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Mad River Hatchery continues spawning operations after litigation

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BLUE LAKE- Scientists are back to spawning steelhead salmon at Mad River Hatchery after a six week court-order halted operations. The hatchery began allowing wild and hatchery origin steelhead to enter the facility on Feb. 4th after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed to conditions set by a judge.

The hatchery agreed to collect, trap and spawn wild origin steelhead for one year. The hatchery can spawn wild origin with hatchery origin steelhead, or if they catch enough wild origin to spawn with other wild origin steelhead. The Environmental Protection Information Center pursued litigation against the hatchery in Jan. 2013.

EPIC said they took the legal step to force the hatchery to improve conditions for the fish and establish a Hatchery Genetic Management Plan, like other hatcheries in the state. Before litigation, the hatchery spawned hatchery origin with other origin fish, which EPIC argued did not provide enough genetic diversity to maintain the health of the fish.

Executive Director of EPIC, Gary Graham Hughes said the hatchery was contributing to other factors that were putting additional stress on the wildish.. Hughes said the hatchery was also violating the Endangered Species Act by not following an adopted HGMP.

Phillip Berrington a CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist said the hatchery had been developing a draft plan since 2005, but was limited by funding.

While in litigation the hatchery was working with NOAA fisheries to develop the updated plan. EPIC dropped the lawsuit after they felt the hatchery was making positive steps in the right direction.

The court order prevented the hatchery from spawning for six weeks, half of their season. Berrington said he believes the hatchery will still be able to produce enough fish.

Berrington said the hatchery is working with NOAA fisheries and expects to have the HGMP completed by this year.