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New Research: Hatchery Salmon Posing Problems For Wild Stocks

May 13, 2012 | KUOW
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Ashley Ahearn

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  • Lower Elwha Tribal Hatchery Manager Larry Ward feeds steelhead and coho that are being raised in a hatchery. A newly published scientific article finds hatchery fish may be outcompeting wild fish for food in the Bering Sea. credit: Katie Campbell
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Lower Elwha Tribal Hatchery Manager Larry Ward feeds steelhead and coho that are being raised in a hatchery. A newly published scientific article finds hatchery fish may be outcompeting wild fish for food in the Bering Sea. | credit: Katie Campbell | rollover image for more

The ocean’s a pretty big place, right? Maybe not big enough for wild salmon and hatchery salmon to share, according to new research.

A special issue in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes looks at how hatcheries are affecting wild fish populations. Research for the issue came from scientists around the Pacific Ocean – from Japan to California.

One of the major findings: hatchery fish may be outcompeting wild fish for food in the Bering Sea.

That area is a feeding hot-spot for chum salmon – where fish that came from hatcheries mix and mingle with wild fish.

With millions more hatchery salmon arriving at the feeding grounds, there’s not enough to go around and the researchers say that contributed to a significant drop in the wild chum population.

David Noakes is the editor of the special issue. He’s a professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and a senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research center.

Screen shot 2012-05-13 at 8.38.36 PM
Credit: Wild Salmon Center

Noakes says hatcheries are a tool — one that should be used with caution:

“Because when you’re introducing large numbers of animals you need to understand that you can’t take them back. They’re living creatures and they go out there and they continue to exist and they continue to interact in the ocean.”

Hatcheries remain a major contributor to commercial salmon catches in the Northwest. Russia and Japan are increasing their hatchery outputs.

© 2012 KUOW
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