The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released the findings of a comprehensive scientific review of 19 salmon and steelhead hatchery programs currently operating in the Central Valley of California and on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
The findings were announced during a briefing at the state-operated Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Gold River, Calif., and involved leaders from the Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Game and Hoopa Valley Tribe.
The review was administered through the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in Portland, Ore. The Service, NMFS, CDFG, Hoopa Valley Tribe, and Yurok Tribe oversaw the review process and production of the final report. The goals of the California Scientific Hatchery Review Project were to provide recommendations to:
-- Improve the hatchery operations
-- Reduce the impact of hatchery operations on natural salmon and steelhead populations
-- Support sustainable commercial, tribal, and recreational fisheries
A panel of 11 fishery scientists and biologists, appointed as the California Hatchery Scientific Review Group (California HSRG), conducted the review, which was directed by Congress in 2010 and funded by the Service.
The California HSRG used available scientific information to produce consensus recommendations for changes in hatchery practices.
The recommendations include: 1) improving management of broodstock to ensure production of genetically diverse fish appropriate to the program’s basin; 2) re-evaluating the size and release strategy of hatchery programs to prevent inappropriately high levels of hatchery returns and to reduce rates of straying; 3) improving incubation, rearing and fish health procedures to increase hatchery survival and reduce the risk of fish disease; 4) increasing monitoring and evaluation of hatchery programs to assess impacts of hatchery programs on natural stocks and determine if programs are meeting their goals; 5) reducing the direct effect of hatchery operations on habitats and organisms within their watersheds.
“These recommendations provide useful guidance to state and federal policy makers, and will inform how salmon and steelhead hatcheries in California are operated,” said Dan Castleberry, assistant regional director for Fisheries with the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.
California HSRG recommendations address a range of factors, from operating hatcheries themselves to the number of hatchery fish released and monitoring them in the natural environment. Policy makers from agencies and Tribes say they will use the recommendations to work with the entities that operate hatcheries to implement changes. More information, including the California HSRG’s report and recommendations, can be found online at www.CAhatcheryreview.com
With numerous fish species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, Congress has identified salmon conservation as a high priority. Hatchery program reviews were first completed in Puget Sound and coastal Washington (2004). In 2005, Congress directed NOAA Fisheries to replicate the process in the Columbia River Basin in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Salmon and steelhead hatcheries in California include:
Coleman National Fish Hatchery – USFWS
Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery – USFWS
Feather River Hatchery – CDFG
Iron Gate Hatchery – CDFG
Merced River Hatchery – CDFG
Mokelumne River Hatchery – CDFG
Nimbus Fish Hatchery – CDFG
Trinity River Hatchery – CDFG