Conservation Resource Alliance
Call 231-946-6817


The Fish Hatchery Fiasco - Part I

June 19, 2002

A few years ago Ray White wrote a series of articles for "Fly Fish America" on the importance of promoting wild fish populations over using hatchery raised fish to increase and improve fish populations. This series of technical papers prompted me to think about how many of our state fish divisions manage the fishery resource on public waters. One of the quotes in Mr. White's article really stuck with me. It was from a James Schmidt with the Yakima River Alliance who said, "If hatcheries were the solution, there wouldn't be a problem." Mr. Schmidt has had strong involvement with the Columbia River system, which has over 80 hatcheries in an effort to bolster the pacific anadromous salmonid program.

Although I am not an expert on the pacific fishery situation, my interpretation of this quote goes like this. If hatcheries were the solution to healthy, stable fish populations in the nation, they would have all been retired a long time ago! In the Great Lakes system we have thrown billions of dollars at hatchery facilities for almost 125 years! In Michigan the first private, fish hatchery was built in 1867 in an effort to raise brook trout. Later in 1873, a state authorized fish commission funded a new hatchery and the raising of 20,000 Atlantic salmon, which by the way was a non-native species in the Great Lakes. By 1876, another hatchery was built in Detroit and raised 10 million whitefish for distribution in the state. By 1888, the state funded a "fish car" that transported, via the rail system, hatchery raised fry throughout the state.

Now before everyone jumps on e-mail to tell me all the good things those hatcheries have done for the nation's economy and fishing in general, hear me out. Hatcheries have had a positive impact in restoring many fisheries in areas that lost their original native fish species to commercial over fishing or large scale habitat destruction.

In some cases where native fish species were driven to extinction, hatcheries raised and planted introduced species that successfully filled these vacant niches in the environment. Hatcheries were also useful in the early 1900's, when we had no other clue on how river and lake habitats can be restored and improved for natural production of fish. Today however, the world is a much different place with considerably more information and technology. Are hatcheries as important as they use to be? What would happen if we used a portion of the nation's hatchery budget each year for habitat improvement? Next month we will tackle the issue of what hatchery fish do to our natural systems. Can they actually pollute our streams and damage wild fish populations?

A Closing Thought

"Some people assume that because hatchery fish are "tame", they could not harm wild fish. But tameness, which means less fear - when confronted with humans, does not imply lack of aggressiveness towards other fish. Apparently genetic selection and learning can make hatchery fish at the same tamer toward humans and more aggressive toward fish - a two-pronged recipe for failure and destructiveness in the wild." Ray J. White, Fly Fish America.


Copyright 2002 Bob Aslan, All rights reserved.


Archives
2019
2018
May (1)
2017
May (3)
June (2)
July (1)
2016
May (2)
June (2)
July (1)
2015
May (2)
June (1)
2014
May (3)
June (5)
July (5)
2013
May (1)
July (4)
2012
May (2)
2011
May (1)
June (4)
2010
June (2)
2009
May (3)
June (1)
2008
May (1)
June (1)
July (3)
2007
May (5)
July (3)
2006
June (2)
July (3)
2005
June (1)
July (5)
2004
May (2)
June (1)
2003
May (8)
June (4)
July (3)
2002
May (4)
June (2)
July (3)
2001
1999
June (1)

Become a CRA Member

Our partners and supporters, like you, are what really make a difference. Your support of our organization and projects are what make the biggest impact. We appreciate your investment. Together, we do great work. 

E-Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up for our e-newsletter to keep current with news and other happenings at CRA!

Conservation Resource Alliance

Bayview Professional Centre
10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
Traverse City, MI 49684
231-946-6817

SIGN UP