Steelhead hatcheries: good or bad?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Denny, Aug 25, 2008.

  1. yuhina

    yuhina Tropical member

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  2. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Actually there has been some discussion of creating sterile steelhead.

    Remember that steelhead return to our rivers to spawn. Sterile fish never sexually mature. Looks to a win/win. Not only would the sterile steelhead never spawn in the wild they would never return to the river thus moving any fishing for them and the associated impacts on the co-mingled wild fish to the high seas. Talk about getting away from impacts on the wild fish on our local waters.

    Anyone have a boat capable of making the run to the international dateline for a little steelhead fishing (wild steelhead release of course)?

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  3. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    I totally see what you are saying but I think I wasn't clear enough.

    I wasn't advocating spreading hatchery fish out, I meant what I said as a reason that a river managed for wild fish will better for a sportsman. If those natural resources (the ones the rear fish while in rivers) weren't mostly going to hatchery smolts, we would have wild fish that would be far more spread out and integrated throughout a river system.
     
  4. yuhina

    yuhina Tropical member

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    Thanks Curt!
    Good point and interesting fact!

    I am not familiar with sterile steelhead, but there are some of hybrid species do return and try to spawn. I guess it is species wise differences. Hybrid stripers do run up to the spawning ground in our river systems. It would be nice to know if there are other sterile treatment that still maintain the spawning instinct.

    http://afs.allenpress.com/perlserv/....1577/1548-8675(2000)020<0575:LAROJS>2.3.CO;2

    an interesting article - few returns after the sterile treatment.
    Mark
     
  5. Tom O'Riley

    Tom O'Riley Member

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    Maybe I am wrong but it sound like nobody's interested in restoring native stocks. All hachery fish have negitive impact on native stocks sterile or not.
     
  6. corysean99

    corysean99 New Member

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    Preston

    I am VERY AWARE it is a federal treaty. And the virtual extinction of steelhead should be a federal matter not just state, since that federal treaty contributes to the problem. I do beleive I said nothing about STATE GOVERNMENT. But thank you for clearing it up for me since I failed to get the message
     
  7. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    There is strong evidence that hatchery fish adversely effect wild fish in a number of ways. Through reproductive interactions they reduce the fitness of the wild stock, or in many cases result in zero adult offspring, making the reproductive efforts of their wild mate effectively void. They also compete with wild fish for resources in freshwater, and marine environments. Also, many hatchery steelhead smolts residualize in freshwater where, given their larger size they are able to outcompete wild juveniles for rearing habitat and resources and also likely eat wild salmonid fry (steelhead or not). Disease is another concern and there are regular outbreaks in our state and federal hatcheries. Often they go undetected until a large number of fish have been released into the wild, undoubtedly taking a toll on wild populations.

    Another thing to consider is the fishing pressure (mostly nets) that occurs during the hatchery run. Many places the netting schedule is much more liberal during the heart of the hatchery return and while wild fish once had a much more protracted run timing, many believe early timed fish are so rare now because of the intense fishing pressure imposed by early run hatchery management. Certainly hatcheries are not the only thing that has brought our wild steelhead to the sad state they are currently in, but they are part of the problem. People have had that harvest first mentality for so long without really understanding the impacts. The state sets thresholds for how much hatchery introgression into the gene pool is acceptable but their monitoring efforts are laughable. The bottom line is, there are many systems around our state that could be producing many more wild steelhead than they are, even in the face of degraded habitat and cycles of poor ocean survival. Some systems may be lost and I believe those are good candidates for increased focus on hatchery production, however there is simply no reason for hatchery fish to be in the sauk, or any of the skagit in my opinion. Nor is there a reason for there to be hatchery steelhead planted in the North Fork Skykomish, Sultan, Tolt River, or any other place where they don't have a collection facility. For such a long time we've been dumping fish into productive wild fish systems without any strategy for how to collect the returning fish that go unharvested. Fortunately the state (under pressure from NOAA) finally seems to be getting its act together and my understanding is that they will be eliminating outplanting programs in the future, as well as phasing out any program that is unable to meet its eggtake goal. We'll see if they make good on the talk, but I'm optimistic.

    Now if we could just get some decent marine survival, we might see decent numbers back in PS rivers.

    Will
     
  8. Useful Idiot

    Useful Idiot New Member

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    Interesting info here. It seems to me the basis of the problem is the hatchery fish being genetically inferior to native fish and therefore weakening the native fish population upon inter-breeding. Correct?

    So what is the reason for the hatchery fish being so genetically inferior? Was the original broodstock sample too small? It seems with the proper genetics, the hatchery systems would have no reason for failure. Genes are genes, I'm not understanding the problem with taking an adequate sample of native broodstock and releasing their offspring each year. It wouldn't make their genetics any less adequate. What is it that makes the hatcheries' broodstocks' genes so inferior to the native fishes?

    Here in So Cal we've had enormous success with white seabass hatchery programs in particular, and noticeable results with halibut and black seabass as well.
     
  9. FT

    FT Active Member

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    corysean99,

    Since you know it is a federal treaty that gives the tribes the right to fish for steelhead in any manner an individual treaty fishing tribe deems appropriate and legal, then surely you also know that it will take both the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass legislation that either alters or does away with these treaties, which of course also means the president must sign it into law. Plus don't forget that even if such a change to a treaty gets passed by Congress and signed by the president (both extremely unlikely regardless of which party is in the presidency or in contral of Congress), it will also have to gain approval from the US Supreme Court since it will be challanged in the federal courts as a breach of treaty.

    So tell us, when are you going to get the House and Senate to pass such legislation, get the president to sign it into law, and then get the US Supreme Court to rule that it was OK to do so? For until all these things happen, the treaties will stand.

    Then again, myself and many others might have a better idea, instead of trying to fight with the tribes, why not work with them on habitat restoration and management of the anadromous fish resources?
     
  10. Gertie's Pa

    Gertie's Pa New Member

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    [Q

    My thoughts are the only good hatchery system collects native eggs propgates them to the eyed stage then returns them to there natal gravel via a Whitlock box type sytem just to give them a jump start :thumb:[/QUOTE]

    This process still qualifies these fish as hatchery origin. As stated above,we're not sure what makes a mated pair of steelhead attracted to each other. We simply don't know enough about the native selectiveness to try to artificially replicate it. I believe the idea of selecting certain rivers as hatchery/sport fishing rivers may have merit. Those watersheds where natives have a reasonable chance of restoration may have to be left off limits to sport and tribal fishers for years to come. If anyone doubts the effectiveness of discontinuing harvest, hatchery propagation and allowing fish to replenish themselves take a look at the comeback of the sea-run cutts.
     
  11. corysean99

    corysean99 New Member

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    I didnt say it would be easy or even likely, but it is feasible. It is just like with alot of things with our system, it needs reform. I really dont feel like getting into a political discussion because with people because I simply was venting about things will solve much of anything. That is just the way I look at things. I am sure many others feel the same way. I guess a public forum isn't the place to state your opinion about things. I am off to fish
     
  12. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    Useful Idiot,
    There are a number of factors that lead to the inferiority of hatchery fish. It is generally perceived today that the individual strains of fish native to various watersheds have evolved characteristics that are particularly adapted to that particular system and which allow them to spawn and rear successfully. A good example of this is the late-spawning characteristics of native Skagit River steelhead. Due to the generally high-elevation headwaters of this system and the consequent late runoff, Skagit natives spawn, on the average, much later in the spring than those of most other Puget Sound basin rivers. Hatchery steelhead, spawning earlier, find their redds subject to scouring by the late and long runoff period. This is, of course, only one small example of the particular adaptations that have occurred in individual river systems over hundreds of thousands of years.

    The argument can, and has been, made that using native stock in the hatcheries would alleviate this problem, but it only creates a couple more. As mentioned above, the state of many native steelhead runs is so reduced that taking natives for hatchery stock would constitute "mining" those stocks and could further endanger their existence. Obtaining such wild stock is also difficult and time-consuming, they don't just swim back and into the hatchery like their artificially propagated cousins. There have been a couple of efforts to carry out native-stock hatchery programs, but they are expensive and have not shown any huge improvement over conventional hatchery programs. There is also an apparent "domestication factor"; even first-generation hatchery stock derived from native stock show a reduced ability to produce returning offspring and this ability decreases by a significant percentage with each subsequent generation.

    The usual practice has been to select a single stock (such as the well-known Chambers Creek stock) for hatchery production and then to use them exclusively in a widespread program that covers, in some cases, a large portion of the state. Often the primary factor in the selection of a particular stock is based on such characteristics as the ease with which they can adapt to being reared in a hatchery environment. The economics of hatchery production precludes almost any other plan.
     
  13. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    Certainly reproductive interactions between hatchery and wild fish are a large part of the problem, but definitely not the only consideration. The notion that hatchery fish have "bad genes" is a gross over simplification. The problem is, selection acts dramatically differently on fish in a hatchery than in the wild, and many of the natural selective pressures are eased if not entirely eliminated in the hatchery environment. Hatchery fish have been selected to thrive in a hatchery environment and consequently are poorly suited to reproduce and thrive in the wild. So when they spawn with a wild fish the fitness of their offspring is dramatically reduced.

    Many people hold onto the notion that wild broodstock are far superior to chambers creek broodstock. Really though I think thats a little silly. The bottom line is the fish are still domesticated and consequently their reproductive success in the wild will be dramatically reduced after only a couple generations in the hatchery environment. Recent work by Araki et al. on the Hood River in Oregon suggests that significant declines in reproductive success may appear in only a generation or two of domestication. So unless the hatchery program is taking a large portion of its brood stock from truly wild fish every generation the fitness of the stock will decline relatively quickly. And since the point of wild broodstock hatcheries is to increase the number of wild spawning fish, taking a large portion every year to support a wild broodstock hatchery is counter productive. The other problem with wild brood fish is that they usually return at the same time as their wild counterparts making reproductive interactions between wild and hatchery fish much more likely. You see the problem.

    I have come to the conclusion that the only way to ensure the future of wild fish is by prioritizing watersheds as wild fish management zones. Take the extremely degraded watersheds where there is no hope of recovering good numbers of wild fish and ramp up hatchery production to meet fishing and harvest demand. Then manage the more pristine watersheds as either no fishing or selective regs angling depending on the ability of the fish to sustain the fishing pressure. Oregon has taken their fisheries management in this direction (to some extent) and it has been highly successful, creating some excellent fisheries for wild fish only.

    Will
     
  14. Useful Idiot

    Useful Idiot New Member

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    Thanks for the great reply Preston, very informative. It seems there's quite a bit of research and technique that needs refining before we should be meddling with nature. Who knows, maybe all these advancements in genetics will help the situation someday.

    I'm no biologist but it seems focusing on river specific, native strains as broodstock is the only feasible solution if hatcheries are to benefit the fisheries long term. As you point out, there are even obstacles with that. Perhaps hatchery techniques can be improved upon to encourage the fish to return and spawn as normal; at least their genes would certainly not be the problem. Seems an easier route than trying to finagle fish with the wrong genes and tendencies to thrive in an unnatural environment.
     
  15. Useful Idiot

    Useful Idiot New Member

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    The hands off approach seems like a good idea as well. Forget about trying to make hatchery fish work with wild fish, just keep them separate and treat them as separate fisheries essentially. Either way, it seems the current hatchery system is hurting more than it's helping. I don't see the logic (besides $$$) in continuing that method without major changes and new techniques.
     
  16. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Will -
    It sounds as if you are suggesting that some sort of criteria be developed that spells out what "wild steelhead management areas" are, what sort of areas should be considered, wild fish benefits etc. If so I could not agree more. It would be great rather than having public meetings about specific hatchery closures who could review and comment on a set of criteria that would serve as the base for those desisions.

    In line with you have suggested I'm watching with great interest to see how the resource responds to this regulation changes on the Sauk (as well upper Skagit and Cascade). Not only is the Sauk now totally CnR with selective gear requirements it was the understanding that those limited releases of hatchery winters in the Sauk have ended.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  17. Joe Gallagher

    Joe Gallagher New Member

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    I agree 100% with instituting wild fish management zones. Rivers with viable habitats should be managed to allow wild steelhead every opportunity to propagate without having to compete with a non native species. Hatchery fish should be planted only in rivers that do not provide the habitat needed to sustain wild populations.

    Even without hatcheries we can't rebuild wild steelhead populations with the mindset that we as fisherman have today. The quest for harvest and the me first fish second attitude is what has contributed to where we are today. The fact that bait and barbed hooks are still being used on many steams especially during the summer when Juvenile wild steelhead are present just shows that we put ourself and harvest of hatchery fish above the wild populations.


    Joe
     
  18. cuponoodle breakfast

    cuponoodle breakfast Active Member

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    Seems like this opinion piece from the Sunday Everett Herald fits into this discussion.
    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20...972/-1/opinion#The.Golden.Age.of.Steelheading
    As much as I respect Bob Heirman for all his work, it goes against all the science on the subject and against basic on-the-water observations. Remember a few years ago when the Skagit was supposed to have a big return because the plant was huge? The return was nothing special.
     
  19. TrevorH

    TrevorH Active Member

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    I'm not a fan of hatcheries. Maybe they are of benefit to the degree to which netters will target their fish instead of native populations. Aside from that, they seem like a waste of money to me, all to satisfy anglers who need to kill a fish. Maintaining and restoring opportunities for anglers to fish (c&r) over healthy, wild populations would be a more appropriate focus for their efforts.
     
  20. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Joe -
    It is probably correc to say that many here would support "Wild Fish Management Zones" however the question of the day is what the heck is a "Wild Fish Management Zone"?

    In your thinking how would your define such areas? It seems to me that everyone I talk with have slightly different spins on what those areas should be. I beleive that there needs to be some clear definition/expectation of what such management areas will be.

    In the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan (the supposed guiding document for the future of steelhead management) they somewhat address the issue with what they are calling wild stock gene banks. There they say that each gene bank would have the following characteristics and management -

    A) Each stock selected for inclusion in the gene bank must be sufficiently abundant and productive to be self-sustaining in the future.

    B) No releases of hatchrey-origin steelhead will occur in streams where spawning of the stock occurs, or in streams used exclusively by that stock for rearing.

    C) Fisheries can be conducted if wild steelhead management objectives are met as well as necessary federal ESA determinations.

    That is it! What does that mean to you? Do you think the State thinks the same? How will they apply the above on the ground?

    Let's see as we apply those characteristics to the most recent area talked about as a potential gene back; that is of course the Snoqualmie. Looking at each characteristic -

    A) Would the Snoquamie stock be an appropriate palce for a gene back that is that stock sufficient abundant and productivd to be self-sustaining in the future? We know that it is currently ESA listed as threatened and under SASI its escapements are experiencing a severe and short term declines.

    Hardly what one would look for a stock that will be self-sustaining into the future.

    B) Clearly most would agree that ending steelhead plants have to be an important part of any gene banks. The recieve news release talks about ending the winter plans but any thing from the State has been silent on the issue of the hatchery summer steelhead.

    If the Snoqualmie is to become a gene bank would not the summer plants end as well?

    C) I'm sure that many folks would be interested in what sort of fishing opportunities would be allowed in gene banks in general as well as the specifics of opportunities in each. The key to any fishing would be meeting those wild steelhead management objectives.

    Does anyone know what those objectives are?

    Presumably that would include such things as meeting or exceeding some sort of wild escapement objective. However when I went to the Statewide steelhead management plan (SSMP - the guidance document) to review those objectives I found none. There are some motherhood and apple pie policies with strategies and actions to be implement to achieve those policies but no objectives. Does that mean there will no fishing until such time that specific objectives are determined? I don't know; does any one?

    Bottom line it seems to me that criteria upon which to make such decisions are largely lacking and we are left with waiting to see what decisions are made and then intrepreting those results as to the criteria upon which they were based. Seems to me to be an upside down process that provides little opportunity for affected user to provide input.

    Important decisions are being made that will determine the direction of steelhead management in this state for decades. The SSMP was to be the document that provided the details upon which those decisions were to based so that the process of making those decisions were transparent to all. As one that is reasonably informed on these kinds of issues I am finding that the criteria in the decision process is neither establsihed nor transparent.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     

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