Workgroup Evaluates Hatchery Chinook Marking and Tagging Programs

SWFSC Fisheries Ecology Division scientists convened the first meeting of a workgroup to evaluate alternative marking and tagging programs for hatchery produced California fall Chinook salmon. This scientific workgroup was formed in response to a joint request from the NMFS Southwest Region, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to more thoroughly review the costs, benefits, and risks of alternative marking/tagging systems, including the current tagging system.

Mass marking and mark-selective fisheries have recently been proposed as a basis for an alternative management system for fall Chinook salmon in California. The possible benefits that would accrue from the proposal include improved genetic fitness of hatchery broodstock and natural spawning populations, and significantly increased overall harvest and fishing opportunity with decreased fishing mortality on ESA-listed and unmarked stocks. However, many questions and concerns have been raised about this proposal regarding the certainty of these benefits, the unintended consequences that could occur with implementation, and the costs of such a program. Other marking/tagging system proposals have also been put forward that promise certain benefits over the current system.

The SWFSC accepted the request and charged the Fisheries Ecology Division with organizing and executing the process. A steering committee was established including Churchill Grimes and Tommy Williams (SWFSC Fisheries Ecology Division), Alice Low (California DFG), Jim Smith (USFWS) and Don Jackson (American Fisheries Society). Workgroup participants from the Fisheries Ecology Division include Steve Lindley and Michael Mohr, and Carlos Garza presented information concerning parentage based (genetic) tagging.

The next meeting for the workgroup will be 18 November 2009 in Sacramento and will provide an opportunity for interested parties with data/information relevant to the issue to provide those data to the workgroup.

(November 9, 2009)