A Scientific and Systematic Redesign of Washington State Salmonid Hatcheries
H. Lee Blankenship and Elizabeth Daniels
Abstract.—The Puget Sound and Coastal Washington Hatchery Reform Project was funded by the U.S. Congress beginning in 1999. It is a systematic, science-driven redesign of hatcheries to help recover and conserve naturally spawning populations and support sustainable fisheries. The project has three structural components. These components include the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG; independent science), Hatchery Reform Coordinating Committee (tribal and agency policy), and Facilitation Group (project management and communications). Initial work by the HSRG included developing a scientific framework for artificial propagation of salmon and steelhead, a benefit/risk assessment tool, hatchery operational guidelines, and monitoring and evaluation criteria. These tools are being used by the HSRG in a comprehensive region-by-region review. During this review, programs were evaluated for consistency with established scientific principles and the objectives of hatchery reform. The HSRG made more than 1,000 specific program recommendations and 17 system-wide recommendations that affect management of all programs. These systemwide recommendations fall under three “principles for hatchery reform” that include “goal-setting,” establishing “scientific defensibility,” and employing “informed decision making” in hatchery management. Success of the hatchery reform project will be measured through effective implementation of these principles and recommendations by the state, tribal, and federal comanagers. Implementation thus far by the comanagers has included termination of several species-specific programs, a hatchery closure, and significant revisions to spawning and rearing practice. Plans include removal of hatchery structures that impede wild fish passage, comprehensive monitoring and evaluation, and hatchery-free steelhead management zones. Recommendations will also be incorporated into management plans and staff responsibilities at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and in processes between the comanagers such as the Endangered Species Act.