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Keywords:

  • Chinook salmon;
  • conservation;
  • domestication;
  • hatchery;
  • homogenization;
  • Pacific salmon;
  • recovery

Abstract

Most hatchery programs for anadromous salmonids have been initiated to increase the numbers of fish for harvest, to mitigate for habitat losses, or to increase abundance in populations at low abundance. However, the manner in which these programs are implemented can have significant impacts on the evolutionary trajectory and long-term viability of populations. In this paper, we review the potential benefits and risks of hatchery programs relative to the conservation of species listed under the US Endangered Species Act. To illustrate, we present the range of potential effects within a population as well as among populations of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) where changes to major hatchery programs are being considered. We apply evolutionary considerations emerging from these examples to suggest broader principles for hatchery uses that are consistent with conservation goals. We conclude that because of the evolutionary risks posed by artificial propagation programs, they should not be viewed as a substitute for addressing other limiting factors that prevent achieving viability. At the population level, artificial propagation programs that are implemented as a short-term approach to avoid imminent extinction are more likely to achieve long-term population viability than approaches that rely on long-term supplementation. In addition, artificial propagation programs can have out-of-population impacts that should be considered in conservation planning.