Factors that contribute to the ecological risks of salmon and steelhead hatchery programs and some mitigating strategies

Research paper by Kathryn Kostow

Indexed on: 06 May '08Published on: 06 May '08Published in: Reviews in fish biology and fisheries


State and federal agencies in the United States annually release millions of hatchery salmon and steelhead into public waters. Many of the hatchery programs are located in areas where the wild populations are now listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. §§ 1531–1544). These hatchery programs pose genetic and ecological risks to wild fish populations. Genetic risks occur when hatchery and wild fish interbreed and usually occur within a taxonomic species. Ecological risks occur when the presence of hatchery fish affects how wild fish interact with their environment or with other species and may affect whole species assemblages. This paper reviews some of the factors that contribute to ecological risks. Important contributing factors include the relative abundance of hatchery and wild fish in natural production areas, hatchery programs that increase density-dependant mortality, residual hatchery fish, some physical advantages that hatchery fish can have over wild fish, and life history characteristics that may make some species especially vulnerable to the effects of ecological risks. Many of these risk factors can be mitigated by management activities that reduce the level of interactions between hatchery and wild fish. This paper concludes by recommending twelve mitigation strategies that may be useful when agencies need to bring hatchery programs into compliance with the take provisions of the ESA.