A weir across Johnson Creek allows tribal biologists to collect wild fish for broodstock. (Photo: CRITFC)
Pacific Northwest tribes want to use hatcheries to replenish salmon stocks
Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 01:00 (GMT + 9)
While fish hatcheries below the dams in the Pacific Northwest of the US have for decades boosted salmon stocks for downstream and ocean fishers, wild runs upstream have weakened. Now tribes upstream claim that hatcheries can help replenish wild stocks when wild fish breed with their hatchery counterparts.
The tribes' report contests experts' worries that the wild fish stocks would diminish in the presence of hatcheries.
The Future of Our Salmon 2012 Conference in Portland, Oregon, hosted by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) on 18-19 October, held prominent discussions on the topic.
As long as dams exist, hatcheries will remain necessary and effective restoration tools, said Kat Brigham, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and CRITFC chairwoman. She noted that most hatcheries were built downstream, not where tribes live or by the streams where fish return to reproduce, Indian Country Today Media Network reports.
“Hatcheries were presented to tribal leaders—when the dams were built—to mitigate for their impact. We don’t want to fish in front of a hatchery. We want the fish back in the tributaries,” Brigham stated.
Power generation via a series of 31 dams in the Pacific Northwest “has come at a cost, particularly to Native Americans (who) did not share until recently in the economic benefit, and created tremendous harm to fisheries,” said Steve Wright, administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which manages the dams.
Opponents of hatchery propagation schemes explain that the mingling of hatchery fish with wild fish weaken the genetic strength of wild stocks.
Studies contradict each other: a study published this month in Molecular Ecology demonstrated that hatchery supplementation programmes can increase endangered fish populations without decreasing productivity and without significant genetic impact.
“Whether or not we like the hatcheries, they will be here as part of the mitigation promise,” declared CRITFC Executive Director Paul Lumley, Yakama Indian Nation. “Pure and simple, hatcheries are needed for recovery and to fulfill the federal government’s treaty promise. Tribes are using hatcheries to bring the salmon back.”
Two successful projects on the Snake River Basin were showcased at the conference by the Nez Perce Tribe. They demonstrated how mixing wild and hatchery fish replenished salmon stocks, letting tribes fish in their usual and accustomed places, thereby upholding both tradition and treaty rights.
On the reservation lands of the Nez Perce Tribe, fewer than 1,000 Snake River fall chinook salmon had returned to their home river by the mid-90s, said Nez Perce member Joel Moffett, CRITFC vice chairman. A new hatchery management programme brought the numbers to more than 40,000 fish by 2011.
This was “a success story for the tribe,” Moffett said. “In the big picture, the hatcheries that are used appropriately and are well designed, accomplish two goals: they provide harvest and bring back wild fish.”
- Hatchery salmon threaten wild salmon survival: studies
By Natalia Real