Friday, May 14, 2010

Cedar River Sockeye Hatchery A Multimillion Dollar Boondoggle

For over a decade sport fishing advocates have been calling for investment in a permanent Sockeye hatchery on the Cedar River. The current hatchery is considered temporary and has been operating since 1991 with capacity to produce 17 million hatchery smolts, the proposed permanent facility would nearly double smolt production from current levels and is expected to cost Seattle Public Utilities approximately 12 million dollars . Lake Washington supports one of the most popular salmon fisheries in the state, however recent returns of sockeye have been well below the 350,0o0 fish needed to open the fishery. Last year only 22,166 fish returned, the worst run on record.

A recent report from WDFW strongly suggests that adding more sockeye fry to the Lake Washington system would likely not result in a larger return of adult fish. Sockeye rear one or two years in the lake prior to migrating to sea and it is now believed that density dependent competition for resources is the primary limiting factor in the productivity of the Cedar population. Given these findings, adding more sockeye fry to the system would only compound the problem. Furthermore, sockeye are not native to the Cedar River and were originally transplanted from Baker Lake in the Skagit drainage in the early 1900s and more hatchery supplementation in the system could potentially increase competition for resources with ESA listed Chinook and Coho both of which are native to the Cedar. Still, sport fishing groups have continued to call for increased hatchery production despite the history of failure, poor performance of the current hatchery facility and the scientific evidence suggesting that the new hatchery would be a multi-million dollar waste of money. Instead Seattle Public Utility should use those funds to buy any available floodplain lands on the lower Cedar, restoring much needed connectivity to critically important floodplain habitats. Such off-channel and floodplain habitats are thought to be limiting factors in the productivity of coho and are also important for chinook. Flooding on the Cedar in recent years has caused millions of dollars of damage to homes, highlighting the need to move development out of the historic floodplain whenever possible.

see an article in the Seattle Times here:

the full WDFW report here:

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