Hatchery Steelhead... yes or no?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Panhandle, Jul 6, 2007.

  1. I wished the pinks/chum versus steelhead et al. were so simple. Unfortunately you are talking about the extreme ends of juvienille rearing when discussing these fish. Chum and pinks flush into the sea within months of hatching. Steelhead, chinook and coho are among the most sensitive to habitat degredation because the juvinelle rearing range from 2 years on average (coho) to up to 6 years for steelhead. Futhermore coho need sloughs for good rearing and steelhead need good trout habitat. Chinook aren't something I know about, but apparently are more like steelhead in their rearing needs.

    Hatcheries *are* affecting natives, and we *know* it's bad, but it's hard to focus on a single dominant factor. I'm sure a bio like Smalama, Will Atlas, TomB or Salmo_g will have significantly more palatable answers and more detail :)

    Finally there are some bios that pretty much say that we *don't* have native fish left. In fact a genetics study of the Queets rivers almost proves it, as the most "similar" genetic stock to the Queets fish were "Chambers Creek". GAH! The study was done by the state, and I'm sure the sampling method left much to be desired, not because of the bios, but because how that river is run. But to even suggest something like this is pretty bad. You can look it up in the SASI info on the WDFW site... Based on this some of the folks I know instead call fish "wild" rather than native....
  2. To add/modify what James said:

    In WESTERN WASHINGTON, all pink and chum and the vast majority of chinook migrate out of the rivers within weeks to months of hatching. Pinks move quickly out of river delta habitats to neritic waters and then the open ocean (pelagic). Chum and especially chinook hang around in delta and estuary nearshore habitats for extended rearing periods. Coho and sockeye mostly rear for one year in freshwater before smolting at age 1, although recent studies have documented a) significant #'s of coho smolting in the fall of their first year and rearing in brackish water). Coho and sockeye spend less time in estuaries and nearshore areas than chum or chinook. The majority of steelhead rear for 2 years in freshwater (6 would be anomalous for western washington, but not unheard of) before migrating quickly to pelagic waters.

    some of this can be found in Simenstad et al 1982 and Healey 1982....Tom Quinn's book im sure covers it as well

    To conclude, as you can see, the picture is perhaps more complicated, and each species has different needs for different habitats, all of which have been degraded toa degree--and that is just taking into account the most common life-histories in our area...many of these species display multiple distinct life history strategies, each strategy depending more or less on a given habitat.

    What we can say is that hatcheries certainly haven't helped native salmon and steelhead, and that each species has been affected in different ways by habitat destruction.

    To add to the native/wild discussion, phelps et al 1994 and 1997 showed that in many cases, native wild steelhead stocks have remained relatively free from hatchery genetic introgression despite legacies of stocking. A rudimentary undertstanding of genetics and evolutionary biology reveals the cause; if hatchery steelhead fitness is super low (see kalama river, hood river research) then they won't produce self-perpetuating offspring...when they manage to breed with wild fish, most of the time, rather than produced crossed offspring,there just aren't any offspring. The notion that there aren't any native stocks left is very misguided at best. Genetic work tells us that many stocks remain almost completely pure, and that even stocks with significant introgression can be helped by process-based restoration (i.e. restore the natural selection process free of brats ). The message I am trying to get across is that it isn't black and white, but rather a palette of grey. Every generation of wild fish that has hatchery fish breeding with it suffers and every generation that impure wild fish breed in the absence of hatchery fish, their offsprings' fitness increases. It is an incremental process and it takes many generations...harm often occuring faster than good. If we want native wild stocks, we must focus on process-based restoration--reconstructing or restoring the set of conditions that created the processes which allowed for their developement in the first place-- this requires that we address ALL of the 3 H's- habitat, hatcheries and harvest.

    Sorry for the longwinded and jumbled response---if you want editing, you gotta pay for it :)
  3. The fish doing the best are also worth the least to commercial fishermen. What a coincidence.

    If hatchery plants were cut back, maybe the commercials up and down the coast would back off. Hell, maybe it would cause a die-off of cormorants and sealions too.
  4. Thanks for the clean up on the info I provided. I retract my reality and replace it with your! The info I have is from reading Quinns book, others bits from talking to folks :) Also, the 6 year thing is definately an anomoly, but that I think was mentioned in some text somewhere, and struck me as a pretty interesting tidbit! :)

    Mostly it was from some fisheries guys that worked at a hatchery that made that ascertation and one bio who's name escapes me..... It's interesting to hear your perspective, as the general idea that they suggested that productivity of hatchery stock doesn't need to be high as volume makes up for it. The specific examples given were based on the original stocking and subsequent straying of the Great Lakes region. Though it is a significantly different water system and the were an introduced invasive species...

    With that in mind, Will was suggesting the WFDW SASI data was corrupted by poor sampling, but even so, it is pretty bizzare to read the data and see that native Queets river fish are even the least bit "genetically similar" to Chambers Creek stock... If you have better or more info, that would be great to see :)

    BTW, good to see you posting on this important topic! :)
  5. Well said and lay out nicely, TomB... :beer2:
  6. I really like the ecosystem mentality. In particular, the perspective that hatcheries aren't the soul contributor to the diminishing native runs. Instead take into consideration years of clear cutting and erosion-leading to over siltation in the PNW, and especially in the coast range rivers and spawning tribs. Take into consideration the commercial fishing impact, American Indian netting, etc.

    In other words.... Even if we eliminated hatchery programs we would still have a major ecological rehabilitation undertaking. Thanks for the rationality and civility people; I'm learning a lot here.:thumb:
  7. Prolly one of the best discussions in a long time about a very heated topic... Wait until Salmo_g posts. I talked to him a bit today and he told me some things about the way the Clearwater/Snake river fish that amazed me...
  8. I like this dialog. There are obviously some very passionate fish advocates among us, which is nice to see. One thing we also forget is that we are changing the climate faster that these fish have ever been forced to cope with. Certainly improving freshwater habitat and removing dams, hatcheries etc is beneficial, but in the long run the fish will be coping with an oceanic environment that will likely be changing quite rapidly, and with freshwater systems whos hydrographs will be altered by changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. While it may seem a bit distant and abstract, one of the best things we can do to ensure steelhead in the Northwest are never faced with extinction is start taking action on climate change.

    Ok, got my little spiel in. Also, hatcheries suck and so do hatchery fish :).

  9. I agree completely, that was admittedly over-simplistic. However the parallel is interersting. And as Cup pointed out, these fish are of little commercial value so high seas harvest and terminal netting may be a significant factor. Chums & pinks also often use the lower reaches which are almost always in worse shape than the the upper watershed. However I do not believe that our rivers are so degraded as to be the dominant factor for the decline.

    I believe it is hatcheries and marine survival. All things point to this. Hydropower may be a negative impact on some rivers, but many PNW are not dammed, or have dams high enough up that significant habitat remains downstream. Logging practices have been curtailed and improved over the years. But hatchery fish are returning in ever fewer numbers which points to their lower aptitude for survial. If the primary cause was FW parr-smolt survival, due to habitat loss, there would likely be some bright spots where a watershed was largely intact and hatchery fish would be more succesful. Instead we find the decline more or less evenly spread, with the larger natural "fish factory" rivers hanging on due to their larger numbers to begin with.

    Another factor is likely urban pollution due to stormwater runoff. Commonly discharged heavy metals like copper and zinc as well as surfactants from car washing and sewage discharges have been shown to adversely affect salmonids in very minute quantities (parts per billion for the metals). Some of these effects are sub lethal like causing avoidance of an area or decreased olfactory response. However in forcing an andromous species from preffered habitat or in interfering with migration patterns, sub lethal = lethal.

    A friend of mine caught a mint-bright, snakey-thin hatchery steelhead in the Tacoma Narrows this April. She was full of eggs. My guess is she never found her river.

    As has been shown, the causes and the elusive recovery are very complicated indeed. However I am certain that hatcheries need to get out of the way in order to recover wild fish.

  10. Panhandle,

    Until I have better information, I think I'd druther continue hatchery steelhead programs in general and modify some in particular. It's well enough understood that hatchery programs are generally of no benefit to native or wild steelhead production. It's also pretty well understood that fishing, by any people or method, never did a fish any good.

    That said, I feel that society needs wild fish advocates. Absent hatchery fish production, there will be almost no, zero, zip, nada, opportunity to fish for salmon, steelhead, or trout in WA state. True, there are exceptions, notalbe ones even, like wild pink and chum runs for sure, and limited CNR steelheading, and limited harvest opportunity for wild SRC and bull trout. However, in the absense of hatchery fish, I suspect that more effort would move to the remaining wild fish opportunities, which would result in greater conservation restrictions in response to the increased fishing pressure.

    Meanwhile, in an environment with very limited fishing opportunity, I suspect that there would be very few advocates for conservation of wild fish. There are too few already. Absent the limited advocacy on the part of anglers, commercial, and treaty fishermen, would conservation of wild fish be adequately served by organizational advocates such as American Rivers, Audubon, and the Sierry Club?

    Hatchery production might be a necessary evil just to keep enough of our population interested enough in the conservation of wild fish to continue to advocate for their conservation.

    As an aside, certain hatchery steelhead programs may be the only vehicles to recover or maintain natural steelhead production in a number of watersheds, particular inland ones that lose so much of their annual production to hydro dam direct and indirect mortality. Absent the infusion of hatchery steelhead smolts, it would be only a matter of a few generations until steelhead were functionally extinct in the Methow, Okanogan, Entiat, and Wenatchee Rivers.


    Salmo g.
  11. I bonk hatchery fish, with more than a moment of angst. My quandry would be more pivotal if I were presented with the choice more frequently. My expertise and subsequent results prevents that, however.
  12. With the exception of the OP rivers, almost any opportunity to dam a river has been taken. The idea that enough spawning habitat exists in areas lower on down seems a strech to me, so if you have some evidence to back it up I would love to see it.

    As for the lower river being the most degredaed habitat, that is true, but based on the *ridiculous* runs on the Duwamish and Puyallup this year on pinks, the evidence would suggest that the specific habitat needs of those fish have not been comprimised. This isn't to say the damage hasn't been done, as the Chinook issue and estuarual portion of their rearing, but to suggest that those fish have specific needs that can still be met.

    Isin't Citori an engineer that does permeable surfaces for parking lots and such? I totally understand what the effects are that you are suggesting, but I'm wondering if he could suggest some info whether his permeable surfaces help out at all....

    No doubt that is true, but the quandry is, how do you convince a population of fishermen to *not* fish? Without the current hatchery programs very little fishing opportunity would exist, and the entire eastern Columbia drainage would be devoid of steelhead and salmon...
  13. One other thing Salmo... can you point to the info that you had that suggested that the current Snake and Clearwater fish are from the same wild stock? If so, does it really matter that much if you bonk those hatchery fish? What kind of reproductive success do those fish see versus the watered down Skamania/Chambers creek stock...
  14. James,

    The Dworshack hatchery cultures steelhead originally from NF Clearwater stock. At least that's what I was told. I'm not sure where the Hell's Canyon steelhead stock is from, but I believe it's a Snake River source. The upshot is that the hatchery steelhead are from local or localized sources. Nonetheless, the stocks have been subjected to decades of "domestication," and they would probably have some of the same problems in a natural production environment. However, hatchery summer steelhead retain the same spawn timing as their natural counterparts and appear to be more successful at natural reproduction than the winter hatchery steelhead programs using Chambers Creek brood stock.

    Yes, it matters if you bonk those hatchery steelhead. Some of them are intended to spawn naturally to aid with stock recovery, even though they are not expected to reproduce as efficiently as wild fish. But when there aren't enough wild fish, hatchery fish from the original native stock are the best available alternative. The regulations allow retention of the hatchery fish when they are abundant enough and excess to spawning escapement needs. So you might as well keep hatchery fish if it's OK to do so.

    Skamania summer runs, like their inland counterparts, are known to successfully reproduce in the natural environment, less so during the first natural spawning generations and probably with increasing success in subsequent generations as they become more like their native wild counterparts.

    Chambers Creek are a hatchery winter run steelhead broodstock. So far as I know, none have been documented to reproduce successfully in the natural environment. That is, the measure of successful reproduction being the return of adult steelhead with the subsequent cohort apparently never happens. The most obvious reason for the lack of natural reproductive success for Chambers Creek fish, contrasted to the hatchery summer runs, is that they spawn months earlier than the wild fish. Their early timing places them out of synchrony with the environment, leaving them at a competitive disadvantage with other fish in the system. There are likely additional factors influencing the poor survival, but I don't know what they are beyond general hatchery domestication.

  15. I am in fact an engineer, I am as close to an expert as you will come into contact with today on pervious concrete, and to an extent on pervious surfaces. I am familiar with the Puget Sound partnership and the loss of species/loss of habitat in Puget Sound watersheds. I also have first hand experience with both Dworshak hatchery stock from N. Fk. Clearwater, as well as Skamania stock from the Washougal. In my less than scientific opinion, one of the strengths of the skamania stock is the fact that the Washougal does receive a more than moderate amount of urban runoff, and does suffer from high water temps in the summer. I honestly do not believe that steelhead suffer directly from the pollutants mentioned as they are conservative pollutants, and do not reach toxic levels until they accumulate in the spinal columns, kidneys and lateral lines over extended exposure via ingestion. Since steelhead do not actively feed, they don't ingest enough to accumulate to toxic levels. Before you come unglued, I did say this was my own unscientific opinion.

    There are some other issues - the runoff that does carry pollutants also carries sediment which does impact spawning habitat, and possibly/probably egg/fry/smolt mortality.

    The one factor that I have heard, and also had confirmed last week is that small amounts of urban runoff borne pollution will trigger premature spawning in coho salmon, which carries pretty much 100% spawning mortality. Also, again in my opinion, metals are nasty but not the culprit I fear most. The real ugly ones are the nutrients (Nitrogen, phosphorous...) which cause the algea blooms, D.O. drop, and also are are not associated with particulates - which means they are dissolved, and therefore are the most difficult to remove.

    In my opinion, pervious surfaces are a good thing wherever we can have them, but what YOU can do that will be most directly effective and have the quickest positive result is to use pesticides and fertilizers very sparingly, below mfgr's recommendations, if at all.

    Hope that sheds a little light.
  16. Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Sauk come to mind. No dams on these rivers + the upper Sky and Sauk watersheds are in pretty good shape and I doubt habitat loss is limiting the population in these rivers. But yet these runs continue to decline. To me this points to hatcheries and marine survival. But I am no fish scientist.

    I also worry about urban runoff in the lower sections of some of these same rivers which hits the fish right when the are making the change between salt and fresh water. Some of these pollutatnts are absorbed through the gills and have been shown to have dramatic effects at very low levels (ie chronic effects from dissolved copper at ~3ppb and acute effects (ie death) at ~48ppb (numbers are from memory- I will check these out). So contrary to what Citori says this would affect returning adults.

    I was unable to find the study I was thinking of, but a quick web search found these two:
    There were other studies too, including one going back to 1978...I guess this is not news
  17. I am fairly certain Cu at ppb levels would be indistinguishable from background levels, and would almost certainly change with normal seasonal fluctuations in pH - lower pH typically results in higher dissolved metals, which typically precipitate back at higher pH. If these affect steelhead, it would almost certainly be at the pre-migration stage, not as adults...?

    Having said that, it is never a good idea to put dissolved or particulate metals, or nutrients into an aquatic biosystem, whether or not it has a direct impact on adult steelhead. Keeping stuff out of the water is the way to go...
  18. I for one am not so much of the belief that the issues accrue with origin, as much as capture and spawning in hatcheries defies diversity and makes most if not all members of the population exposed to, or susceptible to the same adverse environmental issues. Consistently spawning early returners inbreeds whatever causes them to return early...for example. I did some of my master's work on treatment at the Dworshak hatchery, specifically on treatment for nutrient (ammonia) removal. Yes, the Dworshak fish are N. Fk Clearwater origin, and as far as I know, the Snake river are either all Snake R. or both Snake and Salmon R. origin. If memory serves, didn't Toutle fish end up in the Elochoman R. post St. Helens? Don't hatchery fish exhibit some of the same diverse spawning timing when they are not in the hatchery environment?
  19. The reality is all of those watersheds are *extremely* compromised and aren't in the best of shape. The Sauk suffers from significant sediment load due to over logging, same with the Stilly. The Sky is reasonable in some places but lots of timber harvest and development along the Highway 2 corridor have done quite a bit to diminish that river.

    I'm not suggesting that hatcheries or ocean conditions aren't things that are included in the diminishing returns, but I'm more stating that none of our rivers are in particularlly good shape (excluding the OP). You're in good company though having the thoughts that you do. I think McMillan is a leading voice in this opinion and has been calling for studies to be done. I think he has some statistical evidence to support it, but I haven't seen it, nor am I an expert enough to critique it.

    Sweet, thanks for the info. I'll try to take a look at it soon. :)

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