“Salmon hatcheries can deplete wild stocks” ignores a basic fact. Hatchery stocks came from wild stocks. Their DNA is the same. There is an abundance of underused habitat in our northwest rivers. Some hatchery salmon would use these habitats if they were left alone. Instead, hatchery fish are clubbed to death to prevent their mixing with the wild population. This is nonsense. We breed endangered animals in zoos and return them to the wild. Why not salmon? Jack DeWitt
Milton-Freewater, Ore. There is considerable question as to whether hatchery and wild salmon contain the same genes, observes Oregon salmon biologist Jim Lichatowich. “Some hatchery stocks were started with fish from whatever rivers [biologists] could get eggs from,” sometimes far from the rivers into which they were released, he says. Moreover, he points out, some fish were selected–”domesticated”–for a genetic makeup that facilitates their spawning and maturation in captivity. These genes might also, however, render them more vulnerable in the wild, he says. Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington in Seattle also notes that fish in hatcheries are more prone to epidemics, and so they may later introduce diseases to wild fish. He concludes that “for lots of reasons, hatcheries have been bad for wild fish.”
–J. Raloff