Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Diminished Reproductive Success of Steelhead from a Hatchery Supplementation Program (Little Sheep Creek, Imnaha Basin, Oregon)

A recent study authored by a group of biologists from NOAA and ODFW explores reproductive success of hatchery v. wild steelhead in a tributary of the Imnaha River in Oregon. The "integrated" hatchery program in which hatchery juveniles were progeny of wild parents or parents of relatively recent wild ancestry still showed a dramatic decline in reproductive fitness relative to their hatchery counterparts (30-60%). This research adds to the ever growing body of evidence that hatchery fish are extremely unsuccessful when spawning in the wild and that hatchery spawners dramatically reduce the productivity of wild stocks and further call into question managers ongoing reliance on hatcheries in recovery efforts.

Download the paper at the American Fisheries Society Website:


Hatchery supplementation programs are designed to enhance natural production and maintain the fitness of the target population; however, it can be difficult to evaluate the success of these programs. Key to the success of such programs is a relatively high reproductive success of hatchery fish. This study investigated the relative reproductive success (RRS) of steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss (anadromous rainbow trout) by creating pedigrees for hatchery and natural spawning steelhead. We genotyped adult steelhead that returned to a weir and were released upstream to spawn in Little Sheep Creek, a tributary to the Imnaha River in eastern Oregon. The broodstock for this supplementation program were originally chosen from natural-origin steelhead returning to the weir and in subsequent years consisted of both natural- and hatchery-origin individuals. Microsatellite analyses showed the broodstock to be genetically similar to the natural population across years. We also genotyped adult resident rainbow trout from multiple locations upstream of the weir and determined the parentage of progeny collected at various life history stages, including returning adults in subsequent years. Analysis of progeny sampled at both the juvenile and adult life stages suggested that the RRS of hatchery-origin fish was 30–60% that of their natural-origin counterparts. Using generalized linear models to address the importance of various factors associated with reduced reproductive success, we found that the greatest effects on RRS were origin (natural versus hatchery), length, return date, and the number of same-sex competitors. Natural parents were less negatively affected by same-sex competitors. Differential survival of juveniles and the behavior of offspring and/or spawning adults may all contribute to diminished fitness in hatchery-reared salmon, although it could not be determined to what extent these effects were of a persistent, heritable nature as distinct from an environmental effect associated with hatchery rearing and release strategies.

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