the film
Commentaries and editorials

Basin Hatchery Evaluation
Attracts Mixed Comments

by Barry Espenson
Columbia Basin Bulletin - January 30, 2004

With the comment period over, a draft Artificial Production Review and Evaluation of some 300 Columbia River basin programs moves on to a new phase -- the development of an issue paper that will likely include recommendations on needed reforms to the system.

The draft will be "tweaked" to correct any technical problems identified by those who commented on the document, says the project leader.

The draft released in October by the Northwest Power and Planning Council drew comments from 22 sources before the Dec. 9 deadline -- including many of those that either pay for or actually manage the hatcheries. Numerous comments called the APRE report a laudable attempt to pull together information about the goals and accomplishments of hatchery programs across the region. Others, including several that agreed with many aspects of the report, called the document seriously flawed.

"I think we can make the report better," NPCC special projects manager Bruce Suzumoto told the Council last week. The report has been produced over the past year and a half under the guidance project director Suzumoto and coordinator Dan Warren, who worked with a panel of production experts and hatchery managers. Lead authors were Lars Mobrand and Chip McConnaha, both of Mobrand Biometrics.

Suzumoto said that the necessary corrections would be made, then he would launch into the drafting of an "issue paper" that would outline policy considerations and, potentially, suggest courses of action for reforming the hatchery system.

"We can actually start formulating some recommendations," Suzumoto said of the draft issue paper that would be made public sometime this summer.

The project has been funded through the Council's fish and wildlife program -- $870,000 for the basinwide report and program reports and $420,000 to develop draft Hatchery Genetic Management Plans required for the programs under the Endangered Species Act, according to information provided by the Council when the draft was released.

According to its summary, the basinwide report "summarizes the results and conclusions of the Artificial Production Review and Evaluation (APRE) conducted by the Council in response to a request from Congress to review all federally funded hatchery programs in the Columbia River Basin. The goal of the review is to develop coordinated policies for the use of artificial production in the Basin. The Council subsequently expanded the review to include hatcheries supported by non-federal funds as well."

The report gathered data and input from hatchery managers representing more than 300 hatchery programs at 127 different facilities. The congressional directive issued in 1997 first spawned the Artificial Production Review's identification of reform issues in 1999. The APRE follows up with an "assessment of what's going on -- more of a snapshot," Suzumoto said.

"There really wasn't any recommendation (in the draft report) about where to go next," he said. An issue paper, which ultimately would be sent to Congress, will recommend a course for implementing basinwide hatchery reforms. Most hatchery programs in the basin are funded either with congressional appropriations, directly by the Bonneville Power Administration and/or by states.

"The region has to look at the goals and objectives of these programs to see if they make sense anymore," Suzumoto said.

He used as an example the possibility of "balancing within-basin against out of basin needs." The report points out that a disproportionate share of the hatchery production has been to feed ocean and lower Columbia mainstem commercial fisheries. It suggests that, with farmed salmon taking over a large market share and effectively driving down salmon prices, commercial fishing is less viable economically.

Suzumoto said that the region, and Council, must decide if goals of certain programs are still applicable. He pointed out that more recently many hatcheries are directed at either conservation or supplementation purposes.

Those fish developed to bolster depleted wild stocks "go out together and are harvested together" with stocks produced specifically for harvest.

"We're pumping a lot of money into those facilities," Suzumoto said.

A summary of the comments was produced by Suzumoto and NPCC information officer John Harrison. Excerpts from that summary are contained in quotation marks below. The complete comments are also posted on the Council's web page.

The Colville Confederated Tribes, in their comments on the draft, claimed vindication. "The APRE report supports our contention that inequities have persisted for a long time regarding fish and wildlife funding allocations in the Columbia River Basin."

"For example, we have proposed a hatchery at the base of Chief Joseph Dam. This hatchery would provide increased ceremonial and subsistence fishing opportunities for tribes, it would redistribute fall chinook production (the APRE notes that most of this production currently is in the lower river), it would integrate spring chinook and fall chinook production in the upper basin, it would enhance steelhead recovery efforts that are important to NOAA fisheries, and it would be ready to implement in a short time if the money were provided."

Washington and Alaska trollers associations called that APRE suggestion flawed, however.

"It is arrogant and presumptuous to imply, as the APRE does, that farmed salmon can replace wild salmon. We strongly object to the evaluation of the changing social role of hatcheries based on farmed salmon," the trollers' comments said. "A premise of federal funding for hatcheries is that hydropower would be developed and salmon harvest would not be dramatically affected. The fact that the salmon industry has been harmed because of hydropower development is not a reason to change hatchery production."

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was also critical of the commercial fishing economic assumptions.

"The report cites diminishing economic returns for ocean-caught salmon due to artificial propagation of Atlantic salmon as a reason to reduce hatchery production, but this does not address the biological concerns regarding introduction of non-native species or the fact that current returns are far below historic estimates, nor the accompanying reduction in recreation fishing opportunities that make a larger contribution than commercial fishing."

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said that "the report generally offers a more balanced review than previous hatchery reviews, including better characterization of the variety of hatchery programs found in the basin and a more realistic characterization, evaluation and platform for recommendations for reforms as a function of the type of hatchery program that is evaluated."

CRITFC member tribes --long-time advocates of supplementation -- said "hatcheries, if using appropriate broodstock and husbandry techniques, are a necessary and appropriate tool to improve returns of salmon to the rivers and streams of the Columbia River system."

CRITFC said, however, that the "APRE process has fallen short of its stated goals" and "does not go far enough to provide recommendations to alter the political landscape."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates and/or funds the operation of numerous Basin hatcheries also had a good news/bad news response to the report.

"The service supports the work through the APRE to promote the thoughtful consideration of the future purpose and role of hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin and to identify hatchery practices that contribute to both the benefits and risks of hatcheries," the USFWS comments say.

"However, the APRE does not present an accurate and complete review of hatchery reform efforts in the basin."

Pete Hassemer of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game also noted procedural problems with the document.

"… a number of interpretations and beliefs about hatchery programs are perceived by the compilers of the report as statements of fact, and this will lead to misperceptions about the programs. At the level of individual program reports, manager comments should have been used to correct mistakes and not represented as comments on the report."

BPA called the document "a useful summary of production reform issues and an excellent overview of hatchery programs and management practices and relationships. When considering how its ultimate recommendations might be implemented, the Council should evaluate the relative priority of the outcomes or biological objectives associated with the hatchery reform measures proposed to achieve them."

The federal power marketing agency did say a final report would benefit from:

"It is difficult to see how the survey of hatchery managers could adequately address the direction for a formal recommendation of coordinated hatchery policy or how to obtain one," according to BPA's comments. "In particular, the failure to collect hatchery cost data undermines the development and implementation of the cost-effectiveness principle at the heart of Congress' direction and intent."

"Competing demands on available fish and wildlife program funding underscore the need for deliberate, systematic and collaborative integration of the APRE process recommendations with the ESA-driven HGMP requirements of federal agencies and the future prioritization of hatchery reform efforts. We have concerns about the costs and the availability of adequate funding for APRE reforms…," BPA's comments said.

Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority executive director Rod Sando largely panned the draft.

The report "adds little to the practical evaluation of hatchery programs or management decisions relative to future programs for these hatcheries. The APRE results do not provide a sound basis for policy deliberations. The report did not use all relevant information, makes misleading interpretations, and has errors."

He urged the Council to "take a leadership role in engaging the fish managers and the fishing interests in discussions about the appropriate goals for the hatchery system. These discussions must also include the details of implementation: how new hatchery goals will integrate with the NPCC subbasin plans; what physical and operational changes are necessary, and how any changes will be funded."

The Native Fish Society, like many commenters, said the draft report is a step in the right direction.

"It should be troubling to decision-makers that there are many hatchery programs that do not monitor survival of fish released or the contribution to fisheries, making it impossible to determine whether the hatchery investment is providing benefits," according to NFS comments. The report said that hatchery monitoring and evaluation was generally inadequate.

"The APRE is a long-overdue yet important accomplishment; it is now time for decision-makers to use the information in the report to reform the hatchery program," the society comments said.

Related Sites:

Barry Espenson
Basin Hatchery Evaluation Attracts Mixed Comments
Columbia Basin Bulletin, January 30, 2004

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation