Propagated Fish in Resource Management

Salmon Hatcheries for the 21st Century: A Model at Warm Springs National Hatchery

Douglas E. Olson, Bob Spateholts, Mike Paiya, and Donald E. Campton


Abstract.—Salmon hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest continue to produce fish for harvest, largely to fulfill a mitigation function. Fisheries management struggles with the need to integrate this harvest opportunity from hatcheries with wild fish conservation. Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery demonstrates a program that balances this need to help offset salmon losses, provide fisheries, and protect wild fish. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon initiated the hatchery program in 1978 with wild, native fish from the Warm Springs River. The goal is to cooperatively manage hatchery operations to balance harvest opportunities with protection of wild fish populations and their inherent genetic resources. The management objectives are (1) to produce spring Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha for harvest in tribal subsistence and sport fisheries, (2) to preserve the genetic characteristics of the native population both in the hatchery and in the naturally spawning component of the integrated population, (3) to manage impact on wild fish to levels which pose a minimum risk, and (4) to develop and implement a hatchery operations plan to achieve both the harvest and conservation goals for the Warm Springs River Chinook population. To determine if these objectives are met, data on harvest, escapement, recruitment, spawning success, fish health, survival, run timing, age and size at return, and juvenile production characteristics have been collected to monitor changes over time and to compare performance of wild and hatchery origin fish. These data have been cooperatively collected by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 25 years. Every 5 years, a hatchery operation plan has been developed based on this monitoring. The following list of actions are identified in the 2002–2006 hatchery operations plan and are measures for protecting the natural population while operating the hatchery for harvest augmentation: (1) Mass marking and codedwire tagging of hatchery production for selective fisheries, broodstock management, and hatchery evaluations; (2) Selecting broodstock to mimic wild fish run timing; (3) Incorporating wild fish in the hatchery broodstock using a sliding scale; (4) Limiting the number of hatchery fish allowed to spawn naturally; (5) Operating an automated passage system for returning adults to reduce handling of wild fish; (6) Replacing the hatchery’s water intake structure to meet new screening criteria to protect juvenile fish; (7) Simulating environmental and biological factors in the hatchery environment to match natural production; (8) Managing fish health at the hatchery; (9) Assessing ecological interactions between wild and hatchery fish; and (10) Determining the reproductive success of hatchery fish spawning in the stream. The monitoring and management of Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery demonstrates a sustainable program, integrating the need for both harvest and wild fish conservation.