CORVALLIS, Ore. The rearing of steelhead trout in hatcheries causes a dramatic and unexpectedly fast drop in their ability to reproduce in the wild, a new Oregon State University study shows, and raises serious questions about the wisdom of historic hatchery practices.
The research, to be published Friday in the journal Science, demonstrates for the first time that the reproductive success of steelhead trout, an important salmonid species, can drop by close to 40 percent per captive-reared generation. The study reflects data from experiments in Oregons Hood River.
For fish to so quickly lose their ability to reproduce is stunning, its just remarkable, said Michael Blouin, an OSU associate professor of zoology. We were not surprised at the type of effect but at the speed. We thought it would be more gradual. If it werent our own data I would have difficulty believing the results.
Fish reared in a hatchery for two generations had around half the reproductive fitness of fish reared for a single generation. The effects appear to be genetic, scientists said, and probably result from evolutionary pressures that quickly select for characteristics that are favored in the safe, placid world of the hatchery, but not in the comparatively hostile natural environment.
Among other things, this study proves with no doubt that wild fish and hatchery fish are not the same, despite their appearances, said Michael Blouin, an OSU associate professor of zoology. Some have suggested that hatchery and wild fish are equivalent, but these data really put the final nail in the coffin of that argument.
Even a few generations of domestication may have significant negative effects, and repeated use of captive-reared parents to supplement wild populations should be carefully reconsidered, the scientists said in their report.
Traditionally, salmon and steelhead hatcheries obtained their brood stock and eggs from fish that were repea
|Contact: Michael Blouin|
Oregon State University