Thursday, March 10, 2011

ODFW on the Sandy Aiming low for Wild Recovery

Unnerved by ODFW's unwillingness to take adequate steps to address declining populations of wild fish on the Sandy, folks at the Native Fish Society recently launched a campaign to reduce hatchery impacts in the basin. Currently ODFW releases about 1.5 million hatchery salmon and steelhead into the Sandy, and despite millions of dollars invested in habitat restoration and dam removal wild populations continue to decline. Despite a 1998 ESA listing ODFW has done next to nothing to reduce the impact of hatchery fish on the productivity of wild stocks and the removal of Marmot dam in 2007 means there is no longer a way to sort hatchery fish out of upriver spawning populations. Consequently hatchery stray rates have skyrocketed as high as 60-70% for some species. Spencer Miles a NFS river steward who has spearheaded the Sandy project recently wrote on his blog about shifting recovery goals.

Since 1997, the year before Lower Columbia steelhead were listed, ODFW's wild steelhead escapement goals have gone from 4900 fish to 1730 then 1515. Rather than addressing these declines, ODFW has continually pushed recovery goals lower and lower to protect the status quo and the hatchery operations which threaten wild fish in the watershed. Spencer was able to dig up the 1997 Sandy Basin plan and found that it included some interesting language. The plan calls for ODFW to...

(e) Modify or discontinue hatchery steelhead releases in the Sandy River basin if:

(A) It is determined that hatchery steelhead releases are principal causes of significant decline in wild winter steelhead abundance; or

(B) If Sandy River basin winter steelhead are listed as Threatened or Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Both conditions have been met, yet ODFW continues to release over a million fish into the watershed annually. Since that time the department has also launched a wild broodstock program which now takes between 10 and 15% of the wild spawners out of the Sandy for broodstock. These practices are not sustainble. More information at Spencer's blog White Fish Can't Jump

1 comment:

Ryan said...

God, this makes me sick. ODFW should be the stewards of this resource. It's time for the status quo to go.