Quilcene National Fish Hatchery Releases Coho as part of Centenary Celebration
How things can change in a National Fish Hatchery -- especially one that turns 100 years old this year with a celebration scheduled in August.
From humble beginnings in 1911, Quilcene National Fish Hatchery (NFH)
today contributes to international treaty agreements, tribal subsistence programs, and tribal, commercial and sport fish harvest.
Recently, the hatchery, located in Quilcene, Washington, continued that tradition by opening the gate, lowering the water level in its raceways, and releasing nearly 346,000 coho smolts (juvenile fish ready to migrate to the ocean) into the Big Quilcene River. The release begins a journey toward Hood Canal into Puget Sound, and ultimately, the Pacific Ocean, where they will spend the next 18 months before returning home in fall 2012.
"There is more to the story than just releasing fish and providing fish for catch," said Ron Wong, Quilcene National Fish Hatchery Manager. "There are many partnerships involved in management of the resources, supporting the Hood Canal Management Plan, the Puget Sound Salmon Management Plan (US v Washington) and the Pacific Salmon Treaty objectives. There is also support in the recovery and conservation of local endangered and threatened species as well as species at risk. These partnerships and the people behind them often go unnoticed by the public, but the success of the programs could not succeed without these combined efforts."
The list of partners supporting Quilcene's programs is extensive, and includes other federal and state fish conservation agencies such as NOAA-Fisheries and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as private non-profit organizations such as Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and Long Live the Kings.
The hatchery staff also works closely with the Northwest Indian Fish Commission and area tribes -- the Jamestown S'Klallam, Lower Elwha, Port Gamble S'Klallam, Point No Point Treaty Council, Suquamish, Skokomish.
Tribal participation in Quilcene coho production is essential for the program to run smoothly. Each year in late fall, the hatchery transfers up to 450,000 eyed coho eggs to George Adams Washington State Hatchery, which later transfers them to tribal net pens in Port Gamble Bay operated by the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe. An additional 200,000 pre-smolts are transferred from the hatchery each spring to Skokomish tribal net pens in Quilcene Bay.
The transfers reduce the number of fish that need to be reared at the hatchery and in one location, which helps minimize impacts to wild fish, boosts survival rates for hatchery fish, and increases harvest opportunities by allowing the fish to acclimate, or imprint, in different waterways.
"Having a broad variety of fisheries opportunities for our tribal members is an important component to our program," said Joseph Pavel, Natural Resource Director for the Skokomish Tribe. "Having cooperative projects like this is very fruitful, very productive."
Quilcene NFH is one of three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatcheries on the Olympic peninsula in Washington State. The hatchery uses an integrated approach to the management and restoration of aquatic species, which involves balancing hatchery production in support of meeting tribal trust responsibilities and recreational, commercial and international fisheries, while providing valuable contributions towards recovering imperiled local fish stocks. All Quilcene coho are mass-marked, per Congressional mandate, to differentiate the hatchery fish from wild salmon.
In addition to raising coho, the hatchery is also participating in the Hood Canal Steelhead Supplementation program, which is designed to help restore winter-run steelhead in the Skokomish, Duckabush and Dewatto rivers.
Program goals include using indigenous stock, maintaining genetic integrity of the existing natural populations, and assessing the demographic, ecological, and genetic benefits and risks of supplementation on natural steelhead populations.
Cooperation with area tribes doesn't end after the fish leave the hatchery.
In fall, after spawning adult fish and taking only the 750 male and 750 female adult broodstock needed to sustain the coho program, Quilcene NFH provides any surplus adult fish to area tribes for their subsistence programs.
"It's really important to the elders to receive fish when there's an abundance of them," said Cindy Gray, Harvest Manager for the Skokomish Tribe's Department of Natural Resources.
In addition to its 100 year legacy, a need-based, scientifically-driven community approach towards fish production is what makes the Quilcene NFH stand out.
"What is really neat is the way the hatchery has changed with the times,"
said Magneson, "It started out under the Department of Commerce, in support of the commercial fishing industry, about fishing as a business enterprise and fish for food and profit. In 1930, the hatchery shifted to a recreational focus, with trout stocking programs for the national parks and military reservations. By the late 1970's, trout production had been phased out, and anadromous salmon production and support of treaty tribal fishing became increasingly important. Within the last 20 years, focus upon recovering imperiled stock of salmonids has been gaining steam and, in addition to our harvest responsibilities, hatchery conservation programs have also become a very prominent component of the hatchery's work."
For more information, visit: http://www.fws.gov/quilcenenfh
Happy 100th birthday Quilcene NFH!