Thursday, August 9, 2012

CRITFC Refuses to Acknowledge Hatchery Impacts

The Columbia and Snake watersheds are home to more than 80 hatchery programs which release almost 150 million hatchery juveniles each year. Many of these hatcheries are intended to provide harvest opportunity and fish are adipose clipped to allow selective harvest. However, for other programs, the stated purpose is to "recover" wild populations. In a tiny number of cases conservation hatcheries may be a valuable tool in preventing the extinction of fragile populations which are teetering on the brink, but as a widespread strategy for the recovery of ESA listed wild stocks managers couldn't pick a more costly, ineffective and ultimately harmful recovery plan. Unfortunately many of the tribes in the Columbia Basin have lined up behind these "recovery" hatcheries and are increasingly pushing for expanded hatchery programs on the premise that integrated hatcheries can help recover wild fish.

With more and more science each year suggesting that hatcheries are a major impediment to the recovery of productive, locally adapted wild stocks, there is understandably skepticism on the part of managers and scientists and an increasing recognition that hatchery programs in the Columbia may need to be scaled back to facilitate recovery of wild populations.  The Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP), an independent body of scientists tasked with review fish management plans in the Columbia, has been particularly eloquent in their critiques of several planned hatchery programs and consequently have drawn the ire of the hatchery loving Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC). 

In an article published in the latest edition of the Northwest Fishletter titled "Tribes offer Spirited Defense of Hatchery Supplementation",  Paul Lumley the executive director of CRITFC dismisses the multitude of recent scientific evidence demonstrating the reduced fitness and productivity of hatchery fish when spawning in the wild, arguing that researchers are biased because, "by bashing hatcheries, you can say that we need to keep the wild fish and the hatchery fish separated." He goes on to assert that the scientists conducting the research essentially sought to preserve the status quo of intensive segregated hatchery supplementation in the Columbia Basin, but the reality is research have been equally unforgiving on the impacts of segregated programs, particularly because the number of hatchery fish spawning in the wild almost always eclipses 5% guideline laid out by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group. The reality is, hatchery reform is going to have to be a part of recovery on the Columbia and whether or not CRITFC believes the science unchecked hatchery supplementation, whether it is in the form of integrated or segregated hatcheries is fundamentally incompatible with the recovery of ESA listed wild stocks. Fortunately the federal government seems to be getting the message at least in part, and a number of options outlined in the latest EIS for the Columbia Hatcheries could make significant steps towards recovering wild salmon and steelhead in the basin. The final EIS with the feds preferred alternative has yet to be released but is due out by the end of the year. 

Read the whole article in the Northwest Fishletter:

No comments: