Fish Hatchery To Re-Introduce Chinook Salmon To Upper Columbia River

By Tom Bacon

The Colville Indian tribes and several government agencies will gather next week to celebrate the opening of a new $50 million fish hatchery on the upper Columbia River.
The idea is to re-introduce spring Chinook salmon, which have been virtually wiped out over the years by dams, overfishing and loss of habitat.
But fish biologists who have studied the interactions between wild and hatchery-raised salmon fear the plan may make it even tougher on the few wild Chinook still found in the Okanogan and upper Columbia River basins.
Oregon State University researchers found recently that offspring of hatchery fish are poorly equipped to survive and reproduce in the wild. They discovered that hatchery fish that migrate to and return from the ocean leave far fewer offspring than their wild relatives.
Additionally, the OSU researchers believe that captive-bred fish raise the risk of introducing diseases and increase the competition for limited resources.
Nonetheless, the new Chief Joseph Hatchery will release nearly 3 million Chinook salmon to boost availability of the fish for tribal and sport fishing.
The hatchery grew out of the 2008 Columbia Basin Fish Accord, a contract between federal, tribal, state and regional agencies responsible for salmon recovery work.
The Colville Tribe will manage the hatchery under rules recommended by a group of scientists that reviewed all hatchery operations in the entire Columbia Basin.
The new facility is meant to mitigate fish impacts on the upper Columbia imposed by public utility dams in the region.
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