Response for project 200203000: Salmonid Progeny Markers

Comment on proposed FY 2006 budget

The funds needed for FY 2006 can be reduced from $198,666 to $177,000 to continue the development and evaluation of a trans-generational mark. Work planned for FY 2006 includes additional microchemistry analysis of otoliths as well as other bony structures to evaluate potentially non-lethal avenue for detecting a chemically induced trans-generational marker. Work will also focus on the final analysis, reporting, and publication of the research from the initial suite of experiments including the comparison of various marking methods and detecting equipment.

Accomplishments since the last review

Develop RM&E Methods and DesignsDeveloped and tested elemental marker solutions for marking the progeny of gravid female steelhead prior to spawning without changes in survival, maturation, and fertilization rates, and to access progeny embryonic development, growth and survival.
Collect/Generate/Validate Field and Lab DataExtracted otoliths and measured Sr:Ca ratios from 720 progeny of marked and unmarked steelhead using wavelength dispersive microprobe. Collected plasma during a time series trial from marked adult steelhead to determine Sr mobilization rates.
Mark/Tag AnimalsConducted experiments using adult female steelhead for control and treatment groups that led to the marking of thousands of their progeny that were randomly sub-sampled and analyzed for differences in marker concentration between and within test groups.
Manage/Maintain DatabaseCreated and maintained a database for the detailed information collected on the progeny and parents of treatment and control group in the various studies

The Progeny Marker project has completed a number of milestones and objectives including: 1) the selection and hiring of a project leader and graduate student; 2)the development, review and execution of an experimental design; 3) the acquisition, procurement or use of test fish, holding facilities, egg incubation systems, progeny rearing tanks, etc.; 4) the development and refinement of marker concentrations, marker delivery methods, treatment and handling protocols, otolith extraction and otolith preparation protocols; 5) the completion of three marking trials with associated control and treatment groups; 6) the analysis of otolith microchemistry with a wavelength dispersive microprobe, 7) assessment of significant separation in Sr:Ca ratios in the otolith primordia of progeny of adult female steelhead marked with treatment and control marking solutions, and 8) the evaluation of Sr mobilization in the plasma of adult female steelhead trout injected with the marker solution.

FY 2006 goals and anticipated accomplishments

Develop RM&E Methods and DesignsComplete the development and analysis of the strontium trans-generational mark. Begin experimental designs for using the mark in the Umatilla Basin to evaluate the reproductive success of hatchery-reared steelhead spawning in the wild.
Collect/Generate/Validate Field and Lab DataContinue to process otoliths, scales and other bony structures from treated and control fish with the Cameca SX-100 wavelength electron microprobe. Validate microprobe data. Evaluate Sr:Ca background ratios of O. mykiss from the Pacific Northwest.
Manage/Maintain DatabaseContinue to process otoliths, scales and other bony structures from treated and control fish with the Cameca SX-100 wavelength electron microprobe. Validate microprobe data. Evaluate Sr:Ca background ratios of O. mykiss from the Pacific Northwest.
Disseminate Raw & Summary DataComplete annual project reports, submit manuscripts to refereed scientific journals, and present findings at local and regional workshops and symposiums.
Analyze/Interpret DataComplete statistical analysis and graphical representation of test results from each of the experimental trials and associated control and treatment groups.

The first set of goals for FY 2006 is to complete and report on the initial experiments, and to examine scales, fin rays, maxilla, opercle punch, and other boney parts to see if a non-lethal sampling strategy can be found. A second set of goals is to develop a robust experimental design and protocol that utilizes the progeny mark to evaluate the relative reproductive success of endemic hatchery reared and endemic naturally reared summer steelhead spawning in their natural habitat in the Umatilla River Basin.

Subbasin planning

How is this project consistent with subbasin plans?

The relative reproductive success of hatchery-reared endemic steelhead and their naturally-reared cohorts is a critical uncertainty associated with strategies for the restoration, mitigation and enhancement of salmon and steelhead the Umatilla River Basin and abroad. Determining the reproductive success of hatchery fish spawning in the wild has been listed as important research need identified by ISRP, ISBA, subbasin plans, and RPAs in the draft NMFS Biological Opinion as a critical uncertainty (Subbasin Plan; section 1.4.3, page 1-29; Appendix H, Umatilla Basin RM&E Plan, Management Objective 3, Assumption 3e, 3g, 5a, M&E Objective 3e, 3g and 5a, pages H-2 and H-3). The development of the progeny mark will provide a useful and cost effective tool to determine the reproductive success of hatchery and naturally produced steelhead spawning in the wild without the need for expensive and detailed genetic pedigree analysis. Pedigree analysis is a valuable tool but requires the handling of every single adult fish at the interception point. In the case of the Umatilla River, that would mean the physical handling of thousands and thousands of adult salmon and steelhead including the non-target species given the logistics at the adult trap and thus can only be deployed on the smaller tributary scale. The progeny mark would allow sub-sampling of the adult returns and related progeny which will reduce costs and associated handling stress on target and non-target species and will need to be tested along side a pedigree type analysis (Subbasin Plan, Appendix, pages H-10, H-21 and H-77). Determining the reproductive success of hatchery fish in the wild and reducing stress to returning adult salmon and steelhead are goal consistent with the current subbasin plan and will aid in the adaptive management of the Umatilla Basin Fish Restoration Project (Subbasin Plan, Section 2.5, page 2-7 and Section 5.6 page 5-88, evaluating management strategies).

How do goals match subbasin plan priorities?

The management strategy of releasing hatchery salmon and steelhead into streams and rivers for the express purpose of spawning naturally has been a controversial issue in the Pacific Northwest and a critical uncertainty. The benefits and risks of hatchery fish spawning in the wild have been modeled, discussed, and theorized from a variety of perspectives and with a variety of untested assumptions. Developing a cost effective tool to evaluate reproductive success of hatchery fish spawning in the wild will provide a way to test current management strategies and assumptions used extensively in the Umatilla River Basin Restoration Program and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. (Subbasin Plan; section 1.4.3, page 1-29; Appendix H, Umatilla Basin RM&E Plan, Management Objective 3, Assumption 3e, 3g, 5a, M&E Objective 3e, 3g and 5a, pages H-2, H-3 H-10, H-21 and H-77; Section 2.5, page 2-7 and Section 5.6 page 5-88, evaluating management strategies).

Other comments

The project has demonstrated that the progeny mark concept is feasible by detecting significantly different Sr:Ca ratios between treatment and control groups. This critical research will open doors to the assessment of hatchery programs by providing a comparatively inexpensive method for quantifying the relative reproductive success of hatchery-reared spawners. This tool will be an essential component of the hatchery evaluation program in the Umatilla Subbasin, but will have utility throughout the Columbia Basin, and worldwide wherever questions regarding the reproductive success of fishes arise. We urge NPCC and BPA to continue to support this work through this final year of laboratory testing, and into the implementation phase in 2007.