Hatchery and fishery reform policy review

Note: Public comment period on the Draft Policy C-3619 Revisions has been extended through Oct. 12. 

On June 15, 2018, the Fish and Wildlife Commission (Commission) directed the agency to review and update its Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy, Policy C-3619 (Policy).

The Policy was originally adopted in November 2009 with a stated purpose to advance the conservation and recovery of wild salmon and steelhead by promoting and guiding the implementation of hatchery reform.

The Commission directed the agency to initiate a review of all sections and aspects of the Policy, including:

  • Performance results since adoption of the Policy:
  • Updating the scientific elements of the Policy, with particular emphasis on emerging scientific information; and
  • Providing language alternatives for possible policy revisions, including adding a categorical designation for mitigation hatcheries and changing the tone to reflect the positive value of hatchery programs.

During this review period, the Commission directed the agency to leave the Policy in effect except for policy guidelines 1, 2, and 3, which were to be suspended for salmon species other than steelhead.  Policy guidelines 1,2, and 3 mandated the use of principles, standards, and recommendations of the Hatchery Scientific Review Group regarding hatchery operations.

The purpose of suspending policy guidelines 1,2, and 3 for salmon species other than steelhead was to allow for some flexibility in hatchery production to enhance the abundance of prey for Southern Resident Killer Whales and to allow full consideration of the maintenance or enhancement of hatchery programs for salmon species other than steelhead while still proving adequate protection for wild fish.

Since the initial Commission guidance, the comprehensive review has proceeded, as follows:

Science Review

Department staff, with review by the Washington Academy of Science as well as consultation and input from Co-Managers, the public, and others, lead an update on the current science. The Department held stakeholder interviews and an open public meeting to solicit interested individuals and entities for input and ideas for the review. Washington Academy of Science held a workshop to review the draft report.

On February 6, 2020, the Commission was briefed at a workshop on the science review document “A Review of Hatchery Reform Science in Washington State" and staff presented additional analysis. View a draft of of this report discussed at the workshop and the staff presentation. Public testimony was taken at the workshop.

Policy Performance Evaluation 

In addition to tasking a review of new and emerging science, the Director was tasked with conducting an assessment of hatchery reform implementation, to evaluate how well the policy has worked to achieve wild fish recovery since adoption and to assess the effect of changes to hatchery operations on fisheries.

The Department prepared a document, “Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy Implementation Assessment.”  Without sufficient data, a detailed quantitative evaluation was not done.  However, Department staff completed an assessment to evaluate whether and to what extent the agency has implemented the provisions Policy C-3619.

The Commission was briefed on the Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy Implementation Assessment report on April 9, 2020.  View the staff presentation or listen to the audio transcript. The draft of the review document discussed at that time can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02133. Public testimony was taken at the workshop.

Engagement of Tribal Co-Managers in Policy Development

Because state and tribal fisheries management and implementation are closely intertwined, including hatchery policies and practices, it is important that clear, open, and comprehensive communication occur between parties.

Since the commencement of the hatchery policy review, a series of meeting and virtual calls have been held between policy level representatives from tribal governments, the Commission, and Department staff. 

In addition, the input has helped frame potential timeframes and process to complete the Commission Policy review, adopt any appropriate revisions to Policy C-3619 and to work toward establishing a joint-State-Tribal Hatchery Policy.

Public Outreach and Engagement 

Opportunities to provide public comment and provide testimony to the Commission on potential revisions to Policy C-3619 have occurred on numerous occasions.

Process planning and policy substance has been reviewed at Commission Fish Committee and full Commission Meetings numerous times since June 2018.  Staff presentations, analytical materials, and audio transcripts of such meetings are available on the Commission's meetings web pages.  The Commission adopted policy language development guidance at its April 2020 meeting and released a public review draft of possible language revisions at its August meeting. 

A virtual meeting was held with the State Salmon Recovery Boards to review progress and possible language considerations.

Public review draft of policy C-3619 revisions

On Aug. 1, 2020, the Commission approved the release of draft revised Policy C-3619 for public review. 

The Commission asked that all interested and affected individuals and entities provide written comment by the end of September 7, so that it could be distributed and considered in advance of the Commission meeting on September 10-12, 2020.  At that meeting, the Commission extended the public comment period through October 12.  

View submitted public comments.

How to comment

Please send public comments on the draft policy language revisions to commission@dfw.wa.gov

Questions? Contact Laurie Peterson, fish science division manager, at laurie.peterson@dfw.wa.gov.

Remaining process and schedule 

At its October 22-24 meeting, the Commission will consider public comment from the extended public comment period, recommendations from the Fish Committee Workgroup, and public testimony at that time; the Commission will then provide guidance on language changes from the public review draft.   Any revised language will be placed on the Commission website for public review and discussed with Tribal Co-Managers in advance of a final decision to be made at the Commission December 3-5 meeting.