I was recently asked to take a look at the Willapa Hatchery Complex and develop a conservation based look at the hatchery production, AHA modeled options, and HSRG. I did and I must say I was surprised by what I thought existed and what does exist let alone do the could / should / would bit with HSRG limiters. So take a read .
Almost forgot. Many ask why is Willapa so important. To end the discrimination the inriver & marine Rec fisher have suffered is the big one. Also in Grays Harbor we have the very same issues with the Humptulips Coho to be resolved. One can think of Willapa as the template of how you fix it when you have massively over harvested and nearly wiped out a salmon run harvesting a hatchery run. Another way to say it is WDF&W "screwed the pooch" so long what are we to do?
Anyhow I if you have questions on the report or anything e mail me and we will see what I can do to help. I can send you the model runs and all the associated information also.
HATCHERY CONDITION & POTENTIAL
It was requested by the Advocacy that I do a preliminary review of the condition and potential of Forks Creek, Nemah, and Naselle hatcheries. I would point out this a simple look at the facilities not a in depth review. I met with staff and the following are my findings.
Forks Creek: The facility is in reasonable condition but has the normal issues one would find at a hatchery. Limitations are primarily lack extended rearing capacity and the lack of a weir to stop Chinook straying.
Current Smolt Production: 3.2 million Chinook, 300K Coho, 300k Chum, 40+25K Steelhead, 4K Rainbow Trout.
Nemah: Although a older facility it is in reasonable condition and solid weir. It does have water quality issues that limit extended rearing due to low flows.
Current Production: 3.3 million Chinook, 300K Chum, 19K Rainbow Trout
Naselle: The facility is in reasonable condition but has issues. The issues reside in the fact water supply pipeline is in poor condition. Maintenance and repair of portions of the pipeline are scheduled for June of 2015 to address this issue. Additionally the weir is prone to failure. Staff identified a lip on the weir causing debris build up and hope to address it with repairs in 2015. Additionally the weir is removed around October 15 dependant on flows permitting.
Current Smolt Production: 500K Chinook, 1.4 Million Coho, 300K Chum, 75K Steelhead,
CONCLUSION: The 3.2 million Chinook production at Forks Creek nis problematic. To get this level of production WDF&W designated the Willapa river as stabilizing which is the lowest priority given to a stream HSRG. The issue of stream designation needs review as to compliance to the intent of HSRG reform as many see it has a innovative way to portray compliance with HSRG when in reality it a attempt to circumvent the true intention of HSRG hatchery reform.
Another issue is the desire of the Commission to expand Chum egg box production and explore the potential for ocean ranching similar to Alaska's PNP programs. To do this a source of eggs is needed other than continually mining prime Chum streams for brood. It would appear that the Nemah would be the best fit but it would require additional incubators. Regardless of which hatchery would be deemed the best to utilize thus far in the current process WDF&W has not addressed the issue. This short coming needs to be addressed if one is go forward Commission's
Agency staff currently have provided three options A,B, and C available for consideration. The fundamental difference between the three are in the stream designations as to which stream is Primary and designating the Naselle as stabilizing and the Chinook production as a segregated stock. It is the altering of stream designations that allows the production values for each of the three AHA model runs.
I was asked work with staff to develop additional AHA model runs for options based not on getting the maximum harvest but rather with HSRG. (see attachment A) as Maximum ConservationDual Prime, Willapa Prime, Naselle Prime, and North River Prime. Of the four North River Prime made little difference so a complete AHA run was not completed, Dual rime placed the greatest restrictions on production and harvest. Willapa Prime or Naselle Prime ended up being nearly the same when one or the other is designated Contributing. exception that Forks Creek can produce 615K Chinook smolt . By classifying the Willapa Contributing results in the AHA showing Forks Creek greatest production value available complying with HSRG Additionally if a broodstock program partnership with volunteers similar to efforts in Grays Harbowas developed for Forks Creek it could increase production incrementally with the improved PNI with the additional NOS broodstock incorporated in the eggtake.Anumber of is the hatchery production could again be increased incrementally.
CONCLUSION: It appears AHA model runs the designations of Prime and Contributing that unless a compelling reason exist that is not known the Primary stream designation to Willapa gains little. Naselle Primary Willapa and North River Contributing the remaining streams Stabilizing offers the greatest production value available complying with HSRG guide lines.Naselle and Nemah production can remain the same as it presently is and comply with HSRG guidelines
PROBABLE OUTCOME: In preparing this report on my finding the Advocacy
asked that I attempt to the impact of the Forks Creek production reduction as to the recreational conjunction no commercial fisheries in 2T & U prior to September 16 and the 50 / 30/ 10 division of Natural Origin Spawners ( NOS ) between recreational fishers. (Compromise Resolutions 1 & 3)
While looking into the future is not exactly a scientific endeavor one can draw some reasonable conclusions.
1. While the Chinook releases will be significantly reducedork it does not necessarily mean significant recreational reductions. In past years the pool of hatchery fish in 2T was sizeable but due to the early and considerable commercial harvest the actual number of Chinook available for the recreational fisher to fish on was drastically reduced. If Compromise Resolution 1 is adopted the early period of the 2T fishery would excellent due to the larger pool of fish present with the Columbia dip in with commercial harvest restrained until September 16th. One could expect to see a small reduction in some reaches for recreational harvest in 2T & U longbut again it would not be as numerically significant the hatchery reduction commercial nets would removed until September 16th. Additionally Forks Creek could expand the Coho production to the 600K range creating substantial additional recreational opportunity and be in compliance with HSRG.
2. With the Naselle and Nemah hatchery production remaining the same in a Naselle Primary/Willapa Contributing AHA model run the Southern Bay and in river fisheries should prosper if Compromise Resolution 1 is adopted.
It is my view that one should regard this similar to a three legged stool. The Naselle Primary/Willapa & North River Contributing AHA can meet HSRG standards. It can do so with moderate impact to the recreational 2T & U fisheries but only if Compromise Resolution 1 & 3 are adopted. Take one leg off the stool it fails.
Finally there are risk associated with this AHA option or any AHA generated option. In the transition period from the current hatchery production to the what is under the new policy one will exist. The harvest impacts will have to be restrained to allow for escapement. WDF&W has a long and storied record of not being able to restrain commercial fisheries in Willapa. For any AHA option to work it is paramount that WDF&W not compound the problem by over harvest thus making compliance with Commission directives and HSRG guidelines difficult to impossible to acheive.
Posted on Thu, January 29, 2015
by Dave Hamilton