PUYALLUP (November 6, 2008) – The Puyallup Tribe’s Clark Creek salmon hatchery has reached its goal of collecting 1.1 million chinook eggs for the first time since it opened four years ago.

“We’ll be running at full capacity this winter and spring,” said Blake Smith, enhancement biologist for the Puyallup Tribe. As in most hatcheries, more than 90 percent of the eggs will survive to be released, translating into 1,000,000 juvenile hatchery salmon swimming out into the Puyallup River early next summer.

“When they return as adults in a few years, these fish will be a big part of fisheries for both tribal and non-tribal fishermen providing increased opportunity,” Smith said.

The hatchery features nearer to nature rearing ponds that mimic natural salmon habitat with tree root wads and gravel. These features help young chinook develop better survival skills.

“Fish born in the wild develop instincts that help them find food and avoid being eaten,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, this isn’t something we see a lot of in hatchery fish raised in featureless cement ponds. The more salmon learn to survive in the wild, the more hatchery fish that will return to the river in a few years.”

In addition to releasing fish from the hatchery itself, the tribe also uses the young fish from Clarks Creek to repopulate the upper Puyallup River watershed. Each spring, the tribe trucks thousands of juvenile chinook to three acclimation ponds in the upper Puyallup. “This stretch of river has been open to salmon since 2000 when a fish ladder was built around Electron dam,” Smith said. “By putting juvenile chinook up there, we’re giving the run up there a jump start.”

Now that the facility is working at full capacity, there will be more hatchery fish available for harvest in the lower river, away from where wild chinook congregate. “If there are more hatchery fish to catch in the lower river, fishing pressure moves away from where wild fish are,” Smith said. “Getting wild chinook into the upper watershed to spawn is a priority for the tribe.”

(END)

For more information, contact: Blake Smith, enhancement biologist, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 845-9225. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, eoconnell@nwifc.org