December 4, 2015 – J. W. Snyder – NWFN
The state has decided to extent the courtesy of public comment on the current hatchery reform plan for the lower Columbia River.
OLYMPIA – The public is invited to comment on a new plan designed to align state fisheries and hatchery operations to support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead populations in the lower Columbia River Basin.
The Lower Columbia Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries Plan, jointly produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board (LCFRB), is available for review at www.lcfrb.gen.wa.us
Comments on the plan will be accepted through Jan. 22 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or postal mail: LCFRB, 2127 8th Ave, Longview, WA 98632.
The new management plan is based on the statewide Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2009. It also reflects the findings of the Hatchery and Scientific Review Group (HSRG), established by Congress in 2000 to guide state reform efforts.
Management strategies outlined in the plan include those put into action since 2009 and others proposed for the future, said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW fish manager for southwest Washington.
“The goal of this plan is to return natural-origin salmon and steelhead populations to healthy, harvestable levels in the Columbia River Basin,” Le Fleur said. “We’ve already taken significant steps toward that goal, and we want to hear what people have to say about past and proposed actions.”
Current initiatives range from increasing the use of wild fish for hatchery broodstock to suspending production of hatchery steelhead on rivers designated as “wild steelhead gene banks.”
These and other actions described in the plan are designed to minimize risks to wild salmon and steelhead populations posed by hatchery fish and hatchery operations.
Known hazards include interbreeding, disease, and competition for spawning areas, as well as hatchery structures that block the movement of wild fish upstream.
NOAA-Fisheries has frequently cited these risks as a contributing factor in listing wild salmon and steelhead populations for protection the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Jeff Breckel, director of the LCFRB, said the new hatchery and fishery reform plan for the Columbia River Basin is consistent with the goals of the recovery plan for the region approved by NOAA-Fisheries. The board was created by the state Legislature to lead a collaborative effort to recover salmon and steelhead in Southwest Washington.
“Our organization is pleased to be a partner in developing this plan,” Breckel said. “It represents a big step forward in efforts to recover threatened salmon and steelhead, while continuing to provide hatchery fish for harvest.”
Under the adaptive management approach described in the plan, all initiatives will be assessed based on how fish populations respond to those changes. Key actions taken to date include:
- Incorporating wild fish into the hatchery broodstock for chinook, coho and steelhead production.
- Designating three rivers as wild steelhead gene banks by discontinuing hatchery releases in the East Fork Lewis and North Fork Toutle/Green rivers, as well as continuing the strategy of not releasing hatchery steelhead on the Wind River.
- Installing weirs to control the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds on the Grays, Elochoman, Green, Coweeman, Cowlitz, Kalama, and Washougal rivers.
- Testing the use of purse seines and beach seines to selectively harvest hatchery salmon in designated areas of the lower Columbia River.
- Expanding mark-selective recreational fisheries, and requiring anglers to retain any hatchery steelhead they catch in some waters.
The Lower Columbia Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries Plan is also available for review on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01767/