[Introductory letter to Council Chair John Etchart, December 1, 1998]
I am pleased to transmit to you the Scientific Review Team's (SRT) first report on the review of hatchery programs in the Columbia River Basin. This version of the report corrects some typographically errors in our November report but is not substantively different. The report includes an historical overview of artificial production within the Basin; a scientific foundation derived from this overview, a review of science and impacts related to artificial production of salmonids, and our recommendations on appropriate measures to take when artificial production is used in the Basin. These recommendations, taken with the results of the analysis phase of this assignment, will constitute our contribution to the development of policy to guide the use of federally funded hatcheries in the future.
Our review is, however, only one of four recent scientific reviews on this topic. Comparing those reviews (NFHRP 1994, ISG 1996, NRC 1996) shows consensus on ten conclusions, of which we also agreed on seven:
- Hatcheries have generally failed to meet their objectives.
- Hatcheries have imparted adverse effects on natural populations.
- Managers have failed to evaluate hatchery programs.
- Rationale justifying hatchery production was based on untested assumptions.
- Supplementation should be linked with habitat improvements.
- Genetic considerations have to be included in hatchery programs.
- More research and experimental approaches are required.
Those reviews also recommend discontinuing stock transfers and introduction of non-native species, a new role for artificial production in fisheries management, and that hatcheries should be used as temporary refuges rather than for long-term production. In general these are also appropriate for consideration in the Columbia River basin, but realistically some variation may need to occur in specific instances. For example, stock transfers will be used where the endemic stock has been extirpated. Finally, the reviews expressed the conviction that hatcheries can only succeed if the region makes significant changes in hatchery programs. Based on past evidence, such expectation is bereft of proof and will have to be carefully assessed.
In summary, our report concludes that:
- Hatcheries have failed to mitigate for the effects of habitat loss and damage in the Columbia River Basin.
- Past hatcheries practices have failed to take into account the biological diversity of salmonids and the role of environmental factors in their life history.
- Hatcheries will likely continue to have a role in the development and conservation of salmonids in the Columbia River basin, but a radically different production model (objectives and rearing strategies) is needed. Hatcheries should be considered experimental and carefully monitored to minimize impacts on natural populations and for effective management.
- Future hatchery practices need to recognize the importance of the genetic structure and diversity in salmonids, the importance of maintaining adaptability to future environmental changes, and how to integrate this production within the emerging ecological framework that is to guide management of resources in the Columbia River.
- Hatcheries must be considered in the context of functioning ecosystems. Production from hatcheries can not be considered independent of natural systems. The success of a hatchery program will depend on the fitness of the stock, the quality and constraints of the natural habitat, and how well the hatchery production is integrated with the natural ecosystem.
- The region, through the Council, needs to implement a scientifically valid monitoring program for assessment of hatchery procedures, production, impact on natural populations, and achievement of goals. Given the extensive annual investment in hatchery programs within this basin, and the reliance implied on these programs to conserve and enhance salmonid production, we must recommend more quantitative evaluations of production and studies of interactions with natural populations.
The SRT will continue its analysis of hatchery programs and database for the Basin, and expects to finalize our review and recommendations by June 30, 1999.
Chip McConnaha, Chair
Scientific Review Team