"Nature provides 'extra' eggs to compensate for early stages of naturally occurring high mortality," said Tod Jones, Fisheries Project manager of ARED. "In times of decreased survival and threatened sustainability, we can collect and care for available eggs in a controlled environment until they have reached the 'eyed' stage of development, a recognized stage of high resiliency. We then plant these eggs back into their stream of origin. This approach utilizes those extra eggs that nature provided, increasing the yield of emerging salmon fry while preserving more of their life-cycle in their natural habitat."
This initiative has developed and continues to research technologies, blended with existing disciplines for promoting healthy wild salmon stocks. ARED's approach to restoration has realized significant advancements in the field of restoration. The founders of ARED have developed several technologies supporting these efforts. These include a backpack-mounted portable egg planting device for planting eggs back into their watersheds, Moist Air Incubation systems for incubating the eggs in a stable environment until they are ready to be returned to their rivers and have refined existing technologies such as their spawning bed assessment standpipe, dating back to 1958, used to determine healthy conditions of the spawning beds that they plant the salmon eggs into.
"We were looking for a portable means for protecting the salmon eggs through the eyed-stage of their development. We succeeded in not only achieving this but in creating an incubation system that can create a natural mark on the salmon's Otolith bone at no additional cost and the incubator operates with no toxic chemical use," said Brian Ashton, inventor of the Moist Air Incubator.
Current hatchery incubation practices mark otoliths in hatchery operations at significant energy costs to alter the temperature of incubation water. Hatcheries also require the use of Formalin (a formaldehyde solution) for killing fungal growth salmon eggs during incubation in traditional full-emersion incubators.
The Environmental Protection Agency is requiring more stringent protocols for formalin use in hatcheries in the lower 48 states.
Incubating the fertilized eggs in a controlled environment protects the eggs through this critically sensitive stage of development, as well as temporarily removing them from predation and other naturally occurring events that cause high mortality in the watershed. Once the eggs have reached the 'eyed' stage of development, the eggs are very resilient and have a significantly increased chance of survival.
ARED's projects are designed to involve community organizations such as tribes, watershed councils and schools. One of its goals is to raise the awareness of communities relying on healthy wild salmon and to foster a collaborative relationship with resource managers. This process also seeks to blend traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding and to create opportunities for rising up the next generation of resource stewards from local communities. ARED is working with several school districts including, the Kake School District, in developing an applied science curriculum that involves high school students in higher level research and assessment activities.
"In Alaska, ARED's restoration activities are somewhat limited compared to the need in the lower 48 states, having many endangered salmon runs. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has guided a very successful escapement management program for Alaska's salmon fisheries. Alaska's community-managed hatchery programs have also helped greatly in removing pressure of over-harvest of the wild stocks. Our efforts within Alaska will be to help in recovering genetically distinct sub-populations of salmon that fall "under the radar" of escapement management," said Steve Andison, a co-founder of ARED and Juneau resident.
Ashton and Jones recently attended a task-force meeting of organizations and agencies preparing for the daunting chore of reintroduction of 5 indigenous stocks of salmon to the Elwha River in the Olympic National Forest.
"The river has been dammed for over 75 years. Congress has recently appropriated funds to have the dam removed" Ashton said.
ARED can be reached in Wrangell at (907) 874-2905 or online at www.ared.net.