Steelhead hatcheries: good or bad?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Richard E, Aug 25, 2008.

  1. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Dec 12, 2004
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    Marysville, Washington
    While James is certainly correct that one of the insidious aspect of hatchery programs can be hiding or confusing the status of co-mingled wild populations I'm not sure that is the case with many of the steelhead hatchery programs.

    In the case of the Tokul Creek winter steelhead hatchery program on the Snoqualmie which started this discussion there are differences and separation between the hatchery and wild fish. All the hatchery production has been massed marked for 25 years so there is little confusion whether a fish an angler catches is a hatchery or wild fish. Further the State while monitoring wild steelhead escapements in Puget Sound has measured the wild escapements as those fish that were produced in the wild. This is considerably different that what had been (as still is in some areas) with salmon.

    Separating the wild from hatchery steelhead escapements is aided by the fact that the Chamber's Creek winter steelhead are a segregated stock with a significant differences in spawning timing between the hatchery and wild fish. The hatchery fish are done spawning before the end of the February and the wild fish begin spawning in early March with most spawning after April 1st.

    Tight lines
  2. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Feb 25, 2003
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    It's not how the fish are managed that are at issue (see my preference to CC stock versus integrated). Rather what I see in my mind is the idea that the mass fishing population still doesn't understand the difference between the hatchery successes and wild successes. To most folks a fish is just a fish, and there is lots of misconceptions. You as a biologist can see these issues and seperate the concerns. But unfortunately, you aren't in charge of things and public perception and politics often muddy things.

    Also, hatchery genetic integression in only one aspect of the impacts of hatchery stocks. Open ocean, near shore, and even outmigration impacts still exist, and in some cases aren't particularlly well known.
  3. yuhina

    yuhina Tropical member

    Sep 22, 2005
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    There are several different issues mixed in this topic, I would like to clarify and elaborate some of my thoughts here. (some of them are already mentioned in the previous posts)
    First, we are dealing with two different things in this post. Quality and Quantity of the steelhead populations. As we can see here, most of people are concerning the genetic quality of the steelhead.
    Hatchery fish is bad, because they are poor quality and they are going to spread their poor quality gene into the wild fish. Based on the hood river steelhead study in Oregon, they found only few generations of domestication of steelhead in their early life (remember those hatchery fish were still grown up in the Ocean), they found their survival rate decreased almost 50% compare to their wild cousin. The experiment design is fairly convincing, because they capture every single individuals returned from the ocean (thanks the dam), and by using genetic markers they were able to identified the fish’s parents four year ago, whether it was coming from hatchery parents or wild parents or half hatchery and half wild. (like finger printing identification). The amazing part to me is the profound impacts of few months rearing environment in the hatchery. The only difference between hatchery and wild fish here is the first few months of natural selection in the wild (or plus the female mating choice in the field). Obviously, the natural selection in the early few months has a huge impact even into the adulthood of the fish, thus altered the life their reproductive fitness. This is the amazing part to me. That is the reason people mentioned that we are doing a poor job compare the selection exerted in the wild environment. To my knowledge, we even don’t know where is the bad genes? What is the mechanism to cause those bad impacts.

    Second, back to the original “canary” idea of habit healthy and management. Wild environment is important and can hugely shape the life history and evolution of the fish. (as we learned from several research on steelhead). I think the influx of hatchery fish not only are going to degrading the genes in the wild pool, but the huge number of hatchery fish are going mask the degradation issue of the environments.

    Third, about the summer run and winter run steelhead. I am not sure if it is a good idea to manage different group of fish differently (hatchery and wild) in the same river. Due to the fact that we know the steelhead exchange their genes frequently with the resident rainbow trout…and to my knowledge there are no report about the genetic characters comparison between summer run and winter run. (Please correct me if I am wrong…)
  4. Mark Moore

    Mark Moore Just a Member

    Sep 5, 2008
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    Vancouver, Wa.
    Great point, I notice this a lot in SW WA rivers, where the fish, and people, tend to really bunch up, but I fish the Nestucca on the OR coast several times each winter and with its' relatively healthy population of wild fish there are fish throughout the system. BIG NASTY fish too.

    What is the answer for early marine survival?