OLYMPIA – Scientific innovations are ushering in a new era of salmon recovery in Washington state through advances in fisheries harvest practices, hatchery operations and habitat restoration.
That's the conclusion of a new booklet, "Partnerships in Science: A New Era in Salmon Recovery," published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The booklet describes the scientific techniques the Department has developed and implemented in recent years, and details how WDFW is working at the grass-roots level to restore wild salmon populations.
"We truly have entered a new era in fisheries management in this state," said WDFW Director Dr. Jeff Koenings. "This booklet tells how WDFW is using science not only to guide wild salmon recovery, but forge unprecedented partnerships between the public and private sectors."
Koenings said these changes come at a crucial time. With the functions of an estimated 70,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat either altered or destroyed each year in Washington state by land use decisions related to development and other purposes, science and local partnerships have become increasingly important in guiding land and water use decisions so they do not adversely impact native fish stocks.
"It's not an exaggeration to say we are at a crosswords with regard to how we manage our fish and wildlife and other natural resources in this state," Koenings said. "Recovering our wild salmon populations is a shared responsibility that will only be accomplished through shared knowledge and sacrifices."
The booklet outlines the advances in harvest and hatchery practices that have occurred in recent years, many of them before the first salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1994. These advances have been responsible for helping to lay a scientific foundation for wild salmon recovery while maintaining fisheries on healthy stocks.
The booklet also details WDFW's role in habitat restoration, and how the agency's science and technical expertise is helping local governments and various citizen groups, including lead entity groups. Lead entities are responsible for coordinating local salmon-recovery efforts and working with local governments.
"I have long maintained that the major solutions to recovering our salmon will not come from Olympia or Washington, D.C., but from local volunteers working in watersheds throughout the state," Koenings said. "It's the job of resource agencies like WDFW to make sure these citizens get the tools they need."
Among other subjects, the booklet describes:
- How hatcheries, once thought of simply as fish factories, are being used as "rescue stations" to protect and rebuild weak wild salmon stocks. A third of Washington's hatcheries are now used in some fashion to rebuild weak wild stocks. At the same time, 85% of hatchery production replaces production lost primarily from non-functional natural habitat.
- How millions of hatchery fish are "mass marked" each year so fishers in the short-term can distinguish between abundant hatchery stocks and weak wild stocks. By clipping the adipose fin from the hatchery fish, sustainable fisheries can occur at the same time as wild salmon recovery efforts take place. In the long-term, the department is seeking changes in hatchery operations that will eliminate the need to distinguish hatchery fish.
- How miniature wire tags inserted into the snouts of some salmon species allow WDFW scientists to determine the migratory patterns of the fish and structure wild salmon conservation programs and sustainable fisheries.
- How WDFW scientists monitor-segment by segment-more than 60,000 miles of streams in western Washington to determine riparian, freshwater and estuarine conditions for fish species.
"Partnerships in Science: A New Era in Salmon Recovery" may be viewed on WDFW's home page. A limited number of copies are available through WDFW Public Affairs at (360) 902-2200.