Are your Hatcheries successful, to often this question is overlooked or not asked- the HSRG ( Hatchery Science Research Group) published reports to US Congress in 2004, 2009 and 2014, that say make your Hatcheries Successful!
Hatcheries should be judged on Adult Returns not numbers produced and how they can compliment and improve wild fish Adult returns in conservation roles.
The basic judge is SARs- (Smolts to Adult Returns) – it’s a basic formula- the number of fish escapement back to the hatchery plus harvest within the terminal fishery (recreational & commercial) divided by the number of fish released by a hatchery by type.
Hatcheries have to often been judged solely on production numbers, many times I’ve met with hatchery staff, when I ask what are your Adult Return Goals, we don’t have any but we produce XXX amount of fish.
HSRG says this is like judging a farmer on how many seeds they planted rather than the crop produced!
I’m not sure why this question is not asked- there are some exceptions, in recent conversations and letters to WDFW Commissioners I ask them to ask- are our hatcheries successful – I’ve not heard them ask yet or WDFW report on SARs – From the SARs I’ve done- especially for fall Chinook programs they are terribly unsuccessful, some Coho programs have been superior, but still few ask.
If your a fisherman you need to ask, are our hatcheries successful!
We are dependent on Hatcheries success!
HSRG report to US Congress, 2004, 2009, 2015
https://www.streamnet.org (Previously www.hatcheryreform.us)
Page 8: Executive Summary: Maximize Survival of Hatchery Fish Consistent with Conservation Goals In order for hatchery programs to effectively contribute to harvest and/or conservation, the reproductive success and survival of hatchery releases must be high relative to those of naturally spawning populations. The primary performance measurement for hatchery programs should be the total number of adults produced (harvest plus escapement) per adult spawned at the hatchery. This also allows for the fewest number of hatchery fish to be released to achieve the stated goals of the program, thereby minimizing ecological interactions. All too often in the past, hatcheries have been evaluated based on the number of smolts released.
Page 22: Recommendation 13: Maximize survival of hatchery fish consistent with conservation goals Maximizing the survival of hatchery fish enables conservation programs to accelerate their rebuilding efforts. It allows production hatcheries to reduce their ecological impacts on natural populations. Conservation hatcheries producing juveniles with high survival generate more spawners on the spawning grounds. This, in turn, accelerates the rate at which recovery programs move toward meeting their goals. Production programs may have to reduce release numbers to decrease negative ecological impacts on natural populations. Increasing post-release survival can offset this reduction and enable managers to meet their harvest goals. There are many approaches to increasing fish survival. Releasing fish at the appropriate time, size, age and location can significantly increase their recruitment to fisheries and natural escapement. Releasing rapidly migrating smolts rather than fry increases survival and reduces negative ecological interactions in the freshwater environment. Similarly, releasing healthy fish produces more fish for harvest and less opportunity to spread disease to natural populations. Improving water quality and reducing loading and density during rearing are also proven tools used by fish culturists to enhance fish survival. Adoption of volitional release (allowing smolts to outmigrate when they are ready, rather than “forcing” them out at a preset date) with removal of residuals (fish that do not outmigrate) may increase the long-term survival of released fish, while decreasing negative ecological interactions with natural populations. Proper acclimation and imprinting of hatchery juveniles can reduce straying and enhance survival to the desired location for their harvest or artificial spawning.
Developing and adopting these and other culture and release practices that maximize fish survival and minimize negative ecological interactions by reducing production release numbers, can aid conservation programs in rebuilding runs and reducing the conflict between harvest programs and conservation goals for natural populations.