A Framework for Assessing the Feasibility of Native Fish Conservation Translocations: Applications to Threatened Bull Trout
Benjamin T Galloway, Clint C Muhlfeld, Christopher S Guy, Christopher C Downs, Wade A Fredenberg
North American Journal of Fisheries Management
There is an urgent need to consider more aggressive and direct interventions for the conservation of freshwater fishes that are threatened by invasive species, habitat loss, and climate change. Conservation introduction (moving a species outside its indigenous range to other areas where conditions are predicted to be more suitable) is one type of translocation strategy that fisheries managers can use to establish new conservation populations in areas of refugia. To date, however, there are few examples of successful conservation-based introductions. Many attempts fail to establish new populations-in part because environmental factors that might influence success are inadequately evaluated before the translocation is implemented. We developed a framework to assess the feasibility of rescuing threatened fish populations through translocation into historically unoccupied stream and lake habitats. The suitability of potential introduction sites was evaluated based on four major components: the recipient habitat, recipient community, donor population, and future threats. Specific questions were then developed to evaluate each major component. The final assessment was based on a scoring system that addressed each question by using criteria developed from characteristics representative of highly suitable habitats and populations. This framework was used to evaluate the proposed within-drainage translocation of three Bull Trout Salvelinus confluentus populations in Glacier National Park, Montana. Our results indicated that within-drainage translocation is a feasible strategy for conserving locally adapted populations of Bull Trout through the creation of new areas of refugia in Glacier National Park. The framework provides a flexible platform that can help managers make informed decisions for moving threatened fishes into new areas of refugia for conservation and recovery programs.
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