Hatchery Reform is in Progress
Hatchery programs in this region are funded primarily by the federal Mitchell Act to mitigate losses caused by federal dams in the Columbia River. Hatchery fish support commercial, sport, and tribal fishing but also can pose risks to salmon recovery. Hatchery fish compete with natural-origin fish for food and habitat.
Regional hatchery reform builds on the Hatchery Scientific Review Group’s recommendations, which were incorporated into the Lower Columbia Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries Plan. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reviewed the recommendations in a 2020 report and concluded that the approaches to reduce hatchery impacts on natural-origin fish are well founded and additional monitoring is necessary to better align hatchery programs with recovery.
Hatchery Impacts Remain High
The proportion of hatchery-origin fish relative to natural-origin fish on the spawning grounds remains greater than recovery targets for many fall Chinook and coho salmon populations, especially in coastal watersheds.
Hatcheries Support Reintroduction
Hatcheries play an important role in reestablishing fish populations in habitats blocked by dams. In the Cowlitz and Lewis Rivers, hatchery salmon and steelhead trout are reestablishing populations above dams. Hatcheries also have been used to reintroduce chum salmon into newly created or enhanced habitat to improve their distribution across the region.