakke

John Day River Steelhead: In Through the Out Door

Tim Unterwegner and Jim Ruzycki - Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,
John Day, OR
2008 Pacific Coast Steelhead Meeting
March 4-6, 2008

The John Day River is one of the longest free flowing rivers in the lower 48 states and is managed exclusively for wild anadromous fish production. Although no releases of hatchery fish occur in the basin, recent evidence suggests a relatively high percentage of returning adult steelhead are of hatchery origin. Detections in the migration corridor also suggest that John Day fish stray afrom their natal watershed. We began tagging wild juvenile steelhead in 2001 with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags in an effort to determine smolt to adult survival (SAR) and track movement of juveniles and adults. Tracking was accomplished using the Columbia River PIT tag information system (PTAGIS). This system allows us to track the movement of tagged fish as they are detected at antennas throughout the Columbia River basin. To date, 13,910 wild juvenile steelhead have been tagged in the John Day River and 307 returning adults detected at Bonneville Dam, the lowermost dam on the Columbia River. In September 2007, a prototype antenna array was installed by Biomark Inc. on the John Day River, with the primary purpose of determining the incidence and origin of stray steelhead. SAR of John Day River steelhead to Bonneville Dam has varied from 1.4% to 2.9%. Observations from recent surveys in the basin indicate that 29–41% of adults throughout the basin are of hatchery origin. Greater than 50% of returning John Day origin steelhead pass over McNary Dam which is 74 miles upstream of the mouth of the John Day River. Hatchery steelhead straying into the John Day primarily originate from Snake River releases and so far, these stray fish were primarily transported as smolts in barges down the Snake and Columbia River corridors. Our evidence indicates clear exchange of steelhead among populations of the Columbia River basin.

Saturday, November 7, 2009



The following quotes are based on scientific evaluation and most are from peer reviewed scientific papers. The lead author and the date of publication are provided for reference. Hatchery solutions for wild salmonid decline have ignited a debate about their effectiveness and impact on wild, native salmonids. While science has shown that in many cases hatchery programs are in conflict with wild salmonid conservation and recovery, the ongoing problem is that this information is not being effectively applied by the management agencies.

Allendorf et al. 1994: We are not aware of a single empirical example in which (hatchery) supplementation has been successfully used as a temporary strategy to permanently increase abundance of naturally spawning populations of Pacific salmon.

Altukhov et al 1991: Artificial reproduction, commercial fisheries, and transfers result in the impairment of gene diversity in salmon populations, and so cause their biological degradation.

Araki et al. 2008: Captive breeding is used to supplement populations of many species that are declining in the wild. The suitability of and long-term species survival from such programs remain largely untested, however. We measured lifetime reproductive success of the first two generations of steelhead trout that were reared in captivity and bred in the wild after they were released. By reconstructing a three-generation pedigree with microsatellite markers, we show that genetic effects of domestication reduce subsequent reproductive capabilities by 40% per captive-reared generation when fish are moved to natural environments. These results suggest that even a few generations of domestication may have negative effects on natural reproduction in the wild and that the repeated use of captive-reared parents to supplement wild populations should be carefully reconsidered.

Araki et al. 2008: “Our review indicates that salmonids appear to be very susceptible to fitness loss while in captivity. The degree of fitness loss appears to be mitigated to some extent by using local, wild fish for broodstock, but we found little evidence to suggest that it can be avoided altogether. The general finding of low relative fitness of hatchery fish combined with studies that have found broad scale negative associations between the presence of hatchery fish and wild population performance, should give fisheries managers pause as they consider whether to include hatchery production in their conservation toolbox.”

Bachman 1984: Hatchery brown trout fed less, moved more, and expended more energy than wild brown trout in streams.

Bams 1970: Hatchery pink salmon migrated to the ocean one to two weeks earlier than wild pinks.

Berejikian and Ford 2003: Competitive asymmetries between hatchery and natural spawners and possibly their offspring can clearly contribute to the differences in relative fitness. Hatchery fish have lower fitness.

Blouin 2003: Non-local domesticated hatchery summer-run steelhead achieved 17-54% the lifetime fitness of natural native fish.

Blouin 2009: "If anyone ever had any doubts about the genetic differences between hatchery and wild fish, the data are now pretty clear. The effect is so strong that it carries over into the first wild-born generation. Even if fish are born in the wild and survive to reproduce, those adults that had hatchery parents still produce substantially fewer surviving offspring than those with wild parents. That's pretty remarkable."

Blouin 2009: “The implication is that hatchery salmonids – many of which do survive to reproduce in the wild– could be gradually reducing the fitness of the wild populations with which they interbreed. Those hatchery fish provide one more hurdle to overcome in the goal of sustaining wild runs, along with problems caused by dams, loss or degradation of habitat, pollution, overfishing and other causes. Aside from weakening the wild gene pool, the release of captive-bred fish also raises the risk of introducing diseases and increasing competition for limited resources.”

Blouin 2009: There is about a 40% loss in reproductive fitness for each generation spent in a hatchery.

Brannon et al. 1999: (Independent Scientific Advisory Board) : The three recent independent reviews of fish and wildlife recovery efforts in the Columbia River Basin addressed hatcheries. There was consensus among the three panels (National Fish Hatchery Review Panel, National Research Council, Independent Science Group), which underscores the importance of their contributions in revising the scientific foundation for hatchery policy. The ten general conclusions made by the panels are listed below.

1. Hatcheries generally have failed to meet their objectives
2. Hatcheries have imparted adverse effects on natural populations
3. Managers have failed to evaluate hatchery programs
4. Rationale justifying hatchery production was based on untested assumptions.
5. Hatchery supplementation should be linked with habitat improvements
6. Genetic considerations have to be included in hatchery programs.
7. More research and experimental approaches are required.
8. Stock transfers and introductions of non-native species should be discontinued.
9. Artificial production should have a new role in fisheries management.
10. Hatcheries should be used as temporary refuges rather than for long-term production.

Brauner 1994: In freshwater swimming velocity tests, wild coho salmon smolts swam faster than hatchery fish. In seawater hatchery fish performance compared to wild fish was poor. Hatchery fish had more difficulty osmoregulating.

Byrne et al. 1992: Building more hatcheries should cause alarm to biologists concerned with the preservation of native stocks until it is demonstrated that supplementation can be done in a way that does not reduce fitness of the native stock.

California Dept. Fish and Game 2002: The brains of hatchery raised rainbow trout are smaller in 7 out of 8 critical neuroanatomical measures than those of their wild reared counterparts.

Chilcote et al. 1986: Hatchery steelhead are only 38% as successful in producing smolts as wild steelhead.

Chilcote 2002: “…there will be little benefit to bringing some of the wild fish into the hatchery environment if the resulting hatchery smolts will have ocean survival rates that are 1/10 of those for wild smolts….all indications are that hatchery fish, even from wild broodstocks, are not as successful as wild fish in producing viable offspring under natural conditions….”

Chilcote 2003: A naturally spawning population comprised of equal numbers of hatchery and wild fish would produce 63% fewer recruits per spawner than one comprised entirely of wild fish. For natural populations, removal rather than addition of hatchery fish may be the most effective strategy to improve productivity and resilience.

Chilcote 2008: At a recent meeting of lower Columbia River Salmon Recovery Stakeholders, the document , Recovery Strategies to Close the Conservation Gap Methods and Assumptions, hatchery fish impacts are discussed. It says, “…relative population survival rates (recruits produced per spawner) were found to decrease at a rate equal to or greater than the proportion of hatchery fish in the natural spawning population. In other words, a spawning population with 20% hatchery strays (regardless of the type of hatchery program and whether they are integrated or segregated) had the net survival rate (recruits per spawner) that was 20% less than a population comprised entirely of wild fish (0% hatchery strays). Likewise, a population with 40% hatchery strays had a population survival rate that was 40% lower than a population comprised entirely of wild fish.”

Dickson 1982: Juvenile hatchery fish show a behavioral shift in stream feeding position compared to wild fish. Hatchery fish feed nearer the surface. This may expose them to greater predation.

Ersbak et al. 1983: Hatchery trout conditions declined after stocking. Hatchery fish were less flexible in switching to available food in the stream.

Fenderson, 1968: Hatchery fish are more aggressive and dominate wild fish, and hatchery fish have a higher mortality.

Flagg et al., 1999: The reviews conclude that artificial culture environments condition salmonids to respond to food, habitat, conspecifics and predators differently than fish reared in natural environments. It is now recognized that artificial rearing conditions can produce fish distinctly different from wild cohorts in behavior, morphology, and physiology

Fleming, et al., 1993: The divergence of hatchery fish in traits important for reproductive success has raised concerns. This study shows that hatchery coho salmon males are competitively inferior to wild fish, and attained only 62% of the breeding success of wild males. Hatchery females had more difficulty in spawning than wild fish and hatchery fish had only 82% of the breeding success of wild fish. These results indicate hatchery fish may pose an ecological and genetic threat to wild fish.

Fleming et al. 1994: Results of this study imply that hatchery fish have restricted abilities to rehabilitate wild populations, and may pose ecological and genetic threats to the conservation of wild populations.

Fleming et al. 1997: Reproductive success defined in the study as the ability to produce viable eyed embryos did not differ between hatchery and natural females. Hatchery males, however, achieved only 51% the estimated relative reproductive success of natural males under conditions of mutual competition. Hatchery males were less able to monopolize access to spawning females and suffered more severe wounding and greater mortality than natural males.

Flick, et al. 1964: Wild brook trout had higher summer and winter survival than hatchery fish.

Ford, 2002: Substantial phenotypic changes and fitness reductions can occur even if a large fraction of the captive broodstock is brought in from the wild every generation. This suggests that regularly bringing wild-origin broodstock into captive populations cannot be relied upon to eliminate the effects of inadvertent domestication selection.

Gudjonsson and Scarnecchia 2009: “In some rivers the salmon stocks have been enhanced by the release of smolts produced by using local brood stock. Smolts reared in hatcheries and released in rivers frequently had 50% lower return rates than wild smolts.

Hilborn 1992: Pacific salmon hatcheries have failed to deliver expected benefits and they pose the greatest single threat to the long-term maintenance of salmonids.

Hooton 2009: “Most hatchery programs produce steelhead that reflect only a small fraction of the natural life history variability inherent within and between wild populations. The numbers of steelhead that can result from carefully administered hatchery programs may be impressive, but those fish represent only a narrow segment of the diversity and adaptability of wild fish. Such products cannot be relied on to sustain natural populations over the long term.”

Hulett et al. 1994: Hatchery winter steelhead were about one-half as effective as wild winter-run steelhead in naturally producing smolt offspring. Hatchery winter steelhead were about one sixth as effective as wild winter steelhead in naturally produced adult offspring.

IEAB 2002: Cost to catch for hatchery fish:

Hatchery Species Produced Cost of a Salmon that is caught

Leavenworth spring chinook $4,800

Entiat spring chinook $68,031 (Highest $891,000)

Winthrop spring chinook $23,068

Priest Rapids fall chinook $12.00 (Highest - $293)

Irrigon summer steelhead $453

Spring Cr. fall chinook $237 (range 14.53 - $460)

Clatsop coho $124
Spring chinook $233

Fall chinook $65

Nez Perce fall and spring chinook $3,700

McCall spring chinook $786 (range $522 to $1,051)

The benefit of the fishery is $45 to $77 per fish for the commercial fishery and $60 per fish for the sport fishery.

Jonsson et al. 1993: Differences were evident for hatchery Atlantic salmon relative to wild salmon, with common genetic backgrounds, in breeding success after a single generation in the hatchery. Hatchery females averaged about 80% the breeding success of wild females. Hatchery males had significantly reduced breeding success, averaging about 65% of the success of wild males.

Kincaid, 1994: Atlantic salmon held in hatcheries for four generations produced juveniles that had different performance characteristics than progeny from wild parents.

Knudson et al. 2006. “Perhaps the most important conclusion of our study is that even a hatchery program designed to minimize differences between hatchery and wild fish did not produce fish that were identical to wild fish.”

Kostow 2003 : Our data support a conclusion that hatchery summer steelhead adults and their offspring contribute to wild steelhead population declines through competition for spawning and rearing habitats.

Kostow 2004: “In conclusion, this study demonstrated large average phenotype and survival differences between hatchery-produced and naturally produced fish from the same parent gene pool. These results indicate that a different selection regime was affecting each of the groups. The processes indicated by these results can be expected to lead to eventual genetic divergence between the new hatchery stock and its wild source population, thus limiting the usefulness of the stock for conservation purposes to only the first few generations.

Leider, et. al., 1990: The mean percentage of offspring from naturally spawning hatchery steelhead decreased at successive life history stages, compared to wild steelhead, from a potential of 85-87% at the egg stage to 42% at the adult stage. Reproductive success of naturally spawning hatchery steelhead compared to wild steelhead decreases from 75-78% at the subyearling stage to 10.8-12.9% at the adult stage.

Levings, et al., 1986: Hatchery chinook used the estuary a shorter period of time than wild chinook. The greatest overlap between hatchery and wild chinook in the estuary is in the transition zone where greater competition could occur.

Mason, et al., 1997: Hatchery x wild and wild x wild crosses had higher survival in the natural stream compared to hatchery x hatchery crosses.

McClure : “Continued interbreeding with hatchery-origin fish of lower fitness can lower the fitness of the wild population. Generally, large, long-term hatchery programs that dominate production of a population is a high risk factor for certain viability criteria and can lead to increased risk for the population. The populations meeting ‘high viability’ criteria will necessarily be large and spatially complex. In order to meet these criteria (spatial structure and diversity) there should be little or no introgression between hatchery fish and the wild component of the population. Populations supported by hatchery supplementation for more than three generations do not in most cases meet ICTRT viability criteria at the population level.”

McLean et al. 1997: Hatchery steelhead spawning in the wild had markedly lower reproductive success than native wild steelhead. Wild females that spawned in 1996 produced 9 times as many adult offspring per capita as did hatchery females that spawned in the wild. Wild females that spawned in 1997 produced 42 times as many adult offspring as hatchery females. The wild steelhead population more than met replacement requirements (approximately 3.7 – 6.7 adult offspring were produced per female), but the hatchery steelhead were far below replacement (<0.5>

Meffe 1992: Countless salmon stocks have declined precipitously over the last century as a result of overfishing and widespread habitat destruction. A central feature of recovery efforts has been to build many hatcheries to produce large quantities of fish to restock streams. This approach addresses the symptoms but not the causes of the declines.

Miller, 1953: Hatchery cutthroat trout had lower survival compared to wild fish due to absence of natural selection at early life stages.

Miller et al. 1990: Over 300 (hatchery) supplementation projects were reviewed and the authors found: 1) examples of success at rebuilding self-sustaining anadromous fish runs with hatchery fish are scarce (22 out of 316 projects reviewed), 2) success was primarily from providing fish for harvest, and 3) adverse impacts to wild stocks have been shown or postulated for every type of hatchery fish introduction to rebuild runs.

Moran and Waples 2007: “…we show some compelling differences in reproductive success of hatchery and wild fish. Naturally spawning hatchery fish are less than half as productive as wild fish.”

Mullan, et al., 1992: Hatchery spring chinook produced more precocious males than wild chinook. This could be one factor in the low survival of hatchery fish.

Naish et al. 2008: If one concern has been identified, it is that many hatchery programmes continue to be operated with few objectives, and with a poor understanding of the magnitude and importance of the impacts of genetic effects of hatchery releases and the role of this information in informing remedial actions.
A rapidly growing body of literature points towards detrimental behavioral interactions between hatchery and wild fish. More is known about these interactions in freshwater rearing habitats than in estuarine and marine environments. There is also, however, a paucity of information on whether risk avoidance measures are effective at reducing competition and predation and, as far as we know, little attention is directed towards carrying capacity when the size of release is considered.

Nickelson 1986: Hatchery coho salmon have lower survival than wild coho relative to poor ocean productivity cycles. Hatchery coho juveniles are more abundant after stocking in streams but the result is fewer adult returns and fewer juvenile coho salmon in the next generation than in streams that were not stocked.

Nickelson 2003: To aid in the recovery of depressed wild salmon populations, the operation of hatcheries must be changed to reduce interactions of juvenile hatchery fish with wild fish.
Perry, et al. 1993: Idaho has been trying to unravel the secrets of hatchery and wild salmon interactions in nature. Since hatchery salmon do not survive as well as wild salmon, it is important to fix this problem. It is possible that a hatchery supplementation program may inadvertently replace the target natural population with one having lower survival and reproductive potential.

Ratliff, 1981: Wild fall chinook were more resistant to C. shasta than were hatchery chinook.

Reisenbichler, et al. 1977: His research shows that hatchery x hatchery crosses of steelhead fry survival was lower than for wild x wild crosses and wild x hatchery crosses in streams. Likewise he found that hatchery x hatchery crosses survived better in the hatchery environment. The hatchery fish were derived from local wild steelhead and had changed in performance in two generations of hatchery rearing. Conclusion: differences in survival suggested that the short-term effect of hatchery adults spawning in the wild is the production of fewer smolts and ultimately, fewer returning adults than are produced from the same number of wild steelhead spawners.

Reisenbichler 1986: Most (hatchery fish) outplanting programs have been unsuccessful. Rigorous planning, evaluation, and investigation are required to increase the likelihood of success and the ability to promptly discern failure.

Reisenbichler 1994: Gene flow from hatchery fish also is deleterious because hatchery populations genetically adapt to the unnatural conditions of the hatchery environment at the expense of adaptedness for living in natural streams. This domestication is significant even in the first generation of hatchery rearing.

Reisenbichler 1996: Available data suggest progressively declining fitness for natural rearing with increasing generations in the hatchery. The reduction in survival from egg to adult may be about 25% after one generation in the hatchery and 85% after six generations. Reduction in survival from yearling to adult may be about 15% after one generation in the hatchery and 67% after many generations.

RIST 2009: “Most information available indicates that artificially-propagated fish do have ecological impacts on wild salmonid populations under most conditions (e.g. a 50% reduction in productivity for steelhead in an Oregon population). To the degree that the trait distributions seen in wild salmon populations are adaptations to their environments, selection imposed by the hatchery environment could result in reduced fitness of hatchery fish in the wild.”

Shrimpton, et al., 1994: Juvenile hatchery coho showed a reduced tolerance to salt water compared to wild coho.

Slaney, et al., 1993: Hatchery adult steelhead strayed more than wild steelhead

Sosiak, et al., 1979: As juveniles, hatchery fish had less stomach fullness and fed on fewer taxa than wild fish. This was determined after hatchery fish were in streams from one to three months.

Steward et al. 1990: Authors reviewed 606 hatchery supplementation studies and found that few directly assessed the effects on natural stocks. Genetic and ecological effects and changes in productivity of the native stocks that can result remain largely unmeasured. However, the general failure of supplementation to achieve management objectives is evident from the continued decline of wild stocks.

Swain, et al. 1991: Hatchery coho salmon diverged from the wild fish in fin size and body dimensions. These were considered adaptations to the hatchery environment.

Taylor, 1986: Hatchery coho salmon diverged in body structure and variation from that of the wild coho.

Vincent 1987: Hatchery stocking ended in a Montana stream and wild trout more than doubled (160%) and the wild trout biomass increased by 10 times.

Waples 1991: Genetic interactions between hatchery and wild salmonids will increase as hatchery supplementation becomes a more dominate form of hatchery management.

Waples 1994: Hatchery captive brood stocks may shift genetic structure in natural populations.

Wohlfarth 1986: Stocking with hatchery stocks cannot replace wild productivity because hatchery fish are selected for adaptation to the hatchery environment and do not perform well in the natural environment.

Wood, et al., 1960: Hatchery coho salmon 14 months after release into a stream did not reach the body composition of the wild salmon in time for downstream migration

WDFW Fishery Economic Analysis


Governor Gregoire
Washington State

Dear Governor,

In looking over the economic report you requested from the WDFW I noticed that only the economic benefit of the Washington commercial and sport fishery were provided. While that is certainly important, this economic study should also include an assessment of how much it cost to provide the benefit. By calculating the cost to catch a fish in the fishery this cost benefit analysis can be completed.

Bill Bakke

WDFW Reforms To Protect Wild Steelhead

Commission adopts new policy on state's hatcheries and fisheries

OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today 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.

The commission, a nine-member citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), based its guidelines on recommendations issued by a group of scientists created by Congress in 2000 to review Washington’s hatchery system, which is among the largest in the world.

The new policy is intended to provide clear direction for WDFW, which has already begun to incorporate recommendations by the independent Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) into its hatchery-management practices.

Key provisions of the new policy, available on the commission’s website at, call on the department to:

Increasingly focus state commercial and recreational fisheries on the harvest of abundant hatchery stocks to support sustainable fisheries and reduce the number of hatchery fish spawning in rivers.

Develop and promote alternative fishing gear to maximize the catch of hatchery-origin fish with minimal mortality to native salmon and steelhead.

Improve the fitness and viability of wild salmon and steelhead runs by working toward a goal of meeting HSRG broodstock standards in all state hatchery programs by 2015.

Integrate hatchery-reform initiatives into comprehensive action plans designed to meet conservation and harvest goals for specific watersheds throughout the state.

The policy adopted by the commission also directs WDFW to seek necessary funding "from all potential sources" to implement these hatchery-reform measures, expand selective fisheries and ensure state facilities comply with standards for fish passage, water-intake screening and pollution control.

In Other News:

Wild steelhead advocates in Oregon are waiting patiently for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to take a positive stand to protect wild steelhead. They have been waiting for years now, but there has been no interest on the part of the department staff or commission.

The department recently told the public that it has decided to abandon its advocacy to kill wild winter steelhead on the North Umpqua and their threat that to start a new hatchery program on that river. They did say they would begin a coastal steelhead plan that would include a kill fishery for North Umpqua wild winter steelhead. So the public secured a stay of execution for these wonderful fish.

Thursday, November 5, 2009



By Rhine Messmer

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife


In Oregon there are 79 steelhead populations including 49 winter steelhead and 30 summer steelhead populations. These are grouped into Species Management Units (SMUs)

Winter Steelhead Status:

Oregon’s winter steelhead are found in the following SMUs: Coastal, Willamette, Rogue and Lower Columbia River.

Coastal SMU:

There are 23 populations classified as “Potentially at Risk” due to hatchery fish influence. The watersheds that fail the reproductive independence criteria include the Necanicum, Lower Nehalem, Wilson, Siletz, Yaquina, Alsea, Coos, Coquille, and South Coquille. Although no coastal winter steelhead populations are listed for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, they were listed as a candidate species in 1998.

Rogue SMU:

This population passed the interim Native Fish Conservation Policy criteria and is therefore classified as “Not At Risk.” This population of winter steelhead was determined by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to be not warranted for listing under the ESA in 2001.

Lower Columbia SMU:

There are 9 populations of winter steelhead in this SMU. These populations are classified as “At Risk” due to the lack of information on their status. Consequently, they failed the criteria for abundance, productivity, and reproductive independence. The lower Columbia River winter steelhead are listed as threatened by the NMFS under the ESA in 1998.

Willamette River SMU:

There are 9 winter steelhead populations in the Willamette River above Willamette Falls. This SMU is listed as “Potentially At Risk” due to distribution criteria. These populations include Rickreall Creek and the North and South Santiam rivers which all have passage blocked by dams. Winter steelhead in the Willamette SMU are listed (1999) as threatened by the NMFS under the ESA.

Summer Steelhead Status:

Wild, native summer steelhead populations are found in some coastal watersheds and many of the larger Columbia River tributaries from Hood River upstream to the Snake River.

Coastal Summer Steelhead SMU:

These populations are found in the Siletz and North Umpqua rivers and are classified as “Potentially At Risk” due to low productivity for the Siletz River population and failure of Reproductive Independence for the North Umpqua populations. Coastal summer steelhead are not listed under the ESA, but were listed as a Candidate species in 1998.

Rogue River Summer Steelhead SMU:

This SMU includes the middle and upper Rogue summer steelhead populations and because they passed all interim criteria under the Oregon Native Fish Conservation Policy they are classified as “Not At Risk.” Rogue summer steelhead were found to be “Not Warranted” for ESA listing in 2001.

Lower Columbia River Summer Steelhead SMU:

The only population in this SMU is the Hood River in Oregon. This SMU is listed as “At Risk” due to the failure to pass the abundance, productivity, and reproductive independence criteria under the Oregon Native Fish Conservation Policy. In addition, this population is listed as threatened by NMFS.

Middle Columbia River Summer Steelhead SMU:

There are 11 historic populations between The Dalles Dam and the Snake River. This SMU is classified as “At Risk.” Deschutes summer steelhead failed criteria for abundance, productivity, and independence. Many of the mid-Columbia River summer steelhead populations are affected by stray hatchery summer steelhead that originate from hatchery programs in the Snake River. The mid-Columbia River summer steelhead SMU was listed as threatened under the ESA in 1999. A draft recovery plan for the mid-Columbia summer steelhead has been completed.

Snake River Summer Steelhead SMU:

There are five Oregon summer steelhead populations in this SMU in tributaries flowing into the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam. This SMU is classified as “Not At Risk” by Oregon even though the NMFS has listed it as a threatened species under the ESA in 1997. The upper Grand Ronde population did not meet the productivity criteria under the Oregon Native Fish Conservation Policy due to low resiliency.

Klamath River Steelhead SMU:

There are two populations in the Klamath upstream from the Oregon-California border. This SMU is listed as “At Risk” due to failure to meet five of the six interim criteria under the Oregon Native Fish Conservation Policy.

Native Fish Conservation Policy Criteria:

1. Existing Populations criteria: At least 80% of historical populations are still in existence and not at risk of extinction in the near future.

2. Habitat Use Distribution criteria: Naturally produced members of a population occupy at least 50% of the historically used habitat in at least 3 of the last 5 years for at least 80% of the existing population.

3. Abundance criteria: The number of naturally produced fish is greater than 23% of average levels in at least 3 of the last 5 years for at least 80% of existing populations.

4. Productivity criteria: The population replacement rate for at least 80% of existing populations is at least 1.2 naturally produced adult offspring per parent in 3 of the last 5 years when total abundance was less than average returns of naturally produced fish.

5. Reproductive criteria: 90% or more of the spawners are naturally produced in at least 3 of the last 5 years for at least 80% of existing populations.

6. Hybridization criteria: Hybridization with non-native species is rare or nonexistent in 3 of the last 5 years for at least 80% of existing populations.