Wild Fish Conservancy - Notice of Intent to sue WDFW

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Chris DeLeone, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

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    So... if there is in fact wild and hatchery fish breeding, and we're saying that their offspring have little chance of survival... Wouldn't that result in little of the hatchery genes being found in the wild returning fish?
     
  2. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Rob -
    While it is rare to survey all the spawning tributaries on most basins a representative sub-sample of the spawning tribs are surveyed a number of times through the season. While it would ideal to survey all the tribs. at least twice a month across the entire spawning season (4 to 5 months) the harsh reality that those kinds of resources are not available. Just one example in the Skagit basin there is nearly 300 miles of spawning habitats with nearly 120 miles of that being what would be considered tributary habitat. It would take a special "stream walker" to average 5 miles of surveys/day (remember that on may of those streams the survey will be a round trip in with some in really remote rugged country with some significant "weather challenges" -high flows, snow etc..

    I understand your concerns about the lost of population productivity from hatchery/wild crosses in the natural spawning population; the amount of introgression is just one attempt to demonstrate the frequency of that sort of crossing. Obviously at what life stage that introgression is measure(fry, smolt, adult, etc.) can be important. The same factors that drive the amount introgression that is occurring (temporal separation and relative abundances of hatchery and wild spawners). Again the risk from such losses will vary considerably depending on those variables in specific basins. As I have attempted to point out in basins like the Skagit it is not much of a concern but I can imagine it being huge problems in other basins (with those with wild steelhead brood stocks maybe the worst).

    Curt
     
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  3. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    Curt,
    Thank you for your time and thoughtful reply.

    It is my understanding that in the Skagit study that SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) genetic testing was not initially used as the study originally specified. It is also my understanding that this is currently underway and may apparently allow for a clearer picture.

    Since an older genetic testing methodology was apparently used, would this presumably be the potential reason we see those numbers artificially high? And, would the SNP's re-testing perhaps remove some of those false positives; or, potentially show that there is more introgression than originally thought in the earlier studies?

    Thanks again.
    Ed
    P.S. - When the post master kicks you off on long reply, I have copied that post content and was able to log in again and post the post using "copy" and "paste".
     
  4. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    "As I have attempted to point out in basins like the Skagit it (introgression) is not much of a concern but I can imagine it being huge problems in other basins (with those with wild steelhead brood stocks maybe the worst)."

    There are a number of talented fisheries biologists/scientists from a number of entities including Seattle City Light, NOAA, WDFW, NWIFC, Skagit River System Cooperative (Sauk-Suiattle & Swinomish as members) as well the Upper Skagit tribe involved in this most recent Skagit study.

    Why would they go to all this trouble with the final being this lengthy published document that has, is and will continue to steer steelhead management on the Skagit; and, not take into account these high introgression statistics as potentially "artificially" high?

    If the results of the study are erroneous, it would seem that one would have a less than optimal chance at having a desirable outcome down the road, i.e. - garbage in, garbage out.

    One would think that if the results of the Skagit study were not of great concern, there would not have been and continue to be so much attention and credence given by the feds and co-managers.

    Thanks again for your time, Curt.
    Best,
    Ed
     
  5. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

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    I wouldn't pretend to understand the science, but it seems to me that this potential lawsuit by WFC is about more than the risk of genetic introgression or lost productivity due to hatchery/wild breeding interactions. Obviously, Chambers Creek steelhead are not breeding with Chinook (or bull trout), both of which are mentioned in the press release. So it would appear that at least part of the WFC argument is that dumping thousands of Chambers Creek juvenile steelhead in these systems provides an unnatural level of competition for food, rearing habitat, etc.

    Leaving aside the introgression issue, what benefit is there from dumping Chambers Creek hatchery brats in these systems? Why don't they use broodstock from in-basin wild populations?
     
  6. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    "So... if there is in fact wild and hatchery fish breeding, and we're saying that their offspring have little chance of survival... Wouldn't that result in little of the hatchery genes being found in the wild returning fish? "

    We know that there is a poor survival rate of hatchery winter steelhead and an apparent decrease in survival rates with hatchery/native interaction in their resulting progeny.

    There are obviously "some" hatchery winter steelhead that do survive to return and that do stray; thus, the concern related to introgression.

    In 2000, over 600,000 winter steelhead smolt and pre-smolts were released. Winter steelhead hatchery production has occurred on the Skagit for decades; so, what this most recent Skagit study seems to find is that the cumulative effect of those years and years of hatchery plants have resulted in an unacceptable high rate of hatchery/native steelhead spawning interaction in some areas of the Skagit/Sauk and in some tributaries.

    The most recent Skagit study was the result of several years of sample collection throughout the watershed with over 3000 fish being sampled. This is clearly the largest Skagit/Sauk basin steelhead sampling to date.

    In regards to Curt's comments and thoughts, my understanding (not necessarily correct) is that there is some concern given the methodology of genetic sample analysis/testing that was utilized. This could mean that the published introgression result numbers could be artificially high or artificially low.

    This is from the final administrative report and what, I believe, Curt is talking about as far as potentially an "artificially" inflated rate of introgression, i.e. - false positives.

    Action 2 – Re-analyze DNA from this study using SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphism) to eliminate assignment error for F1 hybrid individuals
    as described by Warheit in Section 10 of the final technical report. This analysis would be used to quantify introgressive hybridization with a
    much higher level of confidence than is possible with analytic tools currently available.


    Ed
     
  7. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    "Leaving aside the introgression issue, what benefit is there from dumping Chambers Creek hatchery brats in these systems? Why don't they use broodstock from in-basin wild populations? "

    Hatchery steelhead provide angling and harvest opportunities.

    There is some evidence that broodstock programs carry risks of there own. Here's one: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/12/14/1111073109.full.pdf
     
  8. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Hookedonthefly,

    It looks like Curt has done a good job explaining some of what the genetics studies mean. I'll add that an important take-home message of the S-K Skagit steelhead genetics study is to be careful about the interpretation on introgression. As Curt pointed out, the shared genetic history of ALL Puget Sound steelhead cannot be over-looked. After all, 10,000 years ago all of the PS region was under a mile-thick glacier, so all of the individual river basin genetic differentiation separating stocks has occurred since then. It should make sense that there is greater genetic similarity between the different basin's steelhead populations than there are differences.

    As you mention, SNP was not used in the S-K study. Additional work is being done, trying to tease out the differences between populations amongst such great similarity. The preliminary indications that I have seen suggest that S-K captures far more similarity than difference, and that Skagit wild steelhead remain incredibly "pure" considering the half century of heavy stocking of Chambers Ck hatchery steelhead.

    The S-K study is not GI, GO. It's extremely important work. It's the interpretation of the results that need to be tempered by information regarding the shared genetic history of all PS steelhead.

    Evan,

    Yes. Due to low survival, hatchery genetic material has a low potential of being replicated down the generations. However, knowing what we now know, it's important to minimize the number of H x H matings and H x W matings, since those H x H offspring use food and space that could be used by W x W offspring, and H x W offspring reduce the productivity of that W spawner.

    O mykiss,

    The benefit of stocking large numbers of Chambers Ck hatchery fish is open to legitimate debate. The economic costs don't seem worth it. The environmental costs don't seem to be anywhere near as high as some allege. One benefit is that it provides some fishing that otherwise would not be available. The hatchery fish also contribute to a limited treaty Indian fishery for hatchery steelhead. Some tribes are alleging that even though the cost of fish is high, it is necessary to fulfill the "legal contract" under US v WA, where the greater society has decided to trade away natural steelhead productivity for development of the natural environment. And that is more of a legal and philosophical question than I am prepared to address.

    Sg
     
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  9. hookedonthefly

    hookedonthefly Active Member

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    You have pointed me in a couple of directions/areas where I need/want to know more. Thanks Curt and Sg.
    Ed
     
  10. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    ED -
    A great discussion on that Skagit study has lots of good information and as such should provide a sound foundation to ask better questions and design studies to more precisely answer some of these questions. I agree that section 10 (written by Ken Warheit - WDFW genetists) is a important read; I found 10.4 and 10.4.1of interest.

    Again from what I have looked at it just not make sense to be that there is a lot of hatchery interactions going (refer to earlier comments of the amount of potential interactions day and 30 years and the resulting genetic profiles). Folks seem to think that there a lot of hatchery fish interacting with the wild Skagit fish - lets take a closer look at that potential.

    In the past the best estimates have been out of a total hatchery run to the Skagit a 1/3 or less of the fish will be uncaught or return to the hatchery. Given the recent poor hatchery returns the number of hatchery fish that could potentially spawn in the wild can not be very large. For this exercise I assumed that there were 500 potential hatchery spawners though given the recent poor returns there may not have been that many. We also know that the hatchery females are essential done spawning by the end of Janaury. It also has been the case that over the decades the first redds constructed by wild Skagit steelhead is noted about the end of the first week in March; but for this exercise I'll assume that there can be some wild spawning two weeks earlier (the last week of February). Obvious hatchery females will not be able to spawn with the wild steelhead but it is commonly accepted that the males can potential remain viable spawners longer than the females. The recent study found that the wild males remained on the spawning grounds 28 days longer than the females. It seems reasonable that the males can be active spawners 4 weeks longer than the females (also seems to match on water observations) but for this example I assumed that they active spawners for 6 weeks longer than females.

    Of the potential 500 hatchery spawners we can assume that 1/2 are males (250). Since the males will mature across the entire spawning period and only a few late in the cycle. By the middle of March (6 weeks after the last hatchery female spawned) it is probable that there would be less than a dozen hatchery fish *but will assume that there would there are 25) still capable of spawning with a female. I will further assume that those hatchery males will distribute themselves uniformly over the entire potential wild fish spawning habitat (a male for every 12 miles of habitat). We'll further we will assume that those hatchery super males can find every female that will actively spawn and these super hatchery males will out compete every wild male (even though they are larger and at their prime spawning condition) to fertilize every egg.

    The opportunity for those hatchery males to spawn with wild females ends about the middle of March. On the typical year less than 1% of the wild redds will have been constructed. In other words the worst case is that 1% of the wild females will have spawned with hatchery males. If one takes all the assumptions that I made and replace them what is most likely that hatchery/wild interactions on the Skagit is significantly less than 1%.

    Curt
     
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  11. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Good illustration Curt.

    Sg
     
  12. Jim Kerr

    Jim Kerr Active Member

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    This is an awesome thread.
    Thanks Guys.
    Interesting note, Curt, based on data I have seen we can't assume 1/2 the population is male.
    Rather closer to 40% or less.
    I only mention this because it illustrates how little we actually know for sure.
    Here in Forks I believe it might help if we didn't net 6000 natives a year to sell. But, I am no scientist.
    Jim
     
  13. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Jim -
    I suspect it has long been the case that year to year there can be variation in the sex ratio of returning steelhead. During the late 1970s and early 1980s the state looked closely at the sex ratio of returning steelhead at various weirs and found while there was differences from year to year the overall average was about 1:1. It is probably important to note that in moderating the status of various populations and the success of year to year management escapements are used. In the case of steelhead those escapement estimates typically are based on redd counts which are driven by the number of females spawning.

    With the low marine survival we have been experiencing it would not be a shock to see a declining portion of the steelhead run being females (more resident/non-migrating male spawners). That has been noted in various Atlantic salmon populations.

    However the my example of potential hatchery/wild genetic/spawning actions on the Skagit if indeed the ratio of males in the population is less than 1:1 it would mean that I was over-estimating the potential interactions. Like most of the assumptions I made the result was the worst case scenario. If the male ratio was less than 50% there would be even fewer males to potentially spawn with those wild females.

    Curt
     
  14. golfman44

    golfman44 4-Time Puget Sound Steelhead Guide of the Year

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    Will a male steelhead spawn with multiple females if given the opportunity?
     
  15. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    golfman -
    The short answer is yes a male steelhead could potentially spawn with multiple females.

    Typically a ripe female steelhead with be attended at least one male though often there will be multiple males attempting to spawn her (the norm my be 1 to 3 though have seen 5 or 6 with a single female). The spawning female will deposit her eggs in the redd over a period that may last several days typically putting her eggs in a dozen or different "pockets". She will "lay" a few hundred eggs in the pit of the redd an immediately move upstream fanning the gravels to cover those eggs. She will repeat that process until she is spend (at times she may move her location a construct a second redd in which to place some of her eggs.

    When the female is attended by more than one male there will be in-fighting between them for dominance. Typically the dominate male will be the largest/most robust fish. However it is not all that uncommon for a secondary male to sneak in and fertilize some of the eggs or that the dominance may change during the female's spawning process. As a result it is not uncommon for more than one male (either steelhead or resident rainbow) to fertilize the eggs of a single female. As noted earlier a male can potentially spawn over a several week period during which time depending on the density of females and the competing males a single male may have multiple opportunities to spawn in various females.

    Observing active spawning steelhead can be an interesting experience. An aside is that several studies have found out of a given spawning population some of the females and males produce more smolts that one would expect.

    Curt
     
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