The Danger of Putting All Your Eggs in the Hatchery BasketJuly 12, 2013
By Bill McMillan - In response to the loss of roughly 200,000 hatchery coho salmon and 2,000 steelhead, resulting from a pump failure at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s hatchery on the Elwha River.
After the huge loss of hatchery Chinook earlier in spring thanks to mistaken timing of large release of smolts at one time coinciding with a brief high sediment peak, it is now followed with half of the hatchery coho production lost (200,000 dead) due to malfunction of hatchery water pump along with loss of 2,000 rearing steelhead from wild brood.
The tragedy is: this production could have occurred with much less risk with natural spawning left to the river where fish make their own decisions regarding spawning destination and time, and juveniles determine their own window for outmigration. Instead these fish have been hi-jacked by the continued belief in hatcheries rather than the proven success story of wild fish recolonization for thousands of years and resulting diversity that hedges its bets against the whims of nature's unpredictable events. And we paid $16 million to create this Elwha hatchery fiasco plus further annual investments in taking fish from the river and subjecting them to the persistent belief in hatcheries that is counter to the science -- further evidence of the tragic disconnect of science from policy, the latter continually driven by the politics of popular beliefs.
Image: Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News