In an effort to return numbers of bull trout to self-sustainable levels, Yakama Nation Fisheries and their partners last week released 531 bull trout into Kachess Reservoir and 61 bull trout into Gold Creek, a tributary to Keechelus Reservoir.
Through the Upper Yakima Bull Trout Restoration and Monitoring Project, the Yakama Nation seeks to increase current bull trout population size and range by rescuing stranded juvenile bull trout during low water conditions, rearing the juveniles for up to one year to increase survivability, and re-introducing the reared fish back into good quality historic habitats, thus reducing future losses and increasing natural reproductive potential.
“This year’s releases have been a great success with increased survival rates ranging from 89% to 95%,” said Joe Blodgett, Yakima/Klickitat Fisheries Program Project Coordinator. “We’re really seeing that an adaptive management approach will result in maintaining bull trout viability while the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan works to restore degraded spawning and rearing habitat.”
Led by Yakama Nation Fisheries, the project is a component of the YBIP to ensure the persistence of bull trout above the Bureau of Reclamation’s dam in the upper Yakima basin. Future actions may include maintaining other at-risk populations in the basin and re-introduction of bull trout in watersheds where bull trout have been lost.
Funded by Washington State Department of Ecology and Reclamation, this project adds to the goals of the YBIP to foster watershed health and ecosystem restoration in the basin.
“We are really beginning to see these great results from our Bull Trout Enhancement MOU we signed in 2015 among the YBIP partners, and I am especially thankful for the Yakama Nation and State Fish & Wildlife staff who have made these words of commitment on paper come forward into reality,” said Tom Tebb, Director of Ecology’s Office of Columbia River.
This is the second season a team of biologists from Yakama Nation, Mid-Columbia Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kittitas Conservation Trust, and other partners have rescued the juvenile bull trout from the isolated pools within the dewatering reaches of Gold Creek and the upper Kachess River, reared them in rearing tanks over the winter, and released them in the spring.
Wendy Christensen, Reclamation’s Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Manager said, “We are thrilled to see this year’s results, it speaks to the benefits of collaboration of the YBIP, and we anticipate a better future for bull trout in the Yakima basin as this work continues.”
In June 1998, the USFWS listed the Columbia River Basin distinct population segment of bull trout as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of the decline in population. Bull trout need cold, clean water for successful spawning and rearing, and they migrate to more productive waters as they grow larger. The critical habitat for the species is largely found in high-elevation streams in the Yakima River basin, defining the geographic extent of spawning grounds. Habitat degradation and artificial barriers have significantly decreased available bull trout habitat, and populations have become isolated. The rescue and rearing operation the Yakama Nation and their partners have undertaken focuses on maintaining and restoring critically low populations in the upper basin.
— CBB, Oct. 31, 2019, COLLABORATION, COALITION: $4 BILLION YAKIMA BASIN PLAN FOR FISH, FARMERS MOVES FORWARD AT $100 MILLION A YEAR https://www.cbbulletin.com/collaboration-coalition-4-billion-yakima-basin-plan-for-fish-farmers-moves-forward-at-100-million-a-year/