Snake Recovery Region
The Snake River Salmon Recovery Region is located in the southeastern corner
of Washington. Rolling, semi-arid crop and pasture lands are flanked by the forested
Blue Mountains to the south.
The Snake River is a major transportation corridor for many of the region's products,
which are barged downstream to Columbia River ports. The recovery region is
sparsely populated, with residents scattered throughout the area in communities of
less than 1,000 people or clustered in a few larger cities.
The recovery plan was completed in June 2005 and approved as an interim plan by
NOAA Fisheries Service in March 2006. The plan covers the Walla Walla portion of
the middle Columbia steelhead listing in Washington.
Major Factors Limiting Recovery
- Degraded floodplain and channel structure
- Riparian degradation
- Degraded water quality and temperature
- Impaired stream flows in tributaries
- Excessive sediment
- Barriers to fish passage in tributaries
- Harvest impacts
- Hydropower system mortality on Columbia River
Hatchery and Harvest Priorities
The hatchery strategy proposed by the SRSRB is partly based on recommendations by NMFS and
the Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs). The hatchery strategy recognizes that not
only can hatcheries play an important role in recovering fish populations; they can
contribute to providing fish needed to meet tribal, commercial, and sport harvest
as well as recovery and restoration goals. The strategy attempts to balance risks
to recovery of listed fish populations with the achievement of harvest objectives. For example
it includes the following: there is no trout stocking in streams, hatchery steelhead
releases by over 30%, and co-managers have recently agreed to increase fall Chinook
salmon and Tucannon spring Chinook salmon hatchery production and releases.
Two strategies for hatchery production are proposed: integrated hatcheries and
segregated programs. Integrated programs, which use native broodstock to reduce
risk of extinction, are proposed for most subbasins and populations. The exceptions are
Tucannon subbasin and Walla Walla subbasin summer steelhead which are proposed to be
managed as both integrated and segregated (to provide harvest opportunities
while maintaining genetic integrity). The Wenaha River and Joseph Creek, in the
Grande Ronde River subbasin, as well as Asotin Creek, are reserved for natural production only.
The number of hatchery fish allowed to spawn in the wild will be controlled to the
extent possible. This strategy is designed to reduce any potential negative effects
of hatchery fish on naturally produced fish populations. Hatchery programs will be
managed on a case-by-case basis to address specific population concerns. It is
expected that tributary hatchery management plans will be developed by local
fisheries managers in coordination with NMFS.
The recovery region is not proposing any specific harvest strategies through this planning
process. The SRSRB does recognize, however, that harvest strategies can affect fishery
opportunities for Chinook salmon and steelhead in the recovery region and that continuing
dialog with the lower Columbia fishery managers is desirable.
Mainstem Columbia River harvest guidelines are developed under the Columbia River Fisheries
Management Plan. This plan is periodically extended as agreed upon by federal, state and
tribal fish managers under the U.S. vs. Oregon court case.
As noted above, management strategies are proposed primarily through venues other
than salmon restoration planning. Among these are proposals for terminal fisheries
for Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon in the Snake, Tucannon, and Grande
Ronde rivers and Snake River fall Chinook salmon in the lower Snake River and
the lower Grande Ronde River. Allowable take for these fisheries would be
based on a "sliding scale" keyed to counts of returning adults at Snake River dams. Although
details have yet to be developed, it is anticipated that allowable harvest
would generally represent the difference between total returns and the sum of fish
needed for increasing abundance of component listed populations to approved levels
and broodstock needs for existing hatcheries (many of which are
considered a part of listed ESUs) although very limited harvest may occur
at even low fish abundance levels. In general, allowable harvest would increase
with the number of fish in the return, since the difference between run size
and recovery/broodstock needs would increase. Over time, as regional habitat is
improved through restoration, the productivity and abundance of listed populations
would increase to the point where target escapement numbers for hatchery
fish would decrease, allowing additional harvest.
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