Tuesday May 31, 2022

Oregon Public Broadcasting

When I was assigned to a ProPublica collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting last year, I was excited to dive into a topic that was totally new to me: fish hatcheries. Over the past two centuries, development has decimated wild salmon and steelhead trout populations in the Pacific Northwest. First overfishing, then hydropower development, destroyed a key component of the local ecosystem, and with it the traditional ways of life for some of the Northwest’s Indigenous people. To address plummeting fish stocks, the U.S. government has poured billions into a network of hatcheries to literally mass-produce fish.

My task was to perform a first-of-its-kind comprehensive analysis of these publicly funded salmon and steelhead trout hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. As someone who, for years, kept a faithful inventory of my freezer using Google Sheets, I thought this sounded like a reasonable goal. Heck, maybe even a good time. (In hindsight, this may explain why I have so much trouble making friends.)

It was not a good time.

Our investigation ultimately found that the hatchery system built to prop up vulnerable fish populations was failing.

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