A Tool Restoring Pacific Northwest Salmonby Paul Lumley
San Francisco Chronicle, August 17, 2009
There are few certainties in life, a fact that has been painfully evident for Pacific Northwest salmon. The management and recovery of salmon in the Columbia and Snake river basins is a complex policy area, where federal policies, treaty rights, interests and constantly changing demands, collide.
I was surprised to find The Chronicle reporting last month that hatchery programs "could actually be harming the natural balance and contributing to the demise of the once plentiful salmon runs in California, Oregon and Washington."
I have assisted my tribe, the Yakama Nation - along with the Warm Springs, Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes - in restoring wild salmon runs to the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries for nearly two decades. I assure you, hatcheries are not the panacea once claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the states; nor are they an evil influence that will be the demise of the salmon. Hatcheries are a tool necessary for restoring salmon.
Yes, hatcheries can be mismanaged. Historically, nearly all the hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest were designed and operated to provide salmon for non-Indian fisheries. They were operated without regard to hatchery effects on wild populations and little concern for the significant role salmon play in the ecosystem or the biological needs of the salmon themselves.
That is why the tribes called for hatchery reform and developed appropriate hatchery broodstock for the purpose of enhancing naturally spawning populations. The result: healthy populations of naturally spawning salmon and fisheries for both Indians and non-Indians.
The tribes have spent 30 years fine-tuning their hatchery operations as a way to increase the spawning success for runs that are only a shadow of their former numbers. They have used their innovative approach to increase naturally spawning salmon in four separate rivers in Oregon, Idaho and Washington. In some of these rivers, in fact, the number of returning salmon can now support both tribal and non-tribal fisheries.
The tribes' successes are a true testament to the tribal reintroduction efforts. The Columbia and Snake rivers are just one example of the constantly shifting battle between growing human population pressures and fish.
The tribes are constantly working to balance the always shifting landscape of salmon recovery - the demands of human population growth and changing natural environment. The reintroduction of hatchery fish to rebuild fisheries populations in conjunction with habitat improvements, improvements to hydro operations, and carefully managed harvest activities is one way the tribes are doing that.
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