OLYMPIA (May 23, 2007) – Treaty Indian Tribes in western Washington released 31 million hatchery salmon in 2006, according to recently compiled statistics.
Nearly all of the chinook and coho salmon produced at tribal hatcheries were “mass marked” by removal of the adipose fin – a fleshy extremity just behind the dorsal fin on the fish’s back. Clipping the fin makes for easy identification when the hatchery fish return as adults and are harvested.
Of the 31 million salmon released, 9.6 million were chinook. Significant numbers of chum (9.5 million) and coho (7.8 million) were also released in addition to 3 million sockeye and nearly 1 million steelhead. Some of the salmon released by the tribes were produced in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State Regional Enhancement Groups, or other sport or community groups.
The combined tribal, state and federal hatchery system in Washington State is the largest in the world.
With the listing of some Puget Sound salmon and steelhead as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act, the tribal and state salmon co-managers are implementing a comprehensive effort to ensure hatcheries don’t harm efforts to rebuild weak wild stocks. The Hatchery Reform Program is an independent science-driven process that aids wild salmon recovery while also providing for sustainable harvest of more plentiful hatchery fish.
Instead of solely producing salmon for harvest, hatcheries also now play a major role in wild salmon recovery. Many hatcheries are now used to supplement wild runs. Returning wild adult salmon are collected as broodstock, spawned in the hatchery, and their offspring released back into the wild. Controlled spawning and rearing conditions in the hatchery boost survival rates for the young fish, which means more survive to return as adults and repeat the cycle.
“Hatcheries serve an important role in salmon recovery,” said Billy Frank, of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC). “While hatchery production will never be able to replace fish lost to poor habitat, we’re taking important steps to ensure sustainable harvest while recovering wild salmon.”
The NWIFC is a natural resource management consortium that provides services to 20 member tribes in western Washington.
For more information, contact: Tony Meyer, (360) 528-4325, [email protected]