Surplus Coho Eggs from Lower Columbia Serve as Foundation for Nez Perce Tribe’s Coho Restoration Program in Clearwater River

Portland, Oregon – Approximately 600,000 bright orange live-eyed Clearwater coho salmon eggs from the Clearwater River in northern Idaho made the 400-mile, nine-hour trip back home to the Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery in Estacada, Oregon. Fifteen years ago, surplus coho eggs from lower Columbia River hatcheries were sent to the Nez Perce Tribe as the foundation for their Clearwater Basin Coho Restoration Project.

Fisheries staff from the Nez Perce Tribe delivered the surplus eggs from the Dworshak National Fish to the Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery where USFWS staff will incubate the eggs and rear the resulting juvenile coho until March 2011. The juvenile coho will then be transported back to the Clearwater Subbasin where they will be acclimated and outplanted into tributaries of the Clearwater River. Space limitations in the Clearwater Basin at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and Kooskia National Fish Hatchery limit the tribe’s ability to rear the eggs to produce juveniles for release.

“It’s taken 15 years for these coho to come full circle,” said Mike Bisbee, coho project leader for the Nez Perce Tribe. “The demonstrated success of these salmon over the past few years speaks volumes about their instinct to survive and their determination to come home. Coho are extremely forgiving and runs can rebuild quickly. We’re helping them do that.”

The Nez Perce Tribe began a coho restoration project in the Clearwater River Basin in 1994 under the US v. Oregon fish management agreement. Coho disappeared from the Clearwater River when the Lewiston Dam was constructed in 1927. Restoration efforts by Idaho Fish and Game in the 1960s failed and in 1986 coho were officially declared extinct from the Clearwater River.

“The arrival of these eggs begins the transition to upriver brood sources for the second phase of the Clearwater coho reintroduction master plan-an important landmark in re-establishing a self-sustaining coho population in the Clearwater River,” said Larry Telles, hatchery manager for the USFWS’s Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery. “Once re-established, these fish will act as a critical piece of the ecological puzzle in the restoration of other salmon and steelhead populations of that system.”

The Nez Perce Tribe’s Clearwater Basin Coho Restoration Project, funded by the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund through NOAA Fisheries, is successfully rebuilding naturally spawning coho runs to the Clearwater River and its tributaries. In 2009, 4,910 adult coho passed over Lower Granite Dam.

About CRITFC: The Portland-based Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of the Columbia River Basin's four treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe.

About USFWS: The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home.