Destruction of Salmon Eggs
by Linda Ashton
YAKIMA - The Columbia Inter-tribal Fish Commission is outraged by plans to destroy the eggs of more than a million hatchery-raised salmon in north-central Washington and is seeking a congressional investigation of federal fish policy.
"It's a horrible thing. It's a waste of already scarce salmon resources and, as such, it's a wasted opportunity for rebuilding runs in that area," said Charles Hudson, a spokesman for the Portland-based commission.
The commission, which is composed of the Yakama, Nez Perce, Umatilla and the Warm Springs tribes, has been joined by the Colville Confederated Tribes in objecting to the planned destruction of 1.2 million to 1.5 million salmon eggs at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The eggs represent more than half of those collected from the 1,200 spring chinook that returned to the Methow River Basin this year. The National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking to phase out that stock in the basin over the next three years so those fish don't mix with a stock still containing native salmon genes.
On Monday, Greg Pratschner, the hatchery-complex manager, said the Winthrop hatchery would begin destruction of the eggs this week as required by the National Marine Fisheries Service and that the agency had rejected all the alternatives he suggested.
NMFS has never ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to destroy eggs, but it has issued some constraints that likely drove that decision, said Bill Robinson, a fisheries service regional hatchery director in Seattle.
The fish are not allowed to spawn naturally in the Methow Basin, and they can't be placed in waterways where a large number of hatchery salmon would be detrimental to federally protected wild runs, Robinson said.
But a decision has not been made, he said.
Some of the Winthrop fish will be spawned and their eggs hatched and moved to ponds for rearing and later release. Any fish released must be marked, so hatchery fish can be distinguished from wild fish. Robinson acknowledged that hatcheries might not have sufficient resources to mark all the fish as required.
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