Worth watching

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
Phil,

The problem with hatchery fish depends on what you're seeking a solution for. When we were trying to increase salmon and steelhead abundance and didn't care to distinguish between hatchery and wild fish, and hatchery smolt to adult survival rates were 5 to 10 times higher than they are today, hatchery salmon and steelhead were a terrific solution. Nowadays that we value wild fish and are trying to increase the abundance of wild salmon and steelhead, a.) because it's a good idea ecologically, and b.) because the ESA is forcing us to; hatchery fish become a problem when, as mixed stocks, they encourage over-harvest through fishing, and when they spawn in the natural environment with wild fish and dilute the effectiveness of natural spawning.

This latter problem occurs mostly with hatchery Chinook (large body size fish that don't want to enter tiny hatchery outlet creeks) straying and spawning with wild salmon. Coho, being small creek spawners primarily, don't intermingle as much with hatchery strays except when hatchery coho are stocked in those dispersed creeks, which hatcheries have done a great deal of over the past 60 years or more. Hatchery steelhead are a problem when they spawn in the same places at the same time as wild steelhead. The interesting thing is that the vast preponderance of hatchery winter steelhead do not spawn at the same time or in the same place as wild steelhead. And that is why, despite 70 years of massive hatchery steelhead stocking, many, if not most, wild winter steelhead populations exhibit very low genetic introgression from hatchery fish. Different story with hatchery summer steelhead. They spawn closer to the same times as wild steelhead, and more of them seem to stray and intermingle with their wild counterparts. However, it's a case-specific issue and not a universal one. This is why I get bothered when someone uses the broad brush method and paints the issue as though the conclusion is the same in every case when it clearly is not.

Sg
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
Oh, and one more important thing, the film implies when it does not outright state that wild populations will rebound when hatchery stocking stops. That would be true if the presence of hatchery fish were the limiting factor causing reduced wild fish abundance. Guess what? Cessation of stocking of hatchery steelhead has now occurred in a number of river systems: Nisqually, Cedar, White, Wind, Skagit, Hood Canal streams, and others. Guess which ones have experienced rebounded abundance of wild steelhead? Exactly zero. That, my friends, says volumes about hatchery steelhead being the limiting factor affecting wild steelhead abundance.
 
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Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
Another problem with how we look at these issues is that these fish evolved over millions of years. And we're only looking at one generation at a time. So when we try a new management strategy, and we don't see the desired results within a few years, we're discouraged. It's too small a window of time.
 

jamma

Active Member
Its hard to make a punchy catchy film that tries to explain the complex and highly nuanced problem of declining salmon/steelhead populations along our coast. We have been studying these animals in earnest for 100 years and still hardly understand them, let alone what precisely may be contributing to their decline.
It makes a much better film to pick a single culprit, portray it as the smoking gun, the root of all our problems, and, boy, if we could just get rid of them, we'd suddenly restore historic levels of salmon and steelhead overnight. :rolleyes:
I'm with you, there are so many confounding variables to salmon and steelhead decline, that even the best designed studies have a hard time saying with any complete certainty what is going on, but likely is a combination of a multitude of problems ranging from commercial fishing, oceanic pollution/acidification, habitat destruction, sport fishers catching the same hoh river steelhead three times during it's spawning run and contributing to reduced survival, increased pinniped populations, overharvest of baitfish. Throw in some decadal oscillation and you've got a mess.
...and you can throw the ascent of invasive predator fish like walleye, smallmouth bass, pike minnow and, there's no stopping it now, the pike will get here. It's no mystery that these populations have boomed to the detriment of anadromous populations. It just doesn't make sense to blame any one thing, these animals have a cornucopia of things being thrown at them.
The question that comes to my mind is, how bad would the situation be if there were no hatcheries?
I have a hard time committing to the dichotomy between wild and hatchery fish. After all, aren't hatchery fish the descendants of wild fish that made it upriver to the hatchery? I welcome any considered response to this.
 

kamishak steve

Active Member
...and you can throw the ascent of invasive predator fish like walleye, smallmouth bass, pike minnow and, there's no stopping it now, the pike will get here. It's no mystery that these populations have boomed to the detriment of anadromous populations. It just doesn't make sense to blame any one thing, these animals have a cornucopia of things being thrown at them.
The question that comes to my mind is, how bad would the situation be if there were no hatcheries?
I have a hard time committing to the dichotomy between wild and hatchery fish. After all, aren't hatchery fish the descendants of wild fish that made it upriver to the hatchery? I welcome any considered response to this.
That's an interesting point, but I wanted to clarify some details. Some hatchery fish, like those used in the Living Gene Bank program (and many others) are first generation descendants of wild fish that are taken and eggs used for hatchery rearing. These continue to have the characteristics of native fish of the given system and retain the endemic appearance. In other cases, non-indigenous steelhead (like Skamania-strain summer runs, for example) are stocked by hatcheries, and the eggs of these non-indigenous hatchery fish are used to produce hatchery fish for multiple generations. Over time, these fish tend to become more domesticated, meaning we select for fish that don't bite ( because they are eliminated from the gene pool by retention), we select for fish that are good at returning to hatcheries, but not good at natural survival necessarily. When these non-native, essentially domesticated fish, don't return to the hatcheries and interbreed with wild fish, it dilutes their gene pool and generally makes them less fit for survival. Additionally, it stands to reason that wild fish may be at a disadvantage when tens of thousands of hatchery fry are released into a stream with wild fish and they are all forced to compete for resources in sterile streams. Especially since our salmon runs are so depressed, which typically provide the bulk of the food source for trout species in our fivers, that further complicates the competition for food for those wild fish trying to survive with tons of recently released hatchery fish.
 

jamma

Active Member
That's an interesting point, but I wanted to clarify some details. Some hatchery fish, like those used in the Living Gene Bank program (and many others) are first generation descendants of wild fish that are taken and eggs used for hatchery rearing. These continue to have the characteristics of native fish of the given system and retain the endemic appearance. In other cases, non-indigenous steelhead (like Skamania-strain summer runs, for example) are stocked by hatcheries, and the eggs of these non-indigenous hatchery fish are used to produce hatchery fish for multiple generations. Over time, these fish tend to become more domesticated, meaning we select for fish that don't bite ( because they are eliminated from the gene pool by retention), we select for fish that are good at returning to hatcheries, but not good at natural survival necessarily. When these non-native, essentially domesticated fish, don't return to the hatcheries and interbreed with wild fish, it dilutes their gene pool and generally makes them less fit for survival. Additionally, it stands to reason that wild fish may be at a disadvantage when tens of thousands of hatchery fry are released into a stream with wild fish and they are all forced to compete for resources in sterile streams. Especially since our salmon runs are so depressed, which typically provide the bulk of the food source for trout species in our fivers, that further complicates the competition for food for those wild fish trying to survive with tons of recently released hatchery fish.
That's interesting, I had never looked at it that way. My feeling was that once hatchery fish were released into the wild, their genetics would take over and the only fish that would survive, regardless of whether they were wild or hatchery fish, would be the ones with the genetic tools to aid in their survival but I see now how their pampered beginnings, without that initial gauntlet of hatching and survival in the wild could diminish the gene pool. Thank you.
 

gt

Active Member
the actual science regarding hatchery vs non-hatchery fish survival and return is pretty clear and has been for decades. we don't see more non-hatchery returns for many reasons including bank to bank net sets by the tribes. when a terminal fishery targets every single fish returning, how can any natural run survive???

the lower Elwha S'Klallam would not sign off on dam removal on the river unless 'we the people' spent hundreds of millions building them a new hatchery. but a part of that agreement was that they would run a weir selecting out unclipped fish and releasing them while keeping clipped fish. at some point the tribe decided that was too much work and so we now have a polluted river of clipped and unclipped. maybe we should ask them for a refund!!
 
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jamma

Active Member
I believe Pike minnow are native.
I admit that, I just threw them in the mix to point out that their niche in the biosphere has expanded to the point where they are, to my knowledge, the only species that warrant financial support to enable eradication. Just trying to point out these are mostly warm water fish displacing cold water populations and we are all aware of the sensitivity of these animals to changes in temperature and water purity such as the grayling and some whitefish populations.
 

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