River sockeye salmon, once virtually extinct with one wild fish, or none,
returning annually to central Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, have rallied to the
point that they are cover boys and girls for this month’s American Fisheries
Society’s Fisheries magazine.
article tracing the fall and rise of North America’s southernmost sockeye
population is featured in a Fisheries issue published online this morning that
focuses on aquaculture –the human rearing of aquatic organisms.
emphasis is on the rise.
research paper says that naturally spawned juvenile sockeye are returning to
Idaho as adults at a much higher rate than others released from hatcheries.
Biologists believe the increased return rate of sockeye spawned naturally by
hatchery-produced parents is high enough for the species to eventually sustain
itself in the wild again.
aquaculture term covers wide ranging purposes, from farming fish for food to
raising fish in hatcheries to feed sport and commercial fisheries and to aiding
in the conservation of fish species that are listed under the U.S. Endangered
Species Act, such as the endangered Snake River sockeye.
are particularly proud to feature an article by Kline and Flagg, detailing the
substantial progress that has been made in applying conservation aquaculture to
the restoration of Snake River sockeye salmon, arguably one of the most unique
and endangered salmonid stocks in the world,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s Jim Bowker said in an introduction to the newly published Fisheries
these fish back from the brink of extinction is an incredible success and
feel-good story. There is still work to be done, but more Snake River sockeye
have returned this year than in any year since 1956.”
aquaculture-themed issue can be found at:
sockeye article, “Putting the Red Back in Redfish Lake, 20 Years of Progress
Toward Saving the Pacific Northwest’s Most Endangered Salmon Population”
outlines the history of the stock and the captive broodstock program created to
stave off extinction, and plans for the future.
author is Paul A. Kline, assistant chief of Fisheries, Idaho Department of Fish
and Game, and co-author is Thomas A. Flagg, supervisory fishery biologist and
manager of NOAA Fisheries’ Manchester Research Station in Manchester, Wash.
was a member of the NOAA Fisheries (National Marine Fisheries Service) team
that more than two decades ago evaluated the status of a severely depleted
Snake River sockeye salmon stock. The agency in November 1991 listed the
species as endangered.
was also a part of a recovery team that ultimately decided “that the only
chance they had was to bring them into captivity” to preserve the genetic stock
from the few returning spawners witnessed in the years leading up to the
in 1991 the Snake River Sockeye Salmon Captive Broodstock Program was launched
by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The immediate goal of the program is
to utilize captive broodstock technology to conserve the population’s unique
goals include increasing the number of individuals in the population to address
NOAA’s interim abundance guidelines and to provide sport and treaty harvest
opportunity. Draft ESA delisting criteria for Snake River sockeye salmon
includes the return of 1,000 adults to Redfish Lake, 500 adults to Pettit Lake,
and 500 adults to Alturas Lake for two generations. Interim abundance targets
must be met without relying on hatchery production, but on natural origin
Fisheries earlier this year released a proposed recovery plan for Snake River
sockeye, which calls for an average of 1,000 naturally spawned sockeye
returning to Redfish Lake each year, with similar targets for other lakes in
Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley. About 460 naturally spawned sockeye returned to Redfish
Lake this year – the most since the program began – out of an overall record
return of 1,600.
CBB, July 25, 2014, “Draft Snake River Sockeye Recovery Plan Released For
Comment; $101 Million Over 25 Years” http://www.cbbulletin.com/431583.aspx)
cooperators include representatives from Idaho Fish and Game, NOAA, Oregon
Department of Fish & Wildlife, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, and the Bonneville
present-day Redfish Lake sockeye salmon captive broodstocks were established
from 16 anadromous adults, 26 residual sockeye salmon, and 886 out-migrating
smolts collected during the early-mid 1990s from Redfish Lake and surrounding
habitats. Residual sockeye salmon are genetically similar to anadromous sockeye
salmon but complete their life cycle in fresh water.
came on board in 1993 as a sockeye evaluation biologist. He missed 1991, when
only four sockeye spawners returned to the central Idaho high country, and 1992,
when only “Lonesome Larry” was known to survive the 900-mile trip up the
Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers. But he was involved in the program through
succeeding lean years, taking over in 1996 as the IDFG’s leader for both the
hatchery and monitoring and evaluation components of the program and serving in
that post until 2006, when returns started to grow.
Flagg and Kline believe that the stock status could be improved, and even reach
recovery status, with the help of the hatchery program, habitat restoration and
improved hydro system operations downstream in the Snake and Columbia.
believed they had the fitness to get the job done,” Flagg said of the sockeye.
the ensuing two decades since the ESA listing, many actions have been taken to
conserve the population, including the initiation of a hatchery-based gene
rescue program,” according to the research article’s abstract. “The chief aim
of this article is to describe the development and implementation of
hatchery-based gene rescue activities, review present-day release strategies
and associated adult returns, and describe a new effort under way to expand
program production to more effectively address recolonization and local
addition, we describe achievable population triggers to allow the transition
from a hatchery-based effort to a habitat-based effort that should allow
natural population recovery to proceed,” the article says.
the Redfish Lake sockeye salmon captive broodstock effort has experienced much
better success than the earlier captive broodstock gene rescue programs
described by Flagg and Mahnken (1995, 2000) and Schiewe et al. (1997),”
according to the paper’s conclusion.
the first program-produced adults started returning from the ocean in 1999,
over 4,500 adults have been collected at sites in the Sawtooth Valley, over 275
times the number that returned from wild spawners during the entire decade of
return rates of naturally produced sockeye salmon have exceeded rates of adults
produced from hatchery-reared smolts by greater than threefold. This is a
critical program observation because it demonstrates the potential for the
population to become self-sustaining and effectively address draft NMFS
recovery objectives,” according to the article.
authors have suggested that reversal of hatchery based reductions in fitness
would take at best many generations to resolve (Lynch and O’Healy 2001; Ford
2002). Similar to findings developed by Galbreath et al. (2014) for Coho Salmon
(O. kisutch), our data suggest that fitness recovery could be much more
immediate,” the article says.
survival advantages and apparent rapid increased fitness demonstrated by
sockeye salmon hatched in Redfish Lake have allowed the development of
realistic population triggers for the program’s expansion effort.
type of natural rebuilding scenario is the hoped for result when
conservationists intervene to rescue depleted populations.”
caution that the current results span only three years so far, but indicate
that fitness – and, in turn, survival – can improve in as little as only one
generation in the wild.
hoped we could get returns equivalent to what you’d expect to see from a
hatchery,” Flagg said. “We’ve seen the population respond even better than
that, which bodes well for the idea that the lakes can produce the juveniles
you’d want to see to get to recovery.”
is a real American endangered species success story,” said Will Stelle,
administrator of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “With only a handful of
remaining fish, biologists brought the best genetic science to bear and the
region lent its lasting support. Now there is real potential that this species
will be self-sustaining again. The sockeye didn’t give up hope and neither did
cooperative scientific planning effort involving representatives of states,
tribes, federal government and non-governmental entities has helped push the
seems highly likely that without the steps undertaken by the Redfish Lake
Sockeye Salmon captive broodstock program, this ESA-listed endangered stock
would currently be extinct. It also seems a virtual certainty that the steps
described above have put the population on the road to recovery,” the report
program funded by the Bonneville Power Administration has released more than
3.8 million sockeye eggs and fish into lakes and streams in the Sawtooth
Valley, and tracks the fish that return from the ocean. Hatchery fish returning
as adults have also begun spawning again in Redfish Lake, increasingly
producing naturally spawned offspring that are now also returning.
information on Northwest Fisheries Science Center/Salmon captive broodstock
programs is available at:
information about the species and about the IDFG’s program can be found at:
CBB, Sept. 19, 2014, “Snake River Sockeye Show Highest Returns To Sawtooth
Valley Since 1950s” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432131.aspx
CBB, Sept. 13, 2013, “New $13 Million Snake River Sockeye Hatchery Opens; Goal
Is Recolonization In Sawtooth Basin” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428328.aspx