Fisheries this week described a proposed slate of changes at hatcheries that it
says will reduce the impact of Mitchell Act hatchery fish on wild fish in the
Columbia River basin.
changes, among other things, are designed to reduce the number of hatchery fish
that stray and spawn in the wild, thus protecting naturally spawning fish.
interested in the competition between hatchery and wild fish,” said Rob Jones,
head of hatcheries at NOAA’s West Coast Region. “In addition, to hatchery
effectiveness, we’re looking at hatchery release levels to reduce straying in
the Columbia River basin.”
agency proposes to do this by reducing the overall number of tule chinook
juveniles produced at both Mitchell Act and non-Mitchell Act hatcheries by
about 4 million fish – about 12 percent – and actually increasing the overall
number of coho salmon juveniles by over 1 million fish – 6.8 percent.
production changes are proposed for steelhead.
federal agency is racing to meet a federal court deadline to complete hatchery
biological opinions and incidental take statements. Without the BiOps and
incidental take statements, NOAA is prohibited by a court stipulation with the
Wild Fish Conservancy to make payments to operators of 10 Mitchell Act
August court stipulation that has put a stop to Mitchell Act payments was
reached August 2 in Oregon U.S. District Court in the Wild Fish Conservancy vs
National Marine Fisheries Service court case that began March 31, 2016.
original March 31 filing can be found at: http://wildfishconservancy.org/copy_of_news/in-the-news/001.0.complaintMitchellActColumbia33116.pdf
the court case, the conservancy contends Mitchell Act funds were intended to
support hatchery operations that help rather than harm wild fish populations.
its court filing, the Conservancy said:
proportions of hatchery fish straying onto spawning grounds pose severe genetic
risks to the productivity of wild fish. The best available science confirms
that stray rates—measured as the proportion of hatchery-origin spawners within
a naturally spawning population, or pHOS”—in excess of 5 percent or 10 percent
seriously harm the fitness of wild fish, making hatcheries a primary limiting
factor to recovery. Hatchery fish suppress the productivity of wild
populations, prey on wild fish, compete with them for resources, and introduce
disease and pathogens.”
proposed hatchery changes outlined Thursday by NOAA in a webinar for
stakeholders by Jones, Jeromy Jording, James Dixon and Larrie Lavoy, all of
NOAA, are modifications that will be evaluated and included in the BiOp when it
is released January 15.
addition, NOAA is proposing to take steps to ensure broodstock for hatcheries
match with major population groups where young fish are released.
effectiveness begins with broodstock,” Jones said. “One thing we’re doing is
analyzing where broodstock originates and calling for improvements in hatchery
could mean that some hatcheries will discontinue the use of certain broodstock
and others could pick up that broodstock.
addition, hatchery release levels are proposed to reduce straying in the
Columbia River basin, Jones said.
river (downstream of Bonneville Dam) Mitchell Act hatchery production of tule
chinook will decline by 24 percent from 18,128,044 to 13,775,000, but that will
occur over the course of five years, Jones said. Non-Mitchell Act hatchery
production of the tules will rise by 2 percent for a final reduction of lower
river tules of 20 percent.
in a 4 percent increase of tule production at the Spring Creek Hatchery, the
final decrease in overall lower Columbia River tules is 12 percent.
recreational fishing, that would likely drop Buoy 10 catch of tules by 6
percent, catch from Tongue Point to the Lewis River about 4 percent and from
the Lewis River to Bonneville about 1 percent. The further up the river, the
smaller the catch impact, Jording said.
tributaries are likely to see the biggest reductions as a result of the tule
programs, he added. The changes will also have a modest impact on off-shore treaty
and non-treaty fishing.
salmon production downstream of Bonneville Dam will see an overall increase,
but the formula is complicated. Production at Mitchell Act hatcheries for early
coho will drop 15 percent. Coho from non-Mitchell Act hatcheries will rise by 4
percent and, overall, production of early coho will drop 1 percent. Total
production of early coho will drop from 6,669,861 to 6,570,128.
majority of the reduction in the lower river coho will be in the Washington
tributaries of Kalama, North Fork Toutle and Washougal rivers, Dixon said.
There could be an increase at the Big Creek Hatchery in Oregon and the
introduction of a new program on the Elochomon River in Washington.
that will be phased-in, likely over the same five years that tule production
will drop. The increase in coho production will cause a modest increase in
landed catch offshore, Lavoy said.
coho production downstream of Bonneville at Mitchell Act hatcheries will drop
11 percent and in non-Mitchell Act hatcheries there will be a 17 percent gain,
for an overall gain of 11 percent.
coho production (early and late) below Bonneville will gain 3 percent.
of Bonneville Dam, early coho production at Mitchell Act hatcheries will not
change, but will rise 7 percent at non-Mitchell Act hatcheries, with an overall
gain for early coho production of 5 percent.
of late coho upstream at Mitchell Act hatcheries will rise 20 percent. There is
no non-Mitchell Act funded late coho hatchery production upstream of
total change for above Bonneville coho – early and late – is a rise of 12
percent. Overall, both early/late and downstream/upstream, coho production will
increase 6.8 percent from 18,476,504 to 19,738,929.
will be no change to the production of winter and summer steelhead, according
to Dixon. However, there will be a particular effort to keep hatchery fish out
of Washington’s Wild Steelhead Bank rivers – Grays, N.F. Toutle, East Fork of
the Lewis and Wind rivers.
Kalama River will see a drop from four hatchery stocks to two, maintaining only
broodstock that originated from the river.
for fisheries implications, Dixon said during the webinar, there may be a
moderate change in timing of the run, but there will be no change in total
production, and no significant change to harvest opportunities.
Fisheries heard some complaints from participants in the webinar that it is
moving too fast, but Jones defended the speed at which the agency is moving,
saying that it is because of the urgency of the court case. He also said that
NOAA would be working on these changes regardless of a court case, but it may
have taken more time.
the BiOp and incidental take are complete, the Wild Fish Conservancy will have
14 days to either file a motion “to supplement and/or amend its complaint or
provide the Court and Federal Defendants notice that Plaintiff does not seek to
supplement and/or amend the complaint at that time,” the stipulation said.
1938, Mitchell Act Hatcheries have been the mainstay of commercial,
recreational and treaty-tribal fisheries in the Columbia River Basin.
hatcheries produce roughly 50 percent of the salmon and steelhead released
annually into the Columbia River.
produced by these hatcheries are intended to partially compensate for fish and
habitat losses caused by the construction of dams within the Federal Columbia
River Power System.
also provide a contribution to fulfilling tribal treaties.
September 9, 2016, “NOAA Fisheries Stipulates No Mitchell Act Funds For 10
Hatcheries Until Hatchery BiOp Completed,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437460.aspx
August 5, 2016, “Wild Fish Conservancy Seeks Injunction To Block Use Of
Mitchell Act Funds For Basin Hatcheries,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437254.aspx
CBB, April 1, 2016, “Wild Fish Conservancy Files Lawsuit To Force Federal
Consultation On Basin Mitchell Act Hatcheries,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436361.aspx
CBB, January 15, 2016, “Wild Fish Advocates File Notice Against Mitchell Act
Hatcheries, 60 Million Smolts Annually,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435862.aspx