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200715500 - Develop a Master Plan for a Rearing Facility to Enhance Selected Populations of White Sturgeon in the Columbia River Basin

Sponsor: Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC)

Budgets: FY07: $141,687 | FY08: $145,040 | FY09: $148,491

Short description: Develop a Master Plan to create a regional Columbia Basin rearing facility for the enhancement of selected white sturgeon populations in reservoirs upstream of Bonneville Dam and downstream of Grand Coulee and Granite dams.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0


ISRP final recommendation: Not fundable


The technical and scientific background is overly general regarding the conditions for using artificial production to enhance white sturgeon in the middle sections of the Columbia River Basin. The discussion of white sturgeon culture provides sufficient evidence that production of hatchery fish can be successfully accomplished. It is less clear that the reservoirs and river reaches in question are suitable for growing sturgeon to augment a sport and commercial fishery. It is not clear from the background and other sections of the proposal whether this proposal is to provide a put-grow-and-take sport and commercial fishery, or to provide adults to "supplement" and "restore" a self-sustaining population. Justification for a broad-scale, conservation hatchery is not provided. The team preparing any future proposal should take into consideration the comments below about clarifying the goals, intent, and deleterious effects when developing their assessment. The proposal identifies that there was a tribal request in the 1994 Fish and Wildlife Program calling for a facility to supplement white sturgeon populations and that concerns were raised about disease, genetics, and biological risks. The proposal indicates that these have been addressed by projects 19860500 and 198806500. A statement is provided asserting that persistence of white sturgeon lies at the heart of the Fish and Wildlife Program's requirement to restore the Columbia River ecosystem. It is not clear however, whether the proposed action is to restore the sturgeon populations or restore sturgeon fisheries or both. These need to be resolved before the initial assessments guiding a Three-Step Review. The same issue is germane to the relationship to the NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion - increase lamprey and sturgeon to self-sustaining levels within 25 years. It is not clear whether the proposal will contribute to establishing self-sustaining populations or supporting fisheries. The objective to increase population abundance of white sturgeon in the Lower Middle Columbia River is clear. The objective to reduce predation on sturgeon eggs and larvae in the Lower Middle Columbia subbasin is not at all clear. The scope of the benefits is not clear. There might be conservation benefits to the focal species, but that is not very likely to persist. There could be benefits to humans by sustaining a depleted fishery through artificial means. With other funded projects in the basin focusing on re-establishing natural reproduction, with a conservation hatchery as a temporary adjunct, it is not clear why the region should move toward wholesale artificial production of white sturgeon.

State/province recommendation: MS: Recommended Action

Review group: MSRT

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: Request is for the planning phase of the project only. This project addresses a known limitation on sturgeon production (no recruitment in lower river reservoirs). There is currently no overall sturgeon management plan that identifies the long term needs for sturgeon in the lower river. CRITFC believes this should be a High Priority project to protect the long term existence of sturgeon in the lower reservoirs. The MSRT believes there is a high priority need to develop a basinwide sturgeon plan for the Program.