The project's primary goal is to provide a safety net captive broodstock population that can be used to sustain Snake River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). The program's secondary goal is to generate fish that can be used to speed the rebuilding of this population listed as Endangered under the U. S. Endangered Species Act.
The Salmon Subbasin Plan includes these future goals for Redfish Lake Sockeye:
• Natural spawning component of 2,000 adults, based on the NOAA Fisheries interim abundance de-listing criteria.
• Long-term return of 8,000 - 44,500, based on management plans.
• For FY 2007 produce approximately 125,000 eyed eggs for transfer to Idaho for use in some combination of egg box, pre-smolt, and smolt release and to produce approximately 250 adult fish that will be allowed to spawn naturally and approximately 250 adult for artificial production.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), in partnership with Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) has been maintaining U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Snake River sockeye salmon from Redfish Lake, Idaho in a captive broodstock program since 1991. Captive broodstocks are a form of artificial propagation where fish are cultured in captivity for most or all of their life cycle. These programs provide a safety net to prevent populations from going extinct. Captive broodstock programs generate much higher egg-to-spawner survival (usually > 50%) than occurs in nature (usually < 0.2 %). This higher in-culture survival of captive broodstock salmon enables them to produce a large number of eyed eggs, fry, and smolts per generation for use in restoration programs. This large number of progeny per generation is being used by the program to "jumpstart" the restoration of ESA-listed endangered Redfish Lake sockeye salmon.
In the Salmon Subbasin Summary, Federal, state, and tribal agencies repeatedly call for artificial production programs, like the Redfish Lake sockeye salmon captive broodstock program, to meet goals and objectives (Section 5.2, Fisheries Needs 14 and 15). The continuation of current programs, such as the Redfish Lake sockeye salmon captive broodstock program, is also a required reasonable and prudent action (Item 177) in the NOAA Fisheries 2000 FCRPS Biological Opinion and an Updated Proposed Action (Hatchery UPA 13) in the 2004 Biological Opinion on Remand (Sections 126.96.36.199 and 9.3). In addition, the implementation and refinement of captive broodstocks for the recovery of Snake River sockeye salmon have been identified as priorities in the 1994 Northwest Power Planning Council's (NWPPC) Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (7.4A.1-3), are part of the overarching and regional objectives of the 2000 NWPPC Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, and are priorities described in the NOAA Fisheries proposed Recovery Plan for Snake River salmon.
Between 1991 and 2006, NOAA Fisheries has captive reared the progeny of sockeye salmon that returned to Redfish Lake. Maturity of these fish in captivity from fall 1994 through 2006 has resulted in hundreds of prespawning adults; hundreds of thousands of eyed eggs; and thousands of juveniles being provided to IDFG for release to Stanley Basin lakes. In upcoming years, the cooperative NOAA Fisheries/IDFG Redfish Lake captive broodstock program should continue to provide large numbers of animals for use in recovery efforts. NOAA Fisheries feels that continuation of cooperative captive broodstock programs is imperative to aid recovery of Redfish Lake sockeye salmon.
Because of the critically low population size of Redfish Lake sockeye salmon, captive broodstocks appear to offer the only hope to maintain the species while habitat improvements are underway. The maintenance of geographically separate captive brood populations at Eagle, Idaho and Burly, Washington will remain a key factor in reducing the risk of catastrophic loss of the Redfish Lake sockeye salmon gene pool from mechanical failure, human error, or disease. The NOAA-Fisheries captive broodstock project expects to produce up to 500 maturing fish for use in the adult release or for artificial spawning programs during the contract cycle. It is anticipated the project will supply up to 125,000 eyed eggs for use in the egg box program or rearing in the fry and smolt production programs during this contract cycle. During this contract cycle the project will continue to maintain at least 300 fish from each of three broodyears in the safety net for this ESA listed stock. In aggregate, these actions will continue to prevent the extinction of Snake River Sockeye salmon and produce fish for release in the rebuilding of this ESA listed species.