Hatchery “broodstock” programs have for about a decade been heralded by fisheries managers in the Pacific Northwest as the solution to our declining wild steelhead populations. Broodstock steelhead are produced by removing wild steelhead from the river, harvesting their eggs or milt, then raising those offspring in the hatchery until smolthood. (Rather than using the eggs and milt of out-of-basin stocks within the river, which is the traditional hatchery method in use on many PNW rivers). However, five years of peer-reviewed science has begun to debunk the hype surrounding broodstock fish.
This month saw yet another illuminating study, this one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which showed that genetic adaptation of steelhead raised in the hatchery starts hurting spawning success within just one generation.
To read an Oregonian newspaper summary of the article, check out: