- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - A state board approved a new salmon and steelhead management plan on Friday for the Oregon Coast that trims the introduction of hatchery salmon and steelhead on a few rivers to reduce the likelihood they will interbreed with wild fish.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously adopted the Coastal Multi-Species Management Plan at a meeting in Salem.

State fisheries chief Ed Bowles says the plan made some compromises to accommodate objections raised by anglers and county officials in the Tillamook Bay area and the southern coast.

The anglers and officials did not want to see a reduction in the number of hatchery fish put into local rivers each year because fish are important to the local economies.

Bowles added that, overall, the number of hatchery fish going into coastal rivers is increasing.

The department says wild salmon and steelhead runs are generally healthy on the coast, but there are warning signs on a few rivers that hatchery salmon are interbreeding with wild fish, which reduces the survival rate of future generations.

The plan also opens up opportunities to harvest a few wild winter steelhead on some rivers with healthy populations, and puts catch limits on some rivers on a sliding scale based on the abundance of returning fish.

The plan applies to coastal rivers from Port Orford to Tillamook Bay.

Hatcheries have long been used to make up for declines in wild fish from habitat losses. Research in recent years has shown hatchery fish do not survive as well in the ocean or reproduce as well in rivers as wild fish, and they can crowd wild fish out of limited habitat.

The proposal was based on the premise that hatchery fish pose a risk to wild fish. However, a public survey conducted for the department found most of the public does not agree, even though the idea is generally accepted by scientists.

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