Policy ForumEcology

Hatcheries and Endangered Salmon

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Science  26 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5666, pp. 1980
DOI: 10.1126/science.1095410

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Conservation hatcheries are unproven in restoring threatened and endangered populations of salmon to sustainable levels, and may cause more harm than good. Nonetheless, a recent court decision found that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must include hatchery salmon in Endangered Species Act listings, where NMFS has included those fish as components of the core "evolutionarily significant units (ESUs)." This undercuts efforts for restoration of wild salmon. The authors of this Policy Forum, therefore, urge that NMFS use a more legally defensible definition of an ESU; artificially propagated individuals should not be included in ESUs, even if they are indistinguishable at indicator genetic loci. Hatcheries generally reduce current fitness and inhibit future adaptation of natural populations. Hence, the legal definition of an ESU must be unambiguous and must exclude hatchery fish.