yes or no to hatchery steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Smalma, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. gt -
    Fair enough!

    I purposely held off posting my thoughts on this issue until other folks had a chance to have there say but since you asked here are some of my thoughts which I'm sure will not surprise many.

    Frist I don't see this as a black and white issue and have different takes depending on the basin and hatchery stock being considered. It is also clear that we as a society have bought into hatcheries as part of the landscape and I don't see that changing much in the short term. I see the trick is controlling the adverse impacts to levels which keep risks at acceptable levels (what may be a comfortable risk to me may not be to another) while providing fishing opportunites on those hatchery fish.

    Generally I prefer segregated hatchery programs over integrated ones for harvest supplementation. In regards to winter fish (Chamber's stock) I have little problem with the current programs on most Puget Sound rivers in regard to impacts on the wild resource. The wild and hatchery stocks are virtually completely separated in spawning time so there is little chance for interactions on the spawning grounds and the spring/summer hydro graphs are such that the snow melt run-off does not end until after any fry from natural spawning hatchery fish have hatchery which puts them at great disadvantage.

    That said there are obvious interaction problems in many of the coastal streams where the early spawning of the wild fish provide over-lap with the hatchery fish/ On many fo the smaller streams (for example the Hoko) those concerns are more than enough to terminate those Chamber's Creek programs. On others additional efforts needed to be continued to further the isolation between the hatchery and wild fish.

    Suspect that things are similar in SW Washington as on the coast.

    On the whole I have large issues with integrated programs. The most weakness in that approach with steelhead is the extreme difficulty in getting an adequate cross section of the wild population in the brood stock to have a truly representative brood stock. Without a representative brood stock having a integrated program is impossbile.

    That said in some areas a integrated attempt may still be the best approach; at least until other unlying factors limiting wild production can be corrected. A classic example would be the upper Columbia populations. Currently those populations are so limited by habitat problems (dams and water issues) that there is little hope in sustaining the wild population without hatchery enhancement. Because of the ability to collect brood stock at the dams and advance the spawning time by using warmer water over a extend period (not possible on the coast due to the smaller difference between run and spanwing timing with winter fish) the brood stock is more representative; though still less than an ideal match. But what other choice is there until some habitat is restored.

    In areas with Tribal fisheries integrated programs cause additional complicities to management that almost always either significant limit the size of the hatchery program to very low level or put undo risks on the wild populations.

    I see the coastal summer run hatchery program as much poor isloated progam than the winter. Also given their demostrated ability to at least occassional successful establish population I would favor eliminating those programs. If we must have a summer program there clearly needs to be additional efforts to advacne that stock's spawning time to insure a complete separation from wild stocks as well as making them completely out-of-sync with the river system. To do the goal should be to end brood stock spawning by Xmas.

    Clearly mitigation programs have there own set of needs and problems and we are likely locked into have those programs at least continuing at some level. That of course does not preclude looking for areas of improvement.

    I don't see competition/predation by hatchery smolts as a large issue; especially if smolt quality guidelines are followed.

    Residual smolts and those surviving fry from natural spawning segregated hatchery parents do present risks that have not been adequately addressed. May be the best way to provide protection from those fish is to have a large robust wild populations. The increased competition would maximize the selection against those poorly adapted hatchery origin fish. In that line it seems reasonable to be to argue for larger escapement goals (above MSH levels) to insure higher seeding of habitats which in turn insure higher selective pressure for success wild types.

    While I could provide more indepth thoughts I think the above should serve as an basic over-view of my thinking. There are a variety of potential "tweaks" to any of the above to fit the special situations that may be found on individual bains. Equally I suspect that I have step on most folks toes by now in one way or another!

    Tight lines
  2. You are never stepping on anyone's toes. In fact we're glad to have you on our side. A toast to Curt. Coach Duff
  3. if there is any kind of weir that you can take hatchery fish downstream of stock the crap out of it
  4. just a couple of thoughts.

    what has become obvious, over time, is that genetic diversity is key to survival. so how does that translate into what we observe?

    fish return in a 'normal' but steep curve, to their natal rivers. that allows wander of some fish to other nearby drainages. so while 90% may select the drainage from which they came, that 10% will distribute north and south of that natal river. that simple genetic fact allows for one river system to be devistated via flood or drought and the fish strain to survive.

    now while we may release all of the hatchery steelhead on wednesday and expect the majority to return in 12 months between monday and friday, wild steelhead perform differently. it should come as no surprise to find wild steelhead wandering back over the span of months. again, a genetic diversity in a strain allowing for drought or flood while the strain survives.

    the notion that interaction of hatchery and wild steelhead is minimal because of the calendar is more than likely a false assumption. again, genetic diversity has programmed individual fish to seek individual return times. over the eons that has also served to preserve the species from natural occurring events on home rivers.

    hatchery steelhead, no matter when that release occurs, have more than likely had a huge negative impact on the very genetic diversity needed to insure wild species survival. unfortunately, chambers stock, as an example, using the 'commonly available time arguement' have most likely totally eliminated a huge portion of that wild stock genetic diversity necessary for survival.

    of course, much of what i am posting is nothing more than conjecture as there is zero way, at least in 2008, to actually get a handle on these impacts. but what we do know, and what we can actually observe, is the hatchery mitigation programs which have been running on various river systems, while producing hatchery returns, have also lead to the observation that wild fish are no longer around.

    now since groucho is my role model for many psudo scientific conclusions, i do believe my eyes. massive hatchery stocking -> few to no wild steelhead. now you may choose to draw a different conclusion, but for me it is totally obvious.

    the hatchery programs have led to the elimination of genetic diversity. and as a result of that, we now see fewer and fewer returning wild steelhead. the thinking that goes on at WDFW as well as ODFW regarding these issues, IMHO, is totally off base, as i view many of your comments smalma, and without merit based on observation, not theory.

    so smalma, sorry to say, i cannot agree with your position of hatchery fish not damaging wild stocks. i would argue that the reason you don't see wild fish when the majority of hatchery fish are returning is that those hatchery fish have caused the extinction of an important element of genetic diversity.

    could be lots of other factors, i recognize that as well, but here we are, hatchery programs continue at full tilt, wild steelhead continue to decline. linked?? i would think they are, 100%.

    solution: on those river systems that have been severly impacted, stock'um and allow put and take harvest. on those river systems that have a hope of wild fish recovery, shutter the hatchery programs and divert those funds to habitat restoration, no fishing for 5 years, period. on any river system negatively impacted by impoundments, stock'um and forget'um. go to federal court and file an injunction against the killing of any fish with and ESA listing by everyone. not even the indians have a 'right' to kill listed fish.

    but, as i have posted, all of these poor judgement issues as well as habitat issues have been trumped by global warming. with all of our wild fish now in trouble, the last thing we needed was global warming of our waters. i am afraid that with this 500# gorilla now a reality, these past crappy management practices combined with all of the other factors we can chat about have doomed the cold water fishes to extinction. sad thought but one i am getting used too.
  5. Gt -
    I guess we can agree to disagree - you asked for my thoughts on the question of hatchery fish -yes or no?

    I tried to answer your question as honestly as I could. First let me make it very clear that for myself and the fishing that I enjoy (wild fish in wild rivers) I can do very nicely without hatchery steelhead. However that is not the question.

    I don't disagree that the hatchery fish can and do have impacts on wild fish. What I attempted to do and evidently failed was to point out the answer to the above question varied depending on the basin and hatchery program being considered - no simpliest black and white answer. My posiiton was I thought that the risk presented by the segregated programs on North Puget Sound rivers was not such that I was not uncomfortable with those programs and the benefits they provided (fishing opportunities). I when on to state that I had concerns with some of the same segregated programs on the coast and SW Washington primarily due to increased interactions between the hatchery and wild fish on the spawning grounds.

    Also indicated that I had some similar concerns with the summer run programs on the west side of the mountains as well as most integrated programs. All and all hardly a ringing blanket endorsement of hatchery fish.

    I agree that divesity is a critical factor though I seem to have a different spin on the issue than yours. I'm sure that diversity losses vary considerably from basin to basin with different charcteristics being lost from basin to basin. Though I convince that on the vast majority of our Western Washington streams the most significant diveristy lost has been the resident life histories of O. mykiss in our anadromous streams. That lost has very little to do with hatchery programs and a lot to do wiht management choices.

    You touched on a lot of issues and I'm more than willing to discuss each and every one of them if you or so inclined however I feel that such discussions would be much more education for ourselves and the other readers if we focus on specific topics one at a time. Don't know whether continuing those discussions here in this thread or as separate threads. I'll leave that you and/or the other interested readers.

    Do you want to start with the diversity question?

    Tight lines
  6. thanks for your response, smalma. no need to go any further in this discussion, from my perspective. i was interested in hearing your thoughts, and now i have. needless to say, i disagree with your assumptions and conclusions. i believe the line of thought you have presented is, in large part, a direct cause of our loss of wild steelhead. not you personally, but simply a misguided management philosophy which has ignored the genetic makeup of so many individual stocks of fish.

    at this point, i also believe we have crossed a threshold. one where poor decisions, on a number of fronts, have now placed wild steelhead in a 'never' recover position given global warming entering the scene. so with that trumph card on the table, all of this discussion is moot. wild steelhead are a goner and nothing is going to reverse that course in 2008.

    groucho was right: '...who you goin'to believe, me our yur own two eyes...', take a look. it's really a sad time in our lives to realize that something which we thought would go on forever is going to disapear before our very eyes.
  7. Gt -
    Hope you don't mind but I hope and believe that you are wrong!

    Fully agree that we as society have made a mess of most of the steelhead's rivers, our managers have made mistakes, who knows where global warming is going to take things, and we are in an extreme period of poor marine survival all of which have worked to together to put the fish in the fix we find them.

    Even so I'm staying in the game continuing to pitch with fingers crossed that we can reverse things through improved understanding of the fish's needs, making tough choices, and yes probably some luck.


  8. Don't be so sure, the natives up here don't seem to have any problem killing endangered bowhead whales.
  9. :rolleyes:

    Wild steelhead will be living somewhere on the planet earth for a VERY long time or I should say, as long as humans are still alive.

    By supposedly caring about steelhead, you have educated youself to the point of deciding that they are goners. That is exactly the type of attitude that got us all here in the first place.
  10. no, jbuehler, facing reality is sometimes difficult but necessary. we are 'here' because of poor management decisions by WDFW/ODFW, the fish commission, indians who have netted to extinction several runs of wild fish already, consumerism and a host of very real other man caused problems. with global warming now a reality and the fact that even if we eliminated all harmfull emissions today, it would be a decade before we saw improvement, yes wild steelhead are a goner. cold water fishes need, well, cold water. we are already experiencing a sea temperature rise all along the west coast.

    you may want to keep your glass half full, and thats ok by me, but add the facts, look around - put yur groucho eyes on - and you will see that wild steelhead no longer exist in a large number of river systems in this state RIGHT NOW.
  11. The question in our case (i.e., do treaty tribes have a "right" to kill fish listed under the ESA?) boils down to whether the ESA was intended to abrogate treaty rights. I am not sure what the answer to that is, but I think it is yes (in other words that the ESA trumps treaty fishing rights). In the case of Native Alaskan hunting of whales, they saw what happened to indigenous people down in the lower 48 and were "better prepared". So they have specific exemptions from the Marine Mammal Protection Act and ESA for taking endangered species for "subsistence purposes".
  12. Do you have even one shred of evidence for this? You never seem to pay any attention to the facts about the impact of Indian fishing. Please read King of Fish by David Montgomery if you need a refresher on what got us to this point.
  13. You talk with so much certainty about so many things that are so little understood it puts me off. Where do I/WE begin to respond?

    I am not the most optimistic person in the world, but I can't understand how someone with as much negative energy as you can even go fishing, or even get up in the morning.

    I personally will keep planting trees and clearing culverts for those wild fish that, according to you, are doomed to extinction. You could call it a type of faith in the fish's eventual return.

    And I encourage you to have faith because once we all decide the game is up, it actually is.

  14. I hope you're correct in that somewhere, somehow, wild steelhead will continue to live on this planet, however, I believe what has put wild steelhead (here in the PNW) in the perile they're in is different from your conclusion. I believe our wild steelhead populations are in the position they're in because of human activity, and/or the human belief that they'll "never run out", just like we couldn't fathom the extinction of the carolina parakeet, the passenger pigeon, and the buffalo, which reached a miminum of only 600 at one point.

    What I believe would help our planet, and the steelhead and everything else that calls earth home, is for humans to stop breeding like flies, and putting more strain on mother nature than she's able to provide. We're at 6 billion and counting...( - and this link I mention is by no means a racial slur on my behalf, for clarification.) One Harvard scientist I recently heard mentioned that for humans to exist as we are currently, we'd need 3 more "earths" to sustain us.

    What we're seeing is that the carrying capacity of the earth has gone beyond it's ability to provide for those all organisms. Due to human exploitation and geometric human growth, we've lost half of our grasslands, half of our wetlands, half of our rain forests, and we've decimated our oceans. Is it any surprise that we're witnessing the loss of our wild fish as well?

    The Columbia river was once the greatest salmon river in the world, and even prior to the dams, it had been reduced to all but a ghost of it's previous self. And in 2008, with the run of spring chinook forecasted at 10% of it's historical capacity, there will still be a commercial and sport harvest.

    I'm pleased to see your enthusiasm, and I hope that others will join you helping to restore habitat, reduce harvest, and give them a chance. But the future does look bleak, we've already seen some rivers within the Puget Sound drainage reach a point of no return, along with other Columbia river systems.

    It's going to be a long row to hoe if we're to see wild steelhead survive in this state, given it's continuing downward trend of wild steelhead return. Even in those rivers on the OP with somewhat "healthy" populations, the trend continues downward and yet, the WDFW refuses to put a moratorium on their killing. How much hope do they have of survival with some rivers being netted 6 days per week in some cases?
  15. o mykiss, can i 'prove' that the indian nets eliminated the wild steelhead from various hood canal rivers?? well of course not, no one can 'prove' anything about any fishery. does it seem 'logical' that unlimited, unregulated fishing following boldt dropped stocks to the point where they could not recover? you bet.

    jbuehler, i have lived in the PNW for some 50 decades, by choice. i fished steelhead hard and long for most of those early decades. my ability to hook and kill steelhead is well documented among those i used to fish with. but, i have groucho eyes, and i can clearly see runs of fish disappearing at an alarming rate. did you see the statistics posted in a previous thread?? about 2,800 returning steelhead to the dungness r. this year the hatchery was pleading with local anglers to let them know if anyone landed a buck so they could come and collect the milt for the LONE female at the hatchery.

    now you may add that up to '...the runs are not in trouble...', my conclusion is yet another river and another genetically diverse strain is gone. so my solution several years ago, was once again to stop fishing for steelhead entirely. if i hooked a wild steelhead today, i would be scared to death that my ability to be an apex predator would be dooming that very fish. now find me a river with hatchery fish, and almost no probability of a wild fish anywhere in the vicinity, and i will go fish.

    i believe all of the past decisions have finally tipped the scale against wild steelhead. this has not occured overnight, mind you, but the downhill slide is accelerating. don't like my opinion??? no worries, seek comfort in your own.
  16. You do the same :thumb:
  17. Without a reduction in harvest (especially ocean harvest), we will never know what the possibilities are for population increases. We can't just sit here and cry about what has and hasn't been done and how badly humans have screwed up. We have to get off our asses and make some changes. We can plant trees, change seasonal regulations, clean up the pollution, etc all you want (those are good things) but nothing is going to change until we change policy from the top down. Everybody has to get involved, join CCAPNW now and start a wave of change!

    There are so many great organizations doing great things out there, but we need to be one big army!

    Thanks for the great thread everyone!

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