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County to move forward with salmon propagation plans

Down by the river By Heather Dodds
John Robertson of Sydney, Australia takes in the view of the Klamath River at the Collier Rest Area off of I-5 on Monday. A team from Alaska has just finished examining fish populations in several tributaries to the Klamath.

By Dale Andreasen, Siskiyou Daily News, by Dale Andreasen, Sep 23, 2008

A team from Alaska Resource and Economic Development (ARED) held a workshop at the Fort Jones Community Center on Sept. 11 to share their findings and techniques about salmon propagation and enhancement with interested parties from throughout the Klamath Basin.

ARED spent the previous week talking to local fisheries and watershed experts and examining the situations on the Scott and Shasta Rivers and other tributaries to the Klamath River.

The initial assessment, which took place earlier this month, was funded by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, which also sponsored the workshop.

ARED Executive Director Brian Ashton and Senior Director and Fisheries Development Manager Tod Jones conducted the meeting and spoke in detail about the successful techniques that have resulted in the production of more than a billion salmon in various Alaskan watersheds.

“ARED’s Salmon Restoration Initiative focuses on the application of stewardship strategies and technologies for grass-roots operations designed to assist in restoration, reintroduction or enhancement of anadromous wild salmon to historical levels or current carrying levels of their watersheds,” Ashton said in a prepared brief.

Following the week of discussions and examination of rivers and streams, County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales said that “Between the agency representatives and the fisheries scientists at the workshop, there is an overwhelming sentiment that this is something that should be pursued as a tool to accomplish salmon restoration.”

Jones, who is the inventor of the egg-planting technology used by ARED, said he was really heartened by the amount of work that has already been done in this area. He pointed out this his technique can be described as “low technology that works.”

He said that ARED’s goal is to keep the salmon as close to wild as possible.

Critical components of the proposed plan are adequate research and science “at the front end and at the back end,” he said.

The operation would consist of brood stock capture of wild salmon, taking eggs, fertilizing them and sterilizing them against disease, incubating the eggs to the “eyed stage” of development, rejuvenating spawning beds, planting eyed eggs into spawning habitat and nutrient supplementation where and when appropriate.

During this process, the young salmon receive “otolith marking” which allows adult salmon to be identified in later stages of development as coming from the program. The otolith is a small bone-like structure in the fish’s internal ear.

The eggs are monitored to the fry stage of development for survival rates, to the out-migration of smolts, to the adult stages of development.

“It’s important to realize that any kind of artificial propagation is intended to be an interim strategy,” Costales said. “Habitat restoration has to go hand-in-hand with this program. We cannot divert attention or resources away from habitat restoration.”

The workshop was attended by representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service and other federal and state agencies and organizations.

County Supervisor Michael Kobseff was in attendance also. He said the board of supervisors wants Costales to work with interested parties to form a working group to support the program and to help get it done.

“The board’s position,” said Costales, “is to do as much as we can to get out in front and take the bull by the horns to support local restoration, conservation and enhancement efforts.”

“The role of local Resource Conservation Districts is absolutely critical,” he continued.
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