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Over 80 years ago, the Carson National Fish Hatchery was funded by Congress to help save salmon, specifically to replace wild salmon killed with the building of dozens of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Today, there are hundreds of Northwest hatcheries, operated by
federal, state and tribal governments. The hatchery system was created to stop salmon decline. But it hasn’t. Six native salmon species in the Columbia basin have been startlingly diminished, and 13 distinct populations are now threatened or endangered. Every year, almost 250 million young salmon head to the ocean, the majority spawned at hatcheries, head to the ocean each year. And though the number is greater than before the dams were built, there are less than one-fifth making the return to spawn.
The U.S. government promised Native tribes in the Pacific Northwest that they could keep fishing as they’d always done. But instead of preserving wild salmon, it propped up a failing system of hatcheries. Carson National Fish Hatchery in Carson, Wash., turns out over one million spring Chinook salmon each year.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB