Saturday, November 25, 2006

Closing Coastal Hatcheries?

In the latest edition of "Strong Runs" the newsletter of Native Fish Society Bill Bakke floats the idea of closing or cutting back on coastal hatcheries and allowing a limited wild steelhead harvest.
He thinks by putting that money, and it's a bunch folks, into habitat and native fish enhancements we would be better off in the long run. Bakke contends that hatchery steelhead present more of a danger to wild steelhead than a limited harvest would.
Each hatchery fish produced by ODFW is very expensive! We are not getting our moneys worth at over $70 dollars average per fish landed.
It is also worth noting that coastal steelhead do not face the same obstacles that the Columbia River steelhead face and the hatcheries are not a part of the Mitchell Act.
Native broodstock programs have not panned out into the panacea that was hoped for and the out of basin fish are a very poor representation. Both hatchery runs yield a lower percentage of returning adults compared to wild fish and the smolt are competing with wild smolt for the nutrients in the river that are available.
I believe that if we are ever going to get our wild runs back to any semblance of where they once were we must sacrifice in order to do that!
These hatcheries are neither efficient or necessary! It's been proven many times with a long sad history that hatchery steelhead are detrimental in the long term well being of wild steelhead survival.
Look at the Washougal River in SW Washington as an example. The wild steelhead in this little river had survived logging splash dams, mining operations and pollution only to be decimated by guess what? Poor hatchery practices and processes.
This river holds a special place in my heart because it was there I landed my very first summer steelhead on a fly.
We have to at some point decide what is most important.

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