yes or no to hatchery steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Smalma, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    As many of you know last Saturday the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission took testimony on WDFW's Statewide Steelhead Management Plan (SSMP). It was gratifying to see so many passionate folks taking the time from other important activities to provide input in what will likely serve as the "road map" for steelhead mangement in this State for decades to come.

    While I did not "keep score" it seemed to me that the majority of the folks that provided tesimtony were concern about the impacts hatchery fish were having on the wild populations and called for changes in hatchrey programs with the most common comment being calling for the elimination of the planting of hatchery steelhead.

    Certainly hatchery steelhead have become an significnat factor in both steelhead fisheries and management in this State. Our rivers without hatchery steelhead would be a different world.

    After thinking about the various testimony for a couple days I'm wondering what others here may think about this issue and what you see as the role of hatchery fish in our fisheries (if any) and what changes you would like to see/recommend.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  2. gt

    gt Active Member

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    i am sure there are river systems which still support wild steelhead, scattered across this state. there are also river systems which have minimal returns of wild fishes for whatever reasons. seems a simple management tool to set aside those systems most likely to support a totally naturally reproducing strain of wild fish while at the same time stocking the shit out of those river systems which don't seem to hold their own.

    provides an attempt at protecting wild steelhead while at the same time providing an opportunity for killing a bag limit.

    of course, if a river system is set aside for wild steelhead doing their thing naturally, it seems to reason a total no kill ban by all concerned parties, also needs to be put in place, and enforced.
     
  3. Scottpuck

    Scottpuck Member

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    Agreed. I would love to see certain rivers set aside and deemed Wild and Scenic (ie, no bait, barbless only, C&R, and the hatchery removed). I wont comment on which ones, because I do not have the data.

    With that said...

    I think any money saved by closing one hatchery down, should be put back into our meat fisheries. So 100,000 smolts removed from system A should be 100,000 smolts put into system B.
     
  4. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

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    It some cases, it may not be as black and white...

    Case in point, the Cowlitz river. The first dam, the Mossy Rock dam was put on the river and started generating power in 1968. The dam is the tallest in the Pacific Northwest at 605 feet. It has never had a fish ladder. It is my understanding that Tacoma P&L agreed in their initial FHMP back in the 60's to install a fish ladder. Because of the expense of such a ladder, Tacoma P&L failed with this part of the agreement. I'm still puzzled as to why the WDFW and/or other monitoring entities didn't enforce this. Even with the latest FHMP, there is still no requirement for their to be a fish ladder. Can you believe that?

    The second dam on the river is the Mayfield dam, which is 185 feet tall. This dam began producing power in 1963. Below that, is the Barrier dam, essentially a mechanism to trap fish, and then to transport them above both the Mayfield and Mossy Rock dams via truck, just as mother nature has done for the past millenia...:beathead:

    The third dam, which sits upriver of all three, is the Cowlitz falls dam, which sits at 140 feet high and is 700 feet wide.

    So, for the last 40 years, the fish that once existed here have been unable to migrate upriver without being trucked, and there has been minimal success of catching outgoing smolts, which leads me and others to believe that the wild, native fish that once inhabited this system are extinct.

    As a side note, I've been reading the latest FHMP, and it's interesting that it notes the population of wild fish as "unknown", yet they have accurate records of all "hatchery" fish that are trucked up river. Seems to me that if they're able to count hatchery fish, they would "know" how many wild fish there are...and clearly, there aren't any.

    In the reservoirs that have now been created from the dams, there are non-native species, such as bluegill, crappie, musky, large and small mouth bass.

    So in the case of the Cowlitz, without a natural path for migration, it seems improbable that wild anadromous fish have much of a chance for survival. IHMO, if there are to be fish in the Cowlitz, a hatchery is required. Tacoma P&L has systematically ruined this river over the past 4 decades and now want to "establish wild fish"...only there aren't any wild fish to establish.

    IMHO, it is irresponsible for Tacoma P&L to back out of their initial mitigation requirements some 40 + years after the dams decimated the wild fish. Tacmoma P&L came in, set up the dams, exterminated the fish and now want to get out of the hatchery mitigation requirements of years past. If they were serious about restoring wild fish back, there would be conversations about removing the dams and/or at a minimum, providing passage up and down river, and the goal of the latest FHMP clearly states that their objective is not to restore wild fish to historic levels. So, as much as I'd like to see wild fish on the Cowlitz, it seems that the given the past history as well as the goals of the latest FHMP really don't show any goals to meet this objective so my vote, in this specific case, would be to require the mitigation requirements of producing hatchery fish.
     
  5. Capt. Awesome

    Capt. Awesome Member

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    Great points on the Cowlitz. It seems logical that the situation described with the Cowlitz can be transferred to other rivers. Take the North Fork Lewis for example. Almost the same exact situation with the lower NFL as the Cow: 3 dams isolating the upper river, little to no spawning habitat below the lowest dam.

    Cedar Creek, the only worthwhile tributary for spawning purposes on the lower North Fork contains 80% of all viable spawning habitat in the lower river. Hatcheries seem a no-brainer there, short of tearing down the dams. Trucking salmon and winter steelhead upriver will do nothing more than waste gas and put up the appearance a solution is being sought after.

    But not every river is like the Cowlitz or NFL right?

    Speaking just for Southwest rivers...

    What about the Kalama? Great habitat. Isn't a sizeable component of the summer steelhead run wild? Same with winter right? What happens when you quit stocking it with all the pressure it gets?

    East Fork Lewis? There's not even a hatchery on the river but is still stocked with Skamanias and who knows what else (Elochoman stock?). With the poor returns (compared to the 80's) of all fish what happens when you stop stocking it?

    Washougal? You could stop stocking it, but it still doesn't address the other problems the river has- most likely water quality, and habitat of the upper river (the upper river is still logged).

    And that still doesn't address other rivers like the Wind River which is gill netted like any other Puget Sound River and, therefore, would probably fall under Boldt.

    Besides asking questions that are hard to answer, I guess my point is is that a reasonable person could conclude that hatchery practices are like a drug WFDW, and by extension the fishing populace, are addicted to.

    While the status quo shouldn't be taken as the de facto solution, without a set of concordant changes such as changes in regs, closing of some rivers outright, or addressing issues of habitat.

    Can anyone envision WFDW reaching the decision to close the rivers that would HAVE to be closed in order to bring back the wild stocks?Wouldn't they have to step up enforcement to make it stick? Isn't enforcement an issue NOW?

    Good god, thinking about all the things that would need to change- it seems the only impetus for it will come from the courts or from somewhere else.
     
  6. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

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    Logically, I would think that those systems that cannot realistically support a wild run are already covered by ESA listings. Assuming that to be true, the ESA may stand in the way of the idea of "stocking the shit" out of those systems with hatchery fish. Unless the wild fish on those systems are already extinct, it would seem to me that those are the populations that are in greatest need of protection and most vulnerable to the negative impacts of hatcheries. How would you get the feds (NOAA) to sign off on loading a bunch of hatchery fish into a system with threatened or endangered wild populations? (Oh, that's right, they do it all the time but let's ignore that for the time being.) If the science says that loading up the system with hatchery fish is going to jeopardize the remaining wild fish, NOAA has no legal authority to just write off the wild fish. The only legal way you could implement the "stockng the shit out of it" plan would be to get the God Squad to step in and say the wild population is not going to get protection under the ESA. Frankly, just on principle I'd rather not concede any system is incapable of supporting a naturally reproducing run. You're basically letting the people who caused the problem off the hook instead of making them change their behavior and pay to recreate conditions that would allow naturally reproducing populations to flourish. That may be too idealistic though.

    I think the question for systems that have threatened or endangered runs should be is there any way to operate a hatchery that doesn't further jeopardize the wild population? To honestly answer that question, you need to look at it totally from a conservation standpoint. In other words, since the only reason hatcheries exist is to create fishing opportunities, you need to abandon the goal of providing fishing opportunities to come up with an honest answer. If we weren't trying to provide anglers opportunity to fish, and the goal was strictly to recover wild populations, is there any role for a hatchery in that system that furthers the goal of recovering naturally reproducing populations to a point that they could withstand some fishing effort? I suppose as with many things related to steelhead management, you'd have a hard time finding a consensus answer. But if the answer to that question is no, then there should be no hatchery on that system.
     
  7. gt

    gt Active Member

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    i have to agree with most of what you posted o'my. but, the fact of the matter is the vast majority of anglers want to kill their bag limit. therefore, retaining some systems as put-n'-take would have to be a part of the equation. getting realistic about systems with next to no wild steelhead return seems pretty reasonable to me. functionally extinct, is extinct! so lets face the fact that for whatever reason dejur you choose, WA steelhead are already extinct on many of the river systems around this state.
     
  8. Big Tuna

    Big Tuna Member

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    I have mixed feelings about this, not just from a personal satisfaction point of view. As much as people scream about the #'s of people steelheading, we need them to advocate for the fish. Not sure what all goes into rebuilding a wild run, but one of the steps is closing rivers for extended periods of time, like the Wenatchee. When that happens you lose fishermen if the closure is long enough, and in turn lose advocates. On the other hand, it's apparent that hatcheries are detrimental to re-establishing wild runs, so long term health is lost for short term fun. So...I guess I'm for severely curtailing hatcheries. It would be nice if hatchery runs could be established on rivers that haven't had wild runs, but that's probably ignorance speaking. Tough question and a complicated answer.
     
  9. FT

    FT Active Member

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    Steve pointed out very well why I think hatchery fish are needed and useful on many of our rivers. I've been hearing for many years how all the hatcheries ought to be shut down; however, do you really want to have no fishing opportunity because there aren't enough wild steelhead to support a viable fishery?

    For example, I remember very well a few years back when the hatchery summer runs weren't planted in the NF Stilly, which many of you fish for. The hue and cry was rather large about how unfair it was, including by some of the folks I've heard saying hatcheries should be shut down. These hatchery summer runs provide a lot of recreational opportunity to many and since they are seperated physically from the Deer Creek fish, they don't compete with the wild summer runs. The hatchery winter fish on the NF Stilly also provide a bunch of recreational opportunity too.

    Even the Wenatchee, which someone mentioned, depends on hatchery fish to keep a viable steelhead population in it because of the Columbia dams and lower Columbia commercial by-catch.

    The bottom line to me is simple: close the hatcheries and there is nearly no steelhead fishing in the state. In other words, there are rivers which could become wild fish sanctuary rivers (like the Sauk and its tribs, the Cascade above the hatchery, and the Skagit above the Cascade. I would also like to see the Queets above the Salmon, the Upper Quinalt, the Sol Duc above Snider Creek, the Bogachiel above the hatchery, the Calawah above hwy 101, the SF Nooksack above the salmon hatchery (which has been closed to all fishing for at least 10 years), and the Hoko above the salmon hatchery get wild fish sancturary status. These would not be planted with hatchery fish and have year round C&R, single barbless hook, artificial lure regulations.

    All other rivers would have hatchery fish and provide sportsfishing opportunity.

    In other words, I don't see the hatchery vs. no hatchery as a simple cut-and-dried answer. Some rivers or sections of rivers ought to be wild fish sanctuary rivers with no hatchery plants, and others ought to be planted.
     
  10. shawn k

    shawn k Member

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    I think that hatcheries have their place. I would llike to see them stop planting chambers creek fish in the rivers on the o.p and return to a broodstock program.
     
  11. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    For me, it isn't about catching, it is about fishing.

    I will be happy to see the hatcheries go, as long as it means I still get to sport fish.

    I could fish for months without a bite and still be happy.

    If I don't get to go fishing, I become a menace to society.

    I have been fly fishing around here since I was 7, how the hell am I supposed to fill that void?

    I suppose I will have to learn to enjoy stillwater fisheries, too bad they just have no magic for me.

    And yes you could call my response "selfish". I am just being honest!
     
  12. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    This is absolutely un-true.

    I have been told that anglers used to catch wild summer runs above Deer Creek as late as the 80s.

    Deer Creek fish are a unique treasure to be sure but to infer that they are the only wild summer runs on the Stilly would be wrong.
     
  13. Be Jofus G

    Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

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    If they're going to continue to gill net and catch/kill the bio mass that would be generated by the larger salmon runs, why even bother getting rid of the hatcheries? If they pulled the hatcheries today, you're still looking at 2-3 years of competition between hatchery and wild parr. Every one still seems to think it's perfectly fine to net or catch/kill all of the potential biomass that these wild fry and parr will need to bounce back under the mask of "Healthy Salmon Runs". Keep in mind, as soon as the hatcheries go away, a river with a run of 1000 wild fish immediatly turns into 500 wild fish under Boldt.
     
  14. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

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    I realized that I hadn't read Curt's original question closely enough. After re-reading it, I see he is asking what we think the role of hatchery fish should be in our fisheries. So I guess we're back to talking about providing opportunities for fishing effort. No doubt, as FT and Steve have pointed out, that hatcheries help provide that opportunity. The problem is that we as a society have determined that there are goals that compete with goal of fishin opportunity. The ESA reflects a value judgment that naturally reproducing populations of wild animals (and the ecosystems on which they depend) are inherently valuable, and that if a population is threatened with extirpation then we're going to take steps to recover that population to a point where protection is no longer necessary. Of course, the ESA normally isn't carried out that way. In most cases, at best it has been a tool to stave off extinction, but it hasn't been a very effective tool for recovery. Nevertheless, what we're facing here in Washington, with the exception of the OP streams (and even there the day of reckoning may be coming), are populations that are listed under the ESA. As a result of ESA listings, we've seen and will continue to see opportunity curtailed (e.g., closure of the Wenatchee for 10 years). In other words, if the ESA worked as intended, only when wild populations rebound to a level where they are not threatened with extinction could we expect to see a rebound in fishing opportunity. So I still submit that the question ought to be can hatchery fish help recover these threatened or endangered runs. If not (which is what I suspect, but don't know for certain), then the answer should be pull the hatcheries out. And if hatcheries aren't a part of the recovery solution, and we are still in favor of, for example, planting the Stilliguamish so that we can fish for summer runs, at least we should man up and say that we consider our own amusement more important than recovering wild fish. I honestly think that most of us are incapable of formulating the correct answer to the question for fear that it will result in curtailment of fishing opportunities.
     
  15. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    O mykiss, good post! Remember though that ESA listings are at the ESU level and consequently individual watersheds in an ESU could potentially be sacrificed for intensive hatchery production, particularly if an emphasis on wild fish recovery was taken in many other watersheds.

    FT, your assertion that summer run hatchery fish on the Stilly dont have detrimental impacts is completely untrue. Those fish are spring spawners which means they're in the river throughout much of the period when winter steelhead are spawning. Its not like the fish distinguish between the two. Also, if they are successful at reproducing, even if the offspring are parented by two hatchery fish, think about the competitive interactions between their offspring and those of wild winter steelhead in the area. Throw in the fact that the stilly from fortson all the way down to hazel is loaded with residualized hatchery smolts most summers, between competition and predation on 0+ wild fish they're probably having some pretty big impacts on the productivity of that portion of the river. Also in my opinion the places you've listed as wild fish sanctuaries would be completely inadequate. Fish from the hatcheries would still be able to stray into the upper rivers you have listen for "sanctuary status". It woulod essentially be a token action and would do little to protect and restore watershed level lifehistory diversity and abundance.

    shawn k, just because broodstock fish fight better and are larger doesnt mean they have fewer impacts on wild runs. Wild broodstock programs or "integrated" programs encourage reproductive interactions between wild and hatchery fish. A recent paper by Arakyi et al. on the hood river showed a dramatic decrease in the fitness (reproductive success) of broodstock fish within the first generation of domestication. There are other papers that point to the same thing, even if they're not broodstock specific. In my opinion broodstock programs are actually worse. 1.) they encourage spawning between wild and hatchery fish 2.) you can't time specific selective fisheries which only target brats (although its not like the nets ever really come out in your neck of the woods).


    As I told the commission, I recognize the value of hatchery fish in certain scenarios. Obviously there is a large contingent of folks who want to harvest steelhead and they should have a place where they can do that.

    In my perfect world we would only use hatcheries in watersheds with irreparably damaged habitat. Maybe ramp up the hatchery production on a few rivers and try to spend more money in fewer places. Rivers with dams are good cantidates as are rivers that are highly impacted by urban development. I know the definition is rather vague, but basically I just think we need fewer hatcheries, and better hatchery practices in the places we are going to have them. Also end outplanting, install weirs wherever feasible, and stop recycling to lower straying rates.