Facts: What Happened?

Hatchery salmon face the same problems as wild fish, having to dodge predators, navigate past dams, and find their way back home again to spawn. Unfortunately, because they are from a hatchery, salmon never find their spawning grounds and they have weaker genetics than their wild relatives. If hatchery salmon spawn with wild salmon, they contribute their weakened genetics to wild salmon, which then can weaken the survival of the wild fish.


Hatchery salmon threaten wild salmon restoration in another, very subtle way: They skew people's perception of salmon populations. It's difficult to argue that salmon are in danger of extinction when someone hauls in thousands of pounds of salmon from the ocean, or another person stands on a bridge admiring spawning salmon. They don't see the empty rivers, streams, and lakes of Idaho, which were once the source of millions of wild salmon. They see lots of salmon and they want the right to catch even more.


Hatcheries can play an important role in salmon recovery if they focus on protecting genetic diversity instead of producing huge numbers of fish. They also need to work with a range of scientists to ensure that their goals and results are valid and feasible. If these changes occur, hatcheries can help wild salmon.

Thanks to Idaho Fish and Game and Project WILD for all of their help and information. All information in these sites from "Wild About Salmon" is copyrighted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Project WILD, 1999. Written permission was granted to use this material for educational purposes.
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