A male pink salmon fights its way up stream to spawn in a Southeast Alaska stream in August 2010.

A male pink salmon fights its way up stream to spawn in a Southeast Alaska stream in August 2010.

More Pacific hatchery salmon could receive protections

BOISE, Idaho — Federal authorities want to add more hatchery-raised fish to the 28 Pacific Coast salmon and steelhead stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service in a document made public Friday said 23 hatchery programs could produce fish genetically similar to their wild but struggling cousins and should have the option of receiving federal protections.

The agency recently completed a five-year review required for listed species and plans no changes to the threatened or endangered status for the salmon and steelhead populations found in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The review included 330 hatchery programs. About half of those are already involved in boosting listed salmon and steelhead populations. Other hatchery programs are intended to produce large numbers of fish for anglers.

The document released Friday proposes eliminating five of the hatchery programs from ESA listings, meaning there’s a net increase of 18 programs.

The 23 proposed programs are mostly in Oregon and Washington, but there are some in Idaho and one in California that involves the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery and its efforts with winter-run chinook salmon in the Sacramento River.

Scientists say the net increase of 18 programs is part of a trend among fisheries managers of using locally adapted fish with the goal of producing fish more able to survive in the wild.

“There’s been considerable research on this and we generally understand that hatchery fish do not survive in the wild as well as wild fish,” said Rob Jones of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “But we have gotten much better at understanding how to narrow that gap and produce hatchery fish that have a better and better chance at surviving in the wild.”

Several watchdog environmental groups involved with salmon and steelhead and watershed ecosystems declined to immediately comment, citing the complexity of the federal proposal.

But Sara LaBorde, executive vice president of the Wild Salmon Center, gave an initial assessment.

“It seems like some of this language is housekeeping and some of it may have long term policy implications,” she said in a statement to The Associated Press. “At this point, it’s important for all of us to read the notice and understand it fully.”

Conservation groups, in general, are concerned that an overreliance on hatchery fish could cause further declines in wild fish runs and additional degradation to the watersheds wild fish need to survive.

The watersheds themselves include dams needed to produce energy, control floods and provide irrigation. Other activities such as timber harvest and road construction can also are cause problems for migrating salmon, Jones said, and the hatcheries are intended to mitigate for those losses.

Salmon and steelhead runs are a fraction of what they were before modern settlement. Of the salmon and steelhead that now return, experts say, about 70 to 90 percent originated in hatcheries.

Public comments on the federal proposal are being taken through Dec. 20.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Aug. 14

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Supporters of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski wait for an opportunity to talk to her at her newly Juneau campaign headquarters Thursday evening at Kootznoowoo Plaza. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Murkowski opens up at Juneau HQ debut

Senator chats with supporters about U.S. vs. Belgium voting, moose chili and Project Veritas

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

U.S. Senate candidate Shoshana Gungurstein stars in a campaign sign within view of the Alaska governor’s mansion. Gungurstein, an independent, got exposure this week for being a Hollywood actress under a different last name after questions about her past went unanswered throughout the campaign. She is one of 19 candidates seeking to be among the four selected in next Tuesday’s primary to compete in the November general election. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Senate candidate sheds more light on background

Shoshana Gungurstein responds at length to recent report on past film career.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Drug arrest made in Skagway

Police say a suspicious package was intercepted.

This late-April photo shows a damaged sticker on a door at Thunder Mountain High School reminding people to social distance and wear masks inside the building. Masks will not be required in school buildings this year. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
No mandatory masks or COVID-19 tests for new school year

No mandatory masks or COVID-19 tests for new school year

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday Aug. 12, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

From left, Kelsey Dean, watershed scientist with the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, and Kaagwaan Eesh Manuel Rose-Bell of Keex’ Kwáan watch as crew members set up tools to drag a log into place. Healthy salmon habitat requires woody debris, typically provided by falling branches and trees, which helps create deep salmon pools and varied stream structure. (Courtesy Photos / Mary Catharine Martin)
 
The SalmonState: Bringing the sockeye home

Klawock Indigenous Stewards and partners are working to a once prolific sockeye salmon run.

Most Read