Wild Fish Conservancy - Notice of Intent to sue WDFW

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Chris DeLeone, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Rob -
    Generally speaking the hatchery fish that are likely to spawn in the wild tend to be concentrated near hatchery/release sites but they do stray about the basin to some degree. On my home rivers it long has been WDFW's standard to assume that those unspawned hatchery fish scatter randomly throughout the basin (more or less distributed much the same as the wild fish). Such an assumption assure that errors will be on the side of the wild fish (over estimates the potential interaction).

    Unless one is fishing on active spawning fish see both hatchery and wild fish in the same water does not mean that the two are actually or potentially spawn together. For example on the Skagit system one might in mid-January catch both hatchery and wild fish from the same water. However the hatchery fish will have completed its spawning with days to a few weeks while it may well be the case that wild fish would not spawn for another 2 to 5 months (onset of wild spawning is early March and continues well into July with peak activity in mid-May).

    The key point here one needs to really evaluate the situation for each river/area based on the specifics of that situation. While on rivers like the Skagit the hatchery and wild spawners are well temporal separated that is not the case on at some of the coastal streams and may not be the case down your way.

    I could never understand how anglers can so readily accept that each wild population is unique with its own characteristics determined by the natural selection process of that populations habitat yet ignore those same differences when trying to evaluate such complex issues and hatchery/wild interactions.

    Curt
     
  2. Rob Allen

    Rob Allen Active Member

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    I see what you are saying Curt our rivers close March 15 through April 15 so I don't get the opportunity to see what is around during that time but it really bugs me when i catch quite a few spent hatchery fish when it opens up again in April. If my knees were better i'd so surveys like I used to because as far as I know WDFW is not doing much to determine how many hatchery fish are spawning in the wild. I know from my surveys on the Washougal that it used to happen quite a bit particularly on small tribs where the wild population may only be a dozen fish in a great year. a few hatchery fish spawning with wild fish in that scenario can be devastating. I think we greatly underestimate the importance of these micro populations
     
  3. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

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    I think that we can point to the upper Sol Duc river wild steelhead protection areas as a good example of an affordable alternative.
     
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  4. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    Curt and Salmo,
    I am seriously not trying to get into kicking each other below the belt contest. It appears that you both remain relatively emphatic that there is little to no adverse impact from straying hatchery steelhead on our natives in the Skagit watershed; yet, the statistics below would tend to indicate that there is a greater than acceptable level of hatchery/native interaction.

    I am simply trying to understand the data that was collected and the findings that were published; and, why your opinions differ. I would greatly appreciate you elaborating on why these findings are incorrect, invalid or don't matter.

    Ecological, Genetic and Productivity Consequences of Interactions between Hatchery and Natural-Origin Steelhead of the Skagit Watershed, March 2013. Funding Number: NMFS - FHQ- 2008 - 2001011.

    Table 27 - Juvenile steelhead sampling introgression statistics:

    Upper Skagit - 23.9%
    County Line Ponds - 13.5%
    Goodell Creek - 19.3%
    Bacon Creek - 21.4%
    Diobsud Creek - 17.0%
    Cascade River - 12.2%
    Finney Creek - 32.7%
    Grandy Creek - 30.3%
    Sauk river - 6%
    Suiattle - 15.3%

    Thanks in advance for your time.
    Best,
    Ed
     
  5. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    If this is the Johnson Creek program, be careful touting it without digging deeper into the study. The study was deeply flawed and it is a shame that it is being touted so heavily among pro-hatchery folks (like in the Hatchery and Wild video) since it doesn't show what they think it does.
     
  6. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Hookedonthefly -
    Great question/issue!

    By way of background introgression between hatchery and wild steelhead occur when the two interact on the spawning grounds (exchange genetic material). The amount of introgression found is strongly influenced by the ratio of the hatchery and wild fish on the spawning grounds (the higher the portion of hatchery the more high/wild crosses) and the length of time the two populations have to interact. That sound reasonable???

    Over the last 50 years genetic analysis 4 different sample collections have been done - collections from the 1970s, '80s, '90s, and the most recent one. While different genetic tools were used the genetic profiles of those 4 collections were very similar. One of the more interesting findings in the recent study you refer to was a comparison between genetic profiles from the wild steelhead scale samples collected in the early 1980s and those during the latest sampling effort. The resulting genetic profiles were very similar. That is the portion of the "hatchery genes" or the degree of introgression in each were nearly the same.

    The issue becomes when we look a little deeper in the mechanics of those matings. The wild steelhead brood years that produced the adults that were sampled in both early 1980s and the most recent efforts were approximately the same size. However the hatchery runs in the two periods were significantly different. There were 4 or 5 times as many hatchery fish in population in the earlier sampling. In addition due to efforts by WDFW the temporal over lap pre-1985 was at least 2 months longer that it is today. As a result I would estimate that there were 10 to 20 times more hatchery fish interacting with the same number of wild in the 1980s than during the latest collection. Both samples were tested with the same genetic tools.

    How can it be that degree of introgression be the same for those two collections with such a dramatic differences in the numbers of hatchery/wild crosses?

    Curt
     
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  7. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Hookledonthefly -
    I have split my response to assure that I avoid the dreaded error message when I attempt post my reply (also builds my post count -lol).

    The answer to question I asked in the post above is that under the conditions described some more than introgression may be going on. What the process that is producing those "hatchery markers" in those wild samples has been the center of debates for the last two decades. If those "markers" aren't the result of introgression how do they appear in the wild fish. An alternate theory has been that because the Chambers Creek fish and the various wild steelhead populations are all Puget Sound stocks and as such share some similar genes. The similarity (shared "hatchery genes" between say the Skagit wild fish and the Chambers hatchery may be no more than a measure of the relatedness of the two population. If the introgression theory is illogical than the alternate theory becomes more likely.

    In fact more and more emerging research is indicating that what some have thought to have been introgression between hatchery and wild fish on the Skagit may well be the shared genetic history of the two populations.

    I have also been a fan of pulling together all the information possible in considering an issue and then give any findings the final test of "does it make sense". In this case the "introgression theory" does not seem to make sense - it does not fit what we know.

    A word of caution we have been talking about the Skagit situation which has many unique and critical characteristics that are important to this discussion. While it may be reasonable to apply those results to other north Puget Sound basins the further a field one goes the more cautious one should be. The situations on the coast or SW Washington maybe (and even probably) different.

    Curt
     
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  8. Rob Allen

    Rob Allen Active Member

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    Do they do spawning surveys on the tribs to the Puget Sound rivers?..

    Introgression is the least of my concerns. What concerns me is the more direct results of hatchery/ wild pairings resulting in no offspring at all due to the inability of the hatchery fish to reproduce in the wild.





    Someone mentioned the Nez Perce study and that study was very clear. They were able to make a single generation boost to that wild fall chinook population. That is all nothing more. nothing less.

    also those chinook did not have the same reproductive success as the wild fish, particularly the males.
     
  9. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    Curt,

    If it were a measure of relatedness and not introgression, then how do you explain the wide variation of numbers that
    Hooked' posted? It seems to me those numbers would be more uniform.
     
  10. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Chris -
    Remember that each of those sampled areas are themselves sub-sets of the total population. It is to be expected that with that number of samples there will be quite a bit of variation between the samples with the "average" something around the population average.

    Think about flipping a coin. Wew know that there is 50% chance of flipping a head. If we flip the coin 10 times we expect something close to 5 heads however each time we flip the coin 10 time we may see something different that 5 heads. I just flip a coin 10 times recording the # of heads and then repeated the process 10 times. Out of the 100 total flips I got 49 heads; about what we expected. However the number of heads in each 10 flip sub-sets varied from a low of 1 to a high of 7. Just a simple example of the random forces that are in play in developing the numbers in Hookedonthefly post.

    Curt
     
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  11. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

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    So... if there is in fact wild and hatchery fish breeding, and we're saying that their offspring have little chance of survival... Wouldn't that result in little of the hatchery genes being found in the wild returning fish?
     
  12. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Rob -
    While it is rare to survey all the spawning tributaries on most basins a representative sub-sample of the spawning tribs are surveyed a number of times through the season. While it would ideal to survey all the tribs. at least twice a month across the entire spawning season (4 to 5 months) the harsh reality that those kinds of resources are not available. Just one example in the Skagit basin there is nearly 300 miles of spawning habitats with nearly 120 miles of that being what would be considered tributary habitat. It would take a special "stream walker" to average 5 miles of surveys/day (remember that on may of those streams the survey will be a round trip in with some in really remote rugged country with some significant "weather challenges" -high flows, snow etc..

    I understand your concerns about the lost of population productivity from hatchery/wild crosses in the natural spawning population; the amount of introgression is just one attempt to demonstrate the frequency of that sort of crossing. Obviously at what life stage that introgression is measure(fry, smolt, adult, etc.) can be important. The same factors that drive the amount introgression that is occurring (temporal separation and relative abundances of hatchery and wild spawners). Again the risk from such losses will vary considerably depending on those variables in specific basins. As I have attempted to point out in basins like the Skagit it is not much of a concern but I can imagine it being huge problems in other basins (with those with wild steelhead brood stocks maybe the worst).

    Curt
     
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  13. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    Curt,
    Thank you for your time and thoughtful reply.

    It is my understanding that in the Skagit study that SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) genetic testing was not initially used as the study originally specified. It is also my understanding that this is currently underway and may apparently allow for a clearer picture.

    Since an older genetic testing methodology was apparently used, would this presumably be the potential reason we see those numbers artificially high? And, would the SNP's re-testing perhaps remove some of those false positives; or, potentially show that there is more introgression than originally thought in the earlier studies?

    Thanks again.
    Ed
    P.S. - When the post master kicks you off on long reply, I have copied that post content and was able to log in again and post the post using "copy" and "paste".
     
  14. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    "As I have attempted to point out in basins like the Skagit it (introgression) is not much of a concern but I can imagine it being huge problems in other basins (with those with wild steelhead brood stocks maybe the worst)."

    There are a number of talented fisheries biologists/scientists from a number of entities including Seattle City Light, NOAA, WDFW, NWIFC, Skagit River System Cooperative (Sauk-Suiattle & Swinomish as members) as well the Upper Skagit tribe involved in this most recent Skagit study.

    Why would they go to all this trouble with the final being this lengthy published document that has, is and will continue to steer steelhead management on the Skagit; and, not take into account these high introgression statistics as potentially "artificially" high?

    If the results of the study are erroneous, it would seem that one would have a less than optimal chance at having a desirable outcome down the road, i.e. - garbage in, garbage out.

    One would think that if the results of the Skagit study were not of great concern, there would not have been and continue to be so much attention and credence given by the feds and co-managers.

    Thanks again for your time, Curt.
    Best,
    Ed
     
  15. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

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    I wouldn't pretend to understand the science, but it seems to me that this potential lawsuit by WFC is about more than the risk of genetic introgression or lost productivity due to hatchery/wild breeding interactions. Obviously, Chambers Creek steelhead are not breeding with Chinook (or bull trout), both of which are mentioned in the press release. So it would appear that at least part of the WFC argument is that dumping thousands of Chambers Creek juvenile steelhead in these systems provides an unnatural level of competition for food, rearing habitat, etc.

    Leaving aside the introgression issue, what benefit is there from dumping Chambers Creek hatchery brats in these systems? Why don't they use broodstock from in-basin wild populations?
     
  16. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    "So... if there is in fact wild and hatchery fish breeding, and we're saying that their offspring have little chance of survival... Wouldn't that result in little of the hatchery genes being found in the wild returning fish? "

    We know that there is a poor survival rate of hatchery winter steelhead and an apparent decrease in survival rates with hatchery/native interaction in their resulting progeny.

    There are obviously "some" hatchery winter steelhead that do survive to return and that do stray; thus, the concern related to introgression.

    In 2000, over 600,000 winter steelhead smolt and pre-smolts were released. Winter steelhead hatchery production has occurred on the Skagit for decades; so, what this most recent Skagit study seems to find is that the cumulative effect of those years and years of hatchery plants have resulted in an unacceptable high rate of hatchery/native steelhead spawning interaction in some areas of the Skagit/Sauk and in some tributaries.

    The most recent Skagit study was the result of several years of sample collection throughout the watershed with over 3000 fish being sampled. This is clearly the largest Skagit/Sauk basin steelhead sampling to date.

    In regards to Curt's comments and thoughts, my understanding (not necessarily correct) is that there is some concern given the methodology of genetic sample analysis/testing that was utilized. This could mean that the published introgression result numbers could be artificially high or artificially low.

    This is from the final administrative report and what, I believe, Curt is talking about as far as potentially an "artificially" inflated rate of introgression, i.e. - false positives.

    Action 2 – Re-analyze DNA from this study using SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphism) to eliminate assignment error for F1 hybrid individuals
    as described by Warheit in Section 10 of the final technical report. This analysis would be used to quantify introgressive hybridization with a
    much higher level of confidence than is possible with analytic tools currently available.


    Ed
     
  17. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    "Leaving aside the introgression issue, what benefit is there from dumping Chambers Creek hatchery brats in these systems? Why don't they use broodstock from in-basin wild populations? "

    Hatchery steelhead provide angling and harvest opportunities.

    There is some evidence that broodstock programs carry risks of there own. Here's one: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/12/14/1111073109.full.pdf
     
  18. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Hookedonthefly,

    It looks like Curt has done a good job explaining some of what the genetics studies mean. I'll add that an important take-home message of the S-K Skagit steelhead genetics study is to be careful about the interpretation on introgression. As Curt pointed out, the shared genetic history of ALL Puget Sound steelhead cannot be over-looked. After all, 10,000 years ago all of the PS region was under a mile-thick glacier, so all of the individual river basin genetic differentiation separating stocks has occurred since then. It should make sense that there is greater genetic similarity between the different basin's steelhead populations than there are differences.

    As you mention, SNP was not used in the S-K study. Additional work is being done, trying to tease out the differences between populations amongst such great similarity. The preliminary indications that I have seen suggest that S-K captures far more similarity than difference, and that Skagit wild steelhead remain incredibly "pure" considering the half century of heavy stocking of Chambers Ck hatchery steelhead.

    The S-K study is not GI, GO. It's extremely important work. It's the interpretation of the results that need to be tempered by information regarding the shared genetic history of all PS steelhead.

    Evan,

    Yes. Due to low survival, hatchery genetic material has a low potential of being replicated down the generations. However, knowing what we now know, it's important to minimize the number of H x H matings and H x W matings, since those H x H offspring use food and space that could be used by W x W offspring, and H x W offspring reduce the productivity of that W spawner.

    O mykiss,

    The benefit of stocking large numbers of Chambers Ck hatchery fish is open to legitimate debate. The economic costs don't seem worth it. The environmental costs don't seem to be anywhere near as high as some allege. One benefit is that it provides some fishing that otherwise would not be available. The hatchery fish also contribute to a limited treaty Indian fishery for hatchery steelhead. Some tribes are alleging that even though the cost of fish is high, it is necessary to fulfill the "legal contract" under US v WA, where the greater society has decided to trade away natural steelhead productivity for development of the natural environment. And that is more of a legal and philosophical question than I am prepared to address.

    Sg
     
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  19. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    You have pointed me in a couple of directions/areas where I need/want to know more. Thanks Curt and Sg.
    Ed
     
  20. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    ED -
    A great discussion on that Skagit study has lots of good information and as such should provide a sound foundation to ask better questions and design studies to more precisely answer some of these questions. I agree that section 10 (written by Ken Warheit - WDFW genetists) is a important read; I found 10.4 and 10.4.1of interest.

    Again from what I have looked at it just not make sense to be that there is a lot of hatchery interactions going (refer to earlier comments of the amount of potential interactions day and 30 years and the resulting genetic profiles). Folks seem to think that there a lot of hatchery fish interacting with the wild Skagit fish - lets take a closer look at that potential.

    In the past the best estimates have been out of a total hatchery run to the Skagit a 1/3 or less of the fish will be uncaught or return to the hatchery. Given the recent poor hatchery returns the number of hatchery fish that could potentially spawn in the wild can not be very large. For this exercise I assumed that there were 500 potential hatchery spawners though given the recent poor returns there may not have been that many. We also know that the hatchery females are essential done spawning by the end of Janaury. It also has been the case that over the decades the first redds constructed by wild Skagit steelhead is noted about the end of the first week in March; but for this exercise I'll assume that there can be some wild spawning two weeks earlier (the last week of February). Obvious hatchery females will not be able to spawn with the wild steelhead but it is commonly accepted that the males can potential remain viable spawners longer than the females. The recent study found that the wild males remained on the spawning grounds 28 days longer than the females. It seems reasonable that the males can be active spawners 4 weeks longer than the females (also seems to match on water observations) but for this example I assumed that they active spawners for 6 weeks longer than females.

    Of the potential 500 hatchery spawners we can assume that 1/2 are males (250). Since the males will mature across the entire spawning period and only a few late in the cycle. By the middle of March (6 weeks after the last hatchery female spawned) it is probable that there would be less than a dozen hatchery fish *but will assume that there would there are 25) still capable of spawning with a female. I will further assume that those hatchery males will distribute themselves uniformly over the entire potential wild fish spawning habitat (a male for every 12 miles of habitat). We'll further we will assume that those hatchery super males can find every female that will actively spawn and these super hatchery males will out compete every wild male (even though they are larger and at their prime spawning condition) to fertilize every egg.

    The opportunity for those hatchery males to spawn with wild females ends about the middle of March. On the typical year less than 1% of the wild redds will have been constructed. In other words the worst case is that 1% of the wild females will have spawned with hatchery males. If one takes all the assumptions that I made and replace them what is most likely that hatchery/wild interactions on the Skagit is significantly less than 1%.

    Curt
     
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