THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION
Hatcheries are an effective tool for rebuilding spring chinook abundance and productivity in the Yakima Basin without impacting wild fish. That’s according to the latest research published in the scientific journal, North American Journal of Aquaculture. The study, based on 33 years of planning and research, found that the Cle Elum Supplementation and Research Facility increased fish spawning in the Yakima Basin while unsupplemented populations continued to struggle.
The Cle Elum study results refute commonly held beliefs that hatcheries hinder naturally returning populations and that natural-origin populations will rebuild in highly altered river systems in the absence of hatchery programs.
The research found that salmon redds increased in the Upper Yakima River by 120% with supplementation, while the number of redds increased 47% in the unsupplemented Naches River. During the same time frame, natural-origin returns in the Upper Yakima River increased 14% with supplementation while natural-origin returns in the unsupplemented Naches River decreased by 12%. No pathogens or disease interactions between natural-origin and hatchery origin populations were detected and ecological interactions were largely neutral.
“Our results demonstrate that natural spring Chinook populations were maintained or increased in the supplemented Upper Yakima River, while the adjacent unsupplemented population in the Naches River continues a slow but steady decline”, said Dr. Dave Fast, Senior Research Scientist for the Yakama Nation Fisheries program and lead author of the publication. “Habitat restoration is occurring in both subbasins and these results indicate that we cannot rely on habitat restoration alone to achieve recovery. We need both continued supplementation and expansion of habitat restoration actions to keep pace with the ever-increasing threats these fish face for their survival.”
The Cle Elum Spring Chinook Supplementation and Research Facility was conceived in the 1980s as a harvest mitigation program. By the 1990s, that goal was broadened to a hatchery supplementation program that would increase harvest opportunities, increase natural spawning on the spawning grounds, and provide research that could address critical issues in hatcheries. The resurgence of spring chinook in the Yakima Basin has substantially increased fishing opportunities after a 40-year absence, significantly improved relationships, and increased opportunities for partnerships.
“This innovative project began as a dream of our elders to return fish runs that were damaged. While many criticize tribal supplementation efforts, failure to increase fish populations is not an option. Our current situation requires us to act for the survival of our fish as well as the survival and well-being of our tribal communities, tribal culture, and our traditional foods,” Sam Jim Sr., chair of the Yakama Tribal Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee, has said of the program.
Salmon populations in the Columbia Basin continue to face problems of loss and degradation of freshwater habitat, and significant juvenile out-migration mortality associated with the hydrosystem. The tribes have argued that supplementation programs that incorporate wild fish as broodstock into their hatchery programs and place fish back in to their natural spawning areas are important to recovery.
The American Fisheries Society is offering free access to the paper through August 31, 2015. The paper can be downloaded via: