Fishermen in Oregon have grown increasingly concerned over the fact that catching hatchery bred winter steelhead in state rivers is getting harder and harder. To address the problem, the fishermen decided to bring in the help of Oregon scientists.
Over the years, hatchery bred fish are getting less inclined to bite hooks cast by the local fishermen. More often than not, fishermen hook wild steelheads, which are also growing scarcer. Experts believe that the problem may be caused by natural selection. Since the more aggressive steelheads are more likely to bite and get caught, their more timid brethren are often left behind. On the other hand, fishermen are required to release wild fish after they are caught, which means the aggressive fish are free to go back into the wild and breed.
To address the problem, the fishermen decided to ask help from the Oregon Hatchery Research Center. The research center has been monitoring the situation for years now. Experts from the research center say that it might be possible to breed new generations of fish that will be more inclined to bite. While fishermen may be excited about the prospect of catching hatchery bred fish, scientists say that the entire project may take around 4 years.
"It's an exciting idea for us," said Oregon State University professor of fisheries David Noakes. "Depending on what the answer is, we might be changing a lot of things about raising hatchery fish and stocking hatchery fish." Noakes is also a senior scientist of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center.
For over a hundred years, hatcheries all over the country have been breeding and releasing steelhead and salmon fish into the wild. This was done in order to minimize the effects of overfishing. Moreover, the loss of habitat due to human activities has also drastically reduced the number of fish in the wild. Hatcheries try to make up of the loss by breeding and releasing more fish.
These days, a large percentage of the fish that make their way up American rivers were bred in hatcheries. Fishermen are able to distinguish hatchery bred fish from their wild counterparts by checking for the presence of an adipose fin. This appendage was bred into the hatchery fish in order to safeguard the populations of wild fish.
This marks the first time that the Oregon Hatchery Research Center will attempt to breed this trait back into the fish that they produce. However, scientists working at the center say that they didn't bite more than they can chew and that the project is doable.