May 29th, 2000
The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .
Cost vs Yield of Pacific Hatchery Salmon
By Bill M. Bakke, Director Native Fish Society
Economist tells N.W. Power Planning Council salmon cost more to
produce then their value to the region. At the April meeting of the
Power Council, Dr. Hans Radtke presented
information on the costs and benefits of hatchery salmon. According to
Dr. Radtke hatchery fall chinook were the only species that cost less per
returning adult than its value to the regional economy. His evaluation
is based on a regional economic impact that includes the value of the fish
to sport and commercial fisheries including Alaska through the Columbia
River. This gives the fish a higher value than just the price the
commercial fishermen get for their catch.
Dr. Radtke told Fish Letter that "If survival rates continue to
be low, it doesn't make economic sense to raise fish in a hatchery,
especially fish with longer freshwater life histories such as steelhead, coho,
and spring and summer chinook. The public policy question is whether we
want to continue to raise fish that cost up to $500 per fish to
produce?" He said, "Legislators may have to make a choice between
spending that subsidizes the fisheries or spend the available money on
education and human health."
As an economist, Dr. Radtke said, "I can't tell the legislators what to
do, I can only provide them with information such as a comparison of costs
and values. Based on this report to the Power Planning Council the regional
economic value per fall chinook is $46.36 compared a cost of $35.00 per
fish; spring and summer chinook value is $38.62 compared to a cost of
$404 per fish; coho value is $38 compared to a cost of $59; steelhead value is
$26 compared to a cost of $293 per fish.
"The fish cost more if they are not harvested," says Bruce
Suzumoto of the Power Council staff. This year the hatchery spring
chinook salmon run is predicted to be 190,000, the largest run in over 20 years,
but harvest is restricted because of the Endangered Species Act. Next
year the run may be even larger.
Another factor affecting the cost- benefit of hatchery salmon is
the increased market share of farmed salmon. At this time farmed salmon
comprise about 50% of the world production, and this relatively
inexpensive salmon has had a depressing effect on the price fishermen get for their
Bruce Suzumoto said, "The fish in the river are worth a lot less
than those caught in the ocean due to degraded quality of their flesh.
The commercial value of fish caught in the river will continue to decline
because they cannot compete with farmed salmon. There may be niche
markets that could be developed as has been done for Copper River chinook and
sockeye, and this would help sustain the price. But direct competition
with Alaska and farmed salmon by inriver commercial salmon fisheries
The consequence of this is that hatchery produced salmon in the
Columbia are likely to have decreasing value and the cost per adult
produced is likely to increase.
Hatchery costs and benefits should be evaluated. This is needed
to make informed decisions on production and harvest. But Bruce Suzumoto
said, "It is just one of many things the Power Planning Council is trying
to accomplish," and he noted that they had gotten 2,000 pages of
amendments for the new fish and wildlife program, as an example of
factors competing for Council attention.
~ Bill M. Bakke
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