If Pacific Northwest salmon were still able to produce biologically and economically healthy runs without hatcheries, it’s safe to say there wouldn’t be much support for hatcheries. But this isn’t yet the case.


This statement encapsulates a year of debates that surrounded an extensive effort to study the continuing role of artificial fish propagation in the Columbia River watershed. The work was performed and criticism borne by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group under auspices of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The council bears overall responsibility for managing the hydropower system in ways that best coexist with the natural environment.


There was considerable backlash this spring from fishing interests and tribes when word came that council staff advocated a cutback in hatchery production above Bonneville by more than 20 percent. As we noted at the time, in an unpredictable interplay with ocean conditions and other factors, these cuts would begin to choke salmon returns three years following implementation.


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