Anadromous Salmon and Steelhead Hatchery Policy

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted an updated Anadromous Salmon and Steelhead Hatchery Policy (C-3624) at a meeting on April 9, 2021. Read the full text of the new policy.


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 C-3619 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 Policy C-3619, including:

  • Performance results since adoption of Policy C-3619:
  • Updating the scientific elements of the Policy C3619, 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 Policy C-3619 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.

Policy Performance Evaluation 

As part of the policy review process, 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 policy performance review document discussed at that time can be found at Public testimony was taken at the workshop.

Science Review

The Commission also tasked the Director with reviewing the evolving science and updating scientific elements of Policy C-3619. 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 this report discussed at the workshop and the staff presentation. Public testimony was taken at the workshop.

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 two public review drafts of possible language revisions, an initial one at its August 2020 meeting and another at its November 6, 2020 meeting

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

At its January, 2021 meeting, the Commission considered public comment to date and adopted a revised draft recommended by the Fish Committee, for assessment in accordance with the State Environmental Policy Act.  This process included a public comment process on the Department evaluation of environmental impacts associated with policy language changes.

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 meetings have been held between policy level representatives from tribal governments, Commission representatives, and Department staff. 

The input has helped frame potential timeframes and process to complete the Commission Policy review and adopt any appropriate revisions to Policy C-3619.  For example, Tribal policy representatives have consistently called for stronger Co-Manager provisions in a new State Policy and all three drafts of revised policy language included a provision to begin work toward establishing a joint State-Tribal Hatchery Policy in geographic areas of Tribal Co-Management as soon as an updated Policy is adopted.

Remaining process and schedule

The Commission adopted revised policy language at its meeting on April 9, 2021, establishing a new Policy C-3624 that supersedes the policy language in Policy C-3619.  However, the new policy language calls for additional process in two important areas.  First, there is policy direction to immediately begin work on a joint State Tribal Hatchery Policy in the appropriate geographic areas.  Second, Policy Guideline #4 calls for the development of a technical procedures document that will describe the details of a risk assessment framework and structured decision-making process for the Hatchery Management Plans required for each hatchery program in the State.  The development of additional technical documentation is expected to take approximately one year, and will include a separate additional State Environmental Policy Act public review process.