The Broken Promise of Salmon Hatcheries

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In a powerful opinion essay for The News-Review, Karl Konecny argues that it’s time for fisheries managers to acknowledge the broken promises of fish hatcheries and work to restore Oregon’s wild salmon and steelhead.

Salmon hatcheries have existed in Oregon since the late 1800s. They have never lived up to their promise, yet we have become addicted to them.

The first salmon hatcheries were privately built by cannery owners. By the mid-1800s the canneries had automated, increasing their capacity to the point that they outstripped the salmon supply. The hope was to increase the salmon runs beyond their abundant natural production to increase the cannery profits. That did not happen anywhere. Instead, salmon runs began their long history of decline. Eventually, the canneries closed and moved north to Canadian waters.

The decline in salmon was not only caused by overharvesting, but also by habitat destruction. Mining had already wiped out much of the Sacramento River salmon and was moving into Oregon. Logging was just ramping up and the horrendous practices of striping the hills to the water edge and moving logs with splash dams destroyed salmon habitat. Agriculture had moved into low-gradient valley bottoms, diverting water and silting streams.

Again, it was hatcheries to the rescue! But now instead of enhancing the natural abundance, the promise was that hatcheries would restore the runs to their previous abundance. The state and the federal government got involved for the common good. Again, the promise was not met. Nowhere in Oregon did a hatchery restore a salmon or steelhead run to its former abundance.

Read the entire article at this link:

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1 Response to The Broken Promise of Salmon Hatcheries

  1. Wade Grant says:

    Part of this “Opinion” is true. The mining and stripping of trees definitely had a negative impact on Salmon. Calling hatchery work a “broken promise” is just plain ignorant.
    There are so many factors affecting the salmon runs that the ONLY thing that is keeping any salmon or steelhead alive is the hatchery programs. Without them, you would have zero salmon by now. Predation will not stop when you remove hatchery fish. They will continue to eat whatever fish there are… hatchery or wild. We will NEVER be able to restore runs to what they were 30 years ago or even 20 years ago until we start addressing the predation problem. Cormorants, Squawfish, Sea lions, Gillnets in the Columbia, Gross over harvesting of our oceans from Alaska to the California border.
    The decline of our native fish is not as simple as blaming the hatchery program. We put damns in, we built cities on riverbanks, we dump tons of sewage and toxic waste in the rivers. Humans and invasive predators are the main problem here and the Hatcheries are the ONLY thing that attempts to make a positive result. The Flea Flickers seem to always preach how these native fish need to be protected while they are out there hooking and playing out fish to exhaustion. Be glad the Hatcheries are there at all or you wouldn’t have any fish in the rivers except the invasive species.

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