United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Resources, House of Representatives October 1999 NATIONAL FISH HATCHERIES Classification of the Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs Needs Refinement GAO/RCED-00-10 United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-283539 October 15, 1999 The Honorable George Miller Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Resources House of Representatives Dear Mr. Miller: Fish hatcheries operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been part of the nation’s network of fish hatcheries for more than 120 years. While state and tribal hatcheries play an important role in supplying fish for commercial and recreational fishing, federal hatcheries have a unique role. This role includes helping to ensure the recovery of species of fish that have been listed as threatened or endangered, restoring native fish stocks to self-sustaining levels, replacing fisheries lost as a result of federal water projects, and supplying fish to Indian tribes and Fish and Wildlife Service lands. The performance of federal hatcheries has been a matter of some controversy, including such issues as their role in and impact on fish recovery and restoration efforts, the health of fish released into streams, and the ability of hatchery-raised fish to survive when released into the wild. To provide the Congress with information to help evaluate the appropriate role for federal hatcheries, you asked us to develop a baseline assessment of current activities at these facilities, known collectively as the National Fish Hatchery System. As agreed with your office, we focused our review on the following questions: • What has been the funding level for the National Fish Hatchery System since fiscal year 1992, and what impact has this funding level had on its operations? • What is the current production level at federal hatcheries; what portion of this production goes for recovery and restoration efforts; and what is the distribution of total hatchery production into federal, state, and other waters? • What are some of the issues related to the health and disease problems at these hatcheries that pose problems for introducing their fish into the wild? Page 1 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 Appropriations for operating the National Fish Hatchery System dropped Results in Brief from about $47 million to $40 million, or 15 percent (in constant 1999 dollars), from fiscal years 1992 through 1999, while the Fish and Wildlife Service’s overall budget increased during this period. According to hatchery managers and other Fish and Wildlife Service personnel, these funding declines have resulted in unfilled staff positions and a drop in the distribution of fish and fish eggs. About one-fourth of the positions at federal hatcheries are currently unfilled, and 1998 fish distribution was about 19 percent below 1992 levels. Strategies for dealing with the situation have included transferring some federal hatcheries to states, seeking reimbursement for services provided to states and private entities, deferring maintenance, and relying more on volunteers. In fiscal year 1998, the National Fish Hatchery System distributed about 163 million fish, weighing a total of about 5.7 million pounds, and about 122 million fish eggs. Our review of the Service’s records showed that its data overstated the extent to which the distribution from federal hatcheries has gone for restoration or recovery efforts. We found that 40 percent of the fish and 20 percent of the pounds distributed were used to assist in restoration and recovery efforts, not 80 percent of the fish and 56 percent of the pounds as identified by the Service. Moreover, federal hatcheries have assisted in the production of fish for commercial and recreational purposes to a greater extent than the Service indicated. About three-fourths of the fish and half of the fish eggs were distributed to waters under federal jurisdiction, with most of the rest distributed to waters under state jurisdiction. Service officials and other fish health experts agree that much remains to be learned about the interaction of diseases between wild fish and hatchery-raised fish. They said that hatchery fish were not necessarily less healthy than wild fish but were more likely to show outward symptoms of disease—a tendency they attributed to the greater stress hatchery fish experience from changes in water temperature and quality, high population densities of fish, and handling and transporting. When health and disease problems in hatchery fish were encountered, the hatcheries’ responses to the situations varied. Officials said many situations were alleviated with antibiotics or by reducing the stressful conditions, but, in some instances, fish or eggs were destroyed to avoid transmitting a problem to other fish. We also identified instances in which fish that may have been diseased had been released. Hatchery officials said the latter course of action had been taken only with the concurrence of state officials and only in situations where a body of water was closed (such as Page 2 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 a lake with no outlet) or where the specific disease was already known to exist. Most public and private hatcheries throughout the United States focus on Background producing fish for the primary purposes of commercial use and recreational fishing, but the 67 hatcheries in the National Fish Hatchery System are supposed to play a different role. According to Service officials, while many of the fish produced by federal hatcheries provide significant commercial and recreational benefits, these benefits are secondary to the primary role of the National System. Since the 1970s, the Service has tried to emphasize the restoration and the recovery of threatened and endangered species, along with the replacement of fisheries lost because of federal water projects. Beginning in 1996, the Service established, with input from public stakeholders, the role and the responsibilities of the federal hatcheries. In 1998, to better align their output with their role and responsibilities, the Service established and defined program categories for use in classifying the distribution of their fish and fish eggs (see table 1).1 Service officials indicated that they place the highest priority on the first two programs—recovering threatened or endangered species and restoring other native fish stocks to self-sustaining levels. 1 The Service has not publicly reported on the distribution of fish and fish eggs from the National System since fiscal year 1996. Service officials indicated that a lack of funds and time were the reasons behind the failure to publicly report this information for fiscal years 1997 and 1998. Page 3 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 Table 1: Programs Included in the Activities of Federal Fish Hatcheries Program Definition Example Recovery The stocking of native fish to help In 1973, the Apache trout was listed as reestablish self-sustaining populations at endangered under the Endangered Species levels of abundance and spatial Act. The recovery plan called for hatchery distributions sufficient for delisting propagation. Actions at the Alchesay-Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery in Arizona helped bring recovery to the level that, by 1998, delisting was in sight. Restoration The stocking of native fish to help The paddlefish, one of the largest freshwater reestablish self-sustaining populations at fish, has been eliminated from many smaller levels of abundance and spatial rivers and streams in the central United distributions well above the threshold for States because of habitat loss. The delisting or listing Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery in Arkansas, one of several hatcheries involved in paddlefish restoration, raises paddlefish until they are about 12 inches long. They are then stocked into their native habitat. Mitigation The stocking of nonnative and native fish Construction of federal dams on the upper to replace or maintain harvest levels lost as White River in Arkansas lowered water a result of federal water projects temperatures; consequently, native bass, catfish, and sunfish could not survive below the dams. The Norfork National Fish Hatchery in Arkansas produces nonnative trout to stock these colder parts of the river. Because the trout are not able to reproduce and achieve self-sustaining populations in these waters, continued restocking is necessary. Fish and Wildlife Service and tribal lands The stocking of nonnative or native fish to In Louisiana, the Natchitoches National Fish enhance harvest, outreach, and Hatchery stocks fish into the waters of the educational activities at national wildlife Sabine National Wildlife Refuge to create a refuges (or harvest on tribal lands), but not recreational fishery. To develop this fishery, with the intent of reestablishing or the depth of the refuge’s waters was maintaining self-sustaining populations raised and they were stocked with fish native to Louisiana. Partnership management The stocking of nonnative or native fish to The Leadville National Fish Hatchery stocks enhance the harvest, but not with the intent trout for recreational fishing on federal lands of reestablishing or maintaining in Colorado—mainly military reservations, self-sustaining populations or mitigating including the Air Force Academy, Peterson the adverse effects of federal water Air Force Base, Pueblo Army Depot, and projects Fort Carson. Source: GAO’s analysis of information provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The 67 hatcheries in the National System are located in 34 states (see fig.1). In addition to these federal hatcheries, the Fish and Wildlife Service Page 4 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 operates nine fish health centers and seven fish technology centers. These centers provide technical support and health screenings. Figure 1: The Location of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Regional Offices, Fish Hatcheries, Fish Health Centers, and Fish Technology Centers Makah Quilcene Winthrop Quinault Entiat Olympia Craig Carson Leavenworth Creston Lower Columbia Willard Brook River Spring Creek Abernathy White River Bozeman Pendills Creek Warm Springs Garrison Pittsford Portland Little White Dam Valley City Hiawatha Forest Eagle Creek Salmon Ennis Iron Green Lake Kooskia River Dworshak Twin Jordan River Nashua Livingston Stone Jackson Cities LaCrosse Richard Cronin North Hagerman Gavins California/Nevada Point Genoa Attleboro Coleman Allegheny Saratoga Hadley Lamar Lahontan Jones Hole Berkshire Ouray Leadville Denver White Hotchkiss Sulphur Sprs. Harrison Lake Wolf Creek Neosho Edenton Willow Beach Norfolk Mora Dale Hollow Erwin Pinetop Mammoth Spring Alchesay Albuquerque Tishomingo Greers Ferry Private Chattahoochee Forest Orangeburg Williams Creek Dexter John Atlanta Mescalero Allen Warm Natchitoches Springs Inks Dam San Marcos Welaka Uvalde National Fish Hatchery Fish Technology Center Fish Health Center Regional Offices Source: Prepared by GAO from data provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Page 5 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 Disagreements persist about how federal hatcheries should be operated. Matters of controversy include how many federal hatcheries are needed, how they should be funded and operated, and what goals they should try to achieve. In addition, controversies exist about the impact of hatchery-raised fish (such as the transmission of disease and health problems to wild fish stocks), the genetic changes introduced by hatchery-raised fish, and the ability of hatchery-raised fish to survive when released into the wild. During fiscal years 1992 through 1999, funding for federal hatcheries Agency Officials decreased. Service officials said this funding decline had left them unable Linked Declining to fill many positions and unable to perform needed maintenance at Funds to Staffing federal hatcheries, which in some cases, resulted in threatened or endangered fish being lost. As a result of these decreases in funding, fish Shortages and Drops and fish egg production also declined during this timeframe. Officials said in Fish Production that they have adopted a variety of strategies to obtain additional funding or stretch operating dollars. The Level of While overall funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service has increased from Appropriations for Federal fiscal years 1992 through 1999, operating and maintenance funding for the Hatcheries Has Declined National Fish Hatchery System, as measured in constant 1999 dollars,2 has declined by about 15 percent. Fiscal year 1992 appropriations were by 15 Percent $46.7 million in constant dollars, compared with $39.5 million for fiscal year 1999 (see fig. 2).3 During the same period, total operating appropriations for the Service rose by 34 percent, from $493 million to $661 million, as measured in constant 1999 dollars.4 However, the hatcheries’ share of these appropriations declined from about 9 percent to 6 percent. This decline was, in part, the result of the lack of sufficient increases in appropriations to cover the increased costs of operations, maintenance, and construction; administrative streamlining; hatchery closures; and moving priorities for new funding towards other programs. 2 “Constant 1999 dollars” means that the appropriations from prior years have been adjusted to account for the change in the Consumer Price Index. The amounts reported for fiscal years 1992 through 1998 reflect the purchasing power of those dollars in terms of what a dollar could buy in fiscal year 1999. Operations and maintenance funds provide moneys for such things as salaries, utility expenses, routine vehicle and building maintenance, fish food and drugs, and other supplies. 3 In addition to appropriations for the hatcheries’ operations and maintenance, the Service receives some fisheries-related appropriations under other categories (such as fish and wildlife management), as well as funds for replacing fisheries lost as a result of federal water projects. (See app. I for details on these additional sources of funds). 4 These amounts exclude research and development funds. Page 6 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 Figure 2: Operating and Maintenance Funding for the National Fish Hatchery 50 Dollars in millions System, Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1999 45 40 35 30 0 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 Fiscal year Constant 1999 dollars Note: Amounts are in constant 1999 dollars. Source: GAO’s analysis of data from the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Federal Hatcheries Officials at Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters and at the 13 federal Have Reported Staffing hatcheries we visited said that declining appropriations have resulted in an Shortages, Maintenance inability to fully staff hatchery positions. Nationwide, about 125 positions, or one-fourth of all the positions at federal hatcheries, were vacant, and, Shortfalls, and Equipment according to agency managers, funds were not available to fill them. Problems Adequate staffing at fish hatcheries is needed because fish require daily feeding and tank cleaning, and failure to do this could cause stressful situations that harm the health of the fish. In addition, the staff must be available 24 hours a day in case of emergencies, such as pump failures or interruptions of water supplies, which could jeopardize the entire production of a hatchery. Vacant positions include hatchery managers, biologists, geneticists, and maintenance workers. For example: • The Dexter National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center in New Mexico, which breeds and raises several of the nation’s most endangered fish species, does not have three of its allotted staff because the facility has lacked the necessary operating funds. One of these positions is the director, a position that has been vacant for more than a year. Page 7 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 • At the Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado, the fish biologist position has been vacant since February 1994 because of inadequate funds. To deal with this shortage and still achieve production and mission goals, the hatchery has relied on numerous volunteers during the past 4 years. However, hatchery staff said turnover among volunteers has been high. Many of the hatchery managers we spoke with also reported that they were unable to maintain or perform preventative maintenance on facilities and equipment. According to Service officials, the average federal hatchery is 55 years old and has several million dollars in accumulated maintenance needs that have been deferred over the years. By their estimation, the National System needs about $110 million for maintenance.5 By comparison, the National System’s appropriation for maintenance was about $7.4 million in fiscal year 1999—or only about 7 percent of its total needs. Several hatchery managers reported losses of fish, some of which were classified as threatened or endangered, because of equipment failures or malfunctions. For example: • In April 1999, 198 endangered Gila trout died at the Mescalero National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico when a seal failed in an older holding tank. An official from the Fisheries Resource Office in New Mexico estimated that these fish represented 25 percent of the native population in one of the two streams where these fish are found. More importantly, he said these fish were spawning-age adults that were being used to reintroduce this species into Arizona and move towards delisting the species from the Endangered Species List. This effort has now been delayed. • In December 1998, 700 threatened Gulf of Mexico sturgeon died at the Welaka National Fish Hatchery in Florida when an aerator system failed. Hatchery staff said a backup system that could have saved the fish was not operating because maintenance funds were unavailable to repair it. Managers at some facilities said they have been unable to obtain needed equipment. According to an official at the Dexter National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center, that facility has lacked the funds to purchase specialized laboratory equipment needed to propagate and protect threatened or endangered fish species. At the Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery, we observed researchers using benches and chairs for makeshift laboratory workspace. 5 In addition to deferred maintenance needs, the National System reported a backlog of $168 million for construction items. Construction items are funded by a separate budget account and are not part of the operations and maintenance funds addressed in this report. Page 8 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 The Distribution of Fish In recent years, the distribution of fish and fish eggs from federal and Fish Eggs Has hatcheries has declined. As table 2 shows, fish distribution declined from Declined about 204 million fish in fiscal year 1992 to about 164 million fish in fiscal year 1998, a decrease of 19 percent. In contrast, the number of pounds of fish distributed decreased by only 6 percent, from about 6 million pounds in 1992 to about 5.7 million pounds in 1998. The number of eggs distributed declined from 132 million to about 122 million, a decrease of 8 percent.6 Hatchery managers said one of the reasons for the decline in the distribution of fish and fish eggs was the lack of money to repair the fishponds and the facilities used to rear fish. However, while the federal hatcheries have been distributing fewer fish, the decline in pounds of fish has been relatively small because many of those fish have been larger. Table 2: The Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs From Federal Hatcheries, Number of fish Pounds of fish Number of eggs Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1998 distributed (in distributed (in distributed (in Fiscal year thousands) thousands) thousands) 1992 203,687 6,030 132,329 1993 213,529 6,220 263,476 1994 177,070 6,120 151,137 1995 168,463 5,978 138,800 1996 161,491 5,504 144,504 1997 165,564 5,500 112,904 1998 164,260 5,664 121,540 Source: Fish and Wildlife Service. The Federal Hatcheries Managers have taken some steps, such as the following, to cope with Have Taken Measures to decreasing funds. Cope With Declining • Transferring federal hatcheries to states: During fiscal years 1996 through Budgets 1997, the Fish and Wildlife Service transferred six hatcheries to states—one each in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. • Seeking additional funding from nonfederal sources: Some facilities have received funds from states or other entities. For example, the federal hatcheries in Colorado and Montana have received partial compensation 6 Some federal hatcheries maintain desired strains of mature, spawning-age fish that produce eggs that are used to meet the production needs of the National System. These “broodstock” hatcheries provide eggs to other federal hatcheries and to state hatcheries, other federal agencies, and universities to support restoration efforts, help meet mitigation responsibilities, promote research and technological development, and help provide recreational fishing opportunities. Page 9 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 for raising rainbow trout for state waters. The Warm Springs Fish Health Laboratory in Georgia has charged commercial producers that want to ship sterile grass carp to other parts of the country for the laboratory’s inspection and certification services. • Seeking alternatives to contracting: Some federal hatcheries and fish centers are using in-house staff or other resources to build or maintain projects that otherwise would have been done by contract. In-house staff at Colorado’s Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery built a mesh enclosure to protect its fish from herons and other predators. According to the hatchery manager, the total project cost $42,000, compared to a contract’s estimate of $90,000 to $110,000. The Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery in Georgia used electricians and bulldozer operators from the National Guard to install electrical wiring and reshape its fishponds. Our review of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s distribution records found Most Distributions that they gave an incorrect picture of the degree to which federal From Federal hatcheries have been focusing on the Service’s recovery and restoration Hatcheries Have programs. According to the Service, most of the fish and fish eggs distributed by its hatcheries had been used in these two programs. Benefited However, we found that more than half of the distribution that the Service Recreational and had classified as related to these programs did not meet their definitions. While most of the fish and fish eggs had been distributed to waters that are Commercial Fisheries under federal jurisdiction, they actually benefited recreational and commercial fisheries. Inasmuch as Fish and Wildlife Service managers have indicated that the priority for federal hatcheries should be recovering threatened or endangered species or restoring other imperiled fish to self-sustaining populations, most of their distributions were of nonnative, nonimperiled, or nonsustainable native fish, which have benefited commercial and recreational fisheries. Fewer Fish and Fish Eggs In fiscal year 1998, the last year for which complete information was Should Have Been available, federal hatcheries distributed about 163 million fish, weighing a Classified as Used for total of about 5.7 million pounds, and about 122 million fish eggs.7 The Service’s data indicated that about 80 percent of the fish, representing Restoration and Recovery about 56 percent of the pounds, and 29 percent of the fish eggs were for restoration or recovery projects. However, when we examined the various uses more closely and compared them with the definitions for the various programs, we found that only 38 percent of the fish, representing about 7 This amount of fish is more than 1.6 million (about 1 percent) less than the amount identified by the Service and included in table 2. We found that this amount of 1.6 million should have been excluded because of such reasons as double counting. Page 10 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 20 percent of the pounds, and 23 percent of the fish eggs should have been classified as having gone for restoration or recovery efforts. Figure 3 compares the distribution of hatchery fish according to the Service’s records with our adjustments to more accurately reflect the Service’s definitions.8 Figure 3: Initial and Reclassified Fish Distribution, Fiscal Year 1998 Distribution as Program Distribution indicated by the Fish and category as reclassified Wildlife Service's by GAO data 3% 2% Recovery 77% Restoration 36% 9% Mitigation 43% 11% 18% Tribal Lands, Fish and Wildlife Service's Lands, and Partnership Management 1% Other Source: GAO’s analysis of data from the Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the Service’s program definitions, for a usage to be classified as restoration or recovery, it must involve an attempt to achieve a self-sustaining population of a native fish that is threatened, endangered, or otherwise imperiled in some way. We found several instances in which hatcheries had classified distribution as recovery or restoration even though the fish were nonnative, were not imperiled, or were not being used for the purpose of developing a self-sustaining population. For example: • The Mescalero National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico had classified the distribution of more than 37,000 rainbow trout (a common nonnative species) as recovery because these fish had been sent to the Dexter 8 See app. II for additional information on fish and fish egg distribution by program category and major species of fish produced in each region of the Service. Page 11 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center, where they had been used as food for the endangered Colorado pikeminnow. Similarly, the Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery in South Carolina had classified the distribution of 1.2 million bluegill (a common species) under the recovery program because the fish had been stocked into waters at national wildlife refuges as food for endangered wood storks. • The Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery in Louisiana classified the distribution of nearly 1 million bluegill, channel catfish, and largemouth bass (all common species) as restoration because they were stocked into waters at a national wildlife refuge in Louisiana in order to establish a recreational fishery. Although these fish are native to Louisiana, they are not threatened, endangered, or imperiled and had not previously inhabited the waters where they were stocked. • The Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery along the Washington side of the Columbia River classified the distribution of more than 3 million fall and spring chinook salmon as restoration. Despite being native to the area, the fish could never establish self-sustaining populations because a dam had obliterated their natural spawning habitat. • The Fish and Wildlife Service classified the distribution of the threatened Apache Trout at the Alchesay-Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery as recovery. However, the hatchery’s manager told us that its trout production was no longer used for the recovery program but was being used to supplement the recreational fishery on the Apache Indian reservation. • The Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery in North Dakota classified the distribution of over 7.2 million black crappie, northern pike, small mouth bass, and walleye as restoration when, in fact, these fish had been used to offset the impact of dam construction and other federal water projects in the area. Although these fish are native to the area, they are not threatened, endangered, or imperiled. Our findings should not be interpreted to mean that federal hatcheries have been doing things they are not authorized to do—only that the Fish and Wildlife Service has not been providing an accurate picture of how the activities at those hatcheries have been aligned with its priorities. Nearly all of the differences in classification involved fish and eggs classified as being used for recovery and restoration purposes when they had actually been used to mitigate the effects of federal water projects. Mitigation, like most purposes other than recovery or restoration, is the stocking of native or nonnative fish to maintain or replace harvest levels lost as a result of federal water projects and often involves stocking bodies of water that have little or no spawning habitat to support self-sustaining populations. Page 12 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 The fish—often nonnative species—are either stocked at a catchable size (called “put and take”) or are stocked and allowed to grow until they are of catchable size (called “put, grow, and take”). For example: • The rainbow trout, which has been introduced throughout the country, is native only to the rivers and streams of the Pacific Coast and Pacific Northwest. When this fish species has been stocked into reservoirs and rivers in other parts of the country, there has been little or no reproduction because of the lack of suitable habitat. In fiscal year 1998, rainbow trout accounted for most of the “put and take” stocking, representing almost 40 percent of the total pounds of fish produced at federal hatcheries. • Some species, such as lake trout, northern pike, bass, and channel catfish, have been stocked into nonnative waters and have successfully reproduced. All of these fish are game fish that are sought after as recreational fish. At times, these fish have threatened the survival of native species because of their reproduction and predatory natures. According to Service officials, in recent years, the stocking of nonnative fish has been done much more cautiously. • Some species, such as the salmon species native to the Pacific Northwest, have been stocked in their native waters to replace or maintain harvest levels lost as a result of federal water projects. Although millions of these fish have been stocked into native waters, self-sustaining populations are not possible because of numerous factors, including a lack of sufficient spawning habitat, predation by nonnative fishes, and impacts from human activities, which have prevented many of these fish from reaching maturity and returning to reproduce in self-sustaining numbers. Classifying these uses as recovery or restoration, rather than as mitigation or some other more appropriate category, does not provide an accurate picture of what federal hatcheries have been doing.9 Most Fish and Fish Eggs In fiscal year 1998, most of the fish and fish eggs distributed from federal Have Been Placed in hatcheries were placed in waters under the jurisdiction of the federal Waters Under Federal government (see table 3). These waters include those on federally owned lands and those that cross governmental boundaries (such as the Jurisdiction Columbia River, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River). That year, 75 percent of the fish from federal hatcheries and 53 percent of their fish eggs were distributed to waters under federal jurisdiction. Waters under 9 See app. III for a listing of fish and fish egg distribution, by Service region, for the recovery and restoration programs. Page 13 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 state jurisdiction received the next largest portion, with smaller numbers going to tribal and local governments. Table 3: The Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs by Entity Controlling the Program and product Amount (in thousands) Percentage Waters, Fiscal Year 1998 Federal government Fish 122,663 75 Pounds of fish 4,480 79 Fish eggs 64,721 53 State government Fish 31,883 20 Pounds of fish 629 11 Fish eggs 52,875 44 Local government Fish 989 1 Pounds of fish 21 0.4 Fish eggs 432 0.4 Tribal government Fish 6,611 4 Pounds of fish 518 9 Fish eggs 2,866 2 Other Fish 504 0.3 Pounds of fish 6 0.1 Fish eggs 646 0.5 Source: GAO’s analysis of data provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Officials from the Service and from science and industry groups that deal Managers Say Health with fisheries acknowledged that most of what is known about fish and Disease Problems diseases and how to control them has been learned from hatchery From Hatchery Fish operations but that there is still much to learn about the interaction between hatchery production and natural ecosystems. In general, the Can Be Minimized officials from the federal hatcheries and health centers that we spoke with made the following points about the health and disease problems in hatchery fish: • Hatchery fish are subject to stresses that can promote the manifestation of health and disease problems. Similar health and disease problems affect both wild and hatchery fish, but hatchery fish face stresses that cause Page 14 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 these problems to more readily manifest themselves.10 These stresses include being reared in high populations densities, being subjected to fluctuations in water temperature and quality, and having to undergo human handling and transporting to the site where they will be released. • Most health and disease problems can be minimized by reducing fish population densities and other stresses or by using antibiotics. Hatchery managers said they reduce the number of fish being reared and the changes in water quality or temperature to minimize most of the health and disease problems found there. These practices help reduce the need to use antibiotics, which are used primarily for internal bacterial infections. • Survey efforts are under way to determine the distribution of certain diseases among wild fish and develop health information on interactions between wild and hatchery fish. In 1997, the Service started the National Wild Fish Health Survey. This effort began when an outbreak of “whirling disease” depleted wild trout stocks in the Rocky Mountains.11 In fiscal year 1998, the Service spent $1.8 million investigating the whirling disease parasite, expanding the survey to gather additional information on the prevalence of various fish pathogens, and developing a database to examine relationships among fish diseases and various features of water quality and fish habitat. This survey included an analysis of more than 13,000 fish from 422 sites in 38 states. • When unexpected health or disease problems occur, fish and fish eggs have sometimes been destroyed to prevent the problems from being transmitted to other fish. In 1988 a viral disease was identified in salmon stocks at the Makah National Fish Hatchery in Washington. Because the virus may have been imported from Europe, all of the fish at that hatchery were destroyed. At the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington, salmon that return to the hatchery to spawn are tested for bacterial kidney disease, and according to the hatchery manager, the eggs of those fish with a high exposure to the disease are destroyed. • When fish that may be diseased are introduced into the wild, it is according to state regulations. In 1994, the pathogen for whirling disease was found in the waters and the fish at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado. With the concurrence of state fish and game officials and in accordance with state regulations for controlling that 10 App. IV provides more information on several diseases found in federal hatcheries in the National System. 11 Whirling disease is a parasitic infection that attacks cartilage in trout and salmon, causing deformities. Infected fish display a distinctive rapid whirling, or swimming in circles. The disease can be fatal to very young fish, and there is no known cure. Page 15 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 disease, fish from this hatchery were stocked in streams in which whirling disease already existed or in restricted bodies of water.12 Over the past 8 years, operating and maintenance appropriations for the Conclusions National Fish Hatchery System have decreased. According to Fish and Wildlife Service officials and hatchery managers, this decline has been the principal reason for not being able to fill positions, maintain production, and keep facilities properly maintained. Deciding what course of action to take in the face of such shortages requires, among other things, a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities of federal hatcheries. However, information on how federal hatcheries have been supporting the Service’s programs through the distribution of fish and fish eggs has not been reliable. Although the Service classified most of this distribution as being focused on recovering threatened or endangered species or restoring other imperiled fish to self-sustainability, in reality, the principal focus has been the distribution of nonnative, nonimperiled, or nonsustainable native fish to maintain or enhance commercial and recreational fisheries. The overstatement of fish and fish egg distribution associated with the recovery and restoration programs has understated the hatcheries’ activities that have principally been used to benefit commercial and recreational fisheries. The Service’s classification of distribution does not provide a clear picture of the unique role that federal hatcheries are supposed to fill. To provide the Congress with the information needed to evaluate the Recommendation appropriate role of the National Fish Hatchery System, we recommend that the Secretary of the Interior direct the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service to take steps to refine the classification system for fish and fish egg distribution and help ensure that hatchery managers appropriately classify all fish and fish egg distribution by its principal purpose. We provided a copy of this report to the Department of the Interior for Agency Comments review and comment. The agency agreed with our findings and recommendation. It also stated that reputable hatchery managers and scientists continue to disagree about such terms as recovery, restoration, 12 Restricted bodies of water are waters where fish infected with whirling disease may be stocked without a significant threat of spreading the parasite. For example, a reservoir on the eastern plains of Colorado would be considered a restricted body of water because it does not feed into other bodies of water with native wild trout populations. Page 16 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 and mitigation. The agency said that it is committed to describing its hatchery distribution programs in a manner that accurately addresses the concerns of those seeking information and that, in January 1999, it began to investigate methods for doing so. It also provided comments on the factual content of the report, and we made changes as appropriate. The agency’s comments are included as appendix VI. Our work included analyses of budget, financial, and distribution data. We obtained this information from Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters and, where necessary, from four of the six regional offices (Albuquerque, Atlanta, Denver, and Portland) that have hatcheries. To more closely assess the effects of current funding levels, we visited 13 of the 67 federal fish hatcheries, 3 of the 9 fish health centers, and 4 of the 7 fish technology centers. Appendix V lists the specific facilities that we visited. To identify funding trends, we analyzed financial data and reports for fiscal years 1992 through 1999, which were obtained from the Service’s headquarters and the four regional offices we visited. We also reviewed annual reports for fiscal years 1994 through 1998 and other pertinent financial data for the hatcheries we visited. In addition, we interviewed officials at the Service’s headquarters, regional offices, hatcheries, fish technology centers, and fish health centers to obtain their opinions of funding needs and impacts. To describe fish and fish egg distribution for fiscal year 1998, the Service provided us with its fiscal year 1998 fish and fish egg distribution database and the program definitions used to classify this information. We then took the data on distribution related to recovery and restoration programs and asked the management at all the hatcheries that had these two programs to explain the end use of each fish species they had classified as used for them. We used their responses to our questions about the end uses and the Service’s definitions of these programs to more accurately reclassify the distribution to other program categories. We then showed the results of our analyses to headquarters officials for their judgments on our recategorizing of the data and made changes as necessary. We used data from the Service’s automated database to determine the destination of fish and fish egg distribution. To describe fish health and disease problems at federal hatcheries, we spoke with Service officials and collected data from officials at fish health Page 17 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries B-283539 centers and hatcheries. We did not address the issue of possible genetic changes among hatchery-raised fish. We performed our work from April 1999 through September 1999 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 7 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to interested congressional committees. We are providing copies of this report to the Honorable Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of Interior, and to the Honorable Jamie Rappaport Clark, Director, Fish and Wildlife Service. We will also make copies available to others on request. If you or your staff have any questions, please call me at (206) 287-4810. Major contributors to this report were Alan Dominicci, Kelley Layman, and Bill Temmler. Sincerely yours, James K. Meissner Associate Director, Energy, Resources, and Science Issues Page 18 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Page 19 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Contents Letter 1 Appendix I 22 Funding for the National Fish Hatchery System Appendix II 24 Comparison of Fish and Wildlife Service’s Data on the Total Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs With GAO’s Recalculations, Fiscal Year 1998 Appendix III 27 Fish and Fish Egg Distribution Under the Recovery and Restoration Programs, by Fish and Wildlife Service Region, Fiscal Year 1998 Appendix IV 28 Diseases Found in Some National Fish Hatcheries, Treatment Options, and Disposition of Fish Page 20 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Contents Appendix V 29 Federal Facilities GAO Visited Appendix VI 30 Comments From the Department of the Interior Tables Table 1: Programs Included in the Activities of Federal Fish 4 Hatcheries Table 2: The Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs From Federal 9 Hatcheries, Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1998 Table 3: The Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs by Entity 14 Controlling the Waters, Fiscal Year 1998 Table I.1: Fisheries-Related Appropriations, Fiscal Years 1992 23 Through 1999 Table II.2: Top Five Fish Distributed by Each Region According 25 to Their Amount and Weight, Fiscal Year 1998 Figures Figure 1: The Location of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Regional 5 Offices, Fish Hatcheries, Fish Health Centers, and Fish Technology Centers Figure 2: Operating and Maintenance Funding for the National 7 Fish Hatchery System, Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1999 Figure 3: Initial and Reclassified Fish Distribution, Fiscal Year 11 1998 Page 21 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix I Funding for the National Fish Hatchery System This appendix presents additional information about the amounts of money available to fund hatchery operations and hatchery-related activities within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Table I.1 shows how funds for these activities are organized: hatchery operations and maintenance, the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan, and fish and wildlife management. The Lower Snake River Compensation Plan is a program to replace sport fisheries in Washington and Idaho that were lost by the construction and the operation of federal dams on the lower 150 miles of the Snake River. Only about $1 million, or about 9 percent, of this appropriation goes to federal hatcheries, and this amount goes to three facilities in Idaho—the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, the Dworshak Fish Health Center, and the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery. Most of the remaining funds go to other federal hatcheries in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, which are owned by the Service but are operated by states and tribes under agreements with it. The Service’s appropriations for fish and wildlife management are spent, among other things, for the management of interjurisdictional fisheries, the promotion and the development of recreational fisheries, the recovery of threatened or endangered species, and the restoration of species that soon might be listed. For example, the fish and wildlife management program conducts population studies to determine trends in fish stocks and evaluates and quantifies habitat for aquatic resources. The degree to which appropriations for this program are used for hatchery-related management is unknown. The table also shows the total for the three activities and the total operations appropriation for the Service for fiscal years 1992 through 1999.13 13 For consistency, we excluded agency research and development funds in fiscal years 1992 and 1993 because, beginning with fiscal year 1994, all these funds were transferred to the National Biological Survey, which was changed to the National Biological Service and subsequently merged into the U.S. Geological Survey in 1996. Page 22 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix I Funding for the National Fish Hatchery System Table I.1: Fisheries-Related Appropriations, Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1999 Amounts in thousands of dollars and in constant 1999 dollars Total for Fish and Lower Snake Fish and wildlife Total Wildlife Service’s Fiscal year Hatchery operations River management fisheries-related operations 1992 46,711 12,272 13,706 72,690 493,413 1993 44,047 11,868 15,026 70,941 497,317 1994 43,376 12,896 17,309 73,581 540,251 1995 40,913 12,495 16,910 70,317 545,279 1996 38,636 12,100 17,002 67,739 526,233 1997 37,935 11,881 18,287 68,103 540,776 1998 38,934 11,786 21,294 72,014 603,523 1999 39,527 11,648 22,387 73,562 661,136 a The Bonneville Power Administration reimburses the U.S. Treasury for expenditures for the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan. b These appropriations are for resource management. Source: GAO’s analysis of data provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to these appropriated funds, some hatcheries and fish health and technology centers receive funds from federal and state agencies and from private entities for fish production or other services. In fiscal year 1998 this additional funding amounted to about $8.8 million. Of this amount, about $8.3 million, or 94 percent, went to various salmon-producing national fish hatcheries and fish health and technology centers in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to mitigate the impacts caused by federal water projects. The Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Marine Fisheries Service are the primary agencies providing these funds, which are different from the funds provided under the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan. For these additional funding sources, we were unable to develop year-by-year funding amounts going back to fiscal year 1992. Page 23 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix II Comparison of Fish and Wildlife Service’s Data on the Total Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs With GAO’s Recalculations, Fiscal Year 1998 Fish and Wildlife Service’s total distribution (in GAO’s recalculated total Program and product thousands) distribution (in thousands) Recovery Fish 4,677 3,229 Pounds of fish 120 79 Fish eggs 780 1,303 Restoration Fish 126,612 58,238 Pounds of fish 3,047 1,038 Fish eggs 34,919 26,737 Mitigation Fish 15,318 70,746 Pounds of fish 1,848 3,590 Fish eggs 61,040 66,468 Fish and Wildlife Service lands Fish 4,063 7,663 Pounds of fish 33 76 Fish eggs 715 872 Tribal lands Fish 3,159 10,131 Pounds of fish 351 575 Fish eggs 3,422 3,935 Partnership management Fish 10,433 11,116 Pounds of fish 264 288 Fish eggs 20,663 20,473 Research and developmenta Fish NAb 243 Pounds of fish NA 7 Fish eggs NA 1,483 Food for othersc Fish NA 1,285 Pound of fish NA 2 Fish eggs NA 0 Not counted/deletedd Fish NA 1,609 Pounds of fish NA 8 Fish eggs NA 0 (Table notes on next page) Page 24 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix II Comparison of Fish and Wildlife Service’s Data on the Total Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs With GAO’s Recalculations, Fiscal Year 1998 a Includes fish and eggs identified as having been sent to laboratories, aquariums, or other research entities. b Not applicable refers to fish and fish egg distribution that did not fit any of the Service’s definitions. c Includes rainbow trout used as food for the endangered Colorado pikeminnow (a fish species) at the Dexter National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center and bluegills used as food for the endangered wood stork (a bird species) in South Carolina. d Represents numbers we did not count as distribution in fiscal year 1998, including fish counted twice in the distribution at one hatchery, salmon transferred from a state hatchery to a federal hatchery for tagging purposes and returned to the state hatchery for release, rainbow trout purchased by an Indian tribe from a private hatchery and held in a federal hatchery prior to stocking, and mussels raised at one federal hatchery and counted as fish distribution. Source: GAO’s analysis of data provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Table II.2: Top Five Fish Distributed by Each Region According to Their Weight(in Amount and Weight, Fiscal Year 1998 thousands Amount of Species (in thousands) Species pounds) Region 1 Fall chinook 52,136 Steelhead 835 Spring chinook 10,077 Spring chinook 484 Coho salmon 6,934 Fall chinook 455 Steelhead 4,847 Coho salmon 393 Chum salmon 2,322 Cutthroat 78 Region 2 Channel catfish 2,236 Rainbow trout 350 Rainbow trout 1,381 Channel catfish 104 Largemouth bass 1,072 Apache trout 22 Smallmouth bass 132 Cutthroat 9 Striped bass 111 Brown trout 8 Region 3 Lake trout 5,980 Lake trout 354 Walleye 2,584 Rainbow trout 92 Sauger 777 Brook trout 3 Rainbow trout 342 Brown trout 2 Brook trout 30 White bass .6 Region 4 Striped bass 7,354 Rainbow trout 1,257 Rainbow trout 6,494 Brown trout 62 Bluegill 2,324 Striped bass 38 Redbreast sunfish 1,297 Cutthroat 18 (continued) Page 25 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix II Comparison of Fish and Wildlife Service’s Data on the Total Distribution of Fish and Fish Eggs With GAO’s Recalculations, Fiscal Year 1998 Weight(in thousands Amount of Species (in thousands) Species pounds) Brown trout 593 Channel catfish 12 Region 5 Atlantic salmon 15,439 Atlantic salmon 169 American shad 3,997 Lake trout 58 Lake trout 770 Rainbow trout 42 Striped bass 287 Landlocked salmon 16 Landlocked salmon 220 Striped bass .3 Region 6 Walleye 12,648 Rainbow trout 419 Northern pike 6,034 Cutthroat 147 Rainbow trout 4,327 Lake trout 23 Yellow perch 1,162 Paddlefish 6 Cutthroat 1,074 Walleye 5 Note: Fish and Wildlife Service Regions are as follows: Region 1: California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Trust Territories Region 2: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas Region 3: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin Region 4: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands Region 5: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia Region 6: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming Region 7: Includes Alaska, which does not have any fish hatcheries Source: GAO’s analysis of data provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Page 26 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix III Fish and Fish Egg Distribution Under the Recovery and Restoration Programs, by Fish and Wildlife Service Region, Fiscal Year 1998 Region Fish (in thousands) Fish eggs (in thousands) 1 27,259 0 2 227 0 3 5,993 11,852 4 7,478 0 5 20,162 13,515 6 347 2,673 Total 61,466 28,040 Note: Fish and Wildlife Service Regions are as follows: Region 1: California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Trust Territories Region 2: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas Region 3: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin Region 4: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands Region 5: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia Region 6: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming Region 7: Includes Alaska, which does not have any fish hatcheries Source: GAO’s analysis of data provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Page 27 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix IV Diseases Found in Some National Fish Hatcheries, Treatment Options, and Disposition of Fish Disease Treatment options Disposition of fish Bacterial kidney disease Modify diet, use antibiotics, and/or reduce Destroy highly diseased fish (and high-risk stress eggs) or release them into endemic watersa Bacterial gill disease Increase water flow, reduce density of fish Following recovery, release fish population, and/or use antibiotics or drugs Whirling disease No known treatment, avoid exposure to Destroy or release fish into closed bodies of pathogen water or endemic waters Enteric red mouth disease Vaccinate or use antibiotics Following recovery, release fish into endemic waters or destroy them Furunculosis Vaccinate or use antibiotics Following recovery, release fish into endemic waters or destroy them Enteric septicemia Use antibiotics Following recovery, release fish into endemic waters or destroy them Asian tapeworm No known practical cure,b avoid exposure Destroy or release fish into endemic waters to pathogen according to state regulations Coldwater disease Use antibiotics or reduce rearing stress Following recovery, release fish Columnaris disease Use antibiotics or reduce temperature Following recovery, release fish stress a Endemic waters are those waters where the pathogen is native or naturally occurring. b According to fish health center officials, the drug treatment for this pathogen is highly toxic and not legal for use in fish that may be consumed as food. Source: GAO’s analysis of data provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Page 28 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix V Federal Facilities GAO Visited Headquarters Division of Hatcheries, Arlington, Virginia Region 1 Regional Office, Portland, Oregon Abernathy Salmon Culture Technical Center, Longview, Washington Hagerman National Fish Hatchery, Hagerman, Idaho Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery, Cook, Washington Olympia Fish Health Center, Olympia, Washington Quinault National Fish Hatchery, Humptulips, Washington Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery, Warm Springs, Oregon Region 2 Regional Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico Dexter National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center; Dexter, New Mexico Mescalero National Fish Hatchery, Mescalero, New Mexico Region 4 Regional Office, Atlanta, Georgia Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas Norfork National Fish Hatchery, Norfork, Arkansas Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery, Warm Springs, Georgia Warm Springs Regional Fisheries Laboratory, Warm Springs, Georgia Warm Springs Fish Health Laboratory, Warm Springs, Georgia Welaka National Fish Hatchery, Welaka, Florida Region 6 Regional Office, Lakewood, Colorado Bozeman Fish Health Center, Bozeman, Montana Bozeman Fish Technology Center, Bozeman, Montana Ennis National Fish Hatchery, Ennis, Montana Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, Hotchkiss, Colorado Leadville National Fish Hatchery, Leadville, Colorado Page 29 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix VI Comments From the Department of the Interior Page 30 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Appendix VI Comments From the Department of the Interior (141296) Page 31 GAO/RCED-00-10 National Fish Hatcheries Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. 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National Fish Hatcheries: Classification of the Distribution of Fish and Eggs Needs Refinement
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-10-15.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)