Federal fishery overseers are laying out how much orcas and fishermen would benefit under a proposal to boost hatchery Chinook production in the Green-Duwamish River by 2 million smolts.
According to a NOAA draft supplemental environmental statement that will soon go out for public comment, the increase would provide an additional 8,750 adult salmon for the starving Washington whales to snack on, recreational and tribal fishermen to catch, and for broodstock purposes.
That and other hatchery salmon and steelhead programs already approved for the King County river system “would have a moderate positive effect on the diet, survival, distribution, and listing status of Southern Resident killer whales,” the DEIS states.
It’s the second time this particular set of Chinook, coho, chum and winter- and summer-run steelhead programs is being scrutinized in recent years.
Earlier, four alternatives proposed by WDFW and two local tribes were analyzed, but with this year’s major focus on ailing orcas, it was resubmitted with an “Alternative 5.”
Green-Duwamish Chinook were identified as among the most important current feedstocks for orcas.
NOAA’s new DEIS says the additional smolts would yield nearly 3,300 more sport fishing trips and around $580,000 in expenditures, mostly in the region the agency is calling the South Puget Sound subregion, but also in the North Sound and Straits.
And it would yield around 2,300 more Chinook for mostly local tribal fishermen.
The extra salmon would be reared at WDFW’s Soos Creek Hatchery and released upstream at Palmer Ponds.
“Alternative 5 would not affect the overall trend in cumulative effects on salmon and steelhead, although it may increase the adverse cumulative effect on the genetics of natural-origin fall-run Chinook salmon. However, this cumulative impact would not substantially add to the cumulative impacts compared to the other alternatives because the increase in production would represent a small component of the total abundance of fall-run Chinook salmon in the cumulative effects analysis area,” the DEIS states.
Overall hatchery Chinook production in the watershed would be 6.2 million smolts.
The comment period begins Dec. 7 and runs for 45 days through Jan. 22. You can send your thoughts three ways:
Allyson Purcell, Comment Coordinator
NMFS, West Coast Region
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1201 Northeast Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 1100
Portland, OR 97232