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Thread: Hatchery Salmon. Why is it bad

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    Default Hatchery Salmon. Why is it bad

    I have a question for you. Why is it bad to supplement salmon runs with hatchery fish? If you took kings from the Kenai for your eggs and milt, reared them in a hatchery and released them back in the Kenai would they not be the same as wild? Just wondering why the difference.

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    Default the answer is no.

    Quote Originally Posted by kgpcr View Post
    I have a question for you. Why is it bad to supplement salmon runs with hatchery fish? If you took kings from the Kenai for your eggs and milt, reared them in a hatchery and released them back in the Kenai would they not be the same as wild? Just wondering why the difference.
    This is really complicated to answer in a forum. I would suggest you maybe read for a primer UPSTEAM, Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest that was put out by the National Research Council published in 1996. National Academy Press. ISBN 0-309-05325-0

    Some of the issues are that the hatchery is a selective force on genetic diversity and natural selection, harvest patterns can be altered significantly on hatchery fish thus causing wild sub-populations to be overharvested, hatcheries have been used to justify elimination of wild stocks - we can have hatchery fish and therefore can dam this or that river or log this drainage or take water out of the stream or a variety of other reasons.

    The above book is a good primer on the issues facing Alaska. We are entering into these same issues and failing so far just like the Pacific Northwest did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    We are entering into these same issues and failing so far just like the Pacific Northwest did.

    +1

    The worst mistake fish agencies can make is to pollute a perfectly healthy run of wild salmon with a bunch of hatchery turds.
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    genetics are always being selected for. those traits that work well allow a fish (or a plant) to prosper and reproduce. if they don't work well than death occurs before reproduction and the traits are not passed on

    plant breeders have learned a lot about genetics.

    they want a particular kind of plant. say someone grows lots of cabbage and selects only the ones that make the largest heads, collects seeds from those seeds and plants them, and repeat a couple of times. what they find is that in the process of selecting BIG cabbage, they also select for a lot of other genes/traits that they aren't paying attention to. Maybe in the process they select for a gene which confers resistance (or susceptibility) to a fungus disease, or maybe the heads are prone to cracking because they grow so large, or... you get the idea. (this is why a lot of produce in the grocery stores tastes like garbage, by the way, they sure aren't selecting for taste with a lot of fruits and veggies)

    so in wild stocks of salmon, eggs are only deposited by those hens that make it to the spawning grounds. think how many thousands of eggs are deposited (with different gene combinations in each).

    then they are fertilized by the males with lots of sperm (different gene combos in each one).

    once fertilized, how many eggs survive the winter? not all, that's for sure.

    once they hatch the fry sure do spend a long time in the freshwaters. think how many fall pray to various diseases, predators, floods, etc. those that survive are bound to be very fit in the ecological sense before they even make it to the salt. they definitely won't be the wusses with poor immune systems (or that are poor swimmers)

    compare that to hatchery production. Very different conditions and not nearly as rigorous selection in terms of which survive and which don't.


    you wind up with very different fish from a hatchery. nature selects the toughest and best adapted...humans...not so much.




    in addition there is the simple fact that a percieved need for hatcheries suggests that the demands on the resource are exceeding the harvestable surplus. substituting hatchery fish allows managers to ignore other problems (that may actually be causing a low harvestable surplus) i am not saying they don't have their place but we simply can't do it as well as the rivers can. no way, no how.


    so that is my take, i really am not an expert and there may be a lot of other things that I am unaware of but I think most of what I have said is accurate. i'm interested to read the report posted by nerka, thankyou for the recommendation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    +1

    The worst mistake fish agencies can make is to pollute a perfectly healthy run of wild salmon with a bunch of hatchery turds.
    you mean like sheep and campbell creeks? I agree

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    Default Hatchery fish

    Concerns include:
    1. Can mask declines in wild production as the habitat is degraded.
    2. Encourages overfishing of wild fish which can't sustain the same high harvest rates.
    3. Inadvertent selection in the hatchery can affect genetics with detrimental impacts when the hatchery fish breed in the wild.
    4. Ecological effects of hatchery on wild fish due to competition or predation.
    5. Other impacts such as disease magnification in the hatchery, broodstock mining from the wild, hatchery weirs which block natural production areas, etc.

    At the same time hatchery fish can be a very valuable tool where used wisely to:
    1. Provide fishery opportunity & economic value.
    2. Conserve, reintroduce or restore depleted runs.
    3. Provide research or monitoring subjects.

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    Bfish hit the nail on the head...
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    I know its not a good thing i was just wondering the biology of it. We had upper and lower Red lakes in MN that were gill netted to the point the walleyes crashed. Not enough to repopulate the lake. It was disgusting to say the least. Anyway they restocked it with walleye fry from Lake Vermillion and the comeback is mind blowing. They are now self sustaining and its been a huge success. Just wondering why it would not work with salmon. Again i know its not a good thing just wondering the biology of it.

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    There are other potentially negative consequences related to hatchery fish. For instance, and I believe it's been discussed here, there is compelling evidence linking the crash of PWS crab stocks to the millions of additional hatchery pinks dumped into the sound.

    The pink smolt feed on zooplankton and other small invertebrates in the upper water column. Crab larvae live there too, feeding on phytoplankton until they grow to about 2mm in size. Then they sink to the bottom and commence their lives as crabs, but while still in the larval stage near the surface they are vulnerable to predation by salmon smolt.

    The unintended consequence of the political decision to pump extra pinks into a watershed with robust wild runs is it appears to have overtaxed the food base.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

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    Default A little more

    Quote Originally Posted by kgpcr View Post
    I know its not a good thing i was just wondering the biology of it. We had upper and lower Red lakes in MN that were gill netted to the point the walleyes crashed. Not enough to repopulate the lake. It was disgusting to say the least. Anyway they restocked it with walleye fry from Lake Vermillion and the comeback is mind blowing. They are now self sustaining and its been a huge success. Just wondering why it would not work with salmon. Again i know its not a good thing just wondering the biology of it.
    Bfish had a good summary. In my opinion hatcheries should be used in a selective manner. For example, there are lakes in the Susitna drainage that have no salmon anymore due to pike. If pike are removed an arguement can be made to reintroduce salmon using hatchery stock to jump start the system.

    Hatcheries are also used to plant fish in land locked lakes for sport use.

    Your question had to do with wild stocks and in those cases where wild stocks exist hatchery use should not be used if the wild stock can recover on its own.

    PWS will someday be written up for what it is - a mess relative to impact of hatchery stocks on wild pink salmon populations and the system as a whole.

    Hatcheries also provide industry with a way out of environmental damage in the short term but not the long term. For example, in the Pacific Northwest industry said we can use this piece of land and salmon habitat we will just replace it with a hatchery. Did not work very well and was very costly in terms of the environmental and operational costs.

    Let me give you an example close to home. The Trail Lake Hatchery started by the State of Alaska and turned over to CIAA costs about 1.2 million a year to run. It produces enought sockeye to pay for its costs and to date a small common property fishery.

    However, there is over 3 million dollars in outstanding work that needs to be done to maintain the buildings, keep the wells going, and fix other issues. A single failure due to disease or other unforeseen cause is 1.2 million dollars down the drain. To plan for this CIAA is building a budget reserve which is the proper business practice and eventually the hatchery will be on more solid foundation relative to money. But it is a big risk and the benifit/cost ratio is still not decided on this facility at this point.

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    Nerka and Bfish have captured the essence of the issues surrounding hatchery production.

    Bottom line, a salmon hatchery serves one of three primary purposes:

    1) A mechanism to fuel and feed unsustainable harvest practices. These "harvest" hatcheries were deemed the solution to cure the insatiable appetite to HARVEST HARVEST HARVEST.

    2) A mechanism to mitigate for lost natural salmon production brought on by progress. These "mitigation" hatcheries were deemed the "easy" solution to pay for man's assault on the land and water.

    3) A mechanism to restore depleted runs of salmon. These "conservation" hatcheries seek to bring back depleted or extirpated salmon populations, but at GREAT cost.

    Historically speaking, salmon hatcheries came about as an untested means to sustain obscene harvest practices. Nearly 150 years ago, Pacific salmon runs on the West Coast were already on the decline from unchecked over-harvest. As fewer and fewer fish were available to fill fishermens' nets, managers turned to fish culture as the easy answer. (FYI the first "harvest" hatchery was built in 1872! ) The spawning tributaries were mined for wild eggs under the dangerous conceit that man could artificially produce salmon better than nature.

    As land and water use practices in the PNW continued to favor "progress" over conservation, hatcheries were (and continue to be) proposed as the solution to "mitigate" for lost natural production. As the industrial boom laid waste to natural land- and water-scapes, dozens of huge hatcheries were built as compensation to artificially produce what nature no longer could. The only problem is that what was once considered a relatively "cheap" and "easy" solution to mitigate for progress is far from either. Folks here in the PNW know all too well these days just how expensive all that "cheap" hydro-electricity really is. And we've created a very complex and disjointed group of federal state and local agencies to manage it all at tremendous cost.

    And now as we enter a more "enlightened" age of salmon conservation, the same worn out solution of artificial fish culture is once again being touted as the "right" choice. With only remnants of once viable salmon populations remaining, hatcheries continue to be proposed as the mechanism to bring them back.

    In the world of salmon, hatcheries have repeatedly served as the politically popular "feel good" alternative to the vastly more politically unpopular choice of sound stewardship. The God honest truth is that the hatchery solution in all its various "fish-saving" renditions over the past 138 years has FAILED miserably.

    Alaska is the last stronghold of wild Pacific salmon in the US. Civilized man has managed to destroy most of the world's productive salmon habitat and depleted what once appeared to be inexhaustible runs of free wealth provided by wild salmon. Hatcheries did nothing to substantively change that course... except perhaps to accelerate it by giving society a convenient short-term easy "out" from making the correct but politically and economically tough long-term decisions required to sustain salmon into the future.

    Let's hope Alaska fish managers and land-use policymakers finally get it right.
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    I was asking as i was wondering if you can re establish salmon in a river where for one reason or another they have been decimated or if they are gone forever. Thanks for all the info! Very good reading! Its just scary when i hear of things like Pebble and so forth that could really impact a river. Personaly i think every mile of all salmon rivers should be off limits to dams and anything that will or can damage a salmon river. A mile or two here and mile or two there just a dam or two and you have the west coast.

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    The ultimate proof that "conservation" hatcheries actually work is that they eventually work themselves out of a job.... the hatchery plants can actually cease because the wild population has either been jumpstarted toward self-sustaining recovery or has actually been restored to historic abundance.

    Here in the PNW, I've done a fairly exhaustive search on that very subject. Of the many so-called "conservation" hatchery programs implemented in the region virtually NONE have succeeded in restoring self-sustaining populations of wild fish.

    The singular exception is a population of wild Hood Canal chum.

    The biggest impediment to recovery is that hatchery fish have markedly diminished reproductive fitness in the wild. While it is very easy to take wild fish into a concrete environment and artificially amplify their reproductive potential, allowing the returning hatchery fish back onto the gravel fails to sustain that reproductive potential. The hatchery-raised adults may in fact seed the available spawning habitat, and their hatched young may in fact colonize the available juvenile rearing habitat, but very few adult recruits are produced. In many cases, naturally spawning hatchery fish are incapable of mere replacement. In some cases, they produce adult returns statistically indistinguishable from ZERO.

    The longer the fish are reared in a hatchery environment, the greater the loss in reproductive fitness due to domestication effects. The more generations a hatchery pedigree is allowed to persist (recycling hatchery fish back into the broodstock over multiple generations), the greater the loss in reproductive fitness. Bottom line, selection pressures for hatchery fish work to promote traits that favor survival in a concrete tank.... selection pressures for wild fish work to promote traits that benefit survival in the natural world. Despite very similar outward appearances, those selection pressures produce two very different kinds of fish.

    So it is NOT surprising that the only example of a conservation hatchery that has worked would be in a population of chum. Chum have a unique life history with a very limited juvenile in-river residence. The hatchery is basically just there to amplify egg-to-fry recruitment. The young fish are barely held/fed before releasing them back to the wild, where they rapidly smolt up and head to sea. There is no prolonged artificial coddling of the dumb/deaf/blind/weak/infirm. Just the brutal and relentless selection pressures of the wild environment. In the end it produces a fitter fish with much greater reproductive potential.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kgpcr View Post
    I was asking as i was wondering if you can re establish salmon in a river where for one reason or another they have been decimated or if they are gone forever. Thanks for all the info! Very good reading! Its just scary when i hear of things like Pebble and so forth that could really impact a river. Personaly i think every mile of all salmon rivers should be off limits to dams and anything that will or can damage a salmon river. A mile or two here and mile or two there just a dam or two and you have the west coast.
    Alaska was a virtual ice cube 10,000 years ago and salmon established themselves just fine W/O the use of hatcheries.... Interesting that man may think we can enhace this process artificially... This appears to work in the absence of healthy wild fish numbers or in preditors absence.

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    Default info

    Quote Originally Posted by Erik in AK View Post
    There are other potentially negative consequences related to hatchery fish. For instance, and I believe it's been discussed here, there is compelling evidence linking the crash of PWS crab stocks to the millions of additional hatchery pinks dumped into the sound.
    Erik, where can one find the evidence? I'd like to read it. what kind of crab are you talking about? Tanners?, kings ?, dungies?

    I'll tell you a little secret tho, tanners are coming back. I''ve seen a lot of small ones in my shrimp pots, and even had some big ones come up as riders. I don't think ADF@G has done a survey in years tho.

    Funny tho, Southeast also has some major hatchery releases and there doesn't seem to be a crab problem there.
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    Thumbs up Beneficial

    The Hatcheries and the hatching process' have proven to be very beneficial to Alaska. Many would be suprised to learn the facts. There are now runs in Copper River, on Kodiak and along the UCI and elsewhere, that are all pretty much Hatchery Runs. There are small runs that return to peoples places in PWS and Katchemak Bay that they spawn in buckets and release into the small ditch creeks that are in close proximity to their houses. The runs return to their catching grounds, so they don't have to waste gas to go after them. Most of the Kings along the Parks Hwy now are hatchery fish. We wiped out the Natural Runs pretty quick after our population increase during and after the pipeline. We can no longer depend on Natural Runs. The demand out strips the Natural Production, so we have found ourselves using the oceans for our fish farms. Better than Pen Raised ones that the Scandinavians produce. And the Omega Fats in Pen Raised is less. The Copper River Hatchery Reds are highly prized by fish eaters around the world and always bring a premium price. The excess fish, mostly pinks but all species in certain locales that can't be processed, due to the canneries being overburdened, all wind up getting dumped back into the ocean for crab food or turned into mush for dog and animal food. Most fishermen and tourists can't tell the difference when looking at them or eating them, so they are good to go there and a much better alternative than them not having a little fun. Some new hatcheries are now coming on line soon and more are being considered. We must augment the runs or we will face fish shortages as we have never seen in the past.
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    Default Beneficial... YGTBFK, right?

    Break out the shovels... it's getting mighty deep.

    The most valuable lesson we can learn from the PNW experience is that hatch and wild DO NOT MIX.

    The best hatchery program is NONE at all.

    Next best is a purely segregated put-and-take hatch program where any hatchery surpluses can be culled out before hitting the gravel. SEGREGATION is the key.... spatial, temporal, and genetic. Make 'em, harvest the hell out of 'em, and then kill what can't be caught by anglers and commies. None should be allowed to spawn. ALL HATCHERY FISH MUST DIE! Donate the excess carcasses to food banks if they are palatable, else distribute them in the headwaters for nutrient enhancement. That is the highest and best use of hatchery fish.

    Anytime you pour hatchery fish on top of wild runs, the wild fish WILL suffer. Wild fish will be forced to bear unsustainable exploitation rates, ecessive harvest pressures intended for factory-produced fish. Then there are the negative impacts if reproductively misfit hatchery-raise spawners are allowed co-mingle on the gravel with wild-born spawners. That's a recipe for disaster because it can only diminish the reproductive capacity from that same piece of gravel. As the productivity of the wild-spawning population diminishes, you get all the folks whining about how natural production sucks and can never meet the angler/consumer demand for fish. Eventually, they'll just clamor for more and more hatchery plants to fuel the fishery demands. Repeated over many cycles, eventually the natural production is diminished to the point that it is essentially replaced by hatchery production. Society basically trades out natural fish in favor of hatchery fish.... a choice from which there is no turning back. Many of the runs here in the PNW are 90% hatchery fish.... the wild ones in those systems don't stand a chance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    As the productivity of the wild-spawning population diminishes, you get all the folks whining about how natural production sucks and can never meet the angler/consumer demand for fish. Eventually, they'll just clamor for more and more hatchery plants to fuel the fishery demands. Repeated over many cycles, eventually the natural production is diminished to the point that it is essentially replaced by hatchery production. Society basically trades out natural fish in favor of hatchery fish.... a choice from which there is no turning back. Many of the runs here in the PNW are 90% hatchery fish.... the wild ones in those systems don't stand a chance.
    It is not JUST PNW. We in Alaska are already there as well and in fact have been for quite some time. You are correct, there is "no turning back". We have made our bed and now we gotta sleep in it. Instead of dissing the hatcheries and the process, we have to learn to embrace it and make it better. The high sea catch rate of the Russian, Japanese and Asian Fleets and Factory Mother Ships, as well as the Domestic Commercial take has pretty much assured the demise of Natural Runs in the Pacific and Bering. The lakes along or in close proximity to the Road System have been cleaned out pretty well and most are now hatchery fed. Only exceptions are for grayling and lake trout. Won't be long for the lake trout though, as they are getting hammered pretty well in winter now as never before. More/better snowmobiles have changed the scene for ice fishing opportunities, as they have really opened up a lot of territory.

    If we don't get on board and make it happen, it ain't gonna happen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    There are small runs that return to peoples places in PWS and Katchemak Bay that they spawn in buckets and release into the small ditch creeks that are in close proximity to their houses. The runs return to their catching grounds, so they don't have to waste gas to go after them.
    I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are you saying that individuals are taking eggs and planting them into streams near their homes? I can see where F&G stocks fish in Kachemak Bay (Seldovia, Halibut Cove, Fishing Hole) but that's it. How would an individual actually accomplish stocking a small ditch creek without hatching out the eggs and growing them to smolt size?


    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    Most of the Kings along the Parks Hwy now are hatchery fish.
    Can you list the Parks Hwy streams that are all hatchery fish? Deception Creek is the only stream F&G stocks. Birch, Caswell, Goose, Little Willow, Sheep, Greys, Rabideaux, Sunshine, Trapper, Kashwitna, Montana, none of these streams are stocked.

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    Default Hatchery Bashing

    A lot of anti-hatchery sentiment on this thread. And, a lot of it deserved. But don't forget that there are also success stories. Crooked Creek is a prime example--probably one of the best chinook salmon restoration projects on the west coast. From less than 300 fish in the mid-late 70's returns of over 5,000 annually have been realized over the past 30 years through the hatchery program. A new and major fishery was created, whether you like it or not. In some years the return to Crooked Creek exceeds that of the early run to the Kenai. Some fishing pressure is taken off the early Kenai chinook run and I'm sure it has been quite a boost to the economy (just ask a few drift boat guides.) And yes, there are always some problems. There are really no wild fish left in Crooked Creek. They all at this point have genes from fish run through the hatchery program. But, you know what, they seem to spawn just fine, and produce a quality fish back. I have never heard a claim that a hatchery chinook (ID by adipose clip) fought any less or tasted any different that an unmarked king. And yes, there has been some straying into the Kenai and probably elsewhere. But has this been a problem? There is natural straying in all populations, wild and hatchery. That is how wiped out streams (earthquake, floods etc.) get repopulated.

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