Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by eJohn, Sep 12, 2005.

  1. I think I'm kind of confused also. You hear a lot of bad talk about hatchery fish, and for the most part it seems well founded. Everything Tom H said makes perfect sense. But then if hatcheries are bad for the river systems, why are they introduced in the first place. Is it a sort of lesser of two evils thing? If I've got it right, hatchery fish are put in to boost the population. I don't know. I guess I just find it all a bit confusing too.
  2. You probably find it all confusing because it's a mother of a confusion!

    What's been said about hatchery origin fish is correct. But the management of upper Columbia stocks is not so simple. Yes, hatchery fish have negative effects on wild populations. But the reality of the populations of fish on rivers like the Methow is that there are 9 dams and 9 associated reservoirs downstream, with all of their associated incidental mortalities. Armchair biologists out there who've taken a few fisheries or ecology classes often carry on about how hatcheries and how they're bad ALL OF THE TIME. I personally don't believe it is a black and white case in a river like the Methow. The smolt to adult survivals and recruit:spawner ratios are just too low to maintain a population during all but the very best years of minimal sport and commercial fishing and favorable ocean conditions.

    Habitat and water quality have never been issues in the Methow. The fact is, the fish are dying outside of the Methow Basin and the hatchery fish are there to augment the initial number so that enough survive to return as adults. Take that supplementation away and it won't matter how fit the wild fish returning are, they won't be able to sustain the population over a few generations.

    Historically, there were a few years there where no anadromous fish made it back to the Methow. So it's arguable, as someone eluded to earlier, that the fish here are no longer 'native' but rather just 'wild'. It's a good point. However, there are studies out there that show significant evolution of phenotypic and genotypic traits over short periods of time in sockeye and chinook populations. So who's to say we shouldn't attempt to allow that to continue to happen in the Methow by trying to utilize as much wild genetic material in the hatchery stocks, while minimalizing hatchery progeny in the broodstocks, thus domestication (ie bonking the hatchery brats and excluding them in hatchery operations)?

    Just my thoughts
  3. Ahh, at last, an expert chimes in. Thanks for the elucidation Jackchinook.

    It seems that a delicate balance is being sought here, where today’s action may lead, in hindsight, to be inadvertently misinformed, but the option of not supplementing with some hatchery stock and having a potential disappearance of steelhead from the Methow River would be by far the greater evil.

    I read the question posed by one NW editor that killing the hatchery based fish in the Methow might lead to an eventual closure of that season if it’s too successful, once the hatchery fish are fully harvested. But it seems to me, from what you're saying, that supplementation will likely be a continuing process into the foreseeable future.
  4. Jackchinook - I'm not saying all hatcheries are bad. Just pointing out some of the drawbacks. There are other considerations as well. How about residualization of hatchery fish? In other words, those hatchery fish that survive and breed in the wild but then remain in the system as "trout". Just as you pointed out this is a very confusing issue and we don't have anywhere near the data we need to make informed decisions so I guess we just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

    And no I'm not an armchair biologist (UW Fisheries Management Class of '80).
  5. Tom, for the record, I was harboring some thoughts of people outside the forum who've recently made their opinions well know here in 'the valley'. I wasn't calling you names, though having re-read my post I can see how it would seem so. No disrespect whatsoever, you seem very astute at the subject.

    As far as residualized hatchery fish, we do monitor them in the Methow. Chinook residuals, or 'precocials' as we call them are few and far between, as best as we can observe. Residualized steelhead smolts, on the other hand, are a major concern in the Methow and the 'trout' fishery that exists, particularly on the Twisp, Chewuch and upper Methow rivers, consist almost entirely of these smolts. We're constantly trying to figure out how to minimalize this phenonmenon because, as you know, the fish directly compete (and outcompete) native rb's, ct's, bt's etc. Residualism is a problem anywhere you have a hatchery operation, though it has been documented in the wild too. Just another strategy that I personally feel is exacerbated by the nature of the migration corridor....small male fish can fertilize many eggs, while females have to get big in order to make sizeable contributions to the population. If males who residualize can contribute genetic material at the population level and do so without experiencing the high mortality associated with migration and (assuming the strategy is passed genetically) it will promote that trait over time...much like decreasing the number of years at sea, only to the extreme.

    A fascinating subject, no doubt.
  6. Well I guess that I see the light. But if that is the case,why did the plant the hell out of the Wenatchee system and then close it down for us to reap the rewards. Was told in so many words that they were rebuilding the fish runs. If hatchery fish make things bad for native fish,why did they put the hatchery brats into the system.

    Just too many questions to ask to really get a good answer.

  7. I didn't feel your were giving me any disrespect but thanks anyway. Just trying to figure out a way to answer the Old Man's question in general terms. It looks like he's still not getting the full picture though. Have you got anything that can help him see the "light" cuz I'm out of ideas!! It's too complex and convoluted an issue for a pea-brain like me to explain.
  8. For your imformation on the Methow steelhead the hatchery is at Wells dam, the hatchery at Winthrop is a Fed. Hatchery and they only raise approx. 100,000 smolt for release in the Methow drainage.
    Well it looks like I'll be on the river Sat. so if a guy in a orange WDFW vest comes up to you say hi.
  9. Well, I'm pretty pea-brained myself but I'll take a stab:

    There are various levels of 'brat-ness' to hatchery fish. The more generations of hatchery fish, based on hatchery broodstock fish, the more your chances of domestication occurs. The same natural selection that occurs in the wild also occurs in the hatchery populations. But the traits can differ. Aggressive, big, stupid fish might outcompete the smaller, cautious fish when hatchery and wild fish co-exist....but these same fish, when spawning in the wild can pass these traits on to subsequent generations. Then their progenies in the wild will have lower survivals.

    In the Methow, hatchery managers attempt to use a higher proportion of wild parents in the crosses. If the fish were available, they'd use 100% wild parents so that no two generations were ever back-to-back in the hatchery. 1/3 or less of the wild run is allowed to be incorporated to provide for natural spawning so, often, this wild proportion is pretty low....why don't they just make it so that the size of the hatchery release is lower? The answer to that is political, not so much scientific.
  10. Washington Trout has deep concerns regarding the use of hatchery supplementation to conserve and rebuild populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Methow Basin. Hatchery supplementation as a strategy for conserving or recovering wild salmon and steelhead is extremely risky, unproven, and subject to a great amount of scientific controversy. Most independent scientists are skeptical that supplementation can provide significant increases in wild-salmon abundance, and many believe it is highly likely that supplementation will significantly reduce the productivity and fitness of target populations. No current supplementation program in the Columbia Basin has a demonstrated record of success, and none have been fully evaluated in any systematic and scientifically credible manner.

    As jack chinook noted, the conservation objective of supplementation is to provide a numerical boost to the wild population until the environmental factors limiting the productivity of the wild population are remedied. While this sounds good, there are very sound biological reasons to believe that it cannot work.

    The Salmon Recovery Science Review Panel (RSRP) provides independent review of NOAA Fisheries salmon-recovery planning efforts under the Endangered Species Act. The RSRP has published two recent reports describing the risks of using hatcheries for recovery and evaluating how to determine whether any specific use of hatcheries to conserve wild salmon actually achieves that purpose. These reports (dated July 21 – 23, 2003 and August 30- September 1, 2004) are available on the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Region Home Page, under RSRP.

    In June 2003 the Independent Science Advisory Board (ISAB), which provides scientific review of salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin to NOAA Fisheries and to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, published its Review of Salmon and Steelhead Supplementation (available at the Conservation Council website under ISAB, document # ISAB 2003-3).

    Both reviews characterized supplementation as “experimental” and were in general agreement regarding the risks to wild salmon and steelhead from supplementation as well as from more traditional hatchery practices. Both stressed the high level of risk that hatchery supplementation will result in the erosion (decline) of the fitness of the targeted wild populations. Even if a supplementation program succeeds in increasing the numbers of naturally spawning salmon or steelhead, all or a majority of those fish will be less fit (will produce fewer adult offspring per individual) than members of the population before the supplementation program started.

    A bona-fide supplementation program would at some point stop, and allow the (presumably) numerically-increased population to fend for itself. If, as both the ISAB and the RSRP found likely, each fish in the enlarged population is less fit than before supplementation, the population will decline even faster when supplementation is stopped, despite starting out at a larger size. In many cases, this will turn a population that is capable of barely holding on into a rapidly declining population destined for extinction, or permanent hatchery intervention. Instead of conserving the wild population, supplementation will have turned it into a population that cannot exist on its own.

    There is, to be sure, controversy regarding whether such a result might occur in any specific situation. But to proceed optimistically with supplementation because of this uncertainty is simply to ignore and dismiss the risk. In 2003, The ISAB found a lack of adequate monitoring and evaluation, and a poor performance record, in nearly all the supplementation programs it reviewed, and strongly recommended that no new supplementation programs be initiated in the Columbia Basin until basic questions about the effects, impacts, and risks of supplementation are answered. At any rate, because supplementation is still experimental at best, it is crucial that all supplementation efforts include measures that can provide a scientifically credible evaluation of whether or not the effort is achieving its predicted objectives without also producing intolerable harmful impacts.

    Both the ISAB and the RSRP stress that supplementation programs must be monitored in paired experiments with unsupplemented control basins and populations, and recommended performance indicators in three areas:

    • Target-population abundance, hatchery productivity and natural spawning productivity during supplementation, compared to unsupplemented controls;
    • Target-population long-term fitness after supplementation, compared to unsupplemented controls;
    • non-target population impacts (e.g., effects of steelhead supplementation on the abundance and productivity of chinook populations in the target area, compared to unsupplemented controls).” (ISAB 2003-3, Executive Summary, page ix.)
    Current supplementation efforts in the Methow basin fail to incorporate even these most basic measures.

    Washington Trout is opposed to Methow River supplementation efforts as currently conducted. We believe these efforts carry a high risk of furthering the decline of Endangered spring chinook and Endangered steelhead, and are conducted in such a manner that it is nearly impossible to evaluate whether or not they are having the intended conservation effect. In order to establish a framework for effectively evaluating supplementation as a conservation strategy in the Methow basin, and comply with the ISAB’s recommendations, WT would recommend the following:

    • Establish unsupplemented control basins.
    • Adopt a set of performance indicators and associated standards that will be measured in both supplemented and unsupplemented-control populations. Indicators should include some or all of the following: annual redd counts, annual number of male and female spawners, summer/fall parr densities, number of outmigrant smolts, smolt-to-adult and spawner-to-spawner recruitment rates.
    • Establish a termination date for all supplementation. We would recommend a maximum duration of two generations (approximately 10-12 years).
  11. Has WT formally presented its recommendations to WDFW? and, if so, what is the likelihood of implementation of any of the recommendations in the immediate future by WDFW?
  12. Damn! Washington Trout, you have a far greater literature and policy-based background than I. Full of very valid points that I cannot argue. I don't have a pre-prepared, peer reviewed presentation to counter it, but here are a few comments anyways:

    First, WT makes very valid claims that supplementation is risky and subject to controversy. That is true but it must be remembered that there was a time in some members' lifetimes (Old Man maybe?) where there were absolutely no anadromous fish in the Methow. These are not 'native' fish. Looking at the SAR's and recruit:spawner ratios of the fish here, I think it's more likely that leaving them alone will result in zero to very low numbers of spring Chinook and steelhead in the basin. In a fairly short matter of time. These fish would be be the result of strays from other rivers and a few naturally spawning stragglers. I think that gamble is more 'risky'.

    Second, availability of a non-supplemented basin for a control group is a major problem. However, we do compare steelhead redd counts as well as hatchery:wild proportions in supplemented vs. non-suplemented sub-basins within the Methow. Of course it's not truly a perfect comparison because hatchery origin fish do utilize these tributaries.

    As WT said, "Both the ISAB and the RSRP stress that supplementation programs must be monitored in paired experiments with unsupplemented control basins and populations, and recommended performance indicators in three areas:

    Target-population abundance, hatchery productivity and natural spawning productivity during supplementation, compared to unsupplemented controls;
    Target-population long-term fitness after supplementation, compared to unsupplemented controls;
    non-target population impacts (e.g., effects of steelhead supplementation on the abundance and productivity of chinook populations in the target area, compared to unsupplemented controls).” (ISAB 2003-3, Executive Summary, page ix.)
    Current supplementation efforts in the Methow basin fail to incorporate even these most basic measures."

    WDFW and Douglas PUD has been conducting the hatchery evaluation since 1992, when that sort of thing was very new. WDFW took over the natural production studies in 2003 and data quality, with particular emphasis on the juvenile monitoring has improved DRAMATICALLY. Since 2003, we've been collecting much improved information on redd abundance as well as smolt migration so that suvivals between hatchery and naturally-produced fish can be better compared.

    While its really easy to say that everything should be compared to a control group for a proper scientific study, one could be picked and there'd be someone telling you that it wasn't representative, etc. etc. For the record, we loosely compare the Methow with the Wenatchee and Entiat basins but there are production and supplementation activities there as

    having said that, yes there is a lack of control basin for comparison, but all of the other information (target-population abundance, hatchery productivity and natural spawning productivity, target-population long-term fitness, non-target population impacts, etc.) are investigated using the best available techniques. These data can be and are used to look at trends within the basin and compare those to other studied basins, ie Wenatchee, Yakima, etc.

    As far as "performance indicators and associated standards that will be measured in supplemented populations", indicators we do collect and monitor do include annual redd counts, annual number of male and female spawners, , outmigrant smolts quantification, and smolt-to-adult and spawner-to-spawner recruitment rates.

    Termination date for all supplementation? I don't have an answer for that one myself, thought the higher up's may have it. Considering that change in the current physical and biological nature of the Columbia River isn't on the horizon, ceasing supplementation seems riskier to me. I feel that its a question of having either a supplemented population into the foreseeable future, or having none at all, and having to rebuild it again, using stock from somewhere else that will could possibly be less fit than the current stock, which may have begun to assimilate traits appropriate for the Methow Basin over the last 70 years since anadromy was blocked off and the run was left to become extinct.

    WT, interesting talking to you and it's nice to know that we all have the same priorities and concerns....just different angles.
  13. WT's criticism of supplementation has more merit where incredibly high losses at hydro dams doesn't occur.

    However, there is risk associated with any alternative. Discontinuing supplementation in the Methow, and the prospective subsequent decline in both wild and hatchery steelhead has to be weighed against a supplementation program that reasonably ensures a significant spawning escapement (wild + hatchery) occurs. Unfortunately, due to the losses incurred with downstream and upstream passage of nine major hydropower dams, a self-sustaining wild steelhead population does not appear possible. Discontinuing supplementation would likely lead to steelhead extinction in several generations.

    A conversation (outdated, but representative) with Larry Brown when he worked out of Wenatchee detailed that due to steelhead losses at the seven mainstem Columbia dams, wild steelhead on average could not return more than 60% of the spawning escapement goal. So long as high losses are incurred at the dams, hatchery supplementation is going to be necessary to sustain steelhead runs that will be a composite of wild and hatchery fish.


    Salmo g.
  14. October 1 I was standing on the river bank wondering why the hell can't I fish, what are these decision based upon. Now I get an avalanche of info.

    Great stuff man..keep it coming! I'm learning more about the issue here today than I have in the last 5 years combined.

    I really appreciate you, all of you, taking the time to share your hard earned knowledge with all here.

    -Jim, the armchair biologist.
  15. So, along these lines, how is the non-supplementation program going in the Wenatchee River? How long have they been at it there? Honestly, I am asking. I don't know, I'm just curious as this seems to be the other 'method' that can be used.

  16. Now I'm sorry that I asked this Question. I didn't know that it would last this long. I thought that I would get a simple answer and be done with it. I now get the picture on wild Vs. hatchery. If hatchery fish are planted to bring back a run. Why do they do that. Or do they gleen the eggs out of a wild fish. Come to think of it that is how this all started. They had to get the eggs from someplace.

    I was going to ask one more question on this but I thought better of it. I think it is time to quit stealing this thread from the Methow flyfishers. Sorry.

  17. Jim, it is all actually quite relevant to the discussion. The very reason the season was question was not enough "wild" fish returning over Wells Dam. Understanding the who and the why of how this particular river works is really important and I think we all learned something.

    I do have one question though. Does anyone know why the Colville Tribe has been operating the fish counting station above the Miller Hole the last few years? The Methow does not run through the reservation as far as I know so I am curious what their vested interest is in the river. The only thing I can think of is that this river and the Okanogan are the only two that can provide salmon harvest for the tribe since Grand Coulee Dam was built. I know the Federal Gov. had a huge settlement with the Colville's a decade or so ago over lost salmon due to the dam. Anyone know?
  18. I'm afraid I got lost in all the science quoted here, we are fortunate to have "experts" available to us.
    I do know a couple of positive things, next week I can head over to the Methow and have a reasonable chance of hooking a Steelhead, wild or hatchery origin. Not so many years ago that wouldn't have been possible.
    Last year I had the pleasure of walking up a tributary of the Methow with JackChinook and he pointed out to me Steelhead reds and spawning Steelhead. That would not have happened a few years ago either.
    So my feelings are we are fortunate to have this system that seems to be working and we should thank the WDFW for pushing it through despite all the naysayers.
    There is Science and Politics involved in every decision made by the WDFW, and they very rarely agree.
  19. Well if they didn't fin clip those fish how do you tell a wild vs. a hatchery dummy??????

    I might be old but I never got into this thing about fish, wild vs.hatchery. So you all are going to have to live with this problem.Sorry but I'm trying to learn.

  20. Flyfish4fun, as far as I know that counting station at the Miller Hole is/was(?) run by CRITFC - Columbia River inter-tribal fisheries council, which includes the Colvilles. but it was actually guys from the Yakama tribe fisheries resources office that were conducting the study. If I recall correctly, it was paid for partly by some entity in Alaska (since that's where those fish go and are caught). The YN also has vested interest because they fish those in the lower and mid Columbia and those fishing grounds are part of their historic fishing grounds which they retain tribal rights to fishing there. I believe that the YN actually considers the Methow one of 'their rivers' while the Okanogan is a river the Colvilles consider 'theirs'. Don't quote me on that.

    the wild fish are fairly easy to tell apart from the hatchery dummies in the upper Columbia using several clues. But (you're not gonna like this) there is more to it. In the Methow, Wenatchee and Okanogan/Similkameen basins, you've got (simplification here) fish that have parentage composed of a mom and dad that were (1) both truly wild, (2) hatchery x wild, and (3) hatchery x hatchery.

    They're differentially marked so that they can be told apart at the hatchery and on the spawning ground.
    wild fish - no marks at all, fins in perfect condition
    hatchery x wild - adipose intact but will have some sort of colored elastomer tag that tells of their origin (left or right side and color combination)
    hatchery x hatchery - these are adipose clipped; the fish that should be bonked.

    Somewhere around on one of my computers I have some photos of a hatchery fish's fins compared to wild fins. Side by side it quite obvious which is which. All of this is of course backed up by reading the scales, which 95% of the time back up field determinations. I'll try and get those up in my personal gallery.

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