Wild v. Hatchery Steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by East Fork, Oct 11, 2006.

  1. East Fork Active Member

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    Typical hatchery steelhead produced 60 percent to 90 percent fewer offspring that last long enough to become adults than wild steelhead, according to the OSU study just published in the journal Conservation Biology.

    The attached artical was on today's front page of the Oregonian. Interesting stuff.
  2. TomB Active Member

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    thanks east fork
  3. East Fork Active Member

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    This is the first scientific study I am aware of that says why we shouldn’t be letting hatchery fish interbreed with our wild fish. I’m surprised it didn’t get more attention in the press and more comments on this board.
  4. Wild Man Fly Fisherman

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    Seattle, WA
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    East Fork,

    Dr. Tom Quinn (UW fisheries dept) presented some reseach findings earlier this year to WSC meeting that had similar conclusions - I don't have a copy to post here, but they found that hatchery fish tend to be 'reproductively challenged'. I have not done a seach of the relative literature, but this study isn't the only one to explore this topic. Hopefully we'll see more of them and more widely cited in the popular press.
  5. Wild Man Fly Fisherman

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    Oh, and THANK YOU for posting the article. It's very interesting - something to bring along to the WDFW community input sessions.
  6. Smalma Active Member

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    Thanks East Fork

    There have been research showing low production from natural spawning hatchery fish around for several decades. With steelhead some of the first came from the old Department of Game with Kalama steelhead. As I recall they found that natural spawning of the commonly used hatchery steelhead were less productive than wild produced fish at every life stage with the a pair of hatchery fish producing only 1/8 of returning adults as pair of wild fish.

    As I read the article it didn't say not to use hatchery fish in the natural spawning population but rather if hatchery production is going to be used to aid the natural spawning population much great care must be taken in selecting the fish to use as brood stock - fish that have successfully survived in the wild.

    All the research is showing the length of time the hatchery produced fish have been in the hatchery environment is key. Regardless of brood source with each generation the fish become more hatchery like and less successful in the wild. In fact with steelhead there is some domestication of the fish produced occurs in the first generation even if wild brood stock is used because of the extend rear time (at least a year) it takes to produce a successful smolt.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  7. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

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    How about a definition of "wild" boys and girls? We talk about native and wild and hatchery and drop those terms pretty commonly on this site, at meetings, in publications and on the river. We have a whole bunch of new guys and lasses that have no idea what the distinction between each is. Curt, Tommie B, any of you biology flyguys, how about a definition of each if possible. There are those who don't know, and those who think they do and don't, those who can't admit they don't know and guys like me who are too jaded to believe everything we hear anyways due to time on the river and personal observation. Anyways, if you got time, thanks for stepping up to the plate and educating all of us. Tight lines Coach :beer2:
  8. TomB Active Member

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    well in simple terms-

    wild= born in the stream from parents that reproduced in the stream with natural mate selection.

    native= genetic makeup same as orginal fish in basin...this is complicated though because it is possible to have an infinite number of intermediate states (mixed heritage). Genetic analysis however, has shown that many populations from rivers where historical populations existed prior to stocking show little evidence of introgression on non-native genes. Usually, the non-native genes face intense selection and are eliminated through unsuccessful spawning (nativeXhatchery crosses dont survive).


    There is actually a wide body of evidence on this topic.
    -Thomas
  9. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

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    Thanks Tom. Now I have a question. If most native/hatchery crosses don't survive, why is the state so vigilent about the retention of hatchery fish so as to not let them "interbreed" with natives. Also, if a hatchery buck and hen go past the hatchery and follow their distant realitives up the river, spawn (which we were told for years they couldn't do) and produce young which swim out with the rest of the little ones, those "children" are now wild fish, correct? Here lies my problem. So really, in a nutshell we are completely dependant on hatcheries one way or another. If they swim out of a concrete tub or they originated in a concrete tub and then produced "wild young" most of our fish nowadays ancestory goes back to concrete tubs. I said most or majority. Lastly what is the statistical rate of success in fin clipping? Has anyone ever put out a report on the percentage of smolts that slip by the goalie and down the chute unclipped. You can throw all the scientific info at me you want, (and I do appreciate it), but the magnitude and numbers and money involved in this game tell me we know alot about nothing. I am looking at a Gordon Frear Northwest Fishing and Hunting Guide 1968 as we speak (it's in my hands) and it claims the Sauk, Suiattle, Clear Creek, Whitechuck and Falls Creek were all being planted with steelhead for years. That is a big chunk of the whole Sauk drainage. I have collected a bunch of these old books and pamphlets and have found many rivers where I caught wild fish and was told for years they were natives. Well I have found out they aren't even close. By the way, the top steelhead stream in 68-69 was the mighty Skagit with 21,929 steelhead landed and reported on punch cards and the top summer stream was Snake with 11,775 and lower Columbia bringing up second with 10,617. Not disputing anything you say in any way, I just think this situation is way more screwed up and convoluted than people want to admit. It gets down to the question of what exactly are we saving? The progeny of fish that were reared in concrete tubs anyways? Natives? Wild fish? Where do those lines end and cross? Do we know what the hell is in these rivers? How good are our planting records? Have we wiped out native runs by the practice of planting "wild" fish to the point where native rescure is impossible? We got to do something however, and do it fast! It's very complex, Thanks again Tom.
  10. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Coach,

    The reason for not wanting a hatchery fish to spawn with a wild fish is that the hatchery fish will compromise (reduce) the reproductive efficiency of that wild fish by producing many fewer returning adults than if that wild fish spawns with another wild fish.

    Genetic studies indicate that most wild steelhead stock ancestry does not include hatchery genetic material. What you've been hearing and reading about the reduced success of hatchery spawners in the wild means that by a lucky coincidence the genetic integrity of most wild steelhead populations has remained intact.

    Fin clip programs usually range well above 95% in clipping based on observations of returning fish. There are exceptions, but it's not missed clips, but some tribal hatcheries, for example, only clip a small % of their production.

    The plants made in Clear Ck, Falls Ck, and Whitechuck are probably from the early 1900s, and usually consisted of fry plants, which we subsequently learned were done in such a way that the estimated survival to adult rate was effectively zero. Not much of a genetic impact from that. Some of the earliest hatchery work simply took from wild populations without adding any returning adults. They were a net drain on the fishery, but the fisheries folks didn't know it at the time. They learned that the hard way, after the fact.

    In most cases, the fish we are trying to conserve are endemic wild populations. Again, there are exceptions, like the mid-Columbia tributaries where the preponderance of wild salmon and steelhead were extirpated. Recovery there consists largely of the gradual readaptation of selected hatchery strains back into the natural environment. Or like the Cowlitz, where the recovery program consists of native Cowlitz steelhead and salmon that were propagated in the hatchery system for 30 years when there was little or no fish passage around the dams.

    Yes, it is complex. And in some cases it is convoluted. But in most cases there is a logical rationale for the conservation, restoration, and recovery intentions. Again, there may be some exceptions, as there are honest differences of scientific opinion, and even some facts are in dispute.

    Sincerely,

    Salmo g.
  11. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

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    Thanks for more good info to put in the "folder" Coach
  12. TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Not sure if there is any true native or "wild" fish left. We just don't know. I like to call them "natural spawners"- bascially fish that spawn without the aid of hatcheries.

    If a fish raised in a hatchery spawns and has young that make it back, they then are considered "wild" fish. Of course that has never happend right ;) ;)

    As long as the fish take a swung fly....I'm happy.


    Justin
  13. ray helaers New Member

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    And there you go.
    :hmmm:
  14. Stephen Rice Senior Member

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    I have a question then. Why are they allowing Hatchery steelhead to go upstream from the Hatchery on the Kalama River?
  15. Coach Duff Banned or Parked

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    Actually according to the literature I have collected, good sized plants were still going into the Sauk and Skagit watersheds well into the 1950s, not the early 1900s. And many many others. George McCloud once told me that if it wasn't for hatcheries, 90 % of us would have never caught a steelhead from 1960 on. So the million dollar question I am proposing lines up with the Tall fly guy. If the majority of these fish we call "wild" are the progeny (no matter how many genetations removed) of fish that were raised in hatcheries in cement tubs, then why do we care how many fish swim past the hatcheries and spawn with them? What exactly are we trying to save? The fish that have spawned in that creek or river for thousands of years? Or the fish that we really don't know where the hell they came all we know is they have an adipose fin but we're glad they're there. That's how they unlimately got there in the first place. What we are trying to do is "save" the remaining stocks of fish whose ancestors were raised in hatcheries anyways. And we badmouth hatcheries, which is seems to me are the main reason we have "wild" fish anyways. And lastly, I wish we would quit calling them wild. How about non fin clipped. If only one percent of a strain of fish raised in a hatchery return, why would genetics that weak perform any better three generations later in a river? The numbers seem to support the theory that we have systematically destroyed most of the native stocks with the centrury + introduction of hatchery fish and and now that we are mostly relying on hatchery ancestory, it is a long, slow slide to nothing. Only those magnificant spring wild (native?) fish seem to appear pure in any numbers anymore and they have been keyholed into a short returning window. If it wasn't for Curt and some other people they may be gone as we speak. I am no way being negative and I am not a quarter as learned on any of this as Curt or Tom B or any of our fisheries biologists whom I respect immensely for fighting tooth and nail for sportsmen everywhere. Maybe I am way too simplistic in my mental makeup to understand it all. I am not afraid to admit that either. Maybe it really is above me. As a steelheader who has caught my share of these beauties,and observed this situation with layman's eyes, I often see my hope crushed with thoughts of alot of bullshit being spread around. I waver between the hope my sons and daughter will someday hunt great numbers of the greatest gamefish in the world on our magical rivers and release them as gently as we do, or that the nails were hammered in the coffin 100 years ago, and we are just kidding ourselves. I hope it is the former. Either way my gut-feeling clock is ticking and it makes my feel a sense of urgency, of the sand in the hour glass pouring faster than we want it to and to fish as hard as I can. And to help in any way I can, for my children. I can't imagine leaving them in a world where they can't feel the electricity of that pull and see red-striped perfection tearing the water up. Tight lines. Coach
  16. TomB Active Member

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    Coach- I have reposted the part of your question which seems to offer the most confusion to many responding here. I will attempt as Salmo and other have to respond.

    "If most native/hatchery crosses don't survive, why is the state so vigilent about the retention of hatchery fish so as to not let them "interbreed" with natives."

    well, the fact that they are not surviving means that every native fish that participates in such a spawning event has effectively "wasted" its reproductive capacity. The few that do survive are genetically inferior and thus reduce the fitness (ability to survive and reproduce) of future generations through their offspring.


    "Also, if a hatchery buck and hen go past the hatchery and follow their distant realitives up the river, spawn (which we were told for years they couldn't do) and produce young which swim out with the rest of the little ones, those "children" are now wild fish, correct?"

    yes they are wild fish...but what genetic analyses have shown is that in the vast majority of cases (including the skagit system since you mention it) is that these wild fish don't create growing populations of "wild" hatchery-origin fish. Instead, they slowly are weeded out of the population because they are not fit. This comes at the great expense of the native fish though, because every time they reproduce with a genetically native fish, the reproductive effort of the native fish is wasted because the offspring dont survive.

    obviously there are instances where a "wild" hatchery-origin fish does survive, or a cross between a native and a "wild" hatchery-origin fish. Because they are less fit than native fish however, their genetic material is eliminated from the population through intense selection. The expense of all this selection though, is once again, wasted reproductive effort by the native population in ridding itself of the bad genes.

    The result of the situation as I have described it is not that the fish with adipose fins that we see today are some distant decendants of fish from a concrete pen. Rather, they are the offspring of fortunate members of the original native population, that over the generations have avoided reproducing with hatchery fish....their brethren over the generations that have reproduced with hatchery fish dont exist anymore because their offsping haven't survived.

    In the case of the skagit fish (because you mentioned them), I can confidently say that eliminating hatchery plants could at worst have no effect on native populations, and at best, result in dramatic recovery and an increase in their population. They are by no means "reliant" upon hatcheries.


    edit: coach in attempting to respond to your original post, i almost missed this:

    "I waver between the hope my sons and daughter will someday hunt great numbers of the greatest gamefish in the world on our magical rivers and release them as gently as we do, or that the nails were hammered in the coffin 100 years ago, and we are just kidding ourselves. I hope it is the former. Either way my gut-feeling clock is ticking and it makes my feel a sense of urgency, of the sand in the hour glass pouring faster than we want it to and to fish as hard as I can. And to help in any way I can, for my children. I can't imagine leaving them in a world where they can't feel the electricity of that pull and see red-striped perfection tearing the water up."

    I think you just about summed up the position Curt and I and many others are in. While we may at times disagree about how to get there, it is the hope alone that keeps us going.

    -Thomas

    p.s. it has been suggested to me by another forum member, that you may have been a football coach at the highschool i attended...did you ever coach in the seattle area?
  17. TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Eh, Here's a head scratcher for you.

    The great lakes steelhead were stocked and planted from both wild and hatchery steelhead back in 1876. Their runs are great. They have many "wild" fish as well. According to some theories here this is not possible because hatchery fish cannot spawn/reproduce in the wild. Does anyone have more info/articles on the hatchery program of the Great Lakes and how they introduced Steelhead and Salmon into these lakes?

    Justin
  18. TomB Active Member

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    nobody here said they can't reproduce in the wild. they just dont do as well as their native counterparts.

    a good study was done in the great lakes showing that wild runs originating from recently introduced fish were far less productive than runs from fish introduced longer in the past...further evidence of what everyone here has been talking about.

    if you dont want to believe that domestication selection has a tangible effect, i dont know what to say to you. I certainly wont argue with someone who wants to ignore the vast body of peer-reviewed literature in favor of their own unsupported hypotheses.

    -T
  19. East Fork Active Member

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    So what conclusions were originial from the OSU study? I guess I'm wondering what made it worthy of the front page since it sounds like this wasn't news to anyone but me :)
  20. TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    "The results showed that domesticated hatchery fish in 1991 fared very poorly compared to wild fish, but the fish kept only briefly in the Parkdale fish hatchery did about as well as wild fish.

    It makes clear that traditional hatchery fish will not rebuild wild populations, said Mark Chilcote, a conservation biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. But the fish held briefly in hatcheries can help."

    Interesting observation. I guess sitting in concret tanks waiting for their next meal to be thrown to them diminishes their survival chances. I guess now we'll see what the broodstock programs will do for the fisheries.

    East Fork, The findings they found were always thought to be correct, but many opponents speculated and argued that a fish is a fish. This just puts a better stamp of approval on the whole thing.

    Obviously hatcheries are here to stay, I just hope wild fish are too!

    Justin