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199107200 - Redfish Lake Sockeye Salmon Captive Broodstock Program

Sponsor: Idaho Department of Fish & Game

Budgets: FY07: $1,086,118 | FY08: $1,135,362 | FY09: $1,172,418

Short description: Establish captive broodstocks of Redfish Lake sockeye salmon. Spawn captive adults to produce eggs, juveniles, and adults for reintroduction and future broodstock needs. Evaluate juvenile out-migration and adult returns by release option.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $1,017,070 | FY08: $1,017,070 | FY09: $1,017,070

Comment: Reduced budget reflects the removal of all genetic elements except the critical portion addressing the development of the inbreeding avoidance spawning matrix.

ISRP final recommendation: Not fundable


The ISRP carefully considered the sponsor’s response. The ISRP acknowledges that the recommendation in the preliminary review was controversial. The ISRP believes the project sponsors have done all they can do to promote restoration of this sockeye salmon population given the status of the population and environmental setting. The program has been well run using accepted principles of genetics, conservation biology, and salmon culture. The proposal and response are sufficient to the extent that they provide adequate data and explain the sponsor's perspective. The ISRP's pessimistic recommendation is based on our assessment that the project is not showing progress toward meeting an ultimate objective of the population emerging from being maintained by an ex situ, closed captive population. There is inevitable change in the population, and a bleak outlook that significant environmental change is likely in the near future. We are not suggesting alternative approaches that they should have pursued. The narrative for proposal 200727600 - Idaho Department of Fish and Game Rearing expansion for Snake River Sockeye Salmon provides a more comprehensive explanation of the ultimate intent of the captive propagation project than the narrative for 199107200. From 200727600: "The program's ultimate goal is to function as a conventional supplementation program, relying on genetically diverse, rack returns of anadromous adults to meet in-hatchery captive broodstock as well as prespawn adult out-planting needs.” “…to address the long-term project goal and species recovery, the first important milestone to reach will be to generate sufficient anadromous adults to satisfy all in-hatchery spawning needs and to meet release objectives for eyed-eggs, presmolts, and smolts. The second milestone will be to return an adequate number of adults to release to program nursery lakes for natural spawning." The sponsors have not made the case that the program is working - which was our original concern. There are a lot of data about the thousands of fry and smolts produced by the captive broodstock program, but only meager adult returns to the Stanley Basin. The central point the ISRP emphasizes for the sponsor and Council is that the ISRP cannot deduce from the data provided that the population can ever progress from captive broodstock to conventional anadromous hatchery to supplementation supported and finally to naturally self-sustained. This is the goal of the program. The sponsor argues that the reason the program has not progressed is due to a lack of smolt releases. They conclude that the levels of hatchery fish production impedes the programs success, and that more, not less, production is needed. If one reviews the releases in Redfish Lake provided in the proposal, there is substantial variation across years; in 2002 only 96 smolts were released. However, the sponsor’s conclusion that fish for release is limiting the programs is somewhat difficult to reconcile with the sponsors emphasis on the substantial numbers of adults, eggs, pre-smolts, and smolts released from the program, as it’s central success. There have in fact been difficulties in achieving the fish release goals of the culture operations. But that is not the primary issue. The project reports that the average smolt-to-adult return ratio (SAR) is just under 0.1%. They report an average fecundity per female of 1979 eggs (calculated by the ISRP from the project’s data) and they report a recent eye-up percentage of 78%. The sponsor does not track eye-eggs into eyed-egg plants, pre-smolt plants, smolt plants, adult plants, and adults retained for future broodfish for any broodyear, in the proposal. Consequently it is not known what the survival from eyed egg to smolt is in this program. In other words, by broodyear we cannot account for the fate of the eggs produced. Under typical hatchery rearing conditions one could reasonably expect another 78% survival from eyed-eggs to smolts. Using these biological characteristics: a fecundity of 1979 eggs per female, 78% survival from green egg to eyed egg, 78% survival from eyed egg to smolt, and 0.1% survival from smolt to adult when released in either Redfish Lake outlet or the upper Salmon River, the expected return from a cohort of eggs from a female is 1.2. For the program to progress from an ex-situ captive population to a self-sustaining anadromous hatchery supported population, the replacement rate per female needs to be at least two (one male and one female). Thus, under the current conditions the program can never progress from captive supported to an anadromous hatchery supported population, no matter how large one made it. Based on this assessment the ISRP believes that it is our responsibility to report our finding that the project is unlikely to achieve the ultimate goals, and is therefore not scientifically sound. The only likely way for the captive propagation program to lead to a recovered population is to substantially improve the smolt-to-adult return ratio. The ISRP does not know whether that is possible. The ISRP does not see any evidence for being optimistic that SARs will be improved in the near future. The ISRP also points out that "Not Fundable" means the proposal is not scientifically justified. The ISRP does not make funding decisions.

Response loop edit

See the sponsor's revised proposal from the response loop. You'll be taken to CBFWA's proposal system in Section 10 where most sponsors uploaded revised narratives or other responses to the ISRP comments.

State/province recommendation: Fundable, but at a reduced level

Review group: Snake

Recommended budgets: FY07: $947,570 | FY08: $947,570 | FY09: $947,570

Comment: task removed: genetics element