Wild v. Hatchery Steelhead

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

  1. BDD

    BDD Active Member

    Jan 15, 2005
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    Ellensburg, WA
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    I must be honest and say I haven't read all the previous posts to see if it has already been discussed. However another point is resource competition between hatchery and wild fish. Examples are whether the hatchery fish, since they are larger, displace wild fish for food resources, or predation of wild fish by hatchery fish, or even the displacement of wild fish by hatchery fish for rearing, overwintering, or spawning habitat. If hatchery fish "use up" certain food or habitat resources that then become unavailable to wild fish (since the hatchery fish yield little or no offspring) they have essentially prevented wild fish(which have shown much better reproductive success) from utilizing those same resources.
  2. James St. Clair

    James St. Clair stclairj

    Mar 28, 2006
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    Yakima, WA
    Coach, Tom, all very good points.
    First of all, I would like to provide defenitions that are basically consistent with tom b's of hatchery, wild, and native fish so that when I use the terms it is known what I am talking about.

    Hatchery- Bred in a hatchery from wild or hatchery fish. (i.e. when you catch an elastomer fish, sometimes it was bred in a wild by hatchery cross, or a wild by wild cross). For example A left eye green might be a chiwawa wild female fish bred with a hatchery male fish, whereas a right eye green might be a hatchery male bred with a hatchery female. The colors change every year, but always mean something in terms of who bred with who. Basically, the fish was reareed in a hatchery.

    Wild- Any fish that is at least the F1 generation from any cross (wild x wild, wild x hatchery, or hatchery x hatchery) that actually started as an egg in a redd, and fertilized, hatched, and reared in the river.

    Native- I am not sure there are any native fish left in the mid-columbia. I am sure there are a few, but with the way that the gene pool is so messed up right now it would be almost impossible to figure out. But basically it would be any fish that has never bred with a hatchery or wild fish, and has the genetics of the original run of fish from a specific river.

    One thing we are forgetting about (by the way I was a bioligist on the east side of the state, mid-columbia to be more specific so this might not be relevant to the westside of the state) is the dams. Many times hatchery programs are there to replace the sure loss of "wild" fish. There is a small percentage of fish that are killed by dams from a specific run of fish every season, both the yearlings on the way out, and the adults that return. For example, the White river Chinook have a 7% mortality rate on the way out, and a 3 % mortality rate on the way back in, just due to dams. So, the hatchery's that are planting fish for this specific population of fish are trying to replace the fish that will be lost due to the dams. The hatchery's in this case are using fish from a captive brood stock to try and maintain the fitness of the fish. This was a really cool project I got to work on the past couple of years. Fish are allowed to spawn, the redds are marked, and eggs are actually pumped from the redds. The eggs are then raised to adults, the adults are spawned, and the offspring from the adults are relesed into the river, these would now be F2generation fish. There is obviously a lot more to it, but that is the general idea. Thus, the hatcherys are actually replacing hatchery bred and reared fish with native genetics back into the stream. Only about 20 females make it back to spawn in this run, and the program is trying to increase the numbers.

    Steelhead hatchery's do simialr study's, and are trying to determine the overall fitness of hatchery bred fish, and how there genes can interfere with the fitness of wild fish. This is the purpose of elastomer markings on the east side of the state as explained above. The crosses include hatchery x hatchery, wild x hatchery, and wild x wild, the sex of the fish is also switched in all of these categories, for example wild x hatchery is done both with wild female x hatchery male, and wild male x hatchery female. Often times the fins on these fish will not be clipped, so the idea of calling fish non-clipped doesn't necassarily mean that they are wild. The idea of the elastomer is to measure the fitness of the different crosses, and if hatchery fish should be allowed to spawn with native fish. As in the main study from OSU cited in the first post of this paper, it doesn't look like they should be allowed to, however in the mid-columbia they haven't finished the study yet. This is why all elastomer fish should be kept, and recorded on your catch card.

    A said before, it is literally impossible to tell a native from a wild fish. One problem is that we don't have record of the gene pool from the orginal run of fish that entered any systems. A gene wasn't even known back then. Also, there is generally 2.5 males for every female that returns to spawn, and the milt that fertilizes the eggs is often from three or four male fish. A hatchery fish could fertilize the same eggs that a wild fish just fertilized. Also, the same fish can fertilize more than one redd. In conclusion, hatchery's that started as fillers to provide fish for sportsman to catch, are now involved in studies that are trying to help fix the problems that we have created. Look how far we have come in the past 60 years. We know what DNA is, and how it affects the fitness of fish, how it can help is determine the origin of fish. We know that we can't just release millions of fish into the river and leave it up to nature. The whole thing is a learning process, and we can't blame biologists right now for trying to fix the screw ups from biologists in the past. I am sure in the next 60 years someone will be writing on a board similar to this saying how screwed up the hatchery programs were 60 years ago...what were they thinking?!?! The point is that the gene pool is screwed up, and we probably are never going to have a native run of fish in any river, but we can work with what we have now to try and make it better. Remember, every time you turn a light on in your house you are using energy created from a dam that kills a percentage of wild fish. This question kind of sucks, but would you trade your electricity for that percentage of fish. Before you answer remember all of the things you would be losing, for example this board, the internet, tv, etc. I know this is taking it a little too far, but a lot of this stuff goes back to the lifestyles that we live. Houses on the river, driving an SUV back and forth to Seattle everyday for work. Biologists work hard to try and find some sort of balance to this equation, and while we might not always agree with what is going on, we can't get down on them for making an awesome effort. So many more things to say, but I think I have rambled on too much here. Talk to you all later! Hopefully nobody takes anything to offense here, just trying to provide info.

    James :beer2:

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