NOAA Releases Proposed Changes To Columbia Basin Mitchell Act Hatchery Programs
NOAA Fisheries this week described a proposed slate of changes at hatcheries that it says will reduce the impact of Mitchell Act hatchery fish on wild fish in the Columbia River basin.
Those changes, among other things, are designed to reduce the number of hatchery fish that stray and spawn in the wild, thus protecting naturally spawning fish.
“We’re interested in the competition between hatchery and wild fish,” said Rob Jones, head of hatcheries at NOAA’s West Coast Region. “In addition, to hatchery effectiveness, we’re looking at hatchery release levels to reduce straying in the Columbia River basin.”
The agency proposes to do this by reducing the overall number of tule chinook juveniles produced at both Mitchell Act and non-Mitchell Act hatcheries by about 4 million fish – about 12 percent – and actually increasing the overall number of coho salmon juveniles by over 1 million fish – 6.8 percent.
No production changes are proposed for steelhead.
The federal agency is racing to meet a federal court deadline to complete hatchery biological opinions and incidental take statements. Without the BiOps and incidental take statements, NOAA is prohibited by a court stipulation with the Wild Fish Conservancy to make payments to operators of 10 Mitchell Act hatcheries.
The August court stipulation that has put a stop to Mitchell Act payments was reached August 2 in Oregon U.S. District Court in the Wild Fish Conservancy vs National Marine Fisheries Service court case that began March 31, 2016.
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