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Michael Souza

Hatchery Salmon Spawn Like Real Salmon

By October 20, 2012

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    A generation of propagation
    According to a new study, salmon raised in a Nez Perce Tribe hatchery are spawning as successfully in the wild as wild salmon. The study demonstrates how some programs can increase salmon populations and minimize impact to wild fish populations.
    The study discovered that hatchery salmon from the Johnson Creek Artificial Propagation Enhancement program had the same reproductive success when spawning with wild salmon as wild salmon that spawned together. Believe it or not, the findings run counter to other research that have indicated that hatchery-raised fish are less successful than wild salmon. Generally, the common understanding is that mixing hatchery salmon with wild salmon weakens the wild salmon population.
    The researchers compared DNA from all adult salmon that returned to the hatchery over 13 years. The study found fish taken into the hatchery to spawn produced an average of nearly five times the number of returning adults compared to fish that were left in the wild to spawn.
    Hatchery fish that spawned naturally with a wild fish had about the same reproductive success as two wild fish, suggesting that chinook salmon reared for a single generation in the specially-designed hatchery did not reduce the fitness of wild fish.
    The Nez Perce Tribe began the Johnson Creek project in 1998 in an effort to boost the low number of salmon that were returning to Idaho rivers to spawn. In 1995, the number of salmon that were counted after returning to Johnson Creek had dropped to five. Today, the number of salmon returning to the creek consistently counted at more than 350 adults, and the numbers have reached more than 1,000 several times.


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