The Yakama Nation today celebrated the 16th anniversary of operations at its Cle Elum Supplementation and Research Facility, a central Washington facility designed to rear hatchery fish that the tribes feel are better adapted to survive and reproduce in the wild.
“Each year, we showcase the large-scale research of salmon restoration called supplementation,” said Virgil Lewis, chairman of the Yakama Nation’s Fish and Wildlife Committee.
Supplementation is a management strategy that aims to boost wild salmon and steelhead populations with infusions of hatchery fish that are outplanted as juveniles and allowed to spawn naturally when they return as adults.
“Last year we had over 500 guests and each year it seems to grow,” said Charlie Strom, Cle Elum Fish Hatchery manager, with Yakama Nation Fisheries, said of what’s become an annual celebration.
“We have 790,000 Yakima spring chinook on hand for the 2011 brood and over 600 adult spring chinook for the 2012 brood.” A portion of each year’s spawner returns are used as broodstock to produce the next generation.
The supplementation process only uses natural-origin broodstock. The project started in 1982 as a mitigation facility, but the unique features of the Yakima River Basin spring chinook populations prompted the Yakama Nation and regional partners to expand the project to include research.
The facility is operated and maintained year-round by Yakama Nation employees. The Yakama Nation, Bonneville Power Administration and other government agencies have a collaborative effort to increase and strengthen anadromous fish runs. BPA, which markets power generated in the Federal Columbia River Power System, is the primary funder for the Cle Elum program. The funds are intended to mitigate for impacts to fish and wildlife resulting from the existence and operation of the federal hydro power system.
The research process is designed to test supplementation technology.
“One of the highlights of research is the spawning channel where reproductive success studies have been ongoing for twelve years,” said Dave Fast, research manager with Yakama Nation Fisheries. The research also includes an ongoing DNA parentage study and hatchery domestication research.
“We conduct our research outdoors and not in an aquaria,” said Strom. “We have ways to measure different lines of fish, conduct genetic analysis while at the same time salmon select mates and actively spawn.”