Strong and healthy salmonids
There are criteria to be achieved for each watershed to achieve healthy and productive salmonids. The following are criteria are necessary to make sure that these wild, native populations are healthy.
1. Determine whether the salmonid species in your watershed are healthy based on the following principles. Each wild native population health is determined by its productivity, diversity (genetic and life history), abundance, and spatial distribution.
2. Does your watershed have a spawner abundance objective? If not, then contact your district biologist to establish one for each species native to that watershed. Only wild, native fish should be counted for this to be a valid objective.
3. How many naturally spawning hatchery fish are using your watershed by species and race? The rule adopted by the ODFW for naturally spawning hatchery fish is 10% in the whole basin. This is too high. The NMFS has recommended 5% stray rate. The natural stray rate for wild fish is less than one percent per brood year.
4. What is the natural enrichment from spawning fish in your watershed? The estimate for coho salmon is 200 spawners per mile. This could be applied to chinook as well. It is important to have a natural nutrient enrichment goal per watershed rather than rely on distribution of hatchery fish carcasses distributed to the watershed. The natural spawners distribute nutrients to those areas where they spawn and provide nutrients that benefit rearing juveniles in those areas.
5. Naturally spawning hatchery fish are a negative impact on the reproductive success of wild, native fish populations, so an effective block to hatchery fish is needed to improve the life cycle survival of wild fish in you watershed. If your watershed does not provide a separation between naturally spawning hatchery and wild fish then your goal is to have one established. Remember it makes no difference what type of hatchery program is being used on your watershed, for they all have an impact that degrades the reproductive success of wild native fish. This includes native broodstock (integrated hatchery) or production hatchery fish.
6. Is harvest management supporting recovery and conservation management for wild native fish in your watershed? The impact of harvest should be determined in order to make sure it is not impeding wild spawner abundance. A discussion of this issue with the district biologist is necessary to determine whether harvest is supporting rather than impeding wild fish productivity, diversity, spatial distribution and abundance. If this question cannot be answered then you have a major conservation problem to be resolved.
7. Establish a conservation requirement for each species of wild native fish in your watershed based on the principles noted above. We need to develop reference streams so that it is possible to determine whether the wild native fish populations are getting the conservation benefit of management.
8. Does the habitat support or impede native wild fish productivity? Habitat is organized like links in a chain that support the life history requirements of the fish. If a link is broken the fish cannot complete their life cycle; if a link is damaged the population’s reproductive capacity is reduced. The primary mission of the Native Fish Society is to make sure that fish management policy and actions deliver wild spawners and exclude hatchery spawners. Success depends on having locally adapted wild fish utilizing the habitats of our watersheds. We also work on preventing habitat degradation and repairing what we can. Working with other groups that have habitat restoration as their primary mission is an important partnership.