the film


Ecology and salmon related articles

Fish Fitness Will Get Another Look

by Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, January 19, 2012

Lumley said he didn't see that kind of scrutiny focused on Idaho's effort to bring sockeye back to Redfish Lake.

Lower Columbia tribes told members of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council last week that their supplementation efforts are being singled out for more scrutiny than other Basin programs, and that it's largely due to what a panel of independent scientists thinks about them.

The Independent Scientific Review Panel [ISRP], whose role is to judge the scientific merit of actions in the basin's BPA-funded F&W program, was on hand to describe its annual retrospective report--including supplementation efforts--where hatchery-raised fish are allowed to spawn with wild fish in hopes of boosting wild runs.

The panel said supplementation efforts should be looked at on a case-by-case method, but generally there is little evidence to date that shows a benefit to overall stocks from supplementation, and there are large risks to wild stocks from present uncertainties.

ISRP member Eric Loudenslager told the Council that it will take three generations of returning fish before enough data can be gathered to come to any conclusions about its ultimate value.

Loudenslager mentioned a recent paper that looked at the steelhead program in Oregon's Hood River, and found that the first generation of hatchery fish that spawned in the wild showed no decrease in productivity, but the second generation showed a marked decrease in spawning productivity (see following story). The first generation of Wenatchee River spring chinook that were raised in a hatchery from local wild broodstock only had 50 percent of the spawning performance of wild fish, he said.

But those numbers didn't faze tribal critics. "It almost feels like we're constantly under attack for defending our programs, trying to get them funded," said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "I, frankly, am getting really tired of the intense scrutiny of the tribal programs, when I don't see that kind of scrutiny in other programs."

Lumley said he didn't see that kind of scrutiny focused on Idaho's effort to bring sockeye back to Redfish Lake, or the mass marking and mark-selective fisheries programs. He pointed to the region's steelhead programs as a case in point. "It's been going on for several decades and I've never really seen that kind of scrutiny on that program," he said. "And you see what happened there--the fish are now listed. There's no trajectory of delisting steelhead any time in the near future."

He said the basic question is: "What is the proper role of marked fish propagation in rebuilding and recovery?"

A new process to look at artificial production is slowly ramping up. It's called the Columbia River Hatchery Effects Evaluation Team (CRHEET), and its scope and work plan are expected to be ready by 2013.

Lumley said his member tribes will "probably" join the conversation, but only if it's different from previous evaluations, where individual projects were thoroughly examined. Other tribal spokesmen said there is more of a need to look at the basin-wide picture.

Rob Jones, NMFS' branch chief for fisheries, said his agency's task is to find the "sweet spot" where hatcheries can help accomplish its mission. He said the region knows a "whole lot more" than it did 15 years ago, and hatcheries are operated better now, but improvements can still be made to run them with less detriment to wild runs.

He said CRHEET will respond to technical questions that NOAA and others have about hatchery monitoring and evaluation; will help make information more accessible; and will provide advice and guidance at the technical level on how to do a better job of monitoring and evaluating hatchery effects.

About 145 million smolts are released from hatcheries above Bonneville Dam every year, but only 26 million are raised to help increase abundance of local stocks, and most of those programs are run by tribes. About two-thirds of those 26 million fish are tied to ESA-related programs. BPA funds about 19 percent of the total hatchery production above the dam.

Bill Rudolph
Fish Fitness Will Get Another Look
NW Fishletter, January 19, 2012

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation