Use hatchery programs as tools to help meet the mitigation requirements of the Northwest Power Act.


Hatcheries and other propagation measures are operated for multiple purposes: to provide mitigation, species protection, population conservation, research, and frequently some combination of these purposes. The majority of hatchery propagation facilities in the Columbia Basin are authorized and operated to mitigate for the construction and operation of the hydropower system. The Council also acknowledges the commitments made by federal, state, and tribal governments to implement propagation actions consistent with the Northwest Power Act, Endangered Species, Indian treaty rights and other laws, including commitments associated with on-going court cases such as United States v Oregon.

Since habitat restoration actions cannot, by themselves, meet protection and mitigation requirements of the Northwest Power Act, the Council supports propagation to help meet program objectives including replacement of wild fish loss as a result of habitat degradation and dam construction. Over the last 25 years, salmon propagation practices have undergone extensive reviews by the Council, state and federal agencies, Indian tribes, and independent science panels, with particular attention following the listing of several salmon and steelhead species in the basin.

In addition, the body of scientific literature concerning hatchery programs has grown tremendously in the last 10 years. The literature and the reviews mentioned above indicate the risks and benefits of hatchery programs need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, these reviews have laid a scientific foundation to guide hatchery strategies to address the specific population mitigation and other management objectives in each watershed in the basin.

In 2009, the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) conducted a detailed, thorough, and comprehensive review of hatchery programs in the Columbia River Basin. The HSRG Report was updated in 2014. The resulting population-specific recommendations were intended to provide scientific guidance for managing each hatchery more effectively in the future. The HSRG review did not end with the aforementioned recommendations because it went on to say that these were not the only options for operating hatchery programs more effectively. In its 2014 report the HSRG stated:

The central message of the HSRG is that the impacts of hatchery fish on naturally spawning populations must be carefully considered when planning and operating harvest augmentation and mitigation hatcheries and that the best available science should be used when informing decision makers about the trade-offs involved.

The Council understands the hatchery operators have considered the HSRG review as guidance in developing hatchery and genetic management plans (HGMPs) for each hatchery program. In addition, the Council relies on Bonneville and the Coordinated Assessment partners to provide the hatchery performance data needed to monitor the effectiveness of hatcheries funded by Bonneville.

There are several propagation strategies that are implemented in the basin including segregated programs to maintain fish abundance for harvest, integrated programs to complement wild fish restoration and provide harvest benefits, supplementation and captive rearing programs to bolster weak wild populations, and reintroduction programs to replace fish populations that have been lost completely. The Council defers to the agencies and tribes to define the scope and purpose(s) of the hatchery and fish propagation methods, as well as the appropriate management techniques, consistent with current and evolving scientific principles. The Council will ensure that research, data collection, and reporting methods allow for meaningful evaluation of hatcheries and fish propagation measures at both the local and landscape level, to assure consistency with program goals and objectives.


Hatcheries should:

  • Follow an adaptive management approach that uses research and monitoring data to understand, at multiple scales, how hatcheries are performing
  • Operate according to sound scientific principles for fish recovery and to fully meet federal and other legal obligations for fish protection, mitigation and enhancement within the altered Columbia River ecosystem
  • Support viable salmonid population (VSP) characteristics to enhance wild populations, including abundance, productivity, spatial distribution, and diversity
  • Use an adaptive-management process that address variability in environmental conditions and in fish productivity and escapement levels, and includes aggressive monitoring to evaluate risks, benefits, and address scientific uncertainties
  • Operate within the broader basin, regional, and global systems
  • Restore, maintain, or minimize impacts upon species diversity to help ensure their resiliency
  • Where appropriate, use locally adapted fish as the model for successful rebuilding and restoration of depleted populations in their native habitat
  • Use appropriate marking strategies for hatchery-produced salmon and steelhead that enable effective management of the population-specific strategies in the basin and provide for appropriate harvest opportunities
  • Externally mark hatchery produced Chinook, coho, and steelhead that are intended to be used for directed harvest consistent with any applicable state policy, or for conservation or research needs. External mark use will require state-tribal agreement in some cases (e.g. United States v Oregon) to fully meet federal and other legal obligations for fish protection and recovery, mitigation, and enhancement.
  • Set clear goals and identify specific criteria for evaluating hatchery performance
  • Mitigate for losses in fish survival and in fish production. Agencies and tribes are encouraged to investigate new locations and opportunities to expand treaty and non-treaty harvest, including the reprogramming or expansion of hatchery production and selective harvest.
  • Operate in consideration of other factors that influence species abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity, and relative to legal principles, including but not limited to tribal treaty rights
  • Operate based on conditions that are unique to every location. Agencies and tribes and operators will tailor hatchery program goals and objectives, performance criteria, and corresponding hatchery management practices in consideration of several local factors, including but not limited to, the status and recovery goals for local fish aggregations, the quantity and quality of fish habitat, environmental conditions, and relevant land use and other regulations.

General measures for comprehensive research, monitoring, assessment and reporting on hatchery effectiveness

  • For Bonneville-funded hatchery programs, Bonneville shall locate and operate propagation actions to complement the present and future management activities of the region’s agencies and appropriate Indian tribes, including complements to habitat improvements by supplementing native fish populations.
  • The Council’s research plan will identify critical uncertainties related to hatchery performance in the Northwest. This includes determining the effectiveness of hatchery programs in meeting their intended purposes and minimizing adverse impacts to natural-origin fish.
  • Bonneville should support the use of standardized performance measures by the agencies and tribes to inform effectiveness of various propagation strategies in meeting intended hatchery goals.
  • The Council intends to use available reporting mechanisms where possible.
  • The Council requests that NOAA Fisheries annually update the Council on the status of ESA reviews for state and tribal HGMPs.
  • Where feasible, trends in abundance, productivity, distribution and, diversity of supplemented populations shall be compared to non-supplemented populations in “reference streams” before, during, and after implementation of the production effort.
  • The Council requests that NOAA advise the Council on the utility of updating the list of reference streams first identified by the Ad Hoc Supplementation Workgroup that are linked to distinct population segments (DPSs), and populations within evolutionarily significant units (ESUs).
  • The Council also requests NOAA share with the Council the results of NOAA status reviews of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead ESUs and DPSs as the reviews are completed.
  • Recovery plans have been or are in the process of being developed for each of the listed salmon ESUs and steelhead DPSs in the Columbia River Basin. Each recovery plan includes or will include viability criteria, or targets that are based on the biological parameters of abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity. Viability criteria, together with threats criteria, are considered when determining whether a species warrants delisting.
  • Hatchery program implementation, monitoring, and evaluation results for all hatchery programs in the Columbia River Basin should be made electronically available and hatchery operators and funders should coordinate annual summary presentations to the Council.
  • Hatchery summary presentations should include adaptive management actions implemented or planned to improve effectiveness in meeting intended hatchery goals or changes in goals to meet broader basin management strategies.
  • To promote a diversified approach to hatchery management, hatchery operators will aspire to improve hatchery program performance and, in coordination with agencies and tribes, will seek-out opportunities to test and monitor alternative hatchery strategies and approaches and alternative hatchery practices.
  • To facilitate compliance monitoring, agencies and tribes will monitor their hatchery programs for compliance with federal, state, and other relevant requirements and will make this information readily available.
  • The Council continues to support PIT tagging and detection, coded wire tagging and recovery, acoustic and radio tagging and tracking, and genetic tagging and recovery. These all work together to help assure adequate effectiveness monitoring, and other monitoring as necessary, throughout fish life cycles and across various fish environments.
  • In consideration of best available scientific information the Council will rely on information provided by the independent science panels and the agencies and tribes regarding hatchery science. The agencies and tribes will continue and expand their investments in research, monitoring and evaluation for the purpose of reducing uncertainties and improving hatchery performance, including developing a better understanding of the benefits and risks of hatchery programs.

Link to subbasin plans

See the Council’s subbasin plans for information pertaining to hatcheries within the subbasins.