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A real ‘big fish’ story

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Sequim Gazette staff

In 1911, when Quilcene National Fish Hatchery first opened its doors, William Howard Taft was president, naval aviation was in its infancy, a dozen eggs cost $0.23, and Peru’s Machu Picchu had just been rediscovered.

 

A century later, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, the hatchery will be celebrating 100 years of programs.

 

Celebration attendees will be able to tour the hatchery, see inside a state-of-the-art automated fish marking trailer capable of marking over 8,000 young fish per hour, listen to storytelling, make artistic fish prints using the Japanese art of Gyotaku, learn more about Pacific Salmon through hands-on activities, and learn about the roles of our partners.

 

The hatchery is located two miles south of the town of Quilcene on Highway 101. Free parking will be located in the town of Quilcene with free shuttle buses running all day between the hatchery and town. For safety, only ADA accessible parking will be allowed at the hatchery. The Quilcene High School Booster Club and Lion’s Club will both sell food items to support community scholarships.

 

”The Centennial Celebration is an opportunity to honor our history, our partners, and tell Quilcene’s story, which is more than just releasing fish and providing fish for catch,” said Ron Wong, Quilcene National Fish Hatchery Manager. “There are many partnerships involved in management of the resources and supporting the Hood Canal Management Plan, the Puget Sound Salmon Management Plan, and Pacific Salmon Treaty objectives.

 

“There is also a lot of support and collaboration in the recovery and conservation of local endangered and threatened species as well as species at risk,” said Wong. “These partnerships and the people behind them often go unnoticed by the public, but the success of the programs could not succeed without these combined efforts.” The list of partners and supporters of Quilcene’s programs, many of whom will be on hand at the Aug. 20 Celebration, is extensive, and includes area tribes, other federal and state fish conservation agencies, and private nonprofit organizations. Most will have booths and activities at the celebration.

 

Hatchery practices have evolved from supporting a local chum salmon canning industry in the early 20th century to helping recover imperiled summer chum, Hood Canal winter steelhead, and Lake Sammamish kokanee.

 

The hatchery’s keystone program, meanwhile, is coho production: about 1.1 million coho salmon eggs or juvenile fish are propagated each year in support of economically valuable tribal, commercial, and sport fisheries. The coho fishery also benefits community businesses that provide lodging, fuel, tackle, and charter/guided fishing services.

 

Four hundred thousand juvenile coho are released into the Quilcene River each spring, while an additional 200,000 are transferred to net pens operated by the Skokomish Tribe for acclimation and release into Quilcene Bay. An additional 450,000 eggs are transferred each November to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s George Adams State Hatchery, where they are incubated and raised as fry, transferred into net pens in Port Gamble Bay, and reared by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe until release in spring.

 

Quilcene hatchery coho production, including release locations and timing, is designed to minimize harvest impacts to wild coho populations as well as effects to juvenile summer chum and Chinook salmon.

 

Heavy rains at the Penny Creek water intake at Quilcene National Fish Hatchery overflows with water on Nov. 20, 2009. The flood washed out several beaver dams upstream of the structure, depositing woody debris. The flood event eroded around the structure, supply pipeline, street light, damaged alarm wiring and sensors, and washed away some items stored around the area. Photo by Ron Wong/USFWS


In addition to raising coho, the hatchery also participates in the Hood Canal Steelhead Supplementation program, which is designed to help restore winter-run steelhead in the Skokomish, Duckabush, and Dewatto Rivers.

 

In addition to its 100-year legacy, a need-based, scientifically-driven community approach towards fish production is what makes the Quilcene NFH stand out.

 

“What is really neat is the way the hatchery has changed with the times,” said Dan Magneson, assistant hatchery manager, “It started out under the Department of Commerce, in support of the commercial fishing industry, about fishing as a business enterprise and fish for food and profit. In 1930, the hatchery shifted to a recreational focus, with trout stocking programs for the national parks and military reservations. By the late 1970’s, trout production had been phased out, and anadromous salmon production and support of treaty tribal fishing became increasingly important. Within the last 20 years, focus upon recovering imperiled stock of salmonids has been gaining steam and, in addition to our harvest responsibilities, hatchery conservation programs have also become a very prominent component of the hatchery’s work.”

 

For more information, see www.fws.gov/quilcenenfh.

 




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