Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kelt Reconditioning on the Yakima

Here is an interesting study done by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission on reconditioning steelhead kelts from the Yakima River. These steelhead kelts are fish that not only have made the journey from the ocean, but have also survived the stressors of spawning and months without eating. Steelhead are unique however in comparison to Pacific Salmon in that they can spawn multiple times if they are able to migrate back to the ocean just like when they were smolts, then run the gauntlet back to their spawning grounds for the second time. It was estimated before the study took place that the incidence of steelhead making it back for a second spawn was less then 2% in the Yakima River.

The study itself was done after kelts, mostly females were collected on their downstream migration. They would then be given antibiotics, fed krill, pellets or a combination of the two and then divided into two tagged study groups. Short term being they would be fed for an average of 44 days and then released below Bonneville Dam. The Long term group would be held for an average of 227 days before release back into the Yakima River.

The conclusion to the study was that steelhead kelt reconditioning shows promise to assist restoration of wild steelhead. These kelts have been tracked back to their spawning grounds and onto redds for a second time. However it is unclear weather the eggs laid by these fish were viable and if they have helped to maintain this endangered run of fish. If these eggs are indeed viable then the 20 to 30 percent increased population of spawning steelhead from reconditioning should lead to 300,000 to 600,000 additional eggs a year. Now we are again just playing with mother nature here and as a pessimistic I am a skeptic to everything, but I really like the idea of not supplementing with broodstock or neighboring strain of fish in order to falsely maintain a native run of fish. Actively seeking solutions outside the realm of supplementation is always a good idea in my book.

Reconditioning Kelt Steelhead: A Novel Management Strategy for Populations in Low Abundance.

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