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Hatcheries are one tool to help support wild stocks and provide fish for harvest, so long as hatchery fish are managed in the context of our overall goals for ESA-listed fish. Today, there are about 200 salmon hatchery programs in the Columbia River Basin, and 80 percent of the salmon and steelhead that return as adults were hatched and reared in hatcheries.
Under the FCRPS Reasonable and Prudent Alternative, actions focus on reforming existing hatcheries and reducing effects on wild salmon and steelhead. While there are no quantified survival benefits expected from hatchery actions, important qualitative improvements are anticipated. Performance standards in this area will track progress of competing hatchery projects.
One role of hatcheries is as a safety net program used to prevent extinction and preserve the genetic integrity of a fish species that is endangered. Most notable among the Columbia Basin listed fish protected by a safety net program is the Snake River sockeye salmon.
If they use best management practices to protect wild stocks, hatcheries may also help “jump start” recovery. Under the “supplementation” strategy in the FCRPS Biological Opinion, hatcheries are specifically designed to jump-start the natural restoration of runs while following best management practices so that the new hatchery stocks will help promote recovery of targeted fish.