Thursday, August 25, 2011

Seattle Times Article on Elwha Hatcheries

Photo by Chris DeLeone

An excellent article published today in the Seattle Times on the Elwha dam removal and concerns over the plan to use hatcheries as a part of the restoration strategy. The article highlights the issues our organization and others have had with the recovery plan and its reliance on hatchery fish to "reseed" the Elwha watershed after dam removal, which is a common mis-characterization of the process of recolonization.

While there is some legitimate concern about high sediment loads and their impact on the survival of remaining wild fish in the Lower River, however the fact of the matter is the upper watershed is pristine and will be unaffected by high sediment loads. The hatchery plan will require the domestication of a major proportion of the remaining wild populations, reducing the fitness and productivity of populations in the system. By releasing more than 3 million hatchery fish each year throughout the recovery managers will swamp the Elwha's pristine habitat with hatchery fish undermining the ability of populations to colonize and become locally adapted in the upper river.

The article also tackles the complexity of managing the recovery with the competing interests of wild recovery and tribal harvest opportunity both in play. The tribe for its part has supported plans to use hatchery fish during the recovery period, including the controversial plan to continue releasing non-native Chambers Creek steelhead during the recovery despite opposition by NOAA, WDFW and USFWS.

Read at the Seattle Time's website:

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