April 12, 2011
Fall Chinook Salmon Raised at FWS Hatcheries Released
David Patte, (503) 231-6120, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fish to provide valuable benefits to area tribes, local economy, and efforts to rebuild salmon runs
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hatcheries in the Columbia River Gorge will be busy releasing over eight million pre-smolt Fall Chinook salmon into Pacific Northwest rivers. The fish have been raised from eggs collected and incubated at Spring Creek and Little White Salmon National Fish Hatcheries (NFH) for 6 months, and play a vital role both in supporting area tribal, commercial and recreational fish harvests and supporting conservation of wild salmon stocks.
Columbia River Gorge NFH Complex Manager, Speros Doulos explains, "This is what mitigation hatchery operations in the Columbia River Gorge are all about, producing fish for harvest. These hatchery fish partially compensate for fish and habitat losses caused by the construction of dams within the Federal Columbia River Power System. They also provide an important contribution to fulfilling Tribal treaties, helping sustain Tribal religion, culture and economic well being. Adult fish returning from these releases in the future will make an important contribution to coastal and Columbia River sport, tribal and commercial fisheries. Also, Tule Fall Chinook are native toColumbia River Gorge tributaries, and these releases are consistent with efforts to conserve wild fish."
Spring Creek NFH in Underwood, Washington, will release 6.2 million Fall "Tule" Chinook salmon directly into the Columbia River. Little White Salmon NFH, located east of Stevenson, Washington, will also release 1.8 million Tule Chinook salmon into the Little White Salmon River and Drano Lake. Today's Hatchery releases are timed to coincide with the annual outmigration of young salmon to the ocean, a cycle that will begin with the young fish making a downstream journey - swimming backwards - to the Pacific Ocean, where they will live for 1-5 more years, then return as adults back to their natal (home) streams, where they spawn and die. They are also timed to coincide with the U.S. Army Corps' spring spills over Bonneville Dam to maximize survival of juvenile salmon.
Tule Fall Chinook are extremely important to the fishing economies for both Columbia River Tribes and coastal Washington and Oregon communities, such as the Ports of Chinook, Ilwaco, Westport, and Astoria. They provide a substantial sport fishery at Buoy 10 located at the mouth of the Columbia River, and Tule Chinook raised at Spring Creek are also an index stock as part of the U.S./Canada Treaty, which governs the establishment ocean harvest levels between the two countries.
Both Spring Creek Tule Fall Chinook and Upriver Bright Fall Chinook, another subspecies of fall Chinook salmon raised at Little White Salmon Hatchery are major contributors to ocean harvests ranging as far north as coastal British Columbia and Alaska. Harvests of Spring Creek NFH Tule Fall Chinook for brood years 1990-1999 equaled approximately 18,000 and 19,000 fish in the ocean and Columbia River, respectively, with a mean annual return of greater than 19,000 adult fish back to the hatchery. Adult fish recaptured at the hatchery in excess of broodstock needs are provided to area tribes and local food banks.
Service Fall Chinook programs at Spring Creek and Little White Salmon Hatcheries are funded by NOAA-Fisheries under the Mitchell Act, which authorizes conservation of fish and fishery resources in the Columbia River Basin, and by the John Day Dam Mitigation Act funds provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates John Day Dam on the Columbia River.
Salmon migration and their ability to locate and return to the streams in which they were born is considered one of nature's most remarkable phenomena. Salmon and steelhead (rainbow trout that migrate to the ocean) have acute senses of smell; they are believed to be able to detect chemical signature concentrations in water as small as one to two parts per million, equivalent to being able to sniff out a single drop of water in 250 gallons. Members of the salmon family, Salmonidae, have existed on Earth for at least 50 million years.
Tule Fall Chinook salmon are native to the lower Columbia River, and have historically provided food for Native Americans living along the river. Columbia River Indians called them mit'la, or "white salmon," because the flesh of the salmon is light colored when they return to spawn. Both the Little White Salmon River and the "Big" White Salmon River on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge derive their name from the 'white salmon' that have historically spawned in their waters.
The Service has been rearing Tule Fall Chinook Salmon at Spring Creek NFH for 108 years. In addition to conferring harvest benefits, Spring Creek NFH Tule Fall Chinook are considered a genetic repository for restoring Fall Chinook to the White Salmon River after Condit Dam is removed. The fish are considered an in-basin stock that is part of the federally-listed Lower Columbia River Chinook Salmon Evolutionary Significant Unit.
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