Council Response to Oregon Public Broadcasting Story on Hatcheries

On May 24, Oregon Public Broadcasting published an article on salmon hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin. In response, the Council submitted a letter to the editor of The Oregonian/Oregon Live. The text of the letter, published July 10, follows:

Salmon hatcheries don’t deserve blame

As many salmon runs struggle in the Columbia River Basin, hatcheries are helping restore naturally spawning runs in combination with other mitigation actions including improvements to salmon habitat, fish passage at dams, and careful management of tribal and non-tribal harvest.

A recent article by Oregon Public Broadcasting and Pro Publica repeated long-stale criticisms of salmon hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin, blaming hatcheries for the current poor state of salmon abundance while ignoring the reasons we have hatcheries at all. We have hatcheries because more than 40% of the habitat where salmon once spawned no longer is available and most of what is left is not capable of supporting healthy, natural salmon production without help. Every hatchery facility in the Columbia River Basin exists to mitigate the impacts to fish habitat from the construction and operation of dams and other human developments. Using hatcheries to help mitigate these impacts is critical to support carefully managed tribal and non-tribal fisheries.

Modern hatcheries incorporate the benefits of science and make the difference between empty rivers and healthy runs.

Hatcheries fulfill objective such as providing fish for conservation-based fisheries, supporting re-introduction and restoration efforts, upholding treaty obligations to tribes, rebuilding natural salmon runs, and saving species from extinction.

The OPB/Pro Publica story implies that salmon would be better off without hatcheries.

However, doing nothing to help the fish and uphold tribal trust responsibilities would be irresponsible to the tribes, the fish and to the region.

Guy Norman
Chair, Northwest Power and Conservation Council


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