Saturday, January 30, 2010



State governments have never been organized to actually protect wild salmonids and the habitats that sustain them. What passes for protection are carefully chosen words in plans and policies that are never expected to actually be carried out on the river. That way the public is pacified, the agency looks good, and the salmon continue to swim into the toilet. The following letter from an ex- ODFW employee shows the frustration of those in the field that would like to solve problems if their jobs did not depend on them holding their silence.


To: Oregon Department of Forestry
Sent: Friday, January 29, 2010 1:26 PM
Subject: Observations of spawning surveyor- ODF proposed changes

ODF must change its course in logging practices on state lands. It’s essential for the health and survival of our coastal salmon and steelhead.

I performed fish and redd surveys on Oregon coastal streams for ODFW in the mid- 2000s. Logging practices have destroyed the fish habitat we were all trying to help preserve.
We had to get the permission of logging companies and private landowners to even do surveys on their land, giving them the power over us in any information that was posted. There was always a feeling in the district offices I was at that you don't talk bad about the loggers or the companies because we needed them to get our jobs done. How messed up was that, that the very people destroying the resource we are trying to protect, we had to bow down to so that we could monitor that same species. To me, that is a serious gap in public relations and policy governing monitoring of streams. And how frustrating it was as a young biologist, bowing down and cow- towing to these companies that you just knew were destroying the habitat.

Meanwhile, things don't get better, every year you go back and observe a new logging operation right next to a spawning stream, and you think, "what the hell are we doing out here. Nothing is changing." And you watch these amazing fish, the last of their kind, giving all they got to pass on their DNA, scouring redds (many of which will perish), struggling upstream, and you look up and hear the whistle of a yarder while another tree is being dragged up the hill. It really makes one wonder what the hell is the point. What is really going on here? Why are we the ones without power here, and they can still do business as usual, after all these years. Nothing has changed, and it’s a shame. Yet we would be the bad guys if we speak out against it.
Often times I can remember looking over at my partner after a survey and asking, "is this ever going to stop? These fish are screwed." And back at the office I can recall a few times telling my boss about a new operation near a spawning stream and expressing my frustration. Mostly the reaction would be "yeah, I (we) know. Nothing we can do about it."

And so, everyone goes home. Nothing changes. The next day, its business as usual. Nothing changes. How long can we wait?
What could we say? Say anything negative about the coastal logging practices, you no longer have the survey, then your outfit no longer has a job for you, and then you no longer have any friends in the community. Just keep your mouth shut, I guess.

N. Davis
Former Employee, ODFW
Spawning Surveyor, 2002-2006

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



Integrated has a positive ring to it, doesn’t it. When we have integrated decision making, societies, and networks, it gives one the impression that every thing is working, as it should, for each part has importance and sureness of the whole. Some things are more easily integrated than others and some cannot be. For example, ivy is cannot be integrated into Northwest forests, even though people continue to plant it around their homes. Starlings are not something blue birds accept in their native landscape. Round pegs are not easily inserted into triangular holes, even though we may try.

In nature integration is being locally adapted to the environment that sustains an animal or plant, for its full life cycle is successfully completed when it is fully capable of coping with changes in seasons, weather, and the landscape. We have discovered that fir trees are adapted to elevation, location in reference to the sun, precipitation, and micro-habitats that provide the conditions needed to grow and reproduce. When seeds from a stand of fir or a species of fir is translocated to a site that does not meet all its needs it is less likely to survive and if it does it lacks vitality. One often sees western red cedar planted in uplands only to find them turning brown in a year or two. Trees are integrated into foreign landscapes only if their needs are met. To be fully integrated means that an animal or plant is able to cope with both short and long term conditions. Apple trees were planted and productive near Flathead Lake in Montana until an Arctic Express came one year after the sap was up and even though they had flourished for 20 years in that place they died. The evolutionary history of the apple tree did not include the periodic climate events of the Flathead country.

By de-coupling a plant or animal from its history means that it is not well integrated. It may perish when conditions are hostile to it or it can disturb the viability of native species around it like ivy growing up a Douglas fir or big leaf maple.

Mechanically forcing a round peg into a triangular hole does not create a good fit, just as our aspirations force native nature into the background. What happens to the native bees when we introduce domesticated bees that have disease the local bees are not able to cope with? What happens to butterflies and native birds when we create our perfect yard? We are engineering an environment that may not support the life that once called a place home.

I was called a cheat and a liar by second graders when I asked the class for their feelings after I took one dollar from a student and replaced it with a dime. We have invented mitigation to replace what is taken from the natural landscape. When I explained mitigation to the class in this way, they knew better than those who work for government agencies that mitigation does not work in their interest.

We are being asked to believe in integrated hatchery programs and mitigation for degraded habitat and lost native salmonid populations. In the march of time over the last 150 years of fish management on the Northwest Coast, we have been told that native salmon can be manufactured in a hatchery and not to worry because we can mitigate development of watersheds with hatchery replacement parts. The result has been a broad and remarkable depletion of salmon across our landscape.

Within the memory of some, a stage coach was turned over when fording the Rogue River as a push of migrating salmon swept it off its wheels. Not long ago, when wading an Alaskan stream, I remember the sound of salmon. I knew they were coming for they made a furious sound and pushed a wave of water ahead of them as they approached. All I could do was stand there hoping not to be dumped into the stream. Others were not so fortunate. When the big chinook that once called the Columbia their home above Kettle Falls and now above Grand Coulee Dam, the density of their redds created bars that stopped steamboats from passing up the river. We have forgotten the true abundance of salmon in our rivers; we have grown accustomed to ten cents on the dollar.

Some of us have made a commitment to wild native fish and the watersheds that nourish and hold them. I am sure you have, as I have, but the larger society has not. We have not yet invented a wild fish priority for our rivers. We are more concerned about what we do to them rather than what we do for them. The client of fish managers is the fisherman not the fish. When we develop recovery plans more emphasis is placed on the point of decline than abundance. We have made little switches in the wild salmon framework of survival in order to accommodate our cultural perception of salmon.

Today, we have defined salmon so they fit our conceptual framework. They have become a commodity rather than a natural economy. We have created an industrial model for salmon to fit into like they are brown shoes that can be manufactured.

We have dedicated ourselves to making sure rivers do not get the spawners they need, for low abundance means higher juvenile survival. This works in theory but not in practice for it overlooks the values of cleaning the gravel of fine sediments by the spawners and the nutrients they bring from the sea to nourish the rivers their young will grow in. It overlooks the seasonal food supply salmon bring to watershed for wildlife and the enrichment of the forests. As the salmon decline the bears also decline. It overlooks the fact that salmon have nourished the Northwest landscape and that salmon evolved with their abundance being fully expressed.

We are now being asked to accept another untested theory where wild salmon are needed to improve the survival of the hatchery stock and adopting a formula for allowing a proportion of the hatchery fish to have sex with wild salmon. It is called the integrated hatchery. It is based on what has always been done but improved by a mathematical formula. In the past wild salmon were expendable. The number of spawners were what was left over after fishing. Since salmon were believed to be interchangeable, it made no difference how many hatchery fish spawned naturally with wild salmon. This cultural framework dominated salmon management and still does. It was not until the runs were reduced to levels that threatened extinction and listed as endangered that there has been a general panic among the government agencies responsible for salmon management. The question became not how to recover wild salmon, but how to fit harvest and hatcheries, our industrial framework, within the legal context of the Endangered Species Act.

Being an ingenious species, we have invented the integrated hatchery. The hatchery has morphed into a conservation tool rather than one concerned only with production. We are told it will be possible to have both conservation and production, for we have learned that wild fish survived better in nature than hatchery fish, so by purposely breeding them together in a hatchery they improved the survival of the hatchery product. That took care of the sagging production problem. The conservation problem would be solved, theoretically, by allowing hatchery fish to spawn naturally with wild fish based on a formula. Even though we know this does not work due to an extensive research, the fish agencies have developed numerous integrated hatchery programs anyway. The motive for doing so needs to be explored before one accepts them at their word. The purpose of the integrated hatchery is to perfect the hatchery not to recover wild salmon. In this way the hatchery can be once again safely justified for continuing public funding because it fits the industrial model and can be sold as a conservation tool. Problem solved. The fact that hatchery and wild salmon have only one thing in common – water – is glossed over in our dedication to making the industrialization of salmon work.

De-coupling salmon from their families and their evolutionary history sets them up for decline and extinction. Our path is not the salmon’s path into the future. Wild is the future of the salmon and for having them in our future. There are no short cuts or partial measures to get there from here. As long as our industrial model of salmon management trumps nature, the salmon will fail, not because they lack the capacity to flourish, but because we are not providing the cultural permission for them to succeed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BC Supreme Court Rules For Wild Salmon!

Alexandra Morton is a very effective voice for wild salmon in British Columbia as many of you know. Once again she has been successful in pushing back on destructive salmon farms. The following is a note from her about a recent court decision. I thank Gary Mikesh for making sure I saw this exciting news.

From: Alexandra Morton
Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 2:13 PM
Subject: [fishermenlist] We Won again

Today BC Supreme Court ruled in our favor once again. Justice Hinkson granted the federal government a suspension order until December 18, 2010 so that Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) can further prepare to assume control of regulating salmon farms. However, Justice Hinkson forbade any expansion of aquaculture during that period. Specifically, the province cannot issue any new fish farm licences and cannot expand the size of any tenure. He recognized the First Nation interest in this matter by granting the Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk Tribal Council intervenor status, which is essential as this case is based in their territory.

On the matter pursued by Marine Harvest at the Court of Appeal and sent back to Justice Hinkson to reconsider (that is whether the fish in the farms are privately owned by the companies and whether the Farm Practices Protection Act (FPPA) is still in force), Hinkson confirmed that the FPPA, will no longer apply to finfish aquaculture and thus no longer protect farms from nuisance claims.

On the question, does Marine Harvest own the fish in their pens? Justice Hinkson found that this was not the place for this decision. Marine Harvest will have to bring this before the courts themselves. For now, we know that the aquaculture fish are now part of the fisheries of Canada.

Today’s decision is met by the unrelated announcement by US box store chain “Target” that they have eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in its stores across the United States, because of farm salmon environmental impact on native salmon.

There is an enormous amount of work ahead to translate any of this into better survival of our wild salmon, but the courts seem consistently interested in bringing reason, the constitution and the law to bear on the Norwegian fish farm industry in British Columbia.

While I am truly sorry that jobs will be lost in ocean fish farming, bear in mind the industry is in deep trouble with mother nature herself in the fish farming strongholds of Chile and Norway. Trying to hold this nomadic fish in pens is never going to work, because it causes epidemics, unnatural sea lice infestations and drug resistance. Salmon farming is not sustainable and ultimately we are better served by our wild fish.

Alexandra Morton

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Naturalized Salmonids Are More Viable Than Hatchery Fish



The following study and quotes have substantial importance to fish management within the native range of salmonids, for this work documents the force of natural selection on non-native species that have become locally adapted. When new hatchery stock is added to the naturalized population the reproductive fitness of the naturalized population is compromised. The locally adapted naturalized and non-native population is behaving like a wild population in the native range of the species when hatchery fish are added to it. This is additional confirmation that adding hatchery fish to locally adapted population, whether wild and native or naturalized has unfavorable consequences to the locally adapted population, affecting its reproductive success in nature.

In the Pacific Northwest, we have assumed that adding hatchery fish to a wild population will contribute to its abundance and viability. This assumption is wrong. Hatcheries cannot be used to recover wild fish populations and when released to interact with wild populations these hatchery fish impose risk not salvation.

L. M. Miller, T.Close, and A. R. Kapuscinski. 2004. Lower fitness of hatchery and hybrid rainbow trout compared to naturalized populations in Lake Superior tributaries. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. Molecular Ecology. 13, 3379-3388.
Abstract: We have documented an early life survival advantage by naturalized populations of anadromous rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss over a more recently introduced hatchery population and outbreeding depression resulting from interbreeding between the two strains. We tested the hypothesis that offspring of naturalized and hatchery trout, and reciprocal hybrid crosses, survive equally from fry to age 1+ in isolated reaches of Lake Superior tributary streams in Minnesota. Over the first summer, offspring of naturalized females had significantly greater survival than offspring of hatchery females in three of four comparisons (two streams and 2 years of stocking). Having an entire naturalized genome, not just a naturalized mother, was important for survival over the first winter.

Naturalized offspring outperformed all others in survival to age 1+ and hybrids had
reduced, but intermediate, survival relative to the two pure crosses. Averaging over years
and streams, survival relative to naturalized offspring was 0.59 for hybrids with naturalized females, 0.37 for the reciprocal hybrids, and 0.21 for hatchery offspring. Our results indicate that naturalized rainbow trout are better adapted to the conditions of Minnesota’s tributaries to Lake Superior so that they outperform the hatchery-propagated strain in the same manner that many native populations of salmonids outperform hatchery or transplanted fish. Continued stocking of the hatchery fish may conflict with a management goal of sustaining the naturalized populations.
Quotes from the text: “In the US State of Minnesota, there are concerns about negative interactions between hatchery and naturalized populations of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss in the state’s waters of Lake Superior. Rainbow trout from various Pacific coast sources were translocated into Lake Superior beginning in the late 1800s and many naturalized anadromous populations now spawn in tributaries throughout the lake. Naturalized rainbow trout have provided a popular recreational fishery in Lake Superior for almost a century, but catch rates in Minnesota have declined since peaking in the 1960s. In the late 1960s, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) introduced a hatchery strain of rainbow trout to create new fishing opportunities. The MNDNR once stocked this hatchery strain along much of the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior but now stocks only a few streams because of concerns about potential negative impacts of hatchery fish on naturalized populations.
As a consequence of stocking hatchery fish, outbreeding depression due to loss of local adaptation may arise from either or both the use of nonlocal fish that have evolved in different environments from the resident population or from genetic changes in captive populations due to adaptation to the hatchery environment, i.e. domestication. Either case could result in hybrids between hatchery and wild fish having lower fitness than individuals from the resident populations.
We made crosses within and between naturalized and hatchery rainbow trout for 2 consecutive years… These matings produced four cross types, two pure strain crosses (NxN and HxH) and two reciprocal hybrid crosses (NxH and HxN).
We have documented an early life survival advantage by naturalized populations of anadromous rainbow trout over a more recently introduced hatchery population and outbreeding depression resulting from interbreeding between the two strains.
Having an entire naturalized genome, not just a naturalized mother, was important for survival over the first winter, a time of harsh environmental conditions in northern Minnesota streams. Our results therefore indicate that naturalized rainbow trout are better adapted to the conditions of Minnesota’s tributaries to Lake Superior, so they outperform the hatchery-propagated strain in the same manner that many native populations of salmonids outperform hatchery fish. Continued stocking of hatchery fish may disrupt this apparent local adaptation, reducing the fitness of naturalized populations.
Family sizes were consistently low for crosses with hatchery females. For age 1+, they ranged from 0 to 3 in HxH crosses and 0-7 in HxN crosses of the 1999 year-class, and from 0 to 6 in both crosses of the 2000 year class. Naturalized female crosses had higher means and greater variance, especially the NxN crosses. Family sizes for pure naturalized crosses ranged from one to 24 for the 1999 year-class and 0-14 for 2000 year-class. In addition, the NxN cross had five and six families larger than any HxH or HxN family for the 1999 and 2000 year-classes, respectively.
Breeding competition probably interacts with survival differences to limit the introgression of hatchery genes into naturalized populations. Studies involving native salmonid populations have documented inferior mating success by hatchery fish. In a meta-analysis of experimental studies in seminatural conditions, Fleming and Petersson (2001) found sex differences in reproductive inferiority, with hatchery males less successful than hatchery females in breeding competition with wild fish. Fleming et al. (2000) showed that this male bias extended to breeding competition in the wild. We found that NxH hybrids had higher survival than HxN hybrids, but NxH hybrids would be uncommon if hatchery males are reproductively inferior. HxN hybrids would be more common but we found them less likely to survive. As a result, there would be fewer hybrid adults and less chance to initiate introgressive backcross matings with naturalized fish, than would be expected if the sexes mated randomly in hybrid crosses.
The smaller size of NxN offspring at age 1+ was unexpected, considering the generally equal size of all cross types at age 0+. It is possible that offspring with a hatchery parent (HxH, HxN, and NxH) needed to obtain a larger threshold size to survive the winter than did the NxN offspring.
The viability of these naturalized populations could also be compromised by continued stocking of translocated or hatchery-propagated fish. The potential for rapid adaptation implies that we should be cautious of using a population’s non-native status to justify indiscriminant stocking over naturalized populations. If the goal is to maintain the naturalized population, then on-going stocking of hatchery fish or transplants may reduce the fitness and viability of the established population.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010



Stray steelhead are recognized as a problem, but why and what is their effect on wild steelhead? Natural stray rates (one or two fish per year) are low compared to stray rates form some hatchery programs that can have stray rates of more than 60% of a run.

The problems that have been identified are associated with naturally spawning hatchery strays, for when they breed with wild fish there is a loss of reproductive success and can lead to reduced fitness in the wild population. Hatchery fish spawn successfully but their survival is poor compared to wild steelhead. Crosses between hatchery and wild fish produce progeny that have a lower survival rate and the result is fewer adult fish produced from the affected naturally produced wild population. Even if hatchery fish do not interbreed with wild fish, the progeny they produce have an impact for they occupy rearing space and are competitive with wild fish for food. They can also be predators on wild fish, attract predators, and spread disease. One study shows a remarkable 50% reduction in wild smolt production caused by the ecological impacts of hatchery fish on the wild population.

Some might assume that the naturally spawning hatchery fish enhance the number of adult fish returning to the river and available to the fishery, but they would be wrong, for hatchery smolt-to-adult survival is poor and few adults return.

This effect is not just a short term problem, for genetic changes caused by maladapted hatchery fish can change the basic productivity of a wild population so that its survival is jeopardized.

Over the last 150 years of fish management in the Northwest there have been many assumptions made about hatchery fish spawning naturally with wild fish ranging from “it doesn’t matter” to “no naturally spawning hatchery fish at all.”

In 1978 researchers tested the survival of hatchery and wild steelhead in the Deschutes River, Oregon to determine if there is a difference between them in the natural stream and hatchery environments. The results clearly pointed to wild fish surviving better than hatchery fish in streams than hatchery fish. The reverse was true in the hatchery. When wild and hatchery fish were crossed their progeny survival was better in streams than pure hatchery fish but inferior to wild fish. Wild fish produced more adult spawners than hatchery fish and a naturally spawning population of wild and hatchery fish reduced the reproductive success of the wild population.

During the 1980s and 1990s further research confirmed this initial research in other rivers. During this time concerns about mixing hatchery and wild fish in streams became the subject of concern, leading to scientific recommendations for how many naturally spawning hatchery fish could safely spawn with wild fish.

In 1997 NMFS invited an international group of scientists to discuss the effect of stray rates on native fish from non-native hatchery fish.

They concluded, “based on estimates of gene flow from allozyme frequencies in natural populations, a value of 5% gene flow is much higher than that generally occurring between non-local salmon populations. Also based on what is known about the strength of selection in other animals, this amount of gene flow would quickly lead to the replacement not only of neutral genes, but also of locally adapted ones. Most genes in natural populations probably have selection coefficients less than 5% and would thus be subject to loss if gene flow occurred at this level. The panel found no genetic justification for allowing gene flow from non-native fish at levels as high as 5%.”

“There are no ‘safe’ levels of hatchery straying. Any level of long-term straying will change the structure of local populations.”

In 2001, NMFS determined that “levels of gene flow from out-of-ESU hatchery stocks into natural upper Columbia steelhead populations should be less than 1% and patterns of straying and gene flow among the natural populations should be free from human-caused alterations.”

In 2002, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife adopted the Native Fish Conservation policy that allows a 10% stray rate for hatchery fish of any origin.

Native Fish Conservation Policy 2002, page 6.
“(5) Reproductive Independence – At least 90% of the spawners within a population must be naturally produced and not hatchery produced fish, unless the department determines the hatchery produced fish are being used in a short-term experimental program to help restore a population in its natural habitat or otherwise directed by a court order.”

From 2001 to 2009, the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) reviewed hatcheries in Puget Sound and the Columbia basin saying:

“…the traditional practice of replacing natural populations with hatchery fish to mitigate for habitat loss and mortality due to hydroelectric dams is not consistent with today's conservation principles and scientific knowledge. Hatchery fish cannot replace lost habitat or the natural populations that rely on that habitat.”

The HSRG recommended that hatchery fish be isolated from wild fish (segregated hatchery) or integrated with wild fish using a formula that incorporates wild fish into the egg take and allows a proportion of the naturally spawning fish to be of hatchery origin.

The HSRG program would allow hatchery fish to reproduce naturally with wild fish based on a formula that is aimed at controlling genetic introgression and reproductive fitness in the wild stock. It does not address ecological effects of adding hatchery fish to wild fish populations for natural breeding. In addition, the benefits of this practice are theoretical and have not been tested.

The fish management agencies in Oregon and Washington have embraced the HSRG formula and have developed native broodstock hatcheries before they have been evaluated to determine their effect on wild salmonids.

The integrated hatchery program has finally been evaluated and results published in 2007 through 2009.

The poor reproductive fitness – the ability to survive and reproduce – of the wild-born offspring of hatchery fish means that adding hatchery fish to wild populations may ultimately be hurting efforts to sustain those wild runs, scientists said. The study found that a fish born in the wild as the offspring of two hatchery-reared steelhead averaged only 37 percent the reproductive fitness of a fish with two wild parents, and 87 percent the fitness if one parent was wild and one was from a hatchery.

"The effect is so strong that it carries over into the first wild-born generation. Even if fish are born in the wild and survive to reproduce, those adults that had hatchery parents still produce substantially fewer surviving offspring than those with wild parents. That's pretty remarkable."

“The implication,” Blouin said, “is that hatchery salmonids – many of which do survive to reproduce in the wild– could be gradually reducing the fitness of the wild populations with which they interbreed. Those hatchery fish provide one more hurdle to overcome in the goal of sustaining wild runs, along with problems caused by dams, loss or degradation of habitat, pollution, overfishing and other causes.”

"The message should be clear," the researchers wrote in their report's conclusion. "Captive breeding for reintroduction or supplementation can have a serious, long-term downside in some taxa, and so should not be considered as a panacea for the recovery of all endangered populations."


We now know that naturally spawning hatchery fish have a negative effect on the reproductive fitness and success of wild salmonids whether they are of native origin or strays from some other population. We also know that they have an ecological impact on wild fish through competition for spawning and rearing space, disease transfer, predation, and the attraction of predators. We know that fisheries directed at hatchery fish cause the over harvest of wild fish reducing the number of spawners in our streams. Even though we know hatchery fish degrade the reproductive success of wild salmonids, allowance is still being made for mixing naturally spawning hatchery and wild fish.

Fish management agencies are continuing to contribute to the decline and extinction of wild salmon and steelhead, and that contribution combined with the determined degradation of salmonid habitat by land, water and energy management agencies has created a crisis in the Northwest.


Blouin, Michael: This research, which was just published in Biology Letters, was supported by grants from the Bonneville Power Administration and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It was based on years of genetic analysis of thousands of steelhead trout in Oregon's Hood River, in field work dating back to 1991.

Ford, Michael, et al. 2001. Upper Columbia River Steelhead and Spring Chinook Salmon Population Structure and Biological Requirements. National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Seattle, WA .


ODFW. 2002. Oregon Native Fish Conservation Policy.

W. Stewart Grant (editor). 1997. Genetic effects of straying of non-native fish hatchery fish into natural populations: proceedings of the workshop. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-30, 130p.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pete Bergman Response to Sam Wright


Wright says “The common practice of deliberately overfishing naturally spawning salmon populations in order to harvest comingled hatchery fish continues to be alive and well in Washington and Oregon (albeit with some new disguises commonly called “hatchery reform”). It is true that at this date hatchery and naturally spawning salmon are still harvested together in unnecessary and harmful mixed-stock fisheries. But the goals of hatchery reform, apparently misunderstood by Wright, are largely the same as the changes he proposes, but with more precise guidelines.

Hatchery reform is a process created by Congress, guided by a group of largely independent scientists called the HSRG (Hatchery Scientific Review Group). It is ongoing and its recommendations are widely accepted in the Pacific Northwest. A primary conclusion is the numbers of hatchery salmon spawning together with natural stocks should be strictly limited so hatchery fish do not compromise the genetics and thus the productivity and survival rates of natural, protected fish. This means that hatchery fish should be fully harvested, above hatchery broodstock needs, or not produced in the first place. Since hatchery fish are largely the only fish available for harvest, no production means no fisheries. Thus we assume the logical goal is to maintain harvest while simultaneously recovering ESA listed stocks.

Both Wright and the HSRG agree that what is needed is selective fishing that can harvest hatchery fish and release natural fish without harm. A requirement so fishermen can identify natural fish and release them is the hatchery fish need to have a visually identifiable mark. This has largely been accomplished by removing the adipose fin from all hatchery fish intended for harvest throughout Washington State and the Columbia River in anticipation of conversion to selective commercial gear, which has not happened. Recreational gear is capable of selective fishing, but cannot fully harvest most stocks. Gillnets are the primary legal commercial gear, but are not capable of selective fishing. There are a variety of commercial gears available that could fit the requirements, such as beach seines, modified purse seines, reef nets, traps, pound nets, and others, but they are largely illegal. Wright emphasizes halting use of “hatchery fish zones”, in order to avoid killing protected salmon. The HSRG uses different terminology, stop killing natural fish unnecessarily, but the result is the same.

There has been a great amount of political effort to maintain gillnet fishing. For example, in 1995 Initiative 640 in Washington State would have required selective commercial gear and accomplished everything Wright and the HSRG are proposing, but it was resoundly defeated. Why was it defeated? One issue was gillnetting would not qualify for the necessary selectivity. The typical TV ad showed a poor family with small children, with the false assertion that their livelihood would be taken away, and housewives would not be able to purchase salmon because gillnets would be banned. What did not come out was the fact that commercial catches of chinook and coho would greatly increase because the hatchery surplus fish and the excess hatchery fish on the spawning grounds would be caught, not wasted. Hatchery surplusses and escapees to natural spawning grounds number in the hundreds of thousands each year, greatly exceeding the catches.

Gillnetters, and presumably purse seiners, etc., seem to identify with the idea that they are gillnetters, not just commercial fishermen. From either a manager’s or a fisherman’s perspective, it should make little difference what gear is used, except the catch and escapement goals should be achieved, which does not happen now. Gillnets catch essentially everything, mixed species and sizes of fish, plus birds and marine mammals. Also, they are the basis for most ghost nets, lost nets that continue to fish unseen and cost millions of dollars to remove. Another point of resistence to change is the fear that the fishermen would have to invest heavily for new gear. This should not be a concern because the enormous costs of modifying the hydro system, irrigation, and other habitat issues is so large compared to the costs of new gear that this would be a best buy for the public relative to other costs of maintaining natural salmon.

Wright presents the hatchery fish management zone concept as being maintained by supressing information about acts that are either illegal or at least misleading. He is righteously concerned that he was forcing major investments in habitat that would never see needed spawners because of mismanaged harvest. He should be made aware that at this time the WDFW and the Puget Sound tribes have agreed to a Puget Sound Chinook harvest management plan that repeatedly asserts there is no reason to reduce harvest, hatchery zones or not, until spawning habitat is improved. This might seem to be simply a case of different conclusions from the same information, but it is not. There is no scientific basis for the State/Tribal position that there are sufficient natural spawners. Throughout the area of concern, hatchery salmon are a major, or the major, component of naturally spawning salmon. The HSRG asserts, based on published science, that hatchery origin spawners produce offspring that do not survive as well as progeny of natural origin salmon. They further state that even under current habitat conditions, productivity of natural fish can be doubled by eliminating hatchery spawners. At a minimum, hatchery-origin spawners replaced by natural-origin spawners would increase the probability of Recovery.

Wright sees harvest management that fails to provide adequate spawners as probably illegal. Looking at the same problem from a slightly different perspective, the authorized killing of substantial proportions of ESA listed fish, particularly when this is not even necessary if the gear is changed, seems clearly contrary to law.

Scientifically and economically, the change to selective fishing, sport and commercial, is required and obvious. What is preventing the change?

Pete Bergman Jan. 11, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010



In a recent interview with Inlander News, Don Chapman and Steve Pettit made an appeal to President Obama to “restore science” in efforts to recover salmonids in the upper Columbia, and specifically the Snake River.

The condition of wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin is “dire” according to these two retired fish biologists who have spent their careers, sometimes on the opposite side the issue, but have come together to speak directly to government to pay attention to the science of salmon recovery and put that information into actions that will actually restore the wild runs.

Recent large runs of sockeye, summer steelhead, and fall chinook have returned to the Snake and there has been a lot of excitement among government agencies and fishers about the success of measures to save the salmon. In 2002, a similar large run of hatchery fish swarmed into the Columbia, creating a wave of optimism that the worst was behind us. Little was said officially about the condition of the wild runs, which continue to be plagued by low survival rates.

It makes sense, doesn’t it, that when on an annual basis millions of hatchery smolts are released from federally funded hatcheries, that when these fish enter a productive ocean environment that there survival is high and large returns of adults come a few years later.

What is not stated by the government agencies is that for wild runs to take advantage of periodic high survival rates in the ocean, it takes several years to make a difference in the adult returns. Even though wild smolts have a higher survival rate than hatchery smolts, there are a lot fewer of the wild smolts entering the ocean. A high survival in one or two years means that more wild spawners reach their natal rivers to spawn, but it takes them longer to increase the number of smolts entering the ocean. Compared to hatchery fish that have an instant response to improved ocean conditions, the wild runs take several run years to rebuild.

In addition to this lag time in their ability to respond to a favorable ocean environment, the wild smolts are plagued by high mortality rates due to many factors including passage at the dams, predation in the reservoirs and harvest mortality in the ocean and in river fisheries.

Chapman said the wild salmon are just two percent of what use to return to the Snake River. All the “cheery” and “misleading” stories about Snake River salmon returns over looks a single critical factor: “Those record numbers are hatchery fish.” The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is recovery of wild salmon and steelhead not farmed hatchery fish released by huge factory hatcheries in the basin.

Salmon recovery in the Snake River means that survival of smolt to adult return of two percent to six percent is needed.

The Endangered Species Act has been in effect 19 years, but wild fall chinook, sockeye, and steelhead survival from smolt to adult is just 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent. “That is a long way from recovery,” Pettit says. In nearly twenty years, the ESA has failed in its application and mission to recover wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010



Now that year-end comments and reviews have been made it is time for new-year predictions. It is customary to make predictions based on guesses and absolutely no information other than what one knows of the past and based on past experiences one can guess about the future. So what are my guess-predictions of the future for native wild salmonids in the Pacific Northwest?

I know from experience that policy changes in salmonid management, this means salmon, trout, and steelhead, take at least ten years to hit the ground. So predictions about what will happen to salmonids can be checked in no less than a decade from now. Since most of our major problems have a policy link, that is, people have to decide to do something and once the decision is made the institutional ship must be changed and that is what slows every thing down, for the machinery of fish management is the main problem in solving problems. This process also involves governors and legislators and even congress, and for the most part they come in three flavors ranging from “Don’t care,” “Luke-Warm,” and “Openly Hostile.”

Agencies fear change and resist it with all their power. When I was able to convince the ODFW commission to adopt a wild fish management policy for Oregon salmonids in 1978, the opposition form the agency staff was remarkable and the policy was never really implemented before they revised it to make it more bullet proof to legal actions. It took 16 years to get stocked hatchery trout out of the Metolius River, but it took the retirement of the district biologist to make it happen. When I sought a slot-regulation for the Deschutes rainbow fishery, the staff was the major opponent. If it was not for the Chief of Fisheries, Dr. Harry Wagner, and his sidekick Jim Lichatowich as the deputy chief, the trout fishery on the Deschutes would still be based on hatchery trout, bait, and a kill fishery.

So making predictions about the next decade is really pretty simple: more of the same and massive resistance to change by state, federal, and tribal agencies; inattention or hostility form governors and legislators; with congress maintaining status quo on funding and remaining unaccountable for the public funds they shovel into state and tribal coffers. The federal agencies will continue to be miniaturized by funding cuts, but it is possible that there will be less interference on questions of science by the White House, even though the federal agency leadership will continue to be panting pets of the fish managers.

The critical areas of salmonids problem solving that will be addressed in the next decade are:

Conservation requirements for each wild, native salmonid population in each watershed. (Managers are being forced to move in this direction, but progress is slow and it will not happen in this decade. This has been applied to wild Atlantic salmon in Canada.)

Hatchery reform so that hatchery fish do not contribute to the natural spawning of wild fish. (This is being discussed and weirs are proposed like those that NFS and ODFW have placed on three Deschutes tributaries. A science review team has recommended reducing but not eliminating naturally spawning hatchery fish. There will be some movement in this decade, but only a few rivers will be treated in this decade and protection of wild salmonids will be less than complete.)

Harvest reform so that the by-catch mortality of wild fish is nearly zero. (The state of Oregon is resistant to applying harvest methods to reduce the kill of wild fish, but the state of Washington and Colville Tribe are testing the use of seines to live capture fish without harm. If an initiative petition is adopted by voters in Oregon this issue could be resolved in this decade.)

Habitat management/protection fully addresses the life history requirements of wild, native salmonids and increases the productive capacity of wild populations. (Setting standards to protect and increase habitat productivity for salmonid watersheds by state agencies will not happen in this decade, however, improvements will be made on federal lands, but many species and wild populations will not directly benefit.)

Spawner abundance objectives for wild, native salmonids provide full utilization of spawning and rearing habitats. (Interim spawner abundance objectives have been suggested for most ESA-listed species, but there is no indication that these objectives are taken seriously by state fish managers, for it constrains harvest. There will be little progress on this issue in the next decade without legal action.)

Nutrient enrichment of streams from spawner carcasses and eggs is enough to increase the productivity of streams for naturally produced wild salmonids. Streams will have nutrient enrichment targets from naturally spawned salmonids and management successfully achieves these targets annually. (State and tribal fish managers are not supportive of nutrient enrichment of streams if it comes from natural spawners. There is some pretense at doing this work using hatchery fish carcasses, but nutrient enrichment goals have not been established for each stream. There will be some progress in this during the decade, but not enough to provide much value to natural populations.)

Cured salmon eggs no longer contain the toxin sulfite and contribute to mortality of juvenile salmonids. (The state fish managers are not interested in moving to remove toxins from cured eggs used as bait even though their own research indicates that 30% or more of the juvenile salmonids that ingest these baits are killed. It will take legal action to move this issue forward this decade.)

Juvenile salmonids are protected in streams with bait and barbless hook restricted fisheries. (The state fish agencies have decided that selling more angling licenses is more important than protecting wild salmonid juveniles in trout fisheries. The states are using trout kill fisheries to harvest residualized hatchery steelhead in streams as a justification to maintain excessive hatchery releases and using trout fishing as a conservation tool. The issue is regressing and will not be resolved in this decade.)

Ecological effects of competition for food and space, from disease transmission, and from predation and predator attraction from hatchery fish is resolved to protect wild, native salmonids. (The first impact wild fish see from a hatchery program is a swarm of hatchery fish released into rivers. There has been little research on this issue, but what has been done points to a severe impact on the abundance of wild salmonids. There will be lots of foot dragging on this issue by the state fish managers because it is a threat to the hatchery programs and the federal funding they get to run them.)

Passage barriers for adult and juvenile salmonids are removed so that fish have full access to their natural distribution in watersheds. (Passage barriers take many forms and come under the authority of many jurisdictions. Barriers include culverts, diversion dams, hydro dams, storage dams, dewatered streams below diversions. All of our rivers are affected and it will take a focused and well funded effort and commitment by jurisdictions to solve this problem. Progress will be made in this next decade, but it will be slow and under funded.

Transported smolts in the Columbia River no longer generate adults that stray into non-natal watersheds and disrupt the reproductive success of wild salmonids. (In the 1980s researches for NMFS identified that transported steelhead were lost (failed to return to their home river or hatchery release point), but NMFS administrators were anxious to confirm transportation as the solution to dam mortality. Since then, recent research confirms that transported steelhead are lost and have a high stray rate. In response NFS and ODFW have constructed hatchery fish exclusion weirs on three tributaries of the Deschutes, so that they do not interbreed with wild fish. However, some hatchery fish are not externally marked and wild fish stray as well, so the weirs are only a partial fix of a bad fish management policy affecting all rivers. Given the resistance of NMFS and the state agencies to their own research, it is unlikely that much progress on this problem will be made in the next decade.)

Ocean acidification from carbon dioxide will be arrested and reduced to near normal conditions. (Increasing use of coal power plants in Asia is contributing to global warming and ocean acidification. The impact on the ocean may cause it to be less productive for salmonids. Acid precipitation in the Northwest will also acidify our streams. The effect of this pollution is well documented in eastern Canada where some salmon runs have gone extinct due to acid precipitation from coal plants in the eastern United States. Monitoring of this problem is poor in the Northwest, and we can look forward to rivers not only having lower summer flows that are warmer, but more acid. Resolving this international pollution problem is not likely to progress much in the next decade.)

ESA-listed species will have recovery plans in place and recovery measures are increasing the reproductive success of threatened species. (Since salmon were first listed in 1991 there are few recovery plans in place to recover threatened species. There has been more scientific evaluation of population status recently and we have a blue print of what needs to be done in many ESUs, but getting these plans implemented by the state and federal fish agencies will be slow and difficult because they disrupt established management policy. There will be important advances in our understanding of what to do, but doing it will be slow and awkward over the next decade.)

The cost to produce a hatchery fish that is caught in a fishery is routinely evaluated for each hatchery program in the region. (Hatcheries consume about 40% of the salmonid management budget at the state and regional levels. This large investment of public money has not been evaluated from the perspective of how much it costs to produce a fish that is actually harvested. When the economic team at the Power Council evaluated selected hatcheries in 2002, they found that the cost to catch was higher than the economic benefit of the salmon that were harvested. When the economists proposed to do an economic evaluation of all Columbia River hatcheries, the Power Council refused to fund the study. A recent economic study of Mitchell Act Hatcheries shows that all Mitchell Act Hatchery production for all species is a deficit program. The contractor, NMFS, fired that economic team, and another economic study was solicited to get a more favorable answer. The fish management agencies do not want a cost-benefit analysis of the public funded hatchery program. It is unlikely that this will change in the next decade.)

Water quality limited streams for temperature and sediment affect all watersheds in the region. (Most river basins in Northwest states are water quality limited and a major reason goes to high water temperatures and sediment that degrade streams for salmonid production. There are many thousands of miles of affected streams but state and federal agencies have been impossibly slow in developing a resolution to this non-point source pollution problem. Too many established commercial uses of our watersheds would be gored. In the next decade this problem will only get worse and global warming are making our streams far less productive. In the next decade this problem will expand rather than reduced.)

The public with a dog in the fight to protect wild salmonids and the habitats that sustain them will grow in size and effectiveness. (In the next decade the public will become more informed and more effective in its commitment to protect wild, native fish. Becoming organized, informed, and taking a stand for nature protection will mean that government will have a harder time retaining status quo policies. The public will act with a growing realization that government does not lead, it follows. Increasing the pressure for conservation is growing with improvements in communications and development of specific missions. As these organizations increase their commitment to protect nature and can show effectiveness, their public support and funding will increase. In the next decade there will be important growth and accomplishments in protection of nature.