Also see August 3, 2009 ISRP memo to Tony Grover regarding Steelhead Kelt Reconditioning Experimental Designs (ISRP 2008-15A update)
This is the ISRP’s final review of the Yakama Nation’s proposal, Upper Columbia Kelt Reconditioning Program, #2008-458-00. This project is called for in the Columbia River Fish Accords. This project proposes "to take advantage of iteroparity in natural-origin (NOR) steelhead populations to increase the abundance of NOR spawners by enhancing the survival of post-spawning females (kelts) intercepted at various locations in the UCR [Upper Columbia River] at seaward migration… This project will initiate a kelt reconditioning program in the UCR to collect kelts, recondition them in captivity under two treatment protocols, monitor a set of variables related to condition and reproductive state, and track their post-release contribution to natural spawner abundance."
On December 15, 2008, the ISRP completed its initial review of the original proposal and sent a memo to the project sponsor requesting additional information that would allow the ISRP to complete its scientific review. On May 8, 2009, the ISRP met with the Yakama Nation to primarily discuss the Mid-Columbia Coho project, but discussion also included the Accord kelt project. This discussion led to correspondence between the Yakama Nation and the ISRP on the project’s purpose and potential approaches to pursue in the proposal revision process, including an examination of alternative study designs. The Yakama Nation revised their initial proposal in response the ISRP's December 2008 review and the May discussions and correspondence in 2009. On August 24, 2009, the Council requested the ISRP's review of the revised proposal.
The ISRP finds that the revised proposal does not meet review criteria because the overall assumed benefits to steelhead NOR abundance (or other VSP criteria) has not been established, the specific objectives in the proposal are inconsistently described, and the evaluation methods are not sufficiently detailed to determine the ability to measure any benefit that might occur.
The ISRP believes that if further consideration is given to kelt reconditioning as a recovery strategy the appropriate beginning point is a review of iteroparity in UCR steelhead leading to simulation and recruitment analysis that includes historical and current rates of iteroparity, potential benefits of using reconditioned kelts, and the effect of altering the rates of iteroparity on steelhead life-history. This would serve the important function of identifying the potential benefit to steelhead VSP metrics that would need to be produced using kelt reconditioning as a recovery strategy and quantified during implementation. This background effort has not yet been completed.