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Taki: Hatcheries increase salmon numbers

By Morgan Winsor

Fifty years ago it was obvious to see how Redfish Lake got its name. During spawning season the lake would be teeming with thousands of salmon. "There were so many salmon that were spawning that the lake looked red," said wildlife biologist Doug Taki, director of the Snake River Sockeye Salmon Enhancement Program for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in southern Idaho.
The job of returning sockeye salmon to Redfish Lake is one of several environmental challenges that face the tribes. The Snake River sockeye salmon were declared an endangered species in 1991.
Takiís main duty since he took the job in 1993 entails tagging salmon and then monitoring their survival rates. Another part of his job is to stock the lake and to monitor the incubators that raise the fish into early adulthood.
"We monitor the survival rates of fish that leave the lake, make it to the ocean and then make it back to the lake," he said.
Taki and his team recently tagged and released 200,000 fish into the lake. Only 254 returned.
"In the early 1990ís, something like only four fish came back," Taki said.
A $500,000 grant each year from the Bonneville Power Administration allows Taki and his team to help raise the number of endangered fish in the lake.

"We lose our culture bit by bit, and that’s due to the loss of resources. If we don’t have salmon we lose part of our culture. It’s the same with our wildlife. A lot of what we do is not just for the benefit of the tribe, it’s for the culture of non-Indians as well."

Chad Colter
Tribal Fish and Wildlife Director

The program is a collaborative effort between the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, U.S. Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The lake is nestled 6,700 feet above sea level in the Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho, where Taki and his team ‚ from April until October ‚ work up to six days a week raising the fish before sending them on their journey to the ocean.
Taki said itís important for people to know the increase of salmon in the lake is mainly due to the success of the hatchery program.

Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho is one of the many lakes the Sho-Ban Fisheries program does work.

"Thereís a lot of contradiction as to whether stocking hatchery fish is working or not," Taki said. "People donít realize that the fish they see probably are the fish weíve raised in the hatchery."
Chad Colter, fish and wildlife coordinator for the tribe, blames low fish populations on the installation of dams along the river. Part of Colterís job is to "go to those traditional areas and make sure there are fish for the tribe," he said.
"We lose our culture bit by bit, and thatís due to the loss of resources," Colter said. "If we donít have salmon we lose part of our culture. Itís the same with our wildlife. A lot of what we do is not just for the benefit of the tribe, itís for the culture of non-Indians as well."
Tribal Chairman Blaine Edmo said the tribeís council supports breaching the four lower Snake River dams in order to increase salmon populations.
"Just to get the fish to the Salmon River they need to get through eight federal dams," Colter said.
"Weíve had a great couple of years for salmon to make it upstream," Colter added. "But we have to remember that the majority of these fish were fish from our hatcheries, not from wild populations. It would never be possible for these species to be self-sufficient without removing the dams."
Edmo said the tribe is trying to raise the water level that flows into the streams for the fish to swim up and into the lake. For that to happen, the tribe needs cooperation from the state to provide adequate stream flows for the fish to pass through.
But Edmo is wary of the tribeís relationship with the state.
"Our relationship with the state is not a place we want to be," Edmo explained. "The tribe does not have a treaty with the state. It has a treaty with the federal government."

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