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Hatcheries' role changing

BOISE, Idaho - Fishery biologists in the Pacific Northwest are in the midst of a high-stakes course change on how hatcheries operate, a move intended to boost flagging runs of wild salmon and steelhead.

But some are concerned expanding attempts to raise wild fish in hatcheries could push the runs nearer extinction by genetically weakening them, or diluting the runs to such an extent with hatchery influence that they are no longer wild.

"There's kind of a wave of change that's slowly permeating through the fishery community, and it goes by the phrase hatchery reform," said Don Campton, a senior scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

He dates the push toward hatchery reform to the early 1990s, an era he describes as "hatchery bashing," and the beginning of a wave of Endangered Species Act listings of salmon and steelhead runs.

Up to then more than 100 hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin had been built mainly to offset the declines in salmon runs caused by loss of habitat to dams, irrigation, logging and urban development.

Source: The Casper Star Tribune

the Fish Site Editor

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