Yakama Nation Fisheries (YNF) has been exploring sturgeon culture requirements by rearing small numbers of white sturgeon in tribal hatchery facilities since the 1990s. Fish were obtained from various sources, including the private Pelfrey sturgeon hatchery operating downstream from Bonneville Dam and mid-Columbia hatchery research by CRITFC and the USFWS.
YNF built a sturgeon hatchery at our Marion Drain Facility using funding from Grant County Power Sale Revenue, Fish Accords and mitigation contracts with the Mid-Columbia Public Utility Districts (PUD) of Grant and Chelan Counties. The Yakama Nation hatchery program has successfully spawned broodstock in 2007, 2008 and 2010, 2011 and 2012. We are currently rearing 7,500 juvenile fish for release into the PUD project areas in 2012 and 2013, which includes the Priest Rapids, Wanapum and Rocky Reach reservoirs.
The long-term goal of the Yakama Sturgeon Management Project is to restore healthy, harvestable populations and fisheries for white sturgeon in mid-Columbia River and Lower Snake reservoirs. Specific near-term objectives for the first phase of this project include:
- Assist in developing a recovery, research and monitoring strategy, and a hatchery Master Plan for depleted sturgeon populations in federally managed portions of the mid-Columbia and lower Snake rivers (facilitated by the CRITFC).
- Continue to develop critical expertise and refine effective sturgeon culture methodology for spawning and rearing white sturgeon using tribal staff, facilities and resources, and captive broodstock currently maintained on the Yakama Reservation at the Marion Drain Hatchery.
- Identify facility and staff requirements and costs of hatchery alternatives for use in research/monitoring and hatchery Master Plan considerations.
- Develop a detailed implementation plan for producing and rearing juvenile sturgeon for use in experimental research and hatchery feasibility evaluations (as identified in #1 above).
- Assist in developing and implementing research and hatchery feasibility evaluations.
The Yakama Nation is working collaborativly with other regional and local fisheries managers and interests to produce coordinated, complementary and cost effective outcomes to move us from the realm of sturgeon research only and begin to implement sturgeon restoration activities. As we develop information and expertise, it will be used to guide implementation of future restoration actions.
Accomplishments in 2011 included tagging and releasing 13,000 yearling sturgeon into the Rocky Reach, Wanapum and Priest Rapids Reservoirs and the installation of a backup well.
In 2012, we captured ten wild adult fish for broodstock, spawned them and then returned them to the Columbia River. Their offspring are currently being reared for release in Spring 2013. Further development of the hatchery facilities included a new production well, an additional aeration tower and a 40’x 205’ pole building which houses an incubation room, a wild broodstock holding/ rearing area and an electrical room.