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Willamette Spring Chinook

Willamette Spring Chinook Research

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   The Willamette and Sandy rivers support intense recreational fisheries for spring chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Fisheries in these basins rely primarily on annual hatchery production of 5-8 million juveniles. Hatchery programs exist in the McKenzie, Middle Fork Willamette, North and South Santiams, Clackamas, and Sandy rivers mainly as mitigation for dams that blocked natural production areas. Some natural spawning occurs in most of the major basins and a few smaller tributaries upstream of Willamette Falls.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the Wild Fish Management Policy to reduce adverse impacts of hatchery programs on wild native stocks. The main goal of the policy is to protect the genetic diversity of these stocks recognizing that genetic resources are a major component, not only in sustaining wild stocks, but also in perpetuating hatchery programs and the fisheries they support.

In the past, spring chinook salmon management in the Willamette and Sandy basins focused on hatchery and fish passage issues. Limited information was collected on the genetic structure among basin populations, abundance and distribution of natural spawning, or on strategies for reducing risks that large hatchery programs pose for wild salmon populations. This study is being implemented to gather this information.

This Willamette Spring Chinook Project hopes to help managers collect information that will lead to a management strategy for spring chinook salmon in the Willamette and Sandy basins that (1) protects the genetic integrity of natural populations, and (2) maintains sport and commercial fisheries and the programs that support them. A research proposal was created in 1996 with five (5) objectives.


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