COMPARING THE SKAGIT RIVER TO OTHER NORTHWEST RIVERS - STEELHEAD DECLINE AS RELATED TO HATCHERY RELE

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by 808steelheader, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Klickrolf

    Klickrolf Active Member

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    One variable rarely discussed is the unnatural concentrations of fish created by hatchery releases. Predators get used to where their food will be and when. If there are wild fish in the vicinity they are at greater risk.

    This may be more meaningful/problematic in the Columbia basin but predators are predators regardless. If we concentrate a food source it makes it easier and more attractive for the predators...any wild fish (alevin, fry, parr or smolt) that happen to be in the vicinity is at much greater risk, and hatchery smolt are predators.

    Each spring on the Klickitat the hatchery semi's pull through town accompanied by flocks of seagulls. The seagulls and fish eating ducks follow the mass of hatchery smolts down the Klickitat and into the Columbia where they continue to follow, and of course the pikeminnows are waiting also. Any wild fish in the vicinity is at greater risk. I'd bet >50% of the hatchery releases are consumed well before they get to the Pacific and if there are wild fish in the mix they get consumed at a similar rate...it's PURE economics for the predators.
     
  2. 808steelheader

    808steelheader Member

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    Curt:
    There is a report available from 2001 that indicates that males have a very wide spawning time and spawn multiple times with multiple females. Females spawn only once and leave. There is apparently a common steelhead management assumption in Washington that only considers female spawning time as the distinguishing trait that separates wild from hatchery interactions. Male hatchery and wild steelhead apparently have significant overlaps with female hatchery and wild spawning times. It is indicated that males are the primary vectors for hatchery/wild interactions. You can access this paper from the Native Fish Society at: http://nativefishsociety.org/conser...ry/special_contributions/strays/Steelhead.pdf

    It is also my understanding that hatchery smolts do not all go out to the ocean but stay in the river. Considerable numbers of these are apparently little males that are already mature and ready to spawn immediately on release in spring. They have been observed to be part of the spawning population with wild steelhead in an Olympic Peninsula study. These little hatchery males are there and ready to spawn right when wild females are prevalently spawning in spring along with male wild resident rainbow in the work by John McMillan. There are very good explanations, discussions, and underwater photos in the recent book by the McMillans, May the Rivers Never Sleep.

    Todd
     
  3. Derek Day

    Derek Day Rockyday

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    I wonder about the Cedar often. I wonder what role residualization has on the steelhead population. It would appear that there is little need for the anadromous life history, given that the adfluvial/residents can clearly find adequate nutrients and reach steelheadish proportions. That coupled with the fact that smolts are much less likley to outmigrate once they reach +/- 210 mm. However, it does beg the question 'why would this only happen recently?', especially since the adfluvial life history has been available since they rerouted the river. Maybe the residents could out-compete the steelhead once they fell below a threshold. Maybe it's just the ocean...
     
  4. FT

    FT Active Member

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    808steelheader,

    I just read through the whole of McMillan's 'report' from 2001 that you provided the link to. Instead of a report, I read an essay with a lot of qualifiers (appears, could be, might be, etc.) in it that purports to show why hatcheries are bad for steelhead. Granted, McMillan states right up front in the beginning that it isn't a scientific paper, which as he states is why he used a forward instead of a summary of his hypothesis and findings.

    Unfortunately, it lacks real data that backs his hypothesis that hatcheries are bad for steelhead due to hatchery males spawning with wild females. Granted, he makes that supposition and purports to show why it is happening, but the 'proof' or 'data' in support of his conclusion that his hypothesis is true is not provided. Instead, there is a lot of supposition with no data to back the suppositions. Thus, he offers nothing to back his hypothesis as being true, as opposed to the only other conclusion testing a hypothesis can provide; namely that is is not true.

    To McMillan's credit, he very carefully states in the beginning of this essay (or article) that he is only presenting a hypothesis for discussion and for consideration of research. Unfortunately, he then goes off in the body of it attempting to make the case without data to back it that his hypothesis is true; thus implying that steelhead hatchery plants have harmed wild steelhead and should cease.

    In other words, this is not a research paper, eventhough it cites some research (not all of the works in his bibliography are scientific hypothesis tested papers or works) that appear to back his hypothesis. The unfortunately result of essays like this that use science language is folks who don't read it carefully or don't know what to look for to see if his conclusion really is based upon testing his hypothesis make the incorrect assumption and conclusion that the hypothesis is correct despite the complete and utter lack of evidence that he tested his hypothesis.

    In other words, it is a nice opinion piece/editorial essay that is designed to get people to think differently and to sway opinion. It is not a report of results from him testing his hypothesis. Therefore, I submit it is dangerous to base steelhead management on his unproven and untested hypothesis.
     
  5. kjsteelhead

    kjsteelhead Member

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    Could one of our scientists (SMalma, Curt, FT) please share with us the data and conclusive reports that have scientifically proven that using Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead has strengthened and improved the genetics and survival rate of our wild steelhead?
     
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  6. 808steelheader

    808steelheader Member

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    Dear FT, not sure if you read the same paper as I did:

    It is true, it is a hypothesis to be further tested for conclusive findings, but it does provide numerous examples from which the male vector hypothesis is based that begs for further research (all science begins with such a hypothesis, and he has gone well into providing the needed blocks for proof throughout). And some of his observations have since been well proven in peer reviewed work. His personal sightings are quite conclusive that there is an interactive range for spawning overlap found on the Washougal River on pages 17-18:

    Washougal River: Observed range wild females to potentially spawn, January 9 to July 12 (6 months); observed range for wild males to spawn, November 29-July 22 (8 months). Observed range for hatchery females to potentially spawn, December 20-March 19 (3 months); observed range for hatchery male adults, November 29-March 25 (4 months); if hatchery residual male smolt at sexual maturity included found as a kelt on April 16, the range is 4.5 months.

    The examples from the steelhead spawning research on the Siuslaw River using tributary creek weirs to document steelhead spawning entry and exit in Oregon provide further data from which to base the hypothesis on pages 20-23:

    Siuslaw River: Range for wild female entry to spawn was December 28 into June, 5.5-6 months; range for wild male entry to spawn was December 28th into June. Range for hatchery female entry to spawn was December 19 into May (4.5-5 months); range for hatchery male entry to spawn was December 19 into June (5.5-6 months).

    The Siuslaw weir data provide clear indicators for the differing potentials for hatchery and wild fish to spawn together with differences by sex: Hatchery females were only 8% of the total spawning population after March 15th, while 52% of hatchery males spawned after March 15th. Those hatchery males after March 15th had a female population to spawn with that was 92% wild with choice for mates heavily dominated by wild females. 33% of the wild females spawned prior to March 15th with a total male population composed of 65% hatchery males in that time period. Obviously, the hatchery males greatly extended the potential interactive spawning period between wild and hatchery fish. The Oregon researcher further indicated that even though most hatchery females spawned on or prior to March 15th, that there were significant opportunity for spawning overlaps between wild and hatchery fish and it could be very high some years. The data indicated that some years there was relatively equal potential for wild and hatchery fish to spawn together. These specific weir data from Siuslaw tributary spawning are high informative as explanations for wild/hatchery interactions and well detailed in these pages.

    Page 23-24 provides the Cowlitz River hatchery data for steelhead: radio tagged fish hatchery males were found to remain in the river and spawn over a period of 2-3 weeks (compared, of course, to females that spawn and are done). In the hatchery males were used for repeated spawnings for up to 2 months. Page 25 provides a figure for the periods of time male and female, hatchery and wild steelhead were found to have overlapping times to spawn together beyond the typical time of separation for wild and hatchery spawning used in Washington for management purposes and often in Oregon of March 15th. Pages 26-36 well depict the overlap of wild and hatchery steelhead spawning times found in varied studies in Washington and Oregon.

    The continuing pages through page 53 provide continuous examples of hatchery wild spawning overlaps, or potential for overlaps, as found in science literature or through his personal field observations that include his many spawning surveys of the Washougal River in graphic form. His observations of resident and anadromous spawning interactions are among the few early ones prior to eventual proofs now found in more recent studies on the Olympic Peninsula, Hood River, and other areas of the West Coast.

    Could all of the above "possibly" explain the presence of hatchery markers in the DNA of sampled steelhead in the study provided in the other thread started by Andrew Lawrence?

    Todd
     
  7. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Todd,

    Thanks again for sending me Bill's escapement graphs.

    One of the important aspects in analyses like these is the selection of samples. You make a reasonable case for the rivers you compare assessing the hatchery fish variable and ignoring all other variables. As Smalma points out, that conclusion is not supported by including a N. Van. Is. river in the sample. Going the other direction, south, the Nisqually River is the southern most Puget Sound river hosting wild steelhead. This run was healthy through the 1980s and declined in the early 1990s, same as all other PS rivers. An important difference is that the Nisqually has never had a regular hatchery steelhead stocking program, only irregular plants over the years, and certainly none in the last 15 years. Yet it shows that wild steelhead health in PS is positively correlated to the north and negatively to the south. At any rate, if it and the Van. Is. streams were included in the group you presented in Bill's paper, the conclusion that hatchery stocking negatively affects wild steelhead production is no longer supported.

    Smalma and I are not trying to be disagreeable. We're just looking as many places as we can at as many variables as we can to try and determine the proximate cause for low PS wild steelhead abundance. While hatchery stocking may be adverse, it's not near the top of the list. The best indicators point to early marine survival, and have for a number of years, yet we still do not know what (or which) early marine factor(s) are responsible, making it impossible to even try to address.

    Sg
     
  8. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    kjsteelhead-
    Your question/request was -

    " Could one of our scientists (SMalma, Curt, FT) please share with us the data and conclusive reports that have scientifically proven that using Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead has strengthened and improved the genetics and survival rate of our wild steelhead?"

    As you probable expect neither I or to my knowledge anyone else can provide such data that Chambers Creel hatchery steelhead has been good for wild steelhead in general and wild Skagit in particular.

    Just as none of us can provide any data that shows catch and release fishing is good for the wild fish.

    While neither is particular good for Skagit wild steelhead after review all the available data, informationa and my own observations neither is particular bad for wild steelhead.

    Curt
     
  9. FT

    FT Active Member

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    Todd,

    I can't help but notice that you used the qualifier 'possibly' in your final question (which really is a "begging the question" statement, and not a true question) re: "Could all of the above 'possibly' explain the hatchery markers in the DNA sampled steelhead in the study provided in the other thread started by Andrew Lawrence." The answer of course based upon what you posted and what McMillan put into his essay is that this is unknown because it hasn't been tested to see if it is true or not true.

    Also we have to keep in mind that just because some hatchery males are present when some wild fish are spawning doesn't mean the hatchery fish are actually spawning with the wild females. To imply they are, as McMillan does, is rigtfully known as "begging the question" and hoping the reader will jump to the conclusion that this is in fact happening to a large enough degree that it is detrimental to the wild fish population. The bottom line is this: it is unkown at present if or how much spawning interaction is occuring between hatchry males and wild females.

    Lest we forget, McMillan did not test his hypothesis at all, he merely wrote an essay designed to promulgate his hypothesis and wrote in such a manner as to sway opinion without any testing whatsoever. However, the lack of testing his hypothesis did not keep him from leading readers to think and conclude that his hypothesis was in fact happening.

    This is why I said he provided no evidence only an opinion piece/editorial essay designed to get folks to accept his untested hypothesis as being true, when it was not tested.
     
  10. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Todd -
    I'm familar with McMillian's 2001 paper and read it from cover to cover when it first came out and had a hard copy in my library.

    I have to basically agree with FT's assessment with the addiitional comment that some of his obsrevations were dated and likely did not reflect changes in management of hatchery stocks.

    That is not say that his observations and resulting concerns were not worth considering. In fact he was hardly the first to make those kinds of observations and have those concerns. The first that I recall were where they were expressed was Lloyd Royal's report in early 1970s. Those concerns help form the foundation for a number of management actions ranging from hatchery/wild interaction studies, manipulation of hatehery brood stocks, stocking protocol, etc.

    I think it is important clear up a couple assumptions that you/McMillian have put forward. One it is not true that a female steelhead only spawns once. In fac typically will deposit 500 or so eggs at a time and over a day or two repeat that process as many as 8 to 12 times potentially spawning wth several different males. While it is certainly true that an individual wild male will stay on the spawning grounds for days or even weeks after reaching sexually maturity and first spawning and an individually female while vacate the area reasonably quickly following completion of her spawning. That however does not mean that individual males will remain on the spawning ground much passed the time the last female in the population spawns; after all with whom would those late males spawn with?

    On the Skagit one can find adult males through out the summer. I have personally seen such fish as late as October however by mid-August those fish have clearly been post spawners (kelts). While the peak spawning (redd construction) of wild females is typically mid-May some females have been seen actively spawning (digging redds) as late as late July (latest date such activity noted was 7/25). In short the "ripe" males can be found only a week or two past the spawning of the last female in the population. Why would not that be true with the hatchery fish?

    Currently in the Skagit basin the latest spawning hatchery females is temporally separated by approiximate a month from the earliest spawning wild females. Even if on the off chance that a ripe hatchery male managed to stay the spawning grounds for that month he would be nearly spend/tired fish that would have to compete (fight) with a fresh/vigorous wild male for spawning rights. While such interactions would be possible one would have to expect it to be rare occurence. While we can debate the significance of such interactions to the longer viability or risk to the population my personal opinion is it is not very significant risk in comparison to the other threats facing the populations.

    To your questin to FT -
    "Could all of the above "possibly" explain the presence of hatchery markers in the DNA of sampled steelhead in the study provided in the other thread started by Andrew Lawrence?"

    Those same "hatchery markers" in sampled wild steelhead populations could easily be the result of the Chambers Creek and say the Skagit fish being from the same geographic area and as part of the same major ancestoral linage (MAL) share some of the same genetic markers. I have asked at least a 1/2 dozen steelhed geneticists whether any of the genetic results would preclud the likelyhood that the two populations would share some genetic background. they all had the same answer -either they did not know or that such sharing would be possible. In fact such "sharing" is a fundamental aspect of stocks within a MAL as well within the ESA concept of a Distinct Popuation Segment (DPS).

    Keep in mind that the so-call Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead population was not a PS wild stock but rather a composite stock developed for the hatchery program using as many as 7 or 8 donor stocks. I think most would be surprised if the various PS wild stocks and the Chambers creek stocks did not share some of the same DNA markers.

    Curt
     
  11. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Derek -
    Keep in mind that Cedar River O. mykiss has had access to the salt long before the system was re-plumbed by man. Before being divert to Lake Washington the Cedar flowed into the Green and then on to Puget Sound. Even though just 30 years ago there were as many as 2,000 steelhead returning to the Cedar if there is anything to the recent concept that the O. mykiss resident (including adfluvial) and anadromous life histories being part of the same populations I would think that most of us would not be very surprised that during of low survival conditions for one life history that the population would be dominated by the other.

    Curt
     
  12. kjsteelhead

    kjsteelhead Member

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    Well Curt and Salmo_g, your responses have me scratching my head even more now.

    On one hand you state that you couldn't find any empirical evidence that shows hatchery fish are at all beneficial to wild steelhead runs.
    But then you concluded by stating that you personally don't believe hatchery fish are bad for wild steelhead runs.

    I put a similar question to a relative of mine who is employed as a resource manager by a timber company and he couldn't find any evidence that logging has had an adverse effect on anadromous fish populations.

    I've heard several commercial fishermen state that their work has no ill effects towards steelhead runs.

    I've listened to hundreds of sport fishermen who insist their activities have no significant impact on wild steelhead populations.

    The fish farming industry has hired several biologists who insist that their industry has in no way damaged wild salmonid populations.

    Yes, the early marine survival conundrum is the most popular scapegoat now, maybe because no one has enough evidence in it to assign ownership.
    How convenient.

    So I guess we just do nothing and let the wild Skagit steelhead runs continue to decline since no one can prove that only one variable is causing this decline, or that the variable they represent is not number one on the list. Wonderful.

    Ken
     
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  13. _WW_

    _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

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    Define "decline"

    No one can prove there is only one variable because there isn't just one. There are many and most of the impacts are never going away. Under current conditions, the Skagit run is as good as it is likely to get.

    There is no magic cure to bring back runs of 40,000 fish, if indeed such a thing ever existed. What we have is a run that has averaged over 6800 fish for the last 34 years. It goes up, and it goes down, and right now it is trending up.
     
  14. 808steelheader

    808steelheader Member

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    Dear Sg,
    yes, I understand that the Nisqually in South Puget Sound has been a worst case stream. Apparently hatchery smolt plants ceased there in the 1990s, as you say. The question would seem to be how much worse would the Nisqually now be if smolt plants had continued or increased? The data from the other Puget Sound streams indicates it would be even worse which would mean at virtual extinction by now. This is the case for Chambers Creek steelhead and the entire hatchery steelhead program there. Both went extinct in about 1997 according to the graphic history that Mr. McMillan provided me. One might assume that the Nisqually could now be at the same status if Chambers Creek steelhead had continued to be planted. The question is, now what do you do for the rest of Puget Sound given the hatchery correlation of the more you plant the fewer steelhead you get back?

    I gather that your response would be, do nothing and just keep planting away. Seems like that is what managers have done now for 60 years with the end result of NOAA's ESA listing for Puget Sound in efforts to stop the bleeding before too late. Seems to me that doing nothing has not been a very good management practice for Puget Sound.

    What has been the purpose for planting Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead?My understanding is that it has strictly been to provide harvest. However, from the Skagit and other Puget Sound graphs it has been clear that the more you plant the fewer hatchery and wild steelhead come back. For years now there has been little or no harvest. So what is the practical purpose of continuing these releases of hatchery fish that do not accomplish what they have been promised to do? And they are very apparently contributing to further steelhead decline with the trend lines going toward zero. And who is paying for all of this waste of dollars on hatchery programs that are providing little or nothing of what they are intended to do? And what are we doing funding government programs that fail to produce when every dollar is needed for school children, college students, the elderly, the sick, and on and on? If each hatchery steelhead smolt costs about $1 as has been found to be a pretty good rule of thumb in the Columbia and at Great Lakes, in data I have seen for the Nooksack River steelhead hatchery and that at the Skagit, the amount of dollars spent for smolts to provide one harvested steelhead in some years of worst recent returns has cost taxpayers $1,000, or even more, for each.

    Regarding British Columbia, there is a most thorough steelhead examination of British Columbia steelhead status that Mr. McMillan provided me (it is a place I fished years ago and still dream of returning):
    The Status of Steelhead Trout in British Columbia by Ahrens, 2004:
    ftp://fshftp.env.gov.bc.ca/pub/outgoing/wsLite/ahrens/Ahrens 04/Status of Steelhead Trout.pdf

    For the period of 1968-2003: For the overall long-term 35 year period assessed, of the 21 steelhead conservation areas 3 had increasing trends, 13 were neutral, 4 were in decline, and 1 was in moderate decline. Cumulatively over that long-term, 16 (76%) conservation areas have been neutral or increasing and 5 (24%) in decline. For the period of 1990 to 2003, 5 had increasing trends, 4 had neutral trends, and 12 were in decline. Therefore, even in the more recent period that some consider to be a general ocean condition decline there was considerable variation in the steelhead conservation area trends. In the cumulative, 9 (43%) were neutral or increasing trends, and 12 (57%) were in decline.

    Of the BC steelhead conservation areas, the Lower Fraser River steelhead streams are in close geographic proximity to the Skagit and Nooksack. From 1990 to 2003 the Lower Fraser wild winter steelhead had a neutral trend and a 35 year trend similarly in the neutral zone (Skagit River has had a 50-60 year declining trend). At the East Coast of Vancouver Island from 1990 to 2003 the trend for wild winter steelhead is declining, but the bar has great breadth that includes through the neutral zone.The 35 year trend is moderate decline (Skagit River is continuous steady decline). In British Columbia it is apparent that there is great diversity of steelhead patterns probably due to remaining diversity of its wild steelhead, even for individual streams in quite close geographic proximity. The Keogh is by all measures the worst case, some of which is apparently related to the level of experimental work that has included two failed hatchery programs that have now ceased. Not too distant from the Keogh, also on the Northeast side, is the Tsitika River whose summer steelhead have had no hatchery plants and where snorkel counts since 1980 have been relatively stable and most recently increasing. The nearby Nimpkish River winter run where hatchery fry plants were discontinued has had only a slight winter steelhead decline – nothing resembling the Keogh, Skagit, Green, Puyallup, or Nisqually. As a broad general rule, those streams with least hatchery history tend to have less decline than those that have a greater hatchery history on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. And it remains to be done to align the locations of the many aquaculture farms to the steelhead streams to see if their locations may explain some of the steepest declining trends for individual BC streams.

    [​IMG]

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  15. kjsteelhead

    kjsteelhead Member

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    What color is the sky in your world?
     
  16. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Todd -
    Thanks for the link to the Ahrens paper - I had not seen or read it before.

    It however seems to confirm what I had been saying about the East coast of Vancouver Island steelhead populations. I refer the reader to figure 4.30 on page 37. It shows the status of the various populations over time. The latest period is 1990 to 2004 which shows the status of most populations in red (and there is alot of red) meaning they have been changing at a rate of minus 0.5 to minus 0.05 per year. Again not much different than what we are seeing in the US portion of the Salish sea. Keep in mind that hatchery programs on many of those waters ended 1 to 2 decades ago and some much longer ago.

    The Keogh continues to remain one of the more interesting/instructive data set. In large part due to the fact that counts are based on weir counts rather than less accurate methods. It is also one of the few places where there is good data on smolt to adult survival of the wild fish giving us insights into how those fish do once they leave the system. Figure 4.41 on page 48 provides a graph of those smolt to adult survival which shows a decline in those survivals very similar to what we have seen on the Skagit and elsewhere. Keep in mind that the release of hatchery fish on the Keogh was ended in 1990 (see table 1.2 - pagers 3 through 5 in the Ahrens report) - though it is my understanding that in recent years some sort of hatchery program has be started as a genetic rescue program (not unlike a couple of those being attempted on Puget Sound rivers.

    In short in neither Puget Sound nor East coast of Vancouver Island is there evidence that on the average ending hatchery programs has improved the status of the wild populations. That is not to say that consideration should not be given to ending hatchery programs;there is a wide variety of reasons to have that discussion. Rather it is important to realize that the available information continually indicates that those hatchery programs in comparison to other factors driving the status of those steelhaed are bit players. This is key so that discussion on potential limiting factors is focused on those that are having the biggest impacts and not getting side tracked.

    curt
     
  17. _WW_

    _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

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    Escapement for the last ten years
    2002 - 5394
    2003 - 6818
    2004 - 7332
    2005 - 6382
    2006 - 6757
    2007 - 4242
    2008 - 4887
    2009 - 2502
    2010 - 3981
    2011 - 5462
    2012 - 6185
    If you study these numbers you will see that only three times in the previous ten years did the run actually decline from the previous year. 70% of the time the numbers increased.
     
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  18. kjsteelhead

    kjsteelhead Member

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    Interesting WW.
    Now isn't this data part of the same report that shows the escapement numbers to have gone from 13,194 in 1988 to 2,502 in 2009? Wouldn't that be a loss of 81% of the run in 21 years? I don't know about you, but I'd consider that a decline.

    Aren't these numbers from the same set of data that showed the exact same number of fish returned in 1995 (7088)and 1996(7008)? What are the odds of that happening?

    Wait a minute, at the top of the data table it says those were forecast numbers. Were those actually the precise numbers of fish that returned to the Skagit River and all of its tributaries? That would be some unbelievable forecasting!
     
  19. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Kjsteelhead,

    We didn't say we have all the answers, and we haven't said that understanding what's happening with steelhead populations is easy. Your assertion that people in specific vocations and avocations have no adverse effects on wild steelhead is a point taken. I'm a fish head, but I think if you read a good sampling of my work you'll conclude that I don't have a strong bias for or against hatchery fish. I'm not promoting the continued stocking of CC smolts in PS river systems, I don't deliberately fish for them, and personally wouldn't be affected if stocking them were eliminated. In contrast, I do fish deliberately for hatchery steelhead on the Cowlitz because it is fairly near my home. Ironically, sport fishermen there accuse me of causing reductions in hatchery production in that system, which I have no authority to do. However I did agree that Tacoma's hatchery mitigation obligation would decrease in direct proportion to increases in natural production, fish for fish. Yet I'm the fall guy even though I helped write a settlement that maintains one of the largest hatchery steelhead populations on the entire west coast.

    You used the term scapegoat to describe ocean or marine survival. I think that's inappropriate. Marine survival of smolts to adults is the largest factor affecting abundance of anadromous fish species in many cases. Consider the possibilities of survival and mortality. First you have egg to fry survival, then fry to smolt (this mainly applies to the stream rearing obligates), and then smolt to adult (which mainly occurs in the marine environment, although there are important cases where high mortalities of smolts occur during the seaward migration). Although empirical data are limited, wild steelhead egg to fry and fry to smolt survivals have not changed significantly in the last two decades. Scapegoat or not, that leaves marine survival as the proximate variable most affecting the abundance of adult steelhead populations. By comparing PS steelhead with their coastal counterparts, we can infer, but not empirically know, that early marine survival is the culprit. Additional and more intensive research is needed to identify what or which early marine factor(s) are responsible.

    As for doing something about this "state of affairs", one needs to know the proximate cause. Further, one needs to be able to do something about that cause when it is identified. The very distinct possibility exists that the cause is some natural (or anthropogenic) environmental condition that we cannot change.

    Hope this alleviates some part of your confusion.

    Todd,

    I think you suggest that the Nisqually steelhead would be at extinction if hatchery stocking had continued because you have already concluded that correlation equals causation. I think hatchery stocking would not help the wild steelhead, but if it continued I think the Nisqually fish would be in about the same condition they currently are in. I base that on the other PS rivers where hatchery stocking remains prevalent, and the examples that Smalma points out through the Salsih Sea rivers in BC. CC steelhead didn't go extinct. WDFW stopped propagating them because they were no longer being used to seed all the other PS hatcheries that have developed their own on-site CC brood stocks. I speculate that CC steelhead would be doing as well or better than they're doing in other PS systems if the culture had been continued since that is the local watershed to which they presumably were best adapted, both for artificial and natural production.

    Regarding the question of what do you do now in the rest of PS, it is a bit of a conundrum. Using $ as a yardstick, all the PS CC hatchery steelhead brood stocks would be discontinued due to the exceptional high cost of producing a returning adult steelhead. On the other hand, if that were done, that would leave all of PS with no viable (ironic use here, I know) hatchery steelhead broodstock. Even if doing so is a good idea, that is a steep and high cliff to step off of. And we really don't know if it is a good idea for other than economic reasons. Generally speaking, a resource manager prefers to keep his options open. That is about the best reason at this time I have for maintaining at least some of the hatchery broodstocks. We don't know what the future holds. Maybe the best alternative is to eliminate the CC brood stocks, but I don't think we have enough information to be there yet.

    I also thank you for the link to Ahren's paper.

    Sg
     
  20. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Kjsteelhead,

    There were no wild steelhead data for 1995 and 1996, so the forecasts are placeholders.

    In that data set you'll see that steelhead numbers both increased from 1978 to 1988 before declining to the numbers seen today, all under approximately the same freshwater environmental conditions (accounting for some flood season effects). Ergo, the ugly "scapegoat" of marine survival raises its head.

    Sg
     

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