Salmon & Steelhead Hatcheries: Conservation or Condemnation?
Wild salmon and steelhead are as fundamental to the Pacific Northwest as evergreen trees and rain. For thousands of years ecosystems and economies have relied on the bountiful marine nutrients annually running inland from the Pacific Ocean in the form of large, silver fish. Even today, the chance to tangle with one of these wild gems is one of the greatest gifts the Northwest has to offer. Early settlers of the West Coast witnessed seemingly infinite salmon abundance. But as time passed and humans increasingly exploited both salmon and their ecosystems, they found out just how finite salmon really were. Instead of a cure for the problem, early managers chose a band-aid: salmon hatcheries. It now appears that band-aid may have worsened the affliction. There are now nearly 250 salmon hatchery facilities on the West Coast producing hundreds of millions of juvenile fish every year. A debate over the efficiency and wisdom of this practice has been simmering for nearly a century. A growing body of scientific research indicates that hatcheries may have detrimental effects on the remaining wild salmon and steelhead. Only recently have management agencies begun to concede. Big changes are now afoot. The future of salmon hatcheries is as uncertain, as the future of the salmon themselves. This piece explores the West Coast‟s complicated social and political relationship with salmon hatcheries through the theme of fathers and sons fishing together. The stories I tell illustrate the arguments for continuing hatchery supplementation, the arguments for improving it and the arguments for stopping it.
© Copyright 2013 Samuel Hunter Lungren