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. _WW_

    _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

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    It also shows escapement in 1979 to be 2982 and 13,194 in 1988 - about a 400% increase in nine years. Like I said, it goes up and it goes down.

    In '96 and '97 there were no escapement surveys taken due to high flows.

    The document I'm using is the one I've attached, the Skagit is on page 23.

    BTW, the skies here in Clear Lake are usually gray...
     

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  2. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    Sg,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your opinions and the reasoning behind them, it is a complex problem with many unknowns and these kinds of conversations are very useful. That goes for you too Curt.

    In the paragraph above I don't understand your statement" And we really don't know if it is a good idea for other than economic reasons." What other reason could there be? They don't help to maintain or increase wild runs so their import is socio-economic. Or is your point that managers would want to maintain a Chambers Creek broodstock somewhere in case all else fails?

    Chris
     
  3. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Curt,

    The Vancouver streams you mention I believe you are referring to Salmon Creek. This is an urban stream that does not compare to wild streams and wild environments. Most of the spawning grounds and most of the stream runs through private property. The Cedars is another one I have heard has had many artificial/environmental changes. Getting to the point, I think these two examples are poor examples to throw up and show that native fish populations decline when the state stops planting hatchery fish.
     
  4. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    I agree. There seems to be an "agenda" by those here to show there is no known cause or reasoning for the decline in wild fish. When we the fishermen speak up and start a little fire, the "scientists" come and tell us "we are doing everything we can, there is nothing more to do, and we just don't know what the problem is". There are numerous studies that have come out to show how hatchery fish hurt wild fish survival and numbers. There are also ecological studies that show how hatchery smolt release bring in more predators and can cause a predator upswing because of the free "candy" being released to willing predators. This in turn can and will lead to low survival of smolt.... both wild an hatchery.

    http://nativefishsociety.org/conser...gical_competition/ecological_interactions.htm

    IT seems when we point out these studies, we are told the studies do not apply to the river basins in question.
     
  5. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    TallFlyGuy -
    Sorry about the confusion - the "Vancouver" streams I was referring to are those on the east coast of the Vancouver Island - see my comments to 808steelhead for links to some "data".

    I don't think neither Salmo g (and he is more than capable speaking for himself or myself have ever said that there is no known cause for the decline in wild PS steelhead. In fact quite the opposite it has been clear for some time that other the lost of freshwater habitat the biggest change variable has been marine survivals which is currently a dominate limiting factor. The issue for me is that folks conitnually ignore those factors to advance other agendas. I have attempted (and it would appear to be poorly) to provide some "balancing" information.

    KJ -
    The issue should not be are our steelhead populations varying in abundances or whether trends are up or down rather is "management" responsive to those trends. The first step in that process is to recognize that such variation is normal and should be expected. Once it is accepted that such cycles will occur the next step is to understand what processes drive those cycles. With that knowledge/understanding the development of management paradigms that respond to the dynamic rather static processes is the next logical step.

    In that context the Skagit is the logical place to look to providing some sort of the fishing opportunities. It is one of few PS populations (and the largest) that is realatively "healthy", has one of the most conserative escapements in the State (a goal that is buffered at 150% of MSY), and has some decent Wild Salmonid Zones all ready established, and has a history of support CnR type fisheries.

    Curt
     
  6. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Curt,

    Marine survival seems to be the buzz word here. Studies that have come out and shown that hatcheries change the genetics of wild steelhead after one generation and those offspring have a lesser chance of returning/survival. Doesn't this coupled with the upswing in predators, from the millions of smolt (salmon/steelhead) dumped into the rivers, lead us to the reason why? The slow degradation of the genetics along with the upswing in predators from smolt release seems to be the elephant in the room. I don't think this is a mystery as to why marine survival is in question.

    http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archi...ge-steelhead-genetics-after-single-generation
     
  7. kjsteelhead

    kjsteelhead Member

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    OK, last one, then you guys can regurgitate the same stuff again.
    My point here has been rather than sit on our butts and quote suspect return forecast numbers while we spend millions of our tax dollars on hatcheries that have not helped improve our declining natural fish runs at all, we need to take those precious tax dollars and use them on actions that will actually bring our wild runs back. Don't believe the wild runs are declining? Then why are the Puget Sound rivers shut down now? The hatcheries have failed and I'm tired of my tax dollars going to funding them.
     
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  8. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Chris,

    Reasons other than economic for discontinuing hatchery smolt stocking would be if the hatchery fish are having as adverse an effect on wild fish as some of the posters assert. For instance, if hatchery fish were responsible for say 40% or 50% of the decline in smolt to adult survival, then that might be sufficient biological or ecological reason to stop stocking hatchery fish. But as near as we can tell from the genetics study, and that is mostly by inference, is that the adverse effect is far less since most of the wild fish groups exhibit little to no hatchery genetic introgression. And lastly yes, I think managers would want to retain some CC brood stocks as a hedge option for an uncertain future.

    TallFlyGuy,

    Do you even read what Smalma and I post? Or do you have an agenda that blinds you to an open-minded analysis? We have repeatedly listed all the known causes affecting wild steelhead abundance, including hatcheries. How is this an agenda to protect hatchery fish? Is it because we examine all data available to us and form a conclusions that differs from yours that makes our conclusions an agenda?

    Yes, studies show that hatchery fish spawning naturally and spawning naturally with wild fish depresses the survival of wild steelhead. Guess what? Studies show that hatchery steelhead spawn with a relatively low proportion of Skagit steelhead. Please tell me why the Hood R. or Kalama R. or any other steelhead genetics study should influence management of the Skagit R. more than the study specifically done on the Skagit. If I had strong reason to believe that stocking CC steelhead was the proximate cause influencing the abundance of wild Skagit steelhead, I'd be at the front of the line advocating getting rid of the hatchery program. But the data simply do not indicate that, and I form my opinion from logical analysis rather than emotional reaction.

    Predation is fairly likely a significant factor, since large numbers of fish don't generally just up and die for no reason. However, an understanding of where and why that predation occurs is as important as the problem is significant. Hatchery steelhead smolts have been released by the hundreds of thousands when wild steelhead returns were at all levels observed over the last 34 years. Without a better indication, it is very loose and sloppy biology to conclude that the hatchery smolts are causing increased predation on wild steelhead smolts.

    I've read the studies you link and many more in search of answers to the question of what affects the abundance of wild Skagit and other PS steelhead runs.

    Calling marine survival a "buzz" word suggests an arrogance or ingnorance about how anadromous fish populations work in this world. I wrote above that freshwater survival in the form of egg to fry and fry to smolt and then marine survival in the form of smolt to adult are the basic life history experiences affecting the size of an adult fish population. When the data indicate that freshwater survival is normal and marine survival is low, it takes neither a rocket scientist nor even a fish biologist to conclude that marine survival is the apparent cause of the present low abundance of wild steelhead. If you have credible information demonstrating that stocking CC hatchery steelhead in the Skagit River is significantly depressing wild steelhead abundance, and that marine survival is normal instead of low, my eyes and ears are wide open. Are yours?

    Sg
     
  9. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Kjsteelhead,

    I think I'm beginning to see how you interpret the steelhead issue. You seem heavily swayed by visceral knowledge and would prefer that our fish management agencies make resource decisions based on emotional reaction to conditions, rather than by objective analysis of data, and it could even save some tax dollars. Is that it?

    Sg
     
  10. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Salmo,

    I will remind you....in your earlier post you pointed out that the problem with marine survival was unknown and impossible to address. Given the ecological studies that show predation from the dumping of millions and millions of smolt into a river system, and then asking and wondering how or what is going on seems to be ignorant as well. AS you put it...."making it impossible to even try to address". It seems logical to address and think that over time as predators are fed "free" food, those predators will reproduce more and more to become a bigger and bigger problem hence causing the survival of outgoing smolt to go way down! Here is a quote from David Noakes, internationally known fish biologist, professor and senior scientist with the Oregon Hatchery Research Center.

    “You often hear people say that we should create more fish,”...... “But if our hatcheries produce more smolts, do we know that more fish will come back as adults? When we push fish out of the hatcheries at certain times of the year, we create a big flush of food for hawks, cormorants, seals, fox and numerous other predators. If you drop a bunch of candy in the street, kids will show up to eat it.​

    “The wild fish may get hammered along with the hatchery fish,”....."We may actually be doing more harm than good.”​
     
  11. _WW_

    _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

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    Do you have some forecast numbers that aren't suspect?
    Many of the steelhead runs in PS streams should actually be listed as 'Endangered' but since they are looked at in aggregate with the heavy numbers from the Skagit helping to tip the scale they are only 'Threatened'. A basin by basin analysis is needed to secure protection for those fish that genuinely need it. The sooner the better.
    Maybe you need to 'Occupy' one of them!
     
  12. Blktailhunter

    Blktailhunter Active Member

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    If there were no hatchery fish to take the pressure off of wild fish there would be no fishing. We would be left with a bunch of Skagit's. Rivers closed to all fishing. If that is the goal, then by all means close the hatcheries. I'm sure the cash strapped state would be all for it. It would save them a lot of money that they could squander somewhere else.
     
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  13. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Under the current program and rules....yes. Other rivers and systems allow for catch and release only for natives with no problem. Another reason for Occupy Skagit!
     
  14. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    TallFlyGuy,

    Are you aggregating all river systems together and concluding that what is happening in one system must also be happening in another? I ask because it looks like you're extrapolation Columbia R. examples where quite a bit of information about predation is known, to the Skagit and PS, where it isn't. The Columbia sees millions of hatchery smolts, has unnaturally high water temperatures, and high fish disease rates, greater disruption to migration flows, and does create something of a predator's paradise, at least seasonally. The Skagit doesn't.

    The Skagit has experienced larger wild steelhead runs when the releases of hatchery salmon and steelhead in the basin were far greater than they are now. Up to 500,000 hatchery steelhead have been released in the past, but releases in recent years are roughly half that. Up to 4,000,000 hatchery coho were released, but recent releases are a fraction of that number. Same with chinook, hatchery releases are greatly reduced. If anything, the attraction of predators that hatchery releases may have brought to the Skagit are presently much diminished.

    So while I think that predation is part of the issue, I don't have data showing that it is. And I can reasonably infer that the predation issue is not exacerbated by the presence of hatchery releases when such releases are but a fraction of their former levels. Can you explain how fewer hatchery fish are attracting more predators and causing higher predation on wild fish? I can't.

    I don't know the context of David Noakes' quote, unless it's referencing the Columbia situation that I did above. Oregon clearly had a problem with depressed wild coho, and it was attributed to high production of hatchery coho. While that likely had some effect, the most direct effect, proximate cause, if you will, was that because OR released so many hatchery coho, its coastal ocean fishery was over-harvesting the inter-mixed wild coho. Reducing the ocean harvest rate on coho most likely did more to recover their wild coho than reducing hatchery coho production. But it made sense to reduce the hatchery production in that case because they could no longer harvest them without adversely affecting the wild coho.

    Large numbers of hatchery smolts attract predators. We get it. And the Skagit hatchery attraction is very greatly reduced. I suppose I should have mentioned that earlier, but I did not anticipate what direction your criticisms would take. I've tried to address that issue now with this post. Is it satisfactory, or will you now venture off on another potential cause of decline - other than early marine survival - because you don't happen to like that one?

    Sg
     
  15. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    i agree that marine survival is driving PS steelhead abundance.

    i think that the marine survival puzzle does offer some potential positives. since currently hatchery fish only provide a paper fishery (in as much as they do not appear to be providing many, if any, actual fish in many PS systems) it has actually opened up a real discussion on whether they are worth keeping around at all. we can argue about the exact impacts hatchery fish have on wild fish, but we can take more detailed studies from elsewhere and studies locally and be certain the impacts are negative (and then be arguing over degrees). if the management framework can be changed to actually allow fishing over wild steelhead without the presence of hatchery fish (GO Occupy Skagit!), it might be worth actually shutting down hatchery plants on an entire major system with a decent population of wild steelhead instead of our current tributary "wild steelhead sanctuaries."

    personally, i believe that we are only now starting to see how insidious the impacts of hatchery fish are. not only the negative impacts on wild fish, which i believe are magnified the more generations they have existed and the smaller wild fish runs become, but the negative impact on harvest and the resulting loss of diversity all our rivers once saw. i am optimistic that we could actually turn things around that would not only result in more wild steelhead but better fishing for them.

    smalma and salmo g, while we often tangle on minutiae i appreciate and value both of your input when it comes to these discussions.

    chris
     
  16. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Salmo,

    Let’s recap

    A.You tell us in your previous posts that all keys point to marine survival as the problem to Skagit steelhead, but no one can even start to address or even solve.
    B.I suggest that the marine survival mystery/problem might be related to genetics and predation on outgoing smolts
    C.you then tell me I’m ignorant or arrogant for pointing to marine survival, using it as a buzzword, and accuse me of not reading any previous posts
    D.I remind you that I have read your posts (the one about the impossible problem) and show you how another biologist on another system is pointing the finger on predation and outgoing Smolts as a marine survival solution to our impossible marine survival problems.

    So now are you asking me if Skagit steelhead, conditions, and environment are different than anywhere else, and all studies done elsewhere are exempt to look upon or apply to the Skagit system problems? I’m not saying the problem is predation 100%: done end of story. I’m only saying; here is a possible solution, here is a very reputable source pointing the finger at a predation problem, and maybe we should look into it much further.

    Thank you for pointing out that the numbers of smolts have come down regarding the Skagit. I’m sure there is no correlation between these hatchery smolts numbers coming down, and, as WW has pointed out, the native fish numbers are coming up. What about all the other hatchery planted rivers that dump into or have access to the Strait? Could the predator problem be farther down in the strait or even in the nearby ocean itself?
     
  17. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    TFG,

    Hatchery production in PS is down considerably from its peak, and wild runs of most species are currently lower. Therefore fewer smolts are passing through the Strait. There could very well be a problem of increased predation in PS and the Strait. But it's nearly impossible to deduce that increased predation is the result of hatchery smolt releases when those numbers are down.

    Predation may be up for other reasons. Among them are commorants that previously foraged almost exclusively in salt water are now commonly foraging in freshwater as well (hitting lowland trout stocked lakes especially hard). Seal population in PS has increased exponentially, and are likely the proximate cause of rockfish declines. Maybe they like steelhead smolts too. Bull trout have increased and prey heavily on juvenile steelhead in the uppermost section of the Skagit, but that is the part of the Skagit where steelhead have always been least abundant, so it would be a stretch to impune native char for depressed steelhead runs in the Skagit and PS rivers that don't even have char.

    The major factor, whatever it is, is affecting both hatchery and wild steelhead populations. It is probably affecting hatchery steelhead even more than wild steelhead. It affects all PS rivers and BC rivers in the Salish Sea. It affects south PS rivers more than northern PS rivers. It affects PS rivers more than coastal rivers. That information right there points more to marine survival, and early marine survival particularly, than it does toward the other potential life history stages of egg to fry and fry to smolt. Exactly what in marine survival remains unknown.

    Again, how this can all be due to stocking hatchery steelhead smolts when wild steelhead runs have been low, medium, and recent history highs, while hatchery steelhead smolts were being stocked, and stocked in significantly larger numbers than presently, takes a peculiar bent of science that I'm not privy to.

    Sg
     
  18. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    In regards to marine survival one of the interesting developments has been the decline of older fish in the returning adult population. The portion of the returning 3-salt adults in the Skagit the last decade or so has been roughly 1/2 of what it was during the late 1970s to early 1990s. The same decline has been noted in repeat spawners. That would seem to indicate that reduced marine survivals continue the whole time the fish are at sea and not just in Puget Sound.

    If the increased mortality was on the smolts just the first month or two the ratio of 2-salt to 3-salts would have remained more or less the same. No one knows the cause of those declines but it appears to be real and impacting steelhead the whole time they are at sea.

    Curt
     
  19. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

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    Could it be Obama?

    Go Sox,
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  20. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

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    cds - Ray Lewis!!
     

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