Nisqually Tribe Taking Chinook Into Protective Custody

By: Northwest Treaty Tribes


Chinook born in the Nisqually River are being taken into protective custody by the Nisqually Indian Tribe.

The tribe is trapping and spawning natural-origin chinook this fall because so few have returned in recent years. Instead of passing naturally produced chinook above a tribally operated weir, the tribe will truck them to its nearby Kalama Creek Hatchery.

“We’re seeing a sharp decline of natural-origin chinook returning to the river, so we want to make sure these fish are as successful as they can be,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the tribe.

At Kalama Creek, the fish are being spawned by hand. Their offspring will be released into the river next spring.

To make sure some chinook spawn in the wild, the tribe will release up to 600 adult hatchery-produced chinook into the upper watershed. That way, even more naturally produced chinook will leave the river next year.

“The genetic difference between natural and hatchery-origin chinook on the Nisqually is small,” Troutt said. All of the chinook in the river are descendants from an imported hatchery stock planted decades ago.

The native chinook stock was killed off in the 1960s in large part due to poor hydroelectric practices that left the river dry for months at a time.

Five years ago, the tribe began closely managing the mix of natural and hatchery-spawned fish in the river to help mitigate hatchery influence on the stock.

“Our goal is to let the natural habitat, instead of the hatchery environment, drive adaptation of the stock,” Troutt said. “By mixing in natural-origin fish at the hatchery, we bring in better genetic traits to improve salmon productivity. This means more fish for everyone.”

Recent declines in chinook productivity because of poor ocean conditions drove this year’s drastic action. “Instead of bringing in just a few, we need to bring in every single natural fish we can to protect them,” Troutt said.

Upper Skagit Tribe harvests last full return of hatchery steelhead



By Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission


It’s the end of an era for Upper Skagit tribal fishermen as the last full return of hatchery steelhead arrives in the Skagit River this winter.

“Our ancestors gave up everything so that we could continue to fish in our traditional areas,” said Scott Schuyler, natural resources director for the Upper Skagit Tribe. “Without hatchery production, we can’t have a meaningful fishery.”

The last full steelhead fishery is especially bittersweet for Schuyler, whose 14-year-old daughter just received her first tribal fishing card. “Maybe she’ll be able to have one day of fishing a year,” he said. “That’s not a meaningful fishery.”

Steelhead are a culturally important species that the Upper Skagit Tribe harvests for commercial, ceremonial and subsistence purposes. Historically, steelhead were available during the long winter months when other species were not available to feed tribal families.

Hatchery programs have been a part of fisheries management in Washington for more than 100 years, making up for lost natural production as a result of degraded and destroyed habitat. Guided by science, hatchery management in western Washington is carefully managed to protect the genetic health of wild fish. In the Skagit River, hatchery programs also provide mitigation for the ongoing effects of hydroelectric plants.

Last spring, the Wild Fish Conservancy sued the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) over hatchery winter steelhead programs that used Chambers Creek broodstock.

“Hatcheries are under attack,” Schuyler said. “Taking away hatchery programs leaves tribes under certain circumstances with a severely diminished or no opportunity.”

The Upper Skagit Tribe, along with the Lummi Nation and Tulalip and Stillaguamish tribes, released a statement at the time of the lawsuit saying that the Wild Fish Conservancy “erroneously concluded that hatchery production, rather than the loss of habitat, is responsible for the depressed state of the Puget Sound Steelhead populations.”

However, WDFW settled the lawsuit, agreeing to halt the release of Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead in all Puget Sound rivers but one, until the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration approves each program. The settlement also put a 12-year moratorium of steelhead hatchery releases in the Skagit River.

This year will be the Upper Skagit Tribe’s last full season fishing for hatchery steelhead, with returns reduced starting next year, and gone by 2017.

Honoring the Legacy of Billy Frank Jr.

Being Frank is the monthly opinion column that was written for many years by the late Billy Frank Jr., NWIFC Chairman. To honor him, the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington will continue to share their perspectives on natural resources management through this column. This month’s writer is Lorraine Loomis, vice-chair of the NWIFC and fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe.


By Lorraine Loomis, Vice-Chairman, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

OLYMPIA – So much has been written and said about the passing of Billy Frank Jr., our great leader and good friend. Many people are asking how to honor Billy’s memory. Who will take his place?

One way we can honor Billy’s legacy is to carry on his work:

We must recover wild salmon to levels that can once again support harvest. That is the only true measure of salmon recovery. To do that, we must do more to protect and then to restore salmon habitat. Right now we are losing habitat faster than it can be fixed. That must change or we will continue to lose the battle for salmon recovery.

  • We must maintain strong salmon hatchery programs. Most hatcheries were built to mitigate for lost natural wild salmon production caused by damaged and destroyed habitat. Tribal, state and federal hatcheries are operated safely, responsibly and using the best science to minimize impacts on wild salmon. Some hatcheries produce salmon for harvest. Others aid recovery of weak wild stocks. Every hatchery is essential to meeting the tribal treaty right by contributing salmon that are available for harvest. Without hatcheries there would be no fishing at all in most areas of western Washington. We must have hatcheries as long as wild salmon habitat continues to be degraded and disappear.
  • We must achieve a more protective fish consumption rate and maintain the current cancer risk rate to improve water quality and protect the health of everyone who lives in Washington. The two rates are key factors that state government uses to determine how much pollution can be dumped in our waters. The state admits that the current fish consumption rate of 6.5 grams per day (an amount that would fit on a soda cracker) does not protect most of us who live here. It is among the lowest rates in the country, despite the fact that we have one of the largest populations of fish and shellfish consumers in the United States. Currently the cancer risk rate from toxins in seafood that the state uses to set water quality standards is one in a million, but Gov. Jay Inslee is considering a move to reduce that rate to one in 100,000, a tenfold decrease in protection. We believe Washington’s fish consumption rate should be 175 grams per day – the same as Oregon – and that the cancer risk rate should remain at one in a million.
  • We must really, truly clean up Puget Sound. Every few years state government creates a new agency or cooperative effort to make that cleanup a reality. Year after year, decade after decade, we have all been working toward that goal, but we are not making sufficient progress. The main reason is lack of political will to develop and enforce regulations that could make cleanup a reality. Until that changes, the cleanup of Puget Sound will not happen.
  • We must stop plans to expand the transport and export of coal and oil through our state’s land and waters. Increased oil train and tanker ship traffic and more export terminals offer nothing but problems. The likelihood of oil train explosions and derailments, along with the potential for devastating spills from tanker ships, threaten tribal treaty rights, the environment, our natural resources, our health and even our very lives. The few, mostly short-term jobs that they might provide are just not worth the cost.
  • We must continue to work together on the problems we all share. We have shown that great things can be accomplished through cooperation, such as the Timber/Fish/Wildlife Agreement and the U.S./Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty. If we work together we can achieve both a healthy environment and a healthy economy. If we continue the conflict we will achieve neither outcome. A healthy environment is necessary to support a healthy economy in this region and the people who live here demand it.

Billy worked his entire life to make western Washington a better place for all of us to live. Tribal treaty rights that protect natural resources help make that possible, and benefit everyone who lives here, not just Indian tribes.

As for the question of who will pick up where Billy left off, the answer is all of us. No single person will ever be able to replace him. That’s a job for everyone. There is only one direction we can go: Forward – together – on the path Billy showed us with the teachings he shared.

Tulalips, others oppose state’s move to halt release of hatchery steelhead

By Chris Winters, The Herald

TULALIP — A lawsuit filed against the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has led the state to cancel this year’s entire release of hatchery-raised steelhead trout into Western Washington rivers.

That means that there will be virtually no steelhead fishing in 2016 and 2017.

This week the Tulalips and other local American Indian tribes weighed in, blasting the decision by the state to cancel the release, and the lawsuit that forced the move, filed by the Wild Fish Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Duvall.

The suit was filed on March 31. In a declaration filed April 16 by Phil Anderson, the director of Fish and Wildlife, he wrote that the department’s plan to protect wild steelhead from genetic hybridization with hatchery fish is under review by the National Marine Fisheries Service, but that he had no expectation it would be approved in time for the release.

That approval is necessary so that the program wouldn’t run afoul of the Endangered Species Act, which lists wild steelhead as threatened. Therefore, Anderson decided there would be no steelhead release this year.

A joint statement issued by the Tulalip Tribes, the Lummi Nation and the Upper Skagit Tribe took issue with the basis for the nonprofit’s lawsuit, which, it said, “erroneously concluded that hatchery production, rather than the loss of habitat, is responsible for the depressed state of the Puget Sound steelhead populations.”

The statement from the tribes urged anglers to contact Gov. Jay Inslee, the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and Anderson and to put pressure on the department.

“Maybe the hatcheries do have some impact, but there are greater impacts out there,” said Ray Fryberg, executive director for natural and cultural resources for the Tulalip Tribes.

Habitat loss, environmental change, perhaps even seals waiting at the mouths of rivers to eat the returning fish probably have a greater impact on wild populations than the hatcheries do, Fryberg said.

The fish at issue is known as Chambers Creek steelhead, a strain raised in six hatcheries in Western Washington, including the Whitehorse Ponds hatchery near Darrington.

The hatchery-raised juveniles are released earlier than when wild steelhead hatch, and the difference in timing allows the hatchery-raised adult steelhead to be fished before the wild runs return to their spawning grounds.

A spokesperson for the Department of Fish and Wildlife declined to comment on the lawsuit or the statement from the tribes.

The conservancy’s suit alleges that the state’s hatchery programs allow Chambers Creek steelhead to interbreed with the wild strains, out-compete the wild fish for food and spawning grounds, and that the hatchery operations themselves have suppressed the wild population.

The wild stocks are so depressed that they are in danger of being listed as endangered, which would drastically affect fishing for all salmonid species in the region, said Kurt Beardslee, the executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy.

Loss of habitat is a critical issue, Beardslee said, but the only two actions that would have an immediate impact on wild populations would be to curtail fishing or to stop hatchery releases.

He cited a recent study conducted in the Skagit River of the impacts of hatchery-raised steelhead on the wild population, one of whose recommendations was to suspend hatchery releases for seven to 10 years to eliminate competition among the species, reduce cross-breeding among populations and increase the survival rate of wild steelhead.

“We have to look at things that can get results immediately,” Beardslee said.

Fryberg said that the lawsuit was a step backward in the struggle to restore wild runs of steelhead and salmon.

“For years and years as co-managers and cooperative managers we’ve always emphasized that we should be working together,” Fryberg said.

With the environment changing rapidly, there is simply no baseline condition to compare it to, and it’s essential to get all the scientific data on the table before acting, he added.

“We have not fished some native runs of fish out here for 20 to 30 years and they still haven’t rebounded,” Fryberg said. “Let’s not run into this hastily.”


Wash. Puts Release Of Hatchery Steelhead On Hold

A steelhead trout in an Oregon stream. | credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife | rollover image for more
A steelhead trout in an Oregon stream. | credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife


By Katie Campbell, KCTS9

State fish managers are halting their plans to release juvenile steelhead into Puget Sound rivers this spring. This decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by wild fish advocates.

The Wild Fish Conservancy sued the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, contending that the agency’s planting of early winter hatchery steelhead violates the Endangered Species Act.

In response, agency officials have decided not to release more than 900,000 juvenile Chambers Creek steelhead in Puget Sound rivers.

Kurt Beardslee is co-founder of the wild fish advocacy group. He says that’s a good sign that fishery managers are taking the lawsuit seriously.

The lawsuit claims that planting this highly domesticated species of ocean-going trout will endanger wild steelhead, chinook and bull trout.

Fish and Wildlife officials say they plan to continue to rear the fish in hatcheries until they are old enough to be released in trout-fishing lakes. That could change, depending on the outcome of the lawsuit.

Judge Reduces Hatchery Releases On Sandy River

Oregon Department of Fish and WildlifeA federal judge has ruled an Oregon state fish hatchery must limit the number of hatchery-bred fish it releases. The goal is to protect wild salmon and steelhead stocks, which could interbreed with the hatchery fish.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
A federal judge has ruled an Oregon state fish hatchery must limit the number of hatchery-bred fish it releases. The goal is to protect wild salmon and steelhead stocks, which could interbreed with the hatchery fish.


By Cassandra Profita, OPB

A new court decision reduces the number of hatchery fish releases into Oregon’s Sandy River this year.

The Sandy River Hatchery will be allowed to release 200,000 coho salmon this year. That’s less than the 300,000 coho hatchery managers were planning to release.

Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, said in a statement that the reduction won’t harm sport fishers.

“This is good news for our industry,” she said. “We are very happy the anglers and businesses that rely on fishing on the Sandy River will not be negatively impacted by this ruling. This is great news for hatcheries in Oregon and for anyone who fishes in the Northwest.”

A federal court ruling in January found the hatchery had violated the Endangered Species Act.

Judge Ancer Haggerty said hatchery managers needed to do more to ensure the hatchery fish released into the Sandy weren’t going to put protected wild fish at risk.

His latest decision issued Friday follows up on that ruling. It allows the hatchery to continue releasing fish -– but not as many as planned.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the Native Fish Society. Michael Moody, executive director of the Society, said his group had asked the court for a larger reduction in hatchery releases – not just for coho but for chinook and steelhead, too.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “We don’t think it was beneficial to wild fish as much as we’d hoped.”

Tribes celebrate opening of $50M fish hatchery

From staff reports
 June 19, 2013


The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will celebrate the opening of a $50 million salmon hatchery Thursday on the Columbia River.


The Chief Joseph Hatchery will raise chinook salmon for subsistence tribal fishing and non-native sport fishing in the nearby towns of Bridgeport and Brewster. The hatchery is adjacent to Chief Joseph Dam, which is as far north as salmon can swim up the main stem Columbia.


Each year, the hatchery will release up to 2.9 million salmon smolts, which will swim 500 miles downstream to the ocean. A certain percentage will return as adult fish that can be harvested.


John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Tribes, hailed the hatchery as a testimony to the “meaningful work” that can occur when federal, tribal and state governments cooperate on river restoration. In 2008, federal agencies responsible for salmon in the Columbia Basin signed agreements with the tribes and the states, pledging greater cooperation as well as additional funding for salmon projects over 10 years. The completed hatchery is due in part to that accord.


The hatchery will help mitigate for the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, which was built without fish ladders. When the dam opened in 1941, it cut off salmon runs to the upper third of the Columbia Basin. Grand Coulee also flooded Kettle Falls, where one of the Northwest’s most prolific salmon fisheries had flourished for 10,000 years.


The day’s events are open to the public. The celebration begins with an 8 a.m. first salmon ceremony at the hatchery administration building and concludes at 3 p.m. after tours of the hatchery. The hatchery is located on State Park Golf Course Road east of State Route 17.


Click here so view a PDF of Fish Accord Projects of The Confederated Tribes of The Colville Reservation






New Publication Tells Western Fisheries Research Center’s History of Innovation

Source: Paul C. Laustsen, U.S. Geological Survey Office of Communications

SEATTLE — The U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Fisheries Research Center(WFRC), headquartered in Seattle, has led cutting-edge research on fish and aquatic environments for nearly 80 years – first in the Pacific Northwest, then nationwide and throughout the world. WFRC’s history of research and innovation is captured in a new publication, “Seventy-Five Years of Science: The Story of the Western Fisheries Research Center 1935-2010,” by WFRC emeritus scientist Gary A. Wedemeyer.

The WFRC began in the Great Depression as an effort to understand and control the fish diseases that limited the success of hatcheries founded to mitigate the Grand Coulee Dam’s destruction of salmon runs in the Columbia River basin. As environmental issues grew more complex and the effects of terrestrial ecology on marine ecology became better understood, the WFRC expanded with a multidisciplinary approach that now draws on the expertise of ecologists, microbiologists, and geneticists as well as fisheries biologists and other scientists. Its six laboratories – in Seattle; on Marrowstone Island and in the Columbia River Gorge, Wash., in Klamath Falls and Newport, Ore., and in Reno, Nev. – provide the technical information that natural resource managers need to ensure the continued survival of fish and fish populations in the western United States. Because food webs, aquatic communities, and ecosystems know no borders, WFRC research is relevant worldwide.

“The WFRC has a proud tradition of solving problems that negatively impact aquatic ecosystems,” said WFRC Center Director Jill Rolland. “Working here is both an honor and a responsibility that our employees take seriously.”

But it all started in 1935, when the appropriately named biologist Frederic F. Fish was tapped by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries to found a dedicated lab in the basement of their Seattle laboratory – a “hospital for fish,” as an article in a 1939 issue of Newsweek dubbed the novel project. Important discoveries emerged from Fish’s lab from the start.

“These discoveries became the basis for the hatchery operations needed to ensure the continued survival of economically important fish and fish populations both in the United States and abroad,” Wedemeyer said.

WFRC research toward recovery plans for endangered species has led to the successful establishment of self-sustaining fish populations in U.S. desert aquatic ecosystems. Other projects have proven critical to the continued survival of Pacific salmon and sturgeon populations throughout the U.S. portion of the Columbia River basin in five Western states. The Center was part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until 1996, when it came under the aegis of the USGS.

WFRC’s history of innovation continues. Since 2008, the Coast Salish Nation and Swinomish Indian Tribal Community have partnered with WFRC on the Coast Salish Tribal Water Quality Project, which blends science and Coast Salish cultural practices to study water quality and its effects on an ecosystemthat supports orcas, salmon and other culturally important species. WFRC scientists are studying fish populations and ecosystems within the Elwha River Restoration Project, the largest dam removal project in U.S. history. Others are developing acoustic imaging techniques to safely monitor the endangered Delta smelt, whose status is an ecological bellwether for a region critical to California’s economy. Still others are developing strategies to fight the ecological and economic damage wrought by invasive aquatic species introduced into U.S. waters in the ballast tanks of ocean-going ships. WFRC is an International Reference Laboratory for the World Organization of Animal Health in Paris, and its scientists assist more than 170 WOAH member countries to establish effective fish disease control programs.

The publication “Seventy-Five Years of Science: The Story of the Western Fisheries Research Center 1935-2010” is available online. Video of Wedemeyer talking about WFRC is available here.


Video: Lummi Nation releases a million coho yearlings

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Every year, the Lummi Nation releases a million coho yearlings from its Lummi Bay Hatchery in two batches of 500,000 fish. The fish are spawned at the Lummi Bay Hatchery and reared at the state’s Kendall Creek hatchery until they are yearlings. Then the fish are transported back to Lummi Bay where they are released.

Lummi Bay Hatchery Releases Yearling Coho Salmon from NW Indian Fisheries Commission on Vimeo.