Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bonneville Fish Hatchery

We took some time to visit the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Cascade Locks, OR - the same time we visited the Bonneville Dam and Powerhouse.  The hatchery is run by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and was built in 1909.  The information here is from their website and kiosks at the hatchery.  I've been to several hatcheries, but never one as big as this.  To give you an idea of the magnitude of the place, they raise "6.6 million fall chinook, 900,000 spring chinook, 750,000 coho, 250,000 summer steelhead, and 60,000 winter steelhead."  That's a lot of fish!  

I ordered these pictures in some sort of sequence, so you can understand how it works.  Here, you can see Tanner Creek, which flows into the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam.  So, no dams are between this creek and the ocean.  

The adults that are migrating up the Columbia River and into the creek are diverted into the collection pools.  Creek in the top of the picture, collection pools in the bottom.

They collect a lot of adults...

The eggs and sperm are taken, swirled together so fertilization takes place, and the eggs are placed in these trays to incubate.

It's a lot of fish.

The adults are donated to local food banks or sold by a bid system to the highest bidder, who then sells the fish at market, so there is no waste.  When the babies are in the fry stage, they get placed in pools outside. 

Water from the Tanner Brook is constantly run through the pools so the fry have fresh, oxygenated, cold water to grow in, and perhaps equally important, they learn the smell of their home stream.  Biologist's best guess is that the fish migrate back to their home stream by smell. One of the problems with raising hatchery fish is that this dilutes genetic diversity.

Here, one of the workers feeds the fish...kind of like tiny bits of dog chow...  They are fed several times a day.

Here's what they look like in the pen...  There are lots of pens.

There's something close to 100,000 in each....  I guess they're about 4" long, and a little thicker than a pencil.

The pens are carefully screened to keep predatory birds, raccoons, and the like out.

In another pool, they have rainbow trout.  You can judge the size yourself, by looking at where folks have thrown coins in the water.

Again, look at the coins....  These trout are just for show, and are not for rearing young.  The signs pointed out that in the wild, trout don't grow this big, because they don't get enough food.  Here, there were vending machines for tourists to purchase food and feed the trout.  These ones look pretty fat.

These are White Sturgeon, one of the oldest fish species, first found in the Jurassic Period.

There was a cool underwater viewing area for the sturgeon.  This large one is named Herman.

As you can see in my amazing photo, made using my patented "blurred vision" camera technique, Herman is very big, about 10 feet long, more than 450 lbs, and 70 years old.

Here's a picture of a record sturgeon caught in the wild.  Sturgeon don't breed till they're about 25 years old, and may live to be more than 100 years old.  

Outdoor view of the pond.  White Sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish found in North America.

This map shows the Columbia River Watershed.  The green area is the bit where anadromous fish (ones where they're born in freshwater, live as adults in the ocean, and return to freshwater to spawn) can currently migrate, the orange bit that which was historically available but is now cut off by dams, and the yellow bit is where fish could never migrate due to natural obstructions like waterfalls.

Just a general statistic.  

That's a lot of fish.

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