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NMFS Seeks Comments on Proposal to Extend
ESA Protections to Hatchery Fish Aiding Natural Salmonids

by Staff and AP
Columbia Basin Bulletin, October 27, 2016

Officials say adding 23 programs could produce salmon, steelhead to augment runs

A big Fall Chinook is handled in the Nez Perce Tribe hatchery. The National Marine Fisheries Service recently announced a proposal to align descriptions of 28 hatchery programs with descriptions for protected salmon and steelhead populations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

The description revisions would essentially extend Endangered Species Act protections to hatchery program fish that are already being used to support the protected populations. Other hatchery programs are geared toward boosting fish populations for harvest purposes, and they are not included in the proposal.

The proposal, published in the Federal Register last week, comes on the heels of recent five-year status reviews for endangered and threatened populations.

(See, CBB, June 2, 2016, NOAA Status Review: None Of 28 ESA-Listed Pacific Salmon/Steelhead Stocks Warrant Status Change)

"As part of the five-year review, we reviewed the classification of all West Coast salmonid hatchery programs, taking into consideration the origin for each hatchery stock, the location of release of hatchery fish, and the degree of known or inferred genetic divergence between the hatchery stock and the local natural populations," the Federal Register posting states.

NMFS notes that there is little "divergence" from fish produced by the hatchery programs under consideration and the natural listed fish populations they support.

A federal Hatchery Listing Policy states, "hatchery stocks will be considered part of an (Evolutionary Significant Unit-Distinct Population Segment) if they exhibit a level of genetic divergence relative to the local natural populations that is not more than what occurs" within the natural fish populations.

"We identified 28 hatchery programs for which we recommend a change in classification," either adding or removing the program for inclusion with distinct or evolutionary significant natural fish populations.

The names and descriptions of the hatchery programs are proposed for revisions to closely align them with the natural protected fish populations. And the revisions accurately reflect hatchery programs current contributions toward supporting endangered and threatened fish populations.

"The addition or termination of an artificial propagation program does not constitute a listing or delisting of an ESU, but simply a revision to reflect the actual current composition of the listed ESU," NMFS emphasizes in the Federal Register.

Evolutionary Significant Units and Distinct Population segment description revisions that include descriptions of hatchery programs:

Comments and information regarding the proposed revisions must be received by Dec. 20. Descriptions on how to comment can be found in the Federal Register post from NMFS at:

Staff and AP
NMFS Seeks Comments on Proposal to Extend ESA Protections to Hatchery Fish Aiding Natural Salmonids
Columbia Basin Bulletin, October 27, 2016

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