Frequently Asked Questions

What is the mission of the Native Fish Society?

Guided by the best available science, Native Fish Society advocates for the recovery and protection of wild, native fish and promotes the stewardship of the habitats that sustain them.

What are the goals of the Native Fish Society?

For more than 130 years, the iconic steelhead and salmon of the Pacific Northwest have been in steady decline. Since 1995, NFS’s goal has been to advance the recovery and protection of self-sustaining wild, native fish populations in the Pacific Northwest by working to enact fish-friendly policies and promote stewardship of their habitats in their homewaters. NFS is distinguished by an unwavering science-based approach to fish recovery, and support this mission with programs focusing on science and policy, stewardship, outreach and development.

Where does the Native Fish Society operate?

NFS believes that no effort for wild fish protection and recovery is stronger or more effective than those initiated and sustained by local communities. To that end, much of the NFS mission is fulfilled through its signature River Steward Program, which features 84 river stewards safeguarding 4,000 river miles & 100,000 square miles of watersheds throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho and northern California. River Stewards are a grassroots, all-volunteer conservation network throughout the Pacific Northwest that help solve the root causes of fish decline and stop threats before they happen. These local advocates are the boots on the ground voices for wild, native fish in their homewaters, and they work to ensure that fish-related government policies are adopted and implemented on behalf of native fish. NFS daily activities operate out a small office in Oregon City, Oregon

What issues does the Native Fish Society work on?

NFS works on the most pervasive limiting factors for wild, native fish – the “4 H’s”: hydroelectric dams, habitat, hatcheries and harvest. All 4 H’s need to be managed properly in order to have healthy and productive native fish, and if even just one of these factors is off, the population of a particular fish can be threatened. Therefore, NFS works to promote the integration of science, public policy and management with respect to the “4 H’s” to get the most beneficial results for wild fish.

What type of work is the Native Fish Society involved with?

NFS is committed to working on hatchery, harvest, and management reform, and support local habitat protection through stewardship. For years, the combined effect of hatcheries, harvest, and habitat degradation has brought the Pacific Northwest’s previously healthy runs of salmon, steelhead, and trout near to extinction. NFS monitors the work of state and federal agencies to ensure that they are in compliance with the laws that govern wild, native fish.

Is Native Fish Society a fishing organization?

NFS is not a fishing organization, nor is it an anti-fishing organization. However, many NFS members, its staff, River Stewards, friends and family are fishermen and women. Fishing preferences will vary, and whether its gear or flies, anadromous or resident fish, they all share reverence for our region’s remarkable wild, native fish.

Is Native Fish Society an anti-hatchery organization?

NFS is seeking ways to provide more fiscal and ecological accountability in the operation of the hatchery systems throughout the Pacific Northwest. The science on hatchery and wild fish interaction is clear and irrefutable: hatchery fish are harmful to wild fish. Hatchery fish cause significant ecological and reproductive problems for wild fish. When hatchery fish interbreed with wild fish it reduces the genetic fitness of the wild fish for generations afterwards. NFS is committed to challenging the long-held misconceptions that there can be a hatchery on every watershed while also recovering wild fish. A recent court ruling on the Sandy River hatchery in Oregon confirmed this. The federal district court ruling found that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated federal laws for its management of the Sandy River hatchery. Wild salmon and steelhead in the Sandy are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and there was no ambiguity in the court’s ruling: ODFW and NMFS violated federal laws. NFS challenged these agencies in court because they were not upholding the law to fulfill their responsibility to protect the public’s wild fish.

Does Native Fish Society see a role for hatcheries?

There is little or no evidence that hatcheries have been effective in the recovery of wild populations. Nevertheless, NFS is realistic and recognizes that hatcheries are necessary to provide compensation for habitat degradation. In doing so, however, hatcheries and fisheries must be managed so that they ensure their operations are consistent with the latest science, that they do no harm to wild salmonids, and that they follow federal and state laws to protect wild fish.

Have there been any rivers where wild populations have recovered absent of hatcheries?

It is no coincidence that the Pacific Northwest’s strongest populations of wild fish are found in the few watersheds without hatchery programs: winter steelhead in the Eel, Molalla and North Umpqua Rivers; summer steelhead in the John Day River; and sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound. One of the most dramatic examples of wild recovery is Oregon’s threatened wild coho salmon. Their numbers increased from just 30,000 coast-wide in 1998 to 390,000 in 2013. This improvement in wild salmon health was the direct result of reducing the negative impact from hatchery programs and overfishing.

What do future activities of the Native Fish Society look like?

Hatchery reform is but one aspect of what NFS is engaged with to recover and protect wild, native fish on a daily basis. NFS is constantly working collaboratively with River Stewards and other organizations to conduct river clean-ups, spawning surveys, water quality monitoring, youth and angler education, habitat restoration, snorkel surveys, harvest reform, and developing recovery plans. All of these efforts have been with the single intention and unwavering commitment to do what is best for wild, native fish in their homewaters across the Pacific Northwest. NFS is committed to continuing on the path of fish conservation by ensuring that government policies are enacted that place fish-based decision making as a priority.

Does the Native Fish Society pay indirect and overhead costs to universities?

No. The Native Fish Society has a policy to not pay indirect and overhead costs to universities.

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