2014 Wenatchee River Salmon Festival
As part of Wild Fish Conservancy’s outreach and education mission, staff biologists Adrian Tuohy and James Fletcher took part in Leavenworth’s Wenatchee River Salmon Festival over the weekend of September 26th. Classrooms descended upon the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery at Icicle Creek to participate in the three-day natural resource education event celebrating the return of the salmon to the Wenatchee River. Kids flocked to the Wild Fish Conservancy outreach tent to learn about the lifecycle of Pacific salmon and the challenges faced by wild fish from detrimental hatchery practices and fish passage issues at the Leavenworth Hatchery facility.
With the guidance of Wild Fish Conservancy staff and volunteers, young artists lined up to paint pictures of happy salmon, demonstrating the satisfaction wild fish would have if hatchery reforms allowed access to nearly thirty miles of pristine Icicle Creek and tributary habitat. Over 400 budding artists participated in the poster painting contest with hopes of winning the grand prize: a Wild Fish Conservancy donation of art supplies and world-wide recognition at www.wildfishconservancy.org! All students demonstrated an incredible understanding of salmon life-history and the pressures compromising their recovery; nevertheless, as usual, all attendees (parents and teachers included) believed that hatchery practices were promoting salmon recovery. As scientists and managers have learned after decades of research, hatchery programs are in fact one of the greatest threats to wild salmon and sustainable fisheries of the Pacific Northwest, and we helped set the record straight.
In addition to a host of genetic, ecological, and fishery related problems commonly associated with most hatchery programs, the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery — with a series of three nearly impassable dams — has blocked passage to ESA-listed spring Chinook, steelhead, and Bull Trout, compromising salmonid recovery efforts for over 70 years. The facility’s operation of the dams has also degraded a one-mile reach of Icicle Creek adjacent to the Hatchery. Upstream, almost thirty miles of pristine habitat await wild fish populations. Since the 1990s, Wild Fish Conservancy has been advocating for fish passage improvements and facility upgrades — including the implementation of a screen on the hatchery’s water intake which has routinely trapped endangered and threatened wild salmonids resulting in substantial mortality.
“There was a fish named Kristy. Kristy suffered because of the hatchery.”
-4th grade festival participant
Participants in Wild Fish Conservancy’s 2014 poster-painting contest left the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival with a better understanding of salmon life-history and the challenges faced by wild fish. Hundreds of kids painted pictures of beaming salmon arriving to natal stream reaches upstream of barriers at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. While full fish passage to pristine waters of Icicle Creek may currently be only a figment of a childhood imagination, with your help we can make it a reality. Now that the kids understand the problem, let’s make our resource managers paint a new picture where ESA-listed wild salmonids are no longer threatened by degrading hatchery practices and illegal fish passage barriers.