Feds Now Plan to Allow Hatchery Salmon to Liveby Associated Press
The Oregonian, June 26, 2000
The fish will not be clubbed but instead will be used to restore runs on the Okanogan River system
WINTHROP, Wash. -- Instead of clubbing surplus salmon to death, federal officials now say that hatchery salmon returning to the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery will be used to restore runs on the Okanogan River system.
The National Marine Fisheries Service previously had planned to destroy all the hatchery fish and their eggs to protect the gene pool of wild spring chinook salmon on the Methow River system in north-central Washington.
But the number of wild salmon returning this year isn't enough to supply the Okanogan River system, said Bill Robinson, National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Division hatcheries director.
"We won't be wasting these fish," he said of the returning hatchery salmon.
The fisheries service had planned to kill all the returning hatchery salmon next week.
Last week, Native American tribes, public utility districts and others held a news conference at Wells Dam to challenge service's decision to club fish at the Winthrop hatchery and discard their eggs.
The issue now is whether the fish will be set free to spawn naturally or whether their eggs will be raised in the hatchery and released.
The hatchery fish are descendants of salmon imported from the Carson National Fish Hatchery on a tributary of the lower Columbia River.
Robinson said the National Marine Fisheries Service will remain firm on keeping the Carson hatchery stock from further diluting genes of the endangered Methow salmon.
The agency and the Colville Tribes expected there would be excess endangered Methow salmon to plant in the Omak and Salmon creeks, he said.
But fewer wild adults than expected have returning to spawn. About 350 adult spring chinook, all hatchery fish, have returned to the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery and about 500 total are expected, said hatchery manager Chris Pasley.
Wild salmon are returning in about the same numbers as hatchery fish, Robinson said.
The Intertribal Fish Commission wants to truck the adults to the Okanogan River so they can spawn naturally, and eventually begin returning to the Okanogan on their own.
The commission also wants fish from the Entiat and Leavenworth hatcheries brought to the Okanogan instead of being killed.
Citizens groups who were planning to protest the clubbings said they're keeping a close eye on negotiations.
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