Monday, December 9, 2019
Dec. 9, 2019

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Letter: Hatchery fish programs ineffective

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Published: May 5, 2019, 6:00am

Regarding the assertion some anglers have made that more hatchery fish can be produced and that wild and hatchery fish can coexist — are you kidding?

We have ridden the hatchery unicorn for over 100 years. If it worked, we would be awash in fish. Instead, wild stocks are either extinct or nearly so and hatchery returns have steadily declined.

The evidence is clear: commingling hatchery fish with wild populations causes immediate, significant harm to the wild stocks. WDFW has studied the impacts of hatchery/wild interactions on the Kalama River for over 25 years. Even if the states met the goal of no more than 5 percent hatchery-to-wild ratio, after four generations the wild fish reproductive potential is reduced by 35 percent.

Typical hatchery steelhead return rates are 0.003 at best (i.e. for every 1,000 steelhead smolts released, 3 adults return) of which no more than two are caught. We release 170 pounds of fish. Two adult fish (20 pounds) are caught at a cost of about $500 each. Nobody would run a business on this basis. Before we waste more money on this failed paradigm, agencies should conduct an audit of the fiscal, economic, ecologic and social costs of existing hatchery programs to assess the efficacy.

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