WDFW Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy Implementation Assessment: Final Report, 2009-2019


Published: August 11, 2020

Pages: 115

Author(s): Andrew Murdoch, Gary Marston

Executive Summary

The Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy #C-3619 was adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) in 2009. The policy was intended to guide a scientific and systematic redesign of the hatchery programs operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in order to improve hatchery effectiveness in meeting management goals, including supporting sustainable fisheries. In 2018, the FWC assigned WDFW to review all sections and aspects of Policy #C-3619. Specifically, WDFW scientists were tasked with: i) reviewing policy performance (i.e., effectiveness) relative to hatchery reform actions specified in the eleven policy guidelines, as reported herein; and, ii) reviewing and updating the science on hatchery reform, as presented in a separate report.

After initial scoping, it was determined that the required data to perform an ad hoc hatchery effectiveness analysis for 159 hatchery programs was not available. Furthermore, given that for most populations, excluding the Upper Columbia, data on the abundance of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds has only been available since 2010 (due to lack of mass-marking), typical analytical approaches (i.e., Before-after-Control-Impact) could not be utilized. While lack of data prevented a policy performance review, an assessment of policy implementation was possible for many of the hatchery programs. As such, evaluating policy implementation since 2009 is the focus this report, including relevant fishery reform actions. Implementation effectiveness, or lack thereof, will directly influence future performance results.

Implementation was assessed directly for guidelines that explicitly stated a quantifiable metric (e.g., externally mark all Chinook, Coho and steelhead). For more ambiguous guidelines, readily available surrogate metrics were used to quantify implementation and may not completely encompass the intent of the guideline (e.g., Guideline 3). Implementation of the principles and systemwide recommendations of the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) primarily focused on Chinook, Coho and steelhead programs (Guidelines 1 and 2). While steady progress in hatchery reform implementation has been achieved over the last 10 years, more work is needed in all areas. While lack of funding was a common reason that prevented implementation of some guidelines, factors outside of the policy (e.g., federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements, tribal-state co-manager agreements, FERC, Mitchell Act) often associated with the funding source also influenced implementation, both positively and negatively.

Lack of quantifiable harvest program goals and a comprehensive statewide monitoring and evaluation program are areas of special concern. Defining program success and collecting and analyzing data to adaptively manage our programs are critical missing components. Conversely, hatchery operations, externally marking hatchery fish, Chinook smolt survival, and facility compliance with environmental regulations were found to be well implemented. Fishery reform actions (i.e., mark-selective fisheries and alternative gear types) were also well implemented across the State. The number of mark-selective fisheries peaked in 2016, but declined thereafter, due to the recent decline in overall salmon abundance. Harvest using alternative gear types was constrained, in part, by lack of hatchery fish abundance at locations and where implemented.

At the end of this report, following our comprehensive assessment of policy implementation, we provide recommendations specific to the findings of this report. These recommendations focus on the importance of ensuring that future performance evaluations are possible via monitoring, evaluation, and adaptive management programs developed for each hatchery program statewide.

Related documents

Draft documents

Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.