Hatchery Salmon have been a much-debated topic in British Columbia for many years and is quite a hot topic lately with some diminishing wild stocks throughout the west coast of North America. Hatchery salmon have the ability to do many things; they provide more fish to relieve pressure on wild stocks, allow for genetic identification and tracking of certain runs, and in some places provide a harvest opportunity when wild fish stocks are of concern. It has become a hot topic for many reasons especially on the south coast where there is a potential to have directed hatchery only fisheries which will maintain angler opportunity while still protecting wild fish.
The main argument against hatcheries is that these fish are raised under ideal conditions, so they are genetically inferior to a wild fish. The concern is that if a hatchery fish spawns with a wild fish, it may make its offspring genetically inferior and not tough enough to survive or adapt as quickly as a wild fish. It’s a very interesting discussion considering all the pressure these fish endure through commercial fishing, sport fishing harvest, Indigenous food and ceremonial harvest, wildlife predation such as Orcas, seals, and sealions, along with habitat degradation, changing ocean conditions and then throw into the mix global warming it’s no wonder wild salmon are struggling.
What is the answer? Decisions for the future of any species of concern must involve all user groups making management decisions together, a united force whose first priority is conservation. Management decisions that are biased in favor of one particular group will not be beneficial to the survival of this majestic species. It will only exasperate the issue and have us fighting to the very last fish!
If you’re interested in reading more on the subject, here’s a great article to start with, written by Tom Davis: What is a Salmon Hatchery?
There is a lot of work being done to protect the public fishery in Canada. A great group that is fighting to educate the public and to maintain opportunity is the Public Fishery Alliance. To find out more or to get involved, you can check them out here: Public Fishery Alliance.