NORTH BEND, Ore. – A partnership effort of the Coquille Indian Tribe with county and state agencies promises to significantly increase the numbers of Chinook salmon returning to the Coos Bay estuary and improve opportunities for local fishing.
The Coquille Indian Tribe has partnered with the Coos River STEP (Salmon Trout Enhancement Program) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on a project to acclimate and release several thousand fall Chinook salmon pre-smolts into Coos Bay over the next several years.
Approximately 200,000 fall Chinook salmon pre-smolts have been acclimated over the past two years at Fourth Creek Reservoir on the Coquille Indian Tribe’s Empire property. During the acclimation period, fish are fed and monitored by volunteers from the tribe. Following the two week acclimation period, the Chinook pre-smolts are released down the reservoir’s fish way and out into Coos Bay.
The brood stock for the project was collected at Noble Creek Hatchery during October and November, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Returning adult fall Chinook were spawned by ODFW fisheries staff, Coos River STEP and volunteers. The Bandon Hatchery incubated eyed eggs and cared for fry until they reached a pre-smolt size of 75 fish per pound prior to being released into Fourth Creek Reservoir.
This fall Chinook activity is a pilot project to determine the potential for future releases on tribal lands. The tribe is dedicated to restoring salmon populations and promoting fisheries within their homelands. The tribe hopes to increase its capacity to 200,000 Chinook pre-smolts per year over the next several years replacing the loss in production due to the closure of the Daniels Creek STEP facility, on Coos River, in 2007.
The tribe hopes that local partnerships such as this will help restore historic fish runs on the Oregon South Coast, which have suffered from heavy declines over the past several years. If successful, Chinook released from this project will return to the Coos Bay estuary over the next 10 years and provide harvest for ocean and in-basin fisheries.
Comprising a people whose ancestors lived in the lands of the Coquille River watershed and lower Coos Bay, the Coquille Indian Tribe today has more than 900 members and a land base of 7,043 acres. After the United States reinstituted federal recognition to the tribe and restored its full sovereignty rights in 1989, the Coquille tribal government created an administrative program that now provides housing, health care, education, elder care, law enforcement and judicial services to its members. The tribe is the second largest employer in Coos County, Oregon, successfully managing business ventures in forestry, arts and exhibits, gaming and hospitality, assisted living and memory care, cranberry production and high-speed telecommunications.