Hatchery salmon are collected from a holding pond before having their adipose fins clipped in NWIFC’s automatic tagging trailer.

The Tulalip Tribes’ Bernie Kai-Kai Gobin Salmon Hatchery released a record number of coho salmon this year, thanks to rearing improvements that led to a high survival rate.

In June, tribal hatchery staff released 1.3 million coho smolts from brood year 2010. This brings the total number of hatchery salmon released this year to 12 million, including brood year 2011 chinook and chum.

“We have made slight changes to the way we do things as far as fertilizing and handling of eggs,” said Jesse Rude, assistant manager of the hatchery. “Our survival rates have gone from around 80 to 85 percent up to 95 percent.”

The hatchery coho and chinook are 100 percent otolith-marked in addition to being fin-clipped so fishermen can identify them as hatchery fish. Otoliths are mineral structures often referred to as “ear bones.” They are marked by altering the water temperature at the hatchery, leaving a distinct pattern that fisheries managers can use to identify where the fish originated. A portion of the hatchery fish also are coded-wire tagged.

“The marking and tagging program we’ve put into place allows us to produce and harvest hatchery fish responsibly while protecting wild stocks, whose integrity and recovery is a priority for the tribe,” said Kit Rawson, conservation science manager for Tulalip. “Tribal hatcheries continue to provide valuable fishing opportunities for both tribal and non-tribal fishermen, while minimizing impacts on wild stocks.”

Otolith samples and coded-wire tags enable fisheries managers to determine the impacts of harvest on salmon populations. Tulalip has its own stock assessment lab where tribal technicians read the otolith samples.

“We get more accurate return estimates using the otolith information,” said Mike Crewson, fisheries enhancement biologist. “The sampling and laboratory work enables more samples to be analyzed, and provides tribal members with interesting jobs. We’re also able to support the Northwest Indian College by teaching chemistry and biology classes at the lab.”

Hatcheries are just one aspect of sustainable fisheries management. Responsible harvest management also is a key element, but even more important is investment in habitat restoration and protection.

“We need to make sure salmon will still be around for our grandchildren,” said Ray Fryberg, Tulalip Tribes director of natural and cultural resources. “We’re putting money, time and effort into releasing these fish, but we’re losing ground on habitat. We wouldn’t even have fisheries if it weren’t for hatcheries. Not only do they provide economically for our people, but more importantly, they preserve a lifestyle that belongs to us.”

For more information, contact:
Francesca Hillery, Tulalip Public Affairs, 360-716-4013 or
fhillery@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov; Kari Neumeyer, NWIFC Information Officer, 360-424-8226 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org.