wenatchee river steelhead:(

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by bhudda, Sep 29, 2006.

  1. Tylerflies

    Tylerflies New Member

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    Perhaps I am missing something, but...

    If the fishing season on the wenatchee river is open only to strip the river of hatchery fish in order for the wild fish to spawn, why are there hatchery fish still being produced? Why is this river not shut down compeletly for the recovery of wild steelhead, and no hatchery steelhead released at all? It doesn't make sense to me why there would be any hatchery production at all unless it was done to provide fish for a sport season. But the article said the sport season was only opened based on how many hatchery fish returned, meaning that it is really the other way around. Am I missing the bigger picture? Please explain.

    Tyler
     
  2. Jergens

    Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

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    you hit the nail right on the head. it doesn't make any sense, but if this is the game they want to play, you might as well do your part to bonk those pesky hatchery fish. which reminds me, its dinner time!
     
  3. Freestone

    Freestone Not to be confused with freestoneangler

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    Tyler, good question. The wild fish have a "moderate to high risk of extinction in the next 25 years" according to NOAA. When I add up the various 'take' (kill) permits, people are allowed to kill up to 15% of them per year (and maybe more as I'm not sure I've found all the permits). I scratch my head wondering how something can be endangered if it can handle us killing 15% of them for fun or conversely, how we can be allowed to kill 15% of the steelhead when they are at a moderate to high rate of extinction...

    Numerous publications write about how great the runs are but they are talking about the hatchery fish. Wild runs still suck. In order for the Wenatchee steelhead to be considered 'recovered', about 2500 steelhead per year for 12 years in a row need to return to the Wenatchee and they have to be replacing themselves naturally at a rate greater than 1.0* (I'm no biologist but I think it means this: husband & wife have 2 kids = replacement rate of 1.0, 3 kids = 1.5) Around 1000+ fish have been coming back - a long way from 2500 fish/year for 12 straight years and they are a long way from natural replacement - the last number I saw published was 0.3.

    Enter the hatcheries: Some will say the hatchery fish are planted to help recover the wild fish but many studies have shown that hatchery fish may well have the opposite effect, at least in high numbers - which is why a sport season is opened. If there were no excess hatchery fish, there would be no reason at all to open the river since we can't intentionally target an endangered species. So why plant them to begin with? It depends on who you talk to: Some would argue that it is because the wild stocks are so depleted that the hatchery fish may be a necessary evil, others would argue it's so we can appease commercials, tribes and sportsfishers all of whom want/demand fish while others would argue there is a bit of CYA involved: if there are lots of hatchery fish and a fishing season, no one will notice how badly the wild fish have been managed....it's probably some of all of these reasons and more. A lot of money is spent on the hatcheries by various agencies and utilities, but I'd like to see some of that money put into habitat and marine survival. The trade-off is there probably wouldn't be much/any steelheading in the Upper Columbia Basin for a while and that is unexceptable to lots of people so the stocking continues...

    *I'm writing this from memory as I'm at work
     
  4. Riane

    Riane Mouse doctor

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    This has been covered before in detail, might try a search to see if you can pull up some old threads.

    The short answer: Without hatchery fish (remember these are native stocks that are hatchery reared) there probably wouldn't be any real number of steelhead up there anymore. The hatchery fish appear to be part of the recovery- to supplement the fish numbers and compensate for the low survival. A certain number of them are allowed to spawn in the wild, but if too many hatchery fish come back, they want them removed.

    Probably also political considerations play a role too, though seems to be not acknowledged so much.


     
  5. BDD

    BDD Active Member

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    "The tribal fisheries are also being managed for a 20 percent harvest rate on the combined hatchery and wild B-Index steelhead run size. The tribes project that they will have caught 12,850 B steelhead through next week. That would be 14.3 percent of B run. The forecast for the total B steelhead run as counted at Bonneville is 90,000 fish. The B run --steelhead bound mostly for Idaho rivers -- is also ESA listed."

    as quoted from the Columbia Basin Bulletin
     
  6. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Tylerflies,

    Freestone's memory is pretty good. There are so few wild steelhead that hatchery steelhead (also ESA listed in the mid-C) are needed to help rebuild the population. But because hatchery steelhead have negative effects on the population, managers don't want too many hatchery steelhead spawning with the wild ones. Why not stock less hatchery fish? Well because downstream migration survival and ocean survival rates vary every year, so we don't know how many would be the correct number in any given year. The response has been to stock roughly traditional numbers, and if a large return results, use the recreational fishery to weed out some of the excess hatchery steelhead. Yes, it's bazarre, but it's one way of going about recovery. Closing the rivers and discontinuing stocking is a sure bet for extinction of the wild steelhead. It's a mixed up crazy world.

    Sg
     
  7. Jergens

    Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

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    Do you think it would lead to their extinction faster than what we are already doing?
     
  8. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    Steve,

    This is total BS. You have zero data on population productivity or the relative reproductive success of hatchery or wild fish in the Wenatchee. The fact is though that the hatchery programs are without a doubt depressing the production of truly wild fish in the Wenatchee system. The fact that there truly wild fish are holding on in that watershed not only discredits the argument that they are incapable of surviving in a columbia system altered by dams but suggests that if we are serious about wild recovery we need to stop the massive hatchery supplementation. You are representing your self as a scientist and your agency here in a public forum and your statement is not factual. The bottom line is this is a question of values...do we value wild fish or fishing more?

    Will
     
  9. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Jergens,

    Yes. See my response to Will.

    Will,

    BS? Really?

    First, I represent no agency on this forum. Period. I add information that I acquire from my and other agency sources, but I'm emphatically not authorized to speak on behalf of any agency. Whatever I post should be judged on its own merit and nothing more.

    I have no data in hand on Wenatchee steelhead productivity. My opinions are based on information in the record and anecdotal information received from Larry Brown who was the WDFW area bio on the Wenatchee during the 80s and into the 90s.

    Anecdotal information has it that Wenatchee and Methow steelhead were extirpated early in the 20th century by splash dams that prevented steelhead migration before and during the spawning season. After the dams were no longer used, steelhead appeared to re-establish themselves from resident rainbow that decided to give anadromy a try and strays from other systems.

    Wenatchee steelhead have to descend and ascend 7 dams, one less than the Snake River fish. As more dams were being added to the mainstem Columbia in the late 60s and 70s, Wenatchee steelhead productivity in the form of adult returns declined to the point of not being self-sustaining. Ringold stock fish were planted mainly to enhance fishing, but to the extent they are able to successfully reproduce, they also helped maintain wild steelhead production above the levels that occurred without them. Brown estimated that stocking about 70K hatchery smolts could maintain an average adult return of 4-6K hatchery and wild steelhead. The actual variance is greater, because when a poor juvenile outmigration combines with poor ocean survival, adult returns are even lower. Absent the hatchery stocking, total returns appear to put the population in danger of extirpation.

    The fact that truly wild steelhead are hanging on in the Wenatchee and other mid-C tribs is a testament to the value of some resident rainbow deciding to give anandromy a try.

    We all understand that hatchery steelhead are notoriously poor at natural production relative to wild steelhead. However, poor does not equate to zero. My best information is that inland hatchery steelhead do contribute to natural production. That same information indicates that unless and until downstream juvenile passage on the mainstem hydro projects improves significantly, wild steelhead are more likely than not unable to maintain naturally self-sustaining populations.

    If we understand that naturally self-sustaining requires a minimum of 1.0 recruits per spawner, we should agree that R/S of less than 1 leads to extirpation. Most mid-C wild steelhead are returning less than 1 R/S in most seasons, and that is even with the added natural production (albeit small per spawner) from hatchery returns that spawn naturally. How would elimination of stocking hatchery steelhead facilitate wild steelhead recovery in the mid-C?

    I don't think the density dependent survival of wild steelhead could account for much overall productivity because, while there unit productivity would be high, there would be so few of them, that when subjected to the mainstem hydro gauntlet that returns less than one R/S, the population simply cannot recover, and cannot maintain itself despite the contributions from resident fish gone anadromous and straying.

    This is a question of values, but it's not the question you pose. The question is what will society choose to do to recover mid-C steelhead. Society won't even breach the lower Snake dams, and society has clearly chosen not to remove any Columbia mainstem dams. Society has decided to impose stricter passage standards on all the dams. BUT, there is a technical issue. Technology at present cannot provide passage success at the level necessary to maintain naturally self-sustaining steelhead in the mid-C, let alone recover ESA listed populations. As a result, society, through its agents (read fishery agencies), had decided to maintain and recover, if we possibly can, mid-C steelhead by stocking hatchery steelhead and allowing a significant proportion of them to spawn naturally to increase overall steelhead production in the hope that juvenile passage efficiencies will increase enough that at some point discreet populations of naturally reproducing fish will sustain themselves. We are a long ways from being there.

    Meanwhile, the mid-C steelhead sportfishing that generates so much chatter here is little more than a biological afterthought, that according to some, isn't such a bad fit with the very compromised management choices that are available to us.

    My opinions may or may not be factual, but they are opinions. The facts I include are facts. Otherwise they are only alleged facts. And yes, I do get a few wrong. But not many, so I hope my posts are judged by the long view of overall content.

    Sincerely,

    Salmo g.
     
  10. Jergens

    Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

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    Salmo- thanks for the info. the yakima is a prime exapmle the more i think about it, no hatchery fish, and only 100 steelhead a year to the upper reaches (probably strays). i wonder how many truly wild fish make it into the wenatchee or methow?
     
  11. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    While I like and respect you I believe that you are flat out wrong about wild fish being able to sustain themselves in the Upper C. I will agree that under the current circumstances (primarily the 7 dams) wild fish are unable to support much if any of a sport fishery. However since the productivity of wild fish is reduced when they spawn with hatchery fish then it is logically adding more hatchery fish will not save wild fish in the long run. I agree that hatchery fish spawning in the wild may ultimately produce some offspring, I ask you to present a single instance where hatchery fish spawning in the wild has helped facilitate the recovery of wild stocks. Chilcote's 2003 paper found lower productivity in populations as the proportion of hatchery spawners increased, and some of their reference streams (no hatchery fish) were on the Grande Ronde system. I will remind you that those populations are dealing with a gauntlet of 8 dams yet have maintained a viable population without hatchery supplementation. The Entiat, while certainly depressed still supports a population of wild steelhead and it too is not supplemented. The argument that hatcheries are necessary to maintain wild populations in the columbia system is one that is rooted in the dated management paradigms of the 70s and 80s when hatcheries were thought to be the answer to all of mans industrial ills. By continuing to dump thousands of hatchery smolts into rivers with threatened populations we are not only undermining the productivity of those populations but also the long term biological resilience and evolutionary potential of the population.

    Jergens,

    The yakima still produces between 2000 and 4000 adult steelhead annually over the last decade. Those fish come almost entirely from two exceedingly productive tribs on the lower river. In the case of the Upper Yakima and Naches, the severely altered hydrograph coupled with a legacy effect of decades without fish passage at Roza have resulted in an almost entirely resident population. They can recover though and imagine how sweet that would be!

    Will