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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49645. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049645. Epub 2012 Nov 19.

Variation in the early marine survival and behavior of natural and hatchery-reared Hood Canal steelhead.

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Manchester Research Laboratory, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Manchester, Washington, United States of America.



Hatchery-induced selection and direct effects of the culture environment can both cause captively bred fish populations to survive at low rates and behave unnaturally in the wild. New approaches to fish rearing in conservation hatcheries seek to reduce hatchery-induced selection, maintain genetic resources, and improve the survival of released fish.


This study used acoustic telemetry to compare three years of early marine survival estimates for two wild steelhead populations to survival of two populations raised at two different conservation hatcheries located within the Hood Canal watershed. Steelhead smolts from one conservation hatchery survived with probabilities similar to the two wild populations (freshwater: 95.8-96.9%, early marine: 10.0-15.9%), while smolts from the other conservation hatchery exhibited reduced freshwater and early marine survival (freshwater: 50.2-58.7%, early marine: 2.6-5.1%). Freshwater and marine travel rates did not differ significantly between wild and hatchery individuals from the same stock, though hatchery smolts did display reduced migration ranges within Hood Canal. Between-hatchery differences in rearing density and vessel geometry likely affected survival and behavior after release and contributed to greater variation between hatcheries than between wild populations.


Our results suggest that hatchery-reared smolts can achieve early marine survival rates similar to wild smolt survival rates, and that migration performance of hatchery-reared steelhead can vary substantially depending on the environmental conditions and practices employed during captivity.

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