OLYMPIA -- The closure of three state hatcheries and severe production
cutbacks in others in October will mean severe reductions in future fishing opportunities
for salmon and steelhead in the ocean and Columbia River, the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.
The hatchery closures and cutbacks are necessary because the National Marine
Fisheries Service has notified the department it appears Congress will maintain earlier
Mitchell Act cuts and plans another $2.4 million reduction for fiscal year 1998. For the
past two years, the Legislature appropriated supplemental state funds to maintain fish
production in lower Columbia River hatcheries supported by Mitchell Act funds.
"The federal government committed itself in 1949 to provide the funding to
operate these hatcheries through the enactment of the Mitchell Act. This federal
commitment was enacted to partially compensate Washington for fish habitat lost with
the construction of Columbia River dams," said Bern Shanks, director of the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"The Mitchell Act money helped us produce hatchery fish for tribal, recreational
and commercial fisheries. The dams continue to operate but our ability to produce
salmon and steelhead for rebuilding natural spawning populations and providing
commercial and recreational fisheries is being severely constrained by these large
federal reductions," he added.
Shanks also noted the severe reductions of hatchery production along the
Columbia River will make it more difficult for the state to negotiate international harvest
agreements and strains the co-management relationship the department has with
The department will have to close the Grays River, Elochoman and Fallert Creek
Hatcheries and reduce production at other facilities in October unless WDFW is able to
obtain more $1 million from the federal government or other sources to support them.
Shanks said the facilities annually produce almost 1.8 million coho, 7.7 million
fall chinook and 500,000 spring chinook. The agency also plans to reduce the annual
production of 1.1 million steelhead at the Skamania and Beaver Creek hatcheries to
"The timing of the proposed budget reduction is especially unfortunate because
it puts at risk recent progress made to provide selective fisheries in the Columbia River
basin. We have been clipping hatchery coho for the past two years so that fishers could
harvest them while protecting wild spawning salmon," Shanks added.
Fisheries along the Columbia already have been reduced because Oregon
severely reduced its hatchery program two years ago in response to the Mitchell Act
cuts. The salmon from Oregon and Washington hatcheries on the Columbia also
support major fisheries in the ocean along the Washington, British Columbia and
Shanks said the department went through a careful analysis, which included
such factors as hatchery age and efficiency, to select facilities for closure.
Shanks said WDFW will attempt to transfer employees impacted by these
closures and reductions to other facilities.