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Nez Perce to Open New Salmon Hatcheries

by Staff
The Idaho Statesman, October 6, 2003

LEWISTON -- The Nez Perce tribe is set to open a hatchery and six field hatcheries this month to raise chinook salmon with better survival instincts than those from conventional raceways.

The hatchery will raise 1.4 million fall chinook and 625,000 spring chinook each year to boost natural production.

The hatchery system was built for $16 million — a bargain, says hatchery director David Johnson.

Hatcheries give young salmon an initial leg up compared to fish hatched in the wild.

But when hatchery fish are released, they often experience tremendous mortality rates, with as many as half dying within a few hours, production chief Ed Larson said.

Standard hatchery fish often do not know how to feed on their own, or how to hide from predators or lack the physical stamina to live in large rivers.

The tribal fish will live in natural stream-like settings complete with woody vegetation for cover. Measures will not be made to keep out predators like kingfishers and mergansers. Instead, the fish will have to learn to hide when those birds approach.

The raceways where the fish spend most of their young lives will have currents to prepare them for flowing rivers.

“Our fish will in a sense undergo marathon training,” Larson said.

Before being released, many of the fish will be shipped to satellite hatcheries where they might acquire a homing instinct and return years later to spawn.

The Bonneville Power Administration is funding the effort to compensate for fish killed by dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Nez Perce to Open New Salmon Hatcheries
Idaho Statesman, October 6, 2003

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