Hatchery strays deplete wild steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Chris Johnson, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. wet line New Member

    Posts: 2,313
    Burien, WA, King.
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    All these arguements and studies have been going on for nearly 35 or 40 years with different twists. It is this or that which is THE problem and The problem what ever it is this time around is pushed into the closet and another problem introduced. Always avoiding the real problem of over harvest!

    It is really pretty simple, if you catch wild fish, commercially or C&R or keep one a year in selected waters, you are depleting the very fish needed to keep the resource viable. And yes C&R has a mortality rate that needs to be recognised.

    If you truely believe in re-establishing native fish then hang up your rods. Incidental catches are bad and face the facts. If you want wild fish then any incidendal catch or a C&R fishery only harms the survival of wild fish.

  2. Andrew Lawrence Active Member

    Posts: 734
    Renton, WA.
    Ratings: +100 / 0
    While I agree with a lot of what you wrote, selective methods and fish weirs won't help wild fish when the tribes are actually targeting them for harvest. If we are talking about a mixed stock fishery where only hatchery fish are being targeted, then I think it would be a good idea. However, since there are so many other issues to deal with such as foregone opportunity, even trying to think about where to start makes my freaking head hurt. :beathead:
  3. BDD Active Member

    Posts: 2,227
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +216 / 2
    Just spent three days in Portland hearing about all the improvements hatcheries have made recently on wild fish recovery efforts.
  4. Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Posts: 1,786
    Bellingham Wa.
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    It is true that people and fishing are bad for steelhead, I don't believe they are mutually exclusive. It is also true that every situation is different, have we not been doing the same thing(with minor variations) through out puget sound? Maybe we should try something different, maybe we could take some of the money used for hatcheries and restore some of the alluvial habitat that has been lost, where we can. How can you decide on a plan of action untill you know what is there, in many cases iI don't believe they do.
    The reason I posted this articel was to spur conversation and try to get people involved, to educate themselves so we can get to work on solutions. I have a picture on my mantel of my dad and me on the sauk, I was 11yrs old, holding a native steelhead I just caught. That was 43 years ago, I like to do that with my grandkid someday
  5. Stewart Skunk Happens

    Posts: 949
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    Really diggin' this thread. I'm still a neophyte as far as knowledge of the issues is concerned, but I see the need to continue to advocate for the fish. So I will.
  6. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,797
    Marysville, Washington
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    Charles -
    A couple pretty good questions.

    To the first -"What positive effects do have hatcheries have on wild steelhead?" -
    With the potential exception of some sort of genetic rescue program on a severely depressed population I can not think of any positive biological effects from hatchery steelhead on wild populations. Even in the case of the rescue case there will likely be limited benefits - yes such a program may keep a fish run alive (at least for a time) but such an effort doesn't address the under lying cause of the population's problems and the fish will likely exist in an environment much different the originial population and thus be a different critter.

    The second as to whether the hatchery and wild steelhed would have interactions while in the salt.
    The short answer is that they must have sort of intereaction but those interactions are and whether they are harmful to the wild fish is largely unknown. A couple of obvious concerns is that artifical high levels of steelhead may attract predators - it would seem that in the lower Columbia that may be the case howerer once the fish reach the open ocean not sure the would be the case (are there more steelhead swimming in the ocean today than say 50 or 100 years ago?) but it is possible. The second large concern would be competition for food resources. Again on the surface I do not see any evidence that the surviving wild adults have gotten smaller (not growing as fast) over the last 3 or 4 decades. If there some limiting competition it would appear to have to be early in the fish's salt water residency.

    Dryflylarry =
    Yes Vibert boxes have been tried with steelhead (going back at least 35 years) with very limited success. The boxes are designed to protect the eggs while in the gravel. With a fish like steelhead it is very rare that the egg survival in the gravel is the limiting freshwater factor. Rather freshwater survival is typically limited by the amount of quality summer or winter rearing habitat for the fry or parr; often it is some sort of combination of those 4 habitats.

    Chris -
    I could not agree more with your statement - "How can you decide on a plan of action untill you know what is there...?"
    Another way to state that concept is that recovering a steelhead population requires addressing what driving factors that are limiting the populations. I think you are on the right track to focus on habitat (at least as a long term limiting factor). However I'm not sure that even if all the money spend on hatcheries were converted to habitat projects would get us to where the habitat needs to be. Restoration projects are certainly feel good efforts however the long term track record is not too impressive. Much of the habitat problems for a fish like steelhead with complex freshwater behviors are driven by the distrubtion of riverine processes and recapturing those habitats will require restoring those river processes which of course will require changes in society's behavior - I'm not too optimistic about that.

    I do think an important step in beginning to understand what is going on is to recognize that even though we all love steelhead O. mykiss is a much more complex animal than just the speices' sea going life history.

    Tight lines
  7. Rob Allen Active Member

    Posts: 904
    Vancouver WA
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    actually there is another misconception.

    most hatcheries in the state of Washington DO NOT use a local stock for the brood stock. most hatcheries use Skamania stock summer runs and chambers creek winter runs.

    many of the hatcheries that do not use these two stocks use questionable stocks.. for instance on the Grande Ronde the stock was originally made up of steelhead captured at one of the lower snake river dams they could have been from anywhere
  8. Chris Bellows The Thought Train

    Posts: 1,627
    The Salt
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    you must have missed this earlier in the thread... cannot be said any better

  9. Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Posts: 1,786
    Bellingham Wa.
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    I'm happy to hear that Stewart, it is the reason I posted the article, to spur some interest and get people engaged. All to often folks just throw up their hands and say f**k it. Hopefully you will educate yourself on the issues and get involved. Dn't know if you are a reader or if you have read these but a couple of books I recomend are: "Salmon without rivers" by Jim Lichatowitz ( spelling?), and " King of Fish" by David montgomery. Those should get you going, and there is enough material on the nativefishsociety.org to keep you reading for a long time!

  10. Chris Bellows The Thought Train

    Posts: 1,627
    The Salt
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    seriously, i don't know what would convince you. you cannot uncouple the marriage of hatcheries and overharvest. ask yourself how many early wild winter steelhead still return. why are there far fewer today than before hatcheries planted early returning hatchery steelhead that could be harvested at 80-90%.... the wild fish didn't have a chance.

    look up wind river summer runs, siletz summer runs, and oregon coastal coho for examples of populations that rose significantly following serious reductions of plants or eliminations of hatchery fish being allowed to spawn with wild fish.

    true, there is some good quality habitat in upper reaches of OP rivers. but logging has done serious damage almost everywhere outside the park, which is a ton of productive habitat. take the queets for example. the headwaters and a the floodplain are protected. but look at the clearwater river, salmon river, matheny creek, and sams river and you'll see the majority of the tributaries seriously damaged by logging. you'll also see a river with far fewer wild steelhead than it should. of course, the heavy netting pressure due to the massive plants of salmon and steelhead on the salmon river also play a role in decreasing the numbers of co-mingled stocks.

    also, look into the summer runs in the OP. they are being swamped on the spawning beds by hatchery summer runs. snorkel surveys by the park show that native summer runs are often outnumbered by hatchery fish... and we wonder why their numbers have plummeted.

    great habitat can be unproductive if the fish have their productivity lessened by spawning with hatchery fish or cannot make it due to being harvested due to being a small wild population within a large hatchery run.

    you cannot have healthy wild steelhead runs without the diversity that comes from all the parts of the population. early, mid, late, and resident populations.

    in many cases hatcheries were built because of declining wild runs. but ask yourself why? the reason is commercial fishing and keeping harvest rates higher than wild fish could provide. there was never anything done to actively manage for wild fish and attempt to bolster their numbers. hatchery programs were promoted as a way to have your cake and eat it too. but while billions have been poured into hatchery production, not much was poured into protecting and restoring habitat. how have hatcheries helped stop the declines of wild fish. they haven't and often cause an acceleration of decline.

    a band-aid can work if you fix whats causing the bleeding. the hood canal summer chum program is a good example of using short term plants to keep a population going while the real problems are seriously worked on. the hatchery program had an end time and was shut down. now there are self-sustaining runs of summer chum. the problem is that most hatcheries have no end game, because they were not built or designed to help wild runs... and even the newer "boutique" hatcheries are pretty much the same. no end game, but lots of talk about helping wild fish.
  11. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,797
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +653 / 0
    Topwater -
    Regarding hatchery summer run steelhead. There is little doubt that hatchery summer steelhead can succesfully reproduce in the wild however it does not necessarily follow that seeing a bunch of hatchery fish in the late summer during snorkel surveys is always an indication of hatchery/wild problems. Summer fish are well know for the tendencies to wander at bit. The issue is not whether hatchery fish are spending the summer in areas with wild fish but rather whether they stay in those areas until the spring and spawn with those wild fish.

    On the North Fork of Skykomish during the late summer/early fall it is pretty common to see hatchery and wild fish holding in the upper river. Sampling or snorkel surveys at that time of year often find that 80 to 90% of the fish are hatchery. Yet by November those ratio of hatchery to wild has flipped with few hatchery fish. I suspect that by the time the fish are ready to spawn nearly all the hatchery fish have vacated the area. This is backed up by genetic sampling of the wild parr in that reach where in spite of 35 years of hatchery summer in the area there is virtual no sign of genetic input to those wild parr. Just another indication that each situation is different.

    Tight lines
  12. gt Active Member

    Posts: 2,616
    sequim, WA
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    hatcheries were built and have been operated because of overharvest by commercial intereste. if MSY were to disappear, the hatcheries would be superfluous. conversely, if budget cuts remove hatcheries from productoin, MSY can not be sustained in its current form.

    time to realize that this has virtually nothing to do with sport angling and everything to do with sustaining a minority of folks who harvest for commercial purposes. our tax dollars subsidize these commercial interests while WDFW advertises that if hatcheries were not around, there would be no sport angling.

    that is total BS and put out there as cover for their 'management', maybe someone can thing of a better descriptor, for commercial harvest. that is exactly why the first smolts from the McClound hatchery were released into the columbia r., that is exactly why these hatcheries continue to exist today. if the commercial industry needs these to sustain themselves, why don't they pay for them and let the tax payers off the hook.

    next time WDFW funding cuts come up, make sure you representatives know you support cutting WDFW.
  13. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,797
    Marysville, Washington
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    gt -
    You are correcg that hatcheries were built to suppy fish for harvest however it is very much a reach to place the need for more harvest on commercial overharvest. Yes harvest has been and often continues to be an issue but many case the needs for additional fish was partially created by habitat issues. One does not have to look any further than the losses in fish production cause by dams across the PNW.

    When on looks closely at some of the over harvest situations from the past it is obvious that historic high harvest rates could not be sustained due in at least part to lost of productivity due to habitat impacts.

    Regarding hatchery steelhead being released in the Columbia; When those smolts were first released (50 and more years ago) there wasn't much commercial steelhead fishing in Washington. The driving issues were habitat (dams) and recreational fishing.

    There are several examples of where sport angling has limited populations in the past; Puget sound sea-run cutthroat, Skagit bull trout, and many wild steelhead populations immediately come to mind.

    I too encourage folks to contact their representatives regarding WDFW budget cuts. However I would encourage to do so with some thought looking at what is important to them and focus on surgical cuts protecting functions important to them. I suspect in the hatchery arena keeping trout plants for lakes may be important to some. law enforcement important to others, population and catch monitoring important to others. WDFW is a complex agency with a pretty wide ranging diversity of activities that may be important to different users. In these tough budget times there will no doubt be some painful cuts and likely elimination of whole programs but rather than slash and burn cuts I would suggest that our individual interest would be better served by recommending cuts based on our priorities which of course reflect our individual priorities.

    Tight lines
  14. gt Active Member

    Posts: 2,616
    sequim, WA
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    certainly there are other factors that have lead to the decline of anadramous fish, our degraded environment is a prime cause. that said, with the primary objective of WDFW being MSY, overharvest rules the day. overharvest from the very beginning has been the primary cause of the lost fish. so long as MSY remains the primary objective, hatcheries will continue to operate and contribute their own significant negative impact on our environment.

    the arguement that hatcheries are here forever relies on the assumption that without them there would be no anadramous fishes. what the arguement really means to say is that without hatcheries MSY would not be a possibility for the commercial sector. in fact, without hatcheries MSY would have to be abandoned simply because the numbers of fish could not support this failed harvest concept.

    since WDFW will not modify it's objective, it seems as though letting the budget ax fall on hatcheries will just as neatly do the job for all of us. of course WDFW will be shouting that the sport angler will no longer have fish to catch, but that has been their straw man arguement for decades now. what they will never admit is their role in causing the runs to fail by pumping out billions of concrete pen raised zombies, all for the benefit of a small but powerful commercial lobby, tribal and non-tribal.

    i do believe the end game is in sight. without firm positive action our generation will see the anadramous stocks totally collapse.
  15. Checkthisout Member

    Posts: 75
    Redmond, Washington
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    I'm not really feeling you here. If 2000 fish enter the Skykomish during the summer, 1000 get harvested, 500 are trapped and stripped of eggs and then killed, you are arguing that the 500 strays go up upriver and spawn with nates and hurt the wild fish population by screwing up the genes or that these 500 fish are steeling habitat and good from the 2000 nates that enter the river and thus causing them not to spawn or their smolts to starve to death? What about when the WDFW purposely plants a river with smolts (like the Tolt?) Are these types of programs studied and included in your "hatchery strays" study since these fish are technically not strays.

    I'm not feeling you here. I could see how this would be a problem on a small, packed river like the Wallace but not a basin with 100's of miles of spawning habitat.

    It would appear that maybe blanket analysis generic to all river systems cannot be done.

    Moving along,

    My thinking for a watershed like the Elwha would be to breed natives in a hatchery that pulls water directly off the river so the fish do not want to home back into the hatchery and then release them at random points throughout the river. Not to take some random stock from some random river and dump them in there.

    Another good example is Griffin Creek on the snoqualmie. Mass quantities of all species spawn becase the river is unaffected by logging because the upper watershed is a huge, flat wetland that generates a lot of nutrients and absorbs runoff well.

    Anyways, some random thoughts.

    And claiming that Hatcheries allow commericals to overharvest is a bit ridiculous because the Indians are not regulated and would harvest whatever they like whenever they like. WDFW has no say in the matter.
  16. Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Posts: 1,786
    Bellingham Wa.
    Ratings: +316 / 1

    It's pretty well established that steelhead stray, and that they spawn with wild fish. That is why wdfw has tried so hard to isolate the timing of hatchery runs, to separate them from nates and (in theory) reduce inter breeding. There have been numerous studies that show the negative effects of inter breeding on wild populations.

    As for the Elwha, why mess with nature? Why mine wild fish from the river, to turn them iinto domesticated animals? Do we really think we can do better than millions of years of evolution? The Elwha is a perfect opportunity to see how nature will react. We have tried the hatchery thing for 150yrs and it's not working, letas try something else.

    To your last point, the nooksack is a perfect example. The tribe has a hatchery on the so. fork they put out many thousands of coho smolts each year. In order to catch these hatchery coho b'ham bay is open 24-7 for non-treaty commercials from sept.15 to oct. 31 and the Indains fish in the river 6 days a week. This management style has not regard whatever for the native coho or steelhead( I've caught steelhead in oct. in the river) that might be present. They produce fish for people to catch, and so they manage to kill fish, period. Most of the non-treaty fishermen don't like the 24-7 schedule, but they want thoes fish caught, so it's open. It's circular logic, we make fish to catch fish to make more fish.
  17. Rob Allen Active Member

    Posts: 904
    Vancouver WA
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    I could be wrong but i do not think that the separation wild and hatchery runs is not the result of choice but of hatcheries starting by taking the first fish that cam back year after year and it developed into an "early" run. what this did do however is wipe out the early component of our winter and summer wild runs runs...

    nowhere is it more missed than here in Southwest Washington where many of us are very sore over the complete loss of our March- April and May early summer natives. These were the hottest steelhead you could imagine..

    however most people notice it in winter runs fewer nates during December and January
  18. Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Posts: 1,786
    Bellingham Wa.
    Ratings: +316 / 1

    In the begining that was likely the case, and what that did was increase pressure on that part of the run from both tribal netting and sport fishers, which illustrates my point that hatcheries create harvest.