Op-Ed: Rebuilding wild steelhead populations means more fishing opportunity

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Jonathan Stumpf, Jun 6, 2014.

  1. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Nooksack Mac -
    A better comparison might be a if after cancer patient with leukemia after having his right arm amputated their cancer goes into remission is to assume that amputating right arms is a key to recovery from leukemia.

    Or in another example if a cancer patient is being treated with a number of experimental treatments and is cured it is to assumed that the easiest/cheapest treatment is essential to the recovery all cancer patients. Assuming so may well mean that the doctors will not be looking at the treatment(s) that really making a difference.

    Curt
     
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  2. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

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    From 1984/85 to 1989/90 we had double digit wild steelhead returns - look over at the winter -run smolt hatchery release - if this was such a major issue in wild steelhead returns why did it not impede returns in the mid 80's - Ocean conditions, Ocean conditions
     

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  3. Jeremy Floyd

    Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

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    I would guess that when the biomass of the ocean rebounds our tender little salmon and steelhead morsels will have a better chance of making it back to their river spawning beds.

    Not having hatchery fish sharing the same waters can only help them on their road to success or demise.
     
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  4. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

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    No. I get a cocktail of drugs for my cancer. Some of which are experimental. It would be like if I were cured they decided the wrong experimental drug was responsible and started treating all cancer patients with a drug that does no good. Results; dead cancer patients.
     
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  5. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

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    I don't think hatcheries are for sure a red herring. There are many ways they could be or could have led to decreased run sizes. I don't think it's wise to turn a blind eye to their known negatives or their unknown potential negatives. Biological interactions are sometimes difficult to study, especially in areas like the open ocean or even the PS. There are many ways that they could lead to increased predation, more effective predation or disease (that would likely lead to them being eaten before he body was found), that we just could not study. To write off these potential impacts from the little we know is the very definition of hubris.

    I am more concerend that we all look for the easiest silver bullet (harvest, c&r impacts) or study the things that are easier and more fun to study (like introgression) rather than focuse on filling in the important gaps in info. The answer to the PS problem may very well lie on the mighty Skagit. Why, when all other rivers declined so sharply, did it remain so much more consistant. For all the concern and worry about her run size. Mama Skagit has held a pretty steady line. Why is she so bad ass? Why do the South sound fish fare so much more poorly than The S rivers and the Nooksack? This seems to be the place to look for answers.

    I sure wish that I thought hatcheries were the reason for PS steelhead declines. It's really hard to get there though, for me. It seems that overall we'd be better looking under more promising rocks than hatcheries and introgression etc.

    One other thought I often have is that fish don't understand borders. At the same time our Salish Sea stocks crashed so did B.C.'s. The big exception was the Vedder. The hatchery on the Vedder is a juggernaught. The Canadians run it differently that we do, but it still dumps in a ton of smolts. The wild runs have been better than the other lower mainland rivers from what I understand. It's smolts would likely take a similar path to the big ocean as the Nooksack, Samish and Skagit fish (see a pattern?)

    Disclaimer: These are my thoughts based on computer based reseach, long rides with SalmoG and a B.A. in environmental science. None of these things make me an expert. My father has called me a sexual intellect, however.

    Go Sox,
    cds
     
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  6. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Charles-

    The answer to the question do you want more steelhead is indeed in the "mighty Skagit".

    Overall on the Skagit the habitat to produce steelhead and other anadromous salmonids is 2 to 10 times less degraded than the rest of rivers found along the east side of Puget Sound. Want more steelhead? the answer is simple restore habitat; doing so is more difficult.

    Historically the big 5 PS rivers in terms of producing steelhead were the Skagit, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Snohomish and Puyallup. All but the Skagit have severely degraded habitats.

    Curt
     
  7. kamishak steve

    kamishak steve Active Member

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    Is there a possibility that the combination of those huge hatchery & wild returns of the mid 80's may be partially to blame for the depressed runs that occurred later. An analogy may be, we put too many cattle out to pasture, and as a result, our field (in this case the ocean) became overgrazed, and it is now depressed?
    I realize that oceans produce feed in cyclical oscillations, but it seems plausible that we were pumping too many fish into her to support that kind of growth long term. Thoughts?
     
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  8. underachiever

    underachiever members only

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    There's no chance that 10 years down the road you won't be in the same position because of crediting the wrong medical researcher.

    If runs improve and they claim victory based on the wrong facts we'll just end up in the same place eventually. Maybe a worse place, if habitat is further degraded because it was deemed to not be a contributing factor to the health of the run.
     
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  9. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    Interesting idea. By increasing plants to offset poor returns, the suppression of the forage species may have been artificially exaggerated. Under natural conditions, the collapse of the food source would have dramatically reduced the predator numbers. This would/could have allowed the forage species to repopulate.

    I also have often wondered about the impacts of commercial harvest for forage species. And habitat impacts such as loss of saltwater forage species spawning areas, population collapse from pollution and changes in ocean acidity.

    But I have NO idea if this really has legs, or is just an interesting hypothesis. I mean the fundamentals are sound, but is there data to support or contradict this?
     
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  10. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

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    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a dfw bio in the last couple years. He recounted how people complained to him about the amount of steelhead that they felt or knew were being netted along with squid in the open ocean. His first thought was, "why aren't they concerned with people harvesting all the steelheads food (squid)."

    It occurred to me a long time ago that givn the different population bottlenecks, hatcheries may not lead to their being 1 more steelhead in the world. They may just replace wild steelhead from one drainage with hatchery fish from another. It's a thought that really could not be tested because there's no way we shut down all the hatcheries in CA, OR, WA and BC, but if ocean conditions are the limitting factor in adult steelhead abundance, it makes some sense.

    Go Sox,
    cds
     
  11. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

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    I'm trying to figure out who thinks habitat is not the major issue. Just because there is debate about the amount of negative impacts hatcheries have doesn't mean those negative impacts shouldn't be dealt with, especially since the agencies that run them are in charge of managing and protecting wild fish.

    Why we have to only focus one one thing at a time baffles me. It seems like another case of "if the action ain't perfect it ain't worth doing.".
     
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  12. FinLuver

    FinLuver Active Member

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    You can focus on 30 things if you like; but it doesn't mean you are focused on the "right" one.;)
     
  13. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    A few thoughts keep coming to mind for me. One is does anyone here believe that the hatcheries on the rivers in question are part of the solution for wild steelhead recovery? Does anyone think said hatcheries are effective economically or practically? And do you really believe that WFC and other conservation groups will stop advocating for habitat protection and restoration? The answer to these questions for me is no. I agree with Curt that Habitat and Ocean conditions probably have more of an influence, but that does not mean if something is of lesser influence that you should not do it if you have the chance. WDFW left the door open and WFC walked through it. You may not agree with their position or the science behind it but they are shaking up the status quo and holding the departments feet to the fire. According to the settlement in 2.5 years they can start up all the programs except the Skagit( if they can get NMFS buy off).

    Chris
     
  14. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    First, let's put "huge" in perspective. The good combined hatchery and wild steelhead returns in the 80s were significantly less than the combined returns in the 60s and 70s. I don't think there was over-grazing in the 80s. Niche partitioning may be more of a cause of reduced marine survival in the 90s through today, but that's not even good speculation on my part. Ocean food and space that steelhead previously used may have been taken by mackerel or other species. Or ocean squid fisheries may have reduced the food supply by reducing the number of spawning squid. Expanding pink populations outcompete chum and chinook in the estuaries. Pink salmon ocean range overlaps steelhead. Maybe pinks are over-grazing steelhead habitat. Or it may be none of those. I don't know.

    Ocean acidification is more plausible IMO. It's real, and we know acidification reduces aquatic productivity.

    Sg
     
  15. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Chris,

    No way is/was the Chambers steelhead program part of the solution for wild steelhead recovery. The rather solitary purpose of the Chambers program is to enhance fishing. Although it hasn't done very well at that in recent years, it certainly did so during the decades of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s - except on the Skagit where it petered out in the 70s and never went great guns again after that, but that gets into another story.

    The reason I'm opposed to closing down the Chambers program is because having the program, at a reduced scale, preserves future options. The fact that the Chambers program has some negative effects on wild steelhead can, again IMO, be lumped into the pot of "many things that individually have a negative impact on wild steelhead." In NMFS' various recovery plans, a host of factors that are not good for the listed species are allowed if the factor is deemed quantitatively to not have a level of impact that precludes or interferes with survival and recovery. In my view, the data regarding the effect of the Chambers program falls in that catagory. IMO, there are a lot of other things that should be prohibited, but aren't, before the Chambers program enters the equation.

    If wild steelhead recovery is the goal, it would be more effective to prohibit ever adding another piece of riprap along the Sauk River instead of closing the Chambers program. But do the agencies, including NMFS, prohibit riprapping the Sauk? Hell no. The wimpy ass policy wonks don't find jeopardy with riprap that measurably reduces spawning and rearing habitat and instead are very concerned about the low level of genetic introgression that has occurred with Chambers Ck steelhead. With management like that I guarandamntee you will not see recovery. The failures to protect spawning and rearing habitat are limitless, but you can be sure that lots of paper will be filled out and sportfishing opportunities will dramatically decline.

    Sg
     
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