Scott Hamelberg (530) 365-8622
Earlier this year it was projected that the returns of adult fall Central Valley Chinook salmon would be the lowest on record. With fewer fish returning, there was much concern that hatcheries in the Central Valley might be unable to secure enough spawning adults and collect enough eggs to meet fall Chinook salmon production targets. Although the numbers of fall Chinook salmon appear to be as low as predicted, Coleman National Fish Hatchery has collected enough eggs to more than meet its production target of 12 million juveniles.
"Because of the low predicted run-size, adult fish were managed slightly differently this year and eggs were collected and fertilized from nearly every mature fish available," said Coleman National Fish Hatchery Manager Scott Hamelberg.
"We consider ourselves fortunate that we were still able to collect eggs at the tail-end of the run, when we were initially thinking few -- if any -- fish would be available to us by that time." Hamelberg added that the hatchery collected more eggs than it can raise, a normal occurrence at fish hatcheries. Eggs were collected throughout the spawning season to ensure adequate genetic representation of run timing and maturation timing.
Considering the decreased abundance of fall Chinook salmon, and the fact that some excess eggs have been collected, the hatchery is working on a strategy to incorporate some of these eggs into the current rearing program. "The endeavor is not without risk, but, given the circumstances, Coleman NFH personnel will do their best to produce as many as 1.8 million additional healthy fish this year," notes Hamelberg.
While some excess eggs will be incorporated into production some will also will be removed from production, per standard practice, and will be used by Coleman NFH as part of their ongoing program to recondition steelhead adults after they have been spawned. "These eggs are the perfect food to get the spawned out steelhead adults healthy enough to be released in hopes they will grow for another year and come back next year and spawn again," Hamelberg said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Coleman NFH remains committed to meeting fish production goals to off-set the impacts of Shasta and Keswick dams while minimizing the effects of the hatchery's operation on natural fish populations. "Considering the current status of fall Chinook salmon in the Central Valley of California, we believe we have found a reasonable strategy to utilize some excess eggs in the production program this year," concluded Hamelberg.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
More information about the Fish and Wildlife Service operations in California, Nevada, and the Klamath Basin is available at www.fws.gov/cno.