Propagated Fish in Resource Management

Pacific Salmon Hatcheries in British Columbia

Don D. MacKinlay, Susan Lehmann, Joan Bateman, and Roberta Cook


Abstract.—Of the many technologies used by the Canadian Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP, established in 1979), hatcheries have been a major tool used to increase the freshwater survival of selected wild, native stocks of coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch, Chinook salmon O. tshawytscha, and chum salmon O. keta, both to address conservation concerns and to provide fishing opportunities. Salmonid Enhancement Program hatcheries have contributed substantially to the fisheries for coho and chum salmon, and less so to the fisheries for Chinook salmon. Although hatcheries have successfully provided high survival environments in freshwater, once released, artificially propagated fish are subject to the same environmental constraints and high mortality rates as are naturally propagated fish. Wild fish from both these components of coho and Chinook salmon stocks encountered substantially lower marine survival in the 1990s compared to the 1980s. Salmonid Enhancement Program tag studies show that marine survivals of hatchery salmon stocks have also been extremely variable, in spite of fairly consistent smolt release strategies. The approach taken by SEP to fully integrate hatchery and naturally produced components of endemic wild stocks of Pacific salmon, in conjunction with improvements in habitat and harvest management, should maximize long-term stock viability in Canada.