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Sockeye Salmon Program to Expand

by Robbie Johnson
KTVB, June 14, 2006

(KTVB) Plans are in to expand the sockeye salmon program in Idaho. Boise-- More than two and a half million dollars has been approved to renovate hatchery facilities to increase production of Snake River sockeye salmon, and hopefully get more fish to spawn in Redfish Lake.

This despite a report that says the program isn't working.

The Eagle Hatchery is operated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and houses the Snake River Sockeye Salmon Captive Broodstock Program. This program was initiated to prevent the extinction of the salmon. And after a meeting in Boise, it was decided that the program will be expanded.

"The whole proposal to increase the size of the program was made to address biological needs for the species...its a closed population which means we don't truly believe we have any wild members of the population left," said Idaho Fish and Game officer Paul Kline.

Today the Northwest Power and Conservation Council approved 2.7 million dollars to renovate hatchery facilities in Eagle and Oregon to increase production of Snake River sockeye salmon. Fish and game says as a result, 150,000 more fish will be released at Redfish Lake Creek and in the Upper Salmon River to make the trip to sea.

"That closed population would benefit from ocean run salmon back into the breeding plan," Kline said.

However, the funding approval comes after the council's own scientific review panel released a report that recommended terminating funding by 2007 for the program--saying there is no scientific basis for continuing this program and a compelling need for the facility is not demonstrated.

"We understood that when we did that it would be uncomfortable and there would be questions why we would do that," says Eric Loudenslager of the Independent Scientific Review Panel.

The recommendations were made because the panel believes the returns of adult fish to spawn at Redfish Lake are too low.

"With the return rates they are getting from that program they can't achieve the goals of rebuilding that population using that strategy," said Loudenslager.

Even so, the council decided to move forward on the improvements at the Eagle facility. Making hatchery operators more hopeful about the future of the sockeye.

"In our opinion the population is still productive and capable of responding and recovering," said Kline.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, which made the decision to expand the hatchery program, represents four northwest states, including Idaho.

Robbie Johnson
Sockeye Salmon Program to Expand
KTVB, June 14, 2006

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