Steelhead Hatchery Programs Violate ESA

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Andrew Lawrence, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

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    Steelhead Hatchery Programs Violating ESA


    Jan 23, 2014
    WILD FISH CONSERVANCY
    PO Box 402 Duvall, WA 98019 • Tel 425-788-1167 • Fax 425-788-9634 •
    info@wildfishconservancy.org
    Contact: Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy, 425-788-1167
    Brian Knutsen, Smith and Lowney, PLLC, 971-373-8692
    For Immediate Release: Thursday January 23, 2014
    Steelhead Hatchery Programs Violating ESA



    Today, Wild Fish Conservancy, a Puget Sound-based conservation group, sent a 60-day notice of intent to suethe Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), alleging that the agency’s planting of “Chambers Creek” steelhead in Puget Sound watersheds is in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The group states that the widespread planting of the highly domesticated hatchery stock across Puget Sound watersheds harms wild Puget Sound steelhead, wild Puget Sound Chinook salmon, and bull trout. All three species are listed as “threatened” under the ESA. Since the 2007 listing of Puget Sound steelhead, WDFW’s Chambers Creek steelhead hatchery programs have continued to operate without permission from the NOAA Fisheries Service. The Chambers Creek fish are produced at numerous WDFW facilities across Washington.

    “The science is definite in that the planting of these domesticated hatchery fish is detrimental to protected wild fish,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Any release of Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead should be prohibited as incompatible with the recovery of wild Puget Sound steelhead and the perpetuation of their legacy. But at the very least any existing hatchery program must operate with an appropriate permit from NOAA Fisheries.”

    Recent research in the Skagit River watershed confirms that Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead are mating with wild steelhead. The offspring of hatchery steelhead and wild steelhead are substantially less likely to survive in the wild, further depressing the already low numbers of wild steelhead. The Skagit research is the latest of a growing number of studies that have concluded that the planting of domesticated hatchery steelhead has adverse effects on the health and resilience of wild steelhead. The hatchery steelhead program of the Skagit River watershed is the largest in the Puget Sound region.

    Because juvenile hatchery steelhead are far larger than their wild counterparts, they prey on the juveniles of listed salmonids, compete for food, and attract predators. Hatchery facilities that block habitat and degrade water quality also cause problems for wild fish.

    “WDFW has a split mandate between providing fishing opportunities and protecting wild steelhead,” Beardslee continued. “Ironically, what one hand of WDFW gives, the other takes away: the publically funded fish hatcheries undermine the publically funded wild fish recovery efforts, such as habitat restoration. Fully recovered wild steelhead populations would fulfill both mandates.”

    In 1969, the steelhead was declared Washington’s official “state fish.” Despite that recognition, wild Puget Sound steelhead populations have declined precipitously over the past thirty years: the average region-wide abundance between 1980 and 2004 was less than 4% of what it was in 1900. Since being listed as threatened under the ESA in 2007, Puget Sound wild steelhead abundance has continued to decline. The recent five-year average is less than 3% of what it was in 1900. In 2010, scientists from the regional science center of the NOAA Fisheries Service concluded “n our opinion… Chambers Creek steelhead have no role in the recovery of native Puget Sound steelhead.” The unpermitted Chambers Creek steelhead hatchery programs are the sole subject of the 60-day notice letter, because rather than aiding wild steelhead, these programs harm wild steelhead and prevent their recovery.
     
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  2. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    Interesting to say the least.
     
  3. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Emerging science suggests they are flat out wrong.

    I'm all for wild steelhead, but over-stating one's case to such a degree destroys credibility IMO.

    Sg
     
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  4. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!

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    Steve, please provide "emerging science."
     
  5. worldanglr

    worldanglr Member

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    Chambers Creek Strain Steelhead = Genetic Zombies. Wild steelhead are having a hard enough time as it is (logging, nets, sport fishing, etc.) without having to compete with non-native, introduced zombie-fish that can potentially cross-breed with them and dilute their genes, compete for spawning habitat, and their young compete for the limited forage-base available in these rivers. As quoted in the press release: "The offspring of hatchery steelhead and wild steelhead are substantially less likely to survive in the wild, further depressing the already low numbers of wild steelhead." I say good on ya Wild Fish Conservancy. And yes Steve I would love to see evidence of this so-called "emerging science"!
     
  6. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    It's DRAFT, not yet internal reviewed nor peer reviewed, but teases out the relationship of shared alleles between Chambers Ck and wild steelhead stocks. The degree of introgression suggested by previous interpretations may be significantly over-stated. Final report should be out about the time the lawsuit is filed or underway.

    Patience.

    Sg
     
  7. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

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    Which ever side you are on in the "hatchery" debate, the way we "manage'' steelhead rivers has to change. Until there is some accountability nothing will change. Maybe this will prod us a little closer to that goal
     
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  8. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    I hope these guys have deep pockets.
     
  9. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    Perfect... our limited and severely stretched tax dollars going into the pockets of a bunch of lawyers. Non constructive to say the very least. 1146.gif
     
  10. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    If we get rid of Chambers Creek steelhead than we will get our wild fish back and thus our c&r seasons back and catch steelhead every trip whilst swinging classic Spey patterns on a bamboo fly rod.

    Is this not the big picture?


    Why is it that few gear anglers are as over zealous about getting rid of these hatchery steelhead as fly fishermen? Are some confusing catching with how many fish there are to catch or trying to bring more meaning to choosing the most effective method to getting skunked?
     
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  11. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    Another try please... what are you saying?
     
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  12. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    Something to keep in mind...

    Any impact that hatcheries have is not the sum total of impacts to wild fish. Eliminating them with a scorched earth policy will in all likelihood do little to increase wild fish numbers.
     
  13. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    Warning, the following is a matter of opinion:

    Freestone, I'm saying the ones who think the skies are falling are the ones who catch the fewest fish by choice of method. They have a lot of empirical evidence that there are no steelhead left but their logic is flawed because they have chosen an approach to their fishing that is exceptionally ineffective.

    The two distinct fishing worlds; gear and fly, seem to have their own ethics, rules, myths, and politics. This disconnect leads to a lot of misinformed fishermen on both sides.

    I swing flies a lot for steelhead and love it, I had a two hander when a windcutter line was the only line you needed, but I am not as concerned as some. I expect it to be really tough if not impossible depending on conditions to hook a steelhead on a fly.

    I saw a fly guy going skunked yesterday while he watched 2 gear anglers walk into the run above him and hook 4 steelhead and about a dozen dollies in a half hour. Each cast was a hookup. He was visibly rattled because he had just pounded that water. I was one of those gear anglers. If that fly angler had not seen our show he would have probably given the report with the phrase, "dead river" or "no fish to be found".

    We choose to fish how we want, I wouldn't have it any other way, but I don't like how insulated and yet over zealous many fishing groups are nowadays. In the age of the internet I feel people are ironically more misinformed than ever. Why listen to the seasoned biologist when you can go to the internet and find a hundred consenting minds no matter how misinformed?
     
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  14. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    Thanks for the follow-up. There is room for both methods of fishing and management approaches to the fishery stocks...the perfect model only exists in our minds.

    The action by WFC is akin to a custody battle... lawyers get rich and the kids (fish) get screwed.
     
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  15. docstash

    docstash Active Member

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