OSU researchers training hatchery-raised salmon to act like wild - KPTV - FOX 12

OSU researchers training hatchery-raised salmon to act like wild fish

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Researchers at Oregon State University are working to train salmon raised in a hatchery to behave like wild fish.

Biologists at OSU's Fish Performance and Genetics Laboratory raise salmon from eggs, and teach them the ways of the wild by mimicking river temperatures, exposure to sunlight, and offering meals at irregular intervals they might experience in nature.

The fish raised in the lab eventually end up in reservoirs on the Willamette River, where agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers are trying to re-establish wild salmon populations above several dams.

"These fish are introduced at the top of a reservoir, and the question is how do they move effectively through the reservoir, and once they encounter the dam, how might one be able to collect them so they can be safely passed over that dam," said Dr. Carl Schreck, an OSU biologist heading up the project.

Schreck said the fish raised in the lab aren't meant to substitute or replace wild fish, but are more like test subjects that teach scientists how to better manage wild populations.

"The researchers that use our fish have indicated they're about 95 percent successful in emulating what wild fish would be doing," said Schreck.

Researchers are trying to determine the best way to get as many young salmon safely through the dams downstream so they can mature in the ocean.

Recently Schreck and his team members made a significant discovery, finding salmon that come back to spawn in the spring swim at different depths than those that return in the fall, which could give scientists a better idea how to get each group safely downstream.

"The question really is if you're going to retrofit these dams that were built before there was a mandate to pass fish, how would you do it effectively. How would you collect them?  What sort of plumbing would you need to install to get the fish trapped and so forth," said Schreck.

Chinook Salmon are still listed as an endangered species, and continue to face challenges on their road to recovery, from predatory sea lions to changing ocean conditions, and several other factors.

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