Saturday, October 31, 2009

Current Klamath Agreement no Guarantee of Dam Removal

The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) may not actually result in dam removal on the Klamath. Despite widespread optimism that the plan adopted by government, stakeholders and the utility PacifiCorp earlier this year will bring down Klamath dams sometime in the next decade the future of the dams is still uncertain. The framework of the agreement as it stands only promises a 2012 review of the situation by the Secretary of the Interior and provides provisions that would allow PacifiCorp to back out of the agreement. In delaying dam removal, PacifiCorp will continue to profit off the Klamath without committing any funds to the removal process,. Lots more information on the KlamBlog.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Koenings Testifies on Culvert Removal

Former WDFW director Jeff Koenings testified before US District Judge Ricardo Martinez last week in a lawsuit pitting a coalition of NW Native American tribes against the state of Washington. The Tribes are demanding that the state expedite the removal of more than 800 state owned culverts currently blocking access by anadromous fish.

Koenings testified that removing barriers might do, "more harm then good," arguing that removal of migration barriers would allow hatchery fish to access the habitat and spawn ultimately doing more harm then good...can he possibly believe that? It is completely perverse, you have the choice of opening up hundreds of miles of currently unoccupied habitat which historically supported spawning and rearing and you aren't going to allow fish in because hatchery fish might spawn there? Since when was the state so deeply concerned about hatchery fish spawning in the wild? Its a convenient argument but until they actually reform the hatchery system, we're not buying it. What harm could possibly come from allowing fish access? Hatchery fish spawning with wild populations are known to be detrimental to the productivity of wild stocks, but how can providing more spawnig and rearing habtiat do harm, even if a few hatchery fish end up spawning there? A hatchery fish which strays into newly accessible habtiat to spawn was more than likely going to spawn in the wild anyway. After all more than a few hatchery fish end up spawning in the wild already, should we cut off access to the whole river because, heaven forbid a hatchery fish might be spawning there?

This is a perfect example of the backwards logic that our state constantly employs in the management of fisheries. They openly acknowledge that loss of historic habtiat is a problem, and that hatchery fish spawning in the wild is undesirable from a management standpoint, but it is ludicrous to use one impact to justify not dealing with another. Does Koenigs need reminding that hatchery programs are largely state funded and operated? If they're such a huge problem why not reduce the number or scale of hatchery supplementation? However while Koenings was director the state made little to no progress on the hatchery reform front. The state simply doesn't want to be forced into pouring money into culvert removal right now, but having the former director testifying underoath that we shouldn't open access because of hatcheries is a farce. Clearly removing culverts wont bring back wild salmon, but it is a part of the puzzle, so is hatchery reform. Under their current logic a logging company might argue that logging riparian areas is justifiable becasue degraded habitat will be utilized by hatchery spawners and their offspring. Since we dont want hatchery fish successfully spawning in the wild we probably should just log right down to the riverbank. The unfortunate truth is wild fish are taking it from all sides, habitat loss and degradation, hatcheries, and quite obviously politically motivated management.

See the associated press story

Ground Water Crisis

Around the world ground water is being depleted at an alarming rate. Withdrawls from underground aquifers are far outstripping their ability to recharge. As a consequence, water tables around the country are dropping and the Pacific Northwest is no exception. During the dry, hot summer many systems depend entirely on ground water sources for flow and in many cases dropping watertables threaten in stream flows. With climate change and further depletion of our aquifers looming it is critical that watershed restoration efforts focus on flow management of both surface and ground water, eliminate waste and work to slow or stop the depletion of ground water. See an article on ground water depletion in the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fraser Sockeye Petition

The Fraser River, one of the worlds greatest Sockeye producers is in deep trouble. Over the past several years Fraser Sockeye have been declining and warmer in river temperatures have led to huge prespawn mortality. Declines have been linked to the high prespawn mortality, changing ocean conditions in the strait of Georgia and potentially fish farms.

This year the issue came front and center when returns fell short by 90% of the preseason forecast. The catastrophic decline in Fraser sockeye has caused major political upheaval in Canada and a number of groups are working to ensure that DFO addresses the major causes of the decline. They've initiated a petition demanding formal judicial inquiry into DFOs management of the sockeye fishery and factors contributing to their decline. It can be printed and signed here. It takes a few minutes and your voice is extremely valuable. Even if you aren't Canadian, Fraser Sockeye are a major part of the evolutionary and ecological legacy of the species. We all have to stand up and tell Canada's government to take action.

More information can also be found at Alex Mortons blog, including some very heart breaking photos of the extremely low spawner densities in the Adams River, one of the Fraser's most important spawning tributaries.

Check out the Klamblog

Just came across this blog covering the environmental and political issues in the Klamath Basin. It's called KlamBlog and they've been posting since 2007 so it is a rich resource for info on the watershed. Here's the URL it will also be permanently linked through the blog list on the right of the window.

Klamath Documentary to air on PBS

River of Renewal, a documentary film about Klamath River salmon will be airing on many PBS station during November. The film explores the social, political and environmental landscape on the Klamath and how we can achieve recovery in the face of the long standing controversy over water allocation in the region. With a tentative agreement on removing the dams between California, Oregon and PacifiCorp the owner of the Klamath Dams there is hope that Klamath Salmon may soon have access to 100s more miles of undamed river. It would be the largest dam removal project in history. Check the River of Renewal website for the trailer.

and the schedule for when it will be airing on your local PBS station.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

California Plan Jeapordizes Critical Coho Habitat

The Shasta and Scott Rivers provide critical habitat for threatened Coho salmon in the Klamath basin. This summer as drought gripped the region, major portions of both streams went dry in large part because of wasteful irrigation practices. In the past irrigation permits have been issued on an individual basis upon the determination that the irrigation did not cause undue harm to listed species, however the California Department of Fish and Game's new proposal would give blanket protection to irrigators and allow the further exploitation of already scarce water in the basin. Coho in the Klamath are though to be at 1-2% of historic abundance and a coalition tribal groups, commercial fishermen and environmental NGOs have challenged the proposal in San Francisco superior court. We will keep you posted as this progresses. More information at Earth Justice's website.

Record Coho Runs in the Columbia

Buoyed by favorable ocean conditions, fall coho on the Columbia are back in record numbers this year. Already more than 200,000 fish have passed over Bonneville, with thousands more returning to Lower Columbia tributaries. Coho in the Snake are extinct however with reintroduction efforts underway, lets hope good returns give colonizing salmon a leg up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

40,000 Atlantic Salmon esacpe from BC fish farm

Yet another reason to push for enclosed Salmon farming operations, over the weekend 40,000 Atlantic Salmon escaped from a net pen operation near Port Elizabeth during routine maintenance. There is a fear that escaped Atlantic Salmon may eventually establish breeding populations in some BC rivers, competing with native salmon and steelhead. Local first nations have been critical of the company who owns the farm Marine Harvest Canada for their slow response to problem. The public was initially only informed of the escape when commercial fishermen working in the area reported catching Atlantics. More information at the Times Colonist.

No Harvest For Now on North Umpqua Wild Steelhead

For now at least ODFW is dropping its proposal to allow retention on Wild North Umpqua winter steelhead. The North Umpqua has one of the most stable and healthy populations of wild winter steelhead in the lower 48 and must be protected. We can celebrate now, but this issue will certainly come up again. As advocates for wild fish we have to stay vigilant. More information at the Quiet Pool Blog

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nov 6th Commission Meeting Change of Plans

Apparently the commission wont be taking comments on the Hatchery and Fishery Reform document. While we had hoped to get people turned out to give comments at the hearing it doesn't make a whole lot of sense now. Hopefully everyone made comments by the Oct 15 deadline. We'll see what happens with approving the plan. Sorry for any confusion.

WDFW Proposes to Further Limit Catch and Release Angling Opportunity

As a part of the 2010 rule change proposal cycle, WDFW will be closing most rivers in the Puget Sound area February 15th. With populations of wild steelhead in the region continuing to decline, the department is concerned about the impact of directed fisheries on wild stocks. As sport anglers it is critical that we acknowledge our impacts and most sport anglers seem willing to make sacrifices if it gives wild fish a reasonable chances of recovery. Unfortunately, the state seems unwilling to make far more substantial changes to hatchery and harvest policy.

Certainly, catch and release sport fishing has an impact on depressed populations but if these stocks are so depressed that they can no longer support incidental mortality how can the department possibly justify the impact of the millions of fish they are dumping in Puget Sound. In the skagit alone hatchery plants of all species have averaged over 1 million fish per year over the last decade, depressing freshwater productivity and in all likelihood contributing to extremely low marine survival observed in the region recently.

So yes, lets do our part as anglers. But it is time that we DEMAND reform from our state fish and wildlife agency. The status quo is a recipe for further declines in our once abundant populations of wild fish. We have to act now and let WDFW know that we want substantial reductions in the magnitude and number of hatchery programs in Puget Sound, because if wild stocks are so fragile that they cannot sustain the modest impact of catch and release angling they certainly cannot be expected to sustain the substantial impacts of industrial scale hatcheries. Stay tuned for more information.

Sign our petition today demanding that the state take real, substantive steps towards recovery that go beyond just limiting fishing.

Show up for the Nov 6th commission meeting and let your voice be heard. See the blog post below for more information.

Rule Change Proposals for 2010.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Habitat Restoration in Hood Canal

With urban, suburban and agricultural development around Puget Sound, estuary habitat has been particularly hard hit. In fact WDFW estimates that over 300 small estuaries around the area have been lost to development. Estuaries provide critical habitat for juvenile salmonids, in particular chinook, chum, cutthroat, and bulltrout. In a project which wrapped up earlier in this fall, WDFW and partners restored a small pocket estuary south of Seabeck. The land was acquired in 2008 at a part of the 3700 acre Stavis Natural Resources Conservation Area and had previously been developed. With restoration actions completed the new pocket estuary allows both tidal and freshwater flow through the estuary and salt marsh. See the DFW press release

Thursday, October 22, 2009

WDFW Commission meeting to Discuss Hatchery Reform

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be meeting on Friday November 6th at 8:30AM to discuss the adoption of the most recent iteration of WDFWs Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy. While it is a significant step forward from the day of Maximum Sustained Yield and the uniform outplanting of hatchery fish in every piece of flowing water in the state, it comes up short in a number of areas. First, the new document like the HSRG assumes that wild broodstock programs are better for wild populations than segregated. Recent work by Hitoshi Araki and Michael Blouin at Oregon State has shown that within one generation of domestication fitness declines substantially, meaning that even though broodstock fish look like wild they make wild populations less productive. Furthermore broodstock fish are managed as "integrated" meaning the state wants them to spawn with wild fish so their net impact could actually be significantly greater than an early timed segregated hatchery stock. The document also fails to address the ecological impacts of hatcheries at all. While genetic effects are well documented, ecological impacts from disease to competition are likely even greater. The curret hatchery reform policy doesnt make a single mention of this issue, and therefore completely fails to address the overall impact of hatcheries on our wild stocks. Lastly, while the creation of Wild Steelhead Management Zones is discussed the deparment intends to designate species specific management zones. We need watersheds set aside from hatchery supplementation all species to really see a positive effect.

See the draft policy here:

Talking Points:
1.)The current plan does not in any way address the major ecological effects of hatchery programs. This is particularly critical in Puget Sound where millions of hatchery released smolts are interacting with listed Chinook and Steelhead smolts.

2.) The plan seems to assume that wild broodstock hatcheries are superior, recent research turns this assumption on its head. Wild broodstock programs may actually be worse for wild fish by increasing the liklihood that hatchery fish will spawn with wild.

3.)Currently the state plans to designate Wild Salmonid Management Zones by individual species. We need whole system Wild Salmonid Management Zones to protect the ecological and evolutionary integrity of all salmonid species within a system. Salmon species do not exist in isolation of each other and hatchery impacts between species are definitely a problem.

We had hoped to turn people out for this but in reviewing the meeting schedule there wont be an opportunity for comments meaning it might not make alot of sense to drive down to Olympia.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Willamette Basin is Seriously Degraded

No surprise here, the Willamette River and many of its tributaries are seriously degraded. Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality recently released a report on the level of degradation in the system and found that up to 70% of the stream areas in the system had summer temperatures which were inhospitable to salmon. Furthermore, urbanization and agriculture have left almost half of the stream miles in the system without adequate stream side vegetation and have seriously compromised the biological health 80% of the streams flowing through urban and agricultural areas. The one bright side is that some of the habitats which are not urban or agricultural are actually in pretty good shape. See the full article in the oregonian.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oregon Gov. Kulongoski On the New Columbia BiOp

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is critical of the Obama administrations new additions to the 2008 BiOp. In an opinion piece published in the Oregonian he cites a number of reasons why the newest plan doesn't go far enough to protect and recovery wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia. Among his criticisms are the fact that the new plan actually rolls back some of the more progressive flow management actions which have been in place over the last couple of years and that the contingency plan of "studying" dam removal as an option isn't on the table until salmon have slid precariously close to extinction. Kulongoski believes that the way forward is to beging studying and preparing for the removal of the Snake Dams in the case that the runs have declined further in 10 years. Oregon, and the Nez Perce tribe are both plantifs in the lawsuit that challenges the 2008 BiOp and have maintained their opposition to the plan even as the other original plantifs were bought off with promises of money for hatcheries and habitat restoration. See the full editorial in the Oregonian

Colville Tribe Testing Selective Fishing Gear

The Colville Tribe is for the second year testing non-lethal fishing methods as alternatives to gill nets in their tribal fishery on the Columbia. Gill nets are not selective meaning that any fish caught is dead. In the Columbia and many other systems in the Lower 48, bycatch on endangered wild stocks may seriously limit their chances at recovery and can limit the number of days that tribal fishers are allowed to have their gear in. Colville tribal members fish on the Upper Columbia and were again successful in using both tangle nets and seines to capture steelhead and chinook this year. Both steelhead and chinook have a very high survival rate when released from a seine allowing the tribe to sort out wild fish and release them while harvesting hatchery fish. If pilot projects are successful the widespread application of their methdos would be a boon to imperiled wild stocks where tribal members are still using gill nets to fish commercially. More info on the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

and some information on WDFWs website about this and other ongoing selective gear tests

New Osprey hits press

The Fall edition of The Osprey has been released and includes a number of informative articles including:
--Deschutes River hatchery strays
--New BiOp analysis
--Oregon Forest Practices
--Wind River dam removal
--New Era for Osprey
--Alameda Creek Update

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bureau of Rec boosts Deschutes Water Conservation

The Bureau of Reclamation recently announced it will dedicate $3.7 million towards water conservation efforts in the Deschutes River watershed. The Deschutes River Conservancy will use these funds for improvements in irrigation efficiency in several areas of the basin, aiming to provide more instream flows for fish and wildlife. The funds are part of the recent federal stimulus plan. See the CBB for more info.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Want more fish? Try doing nothing

At times it seems like we'd be better off without a fish management agency at all. Given their over reliance on hatchery production, and harvest, WDFW certainly bears as much responsibility for declining salmon in Washington as any group. Pink salmon are virtually unmanaged by the state. There are no hatcheries, an harvest is largely limited to tribal and sport fisheries. Despite the fact that pink salmon are unlike anyother species when it comes to their spawner densities and oddyear returning lifehistory we can learn from their example. On the White River where pink salmon numbers have only numbered a few thousand in the past, pink salmon returns have shattered the previous record with almost a half a million this year. Indeed, the Green River has seen a similar spike in pink salmon numbers in the past few run cycles. Such high abundance of spawning salmon brings huge loads of marine nutrients to freshwater ecosystems driving aquatic and riparian productivity.

While the environmental conditions and processes which are leading to the establishment of such large spawning populations are poorly understood, one thing is for sure...We are witnessing salmon at their best, opportunistic species capable of colonizing and filling habitat even after the most destructive catastrophy. Salmon and Steelhead reestablished quickly in the Toutle after it was ravaged by the eruption of Mt St. Helens. Pinks with their high abundance and simple lifehistory are capable of colonizing habitat very rapidly, other species can do the same if given time. On the Willamette and South Fork Skykomish robust populations of Coho have established in the 50 plus years since access to the watersheds became available. Currently both populations are unsupplemented and are essentially left alone. Considering all the money we spend on salmon restoration (we've spend almost 12 billion on the Columbia since 1978), and how little per dollar benefit we typically see, a hands off approach seems highly prudent. Take money out of hatcheries, put it in enforcement and habitat restoration and wait. The fish will respond.

These sort of considerations are often overlooked by production oriented fisheries managers and anglers, however fish's ability to readily recolonize available habitats should be taken into consideration for dam removal projects like the Elwha. Hatchery fish will provide an immediate spike in returns, however given their lack of spawning success in the wild they will likely stunt or delay the process of recolonization. Local adaptation to fill the range of niches available to anadromous salmonids drives long term abundance and stability in stocks. Intensive hatchery supplementation will thwart the ability of wild salmon to find and colonize habitat succesfully.

Another great example of a successful recolonization is on the Cedar River where for 100 years fish were unable to access the upper 30 miles of habitat above Landsburg Dam. In 2003 a ladder was constructed to allow fish to pass into the upper watershed. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of thoughtful researchers at the UW no hatchery fish were planted in the upper Cedar and already populations of Coho and Chinook have established themselves. The process of colonization is ongoing for these longer lived, estuary and stream rearing fish. In 2007 over 400 chinook returned above Landsburg, just 4 years after access was established and given the good numbers of Coho around the sound this year returns should be strong above Landsburg. As more dams come down around our region we have to ask ourselves, do we want the short term benefit of hatchery supplementation or will we allow the process of colonization to occur uninterupted by humans? The fish will deliver if we do.

Seattle Times Coverage of the White River Pinks

Columbia Basin Bulletin Coverage of record Willamette Coho Runs. While the article is titled "though no hatcheries," implying hatcheries normally increase abundance the wild coho are likely doing as well as they are because there are no hatcheries.

Oregonian coverage of the huge amount of money being spent on recovery.

Tribes Press State on Culvert Removal

A group of 19 Washington Tribes have sued the state in hopes of expediting the removal process on state owned culverts. In 2007 US District Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled that treaties which guarantee fishing rights also mean that the state cannot legally block migrating salmon from accessing habitat with culverts. Currently 807 state owned culverts block hundreds of miles of historic spawning habitat around Washington. See more info in a Seattle Times article

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Boat Down Through Savage Rapids

With the Removal of Savage Rapids dam on the Rouge River boaters were for the first time in 91 years were able to run savage rapids. The Savage Rapids removal was yet another major step towards recovering free flowing rivers in the pacific Northwest, more info in our story on the Dam Removal.

Another Hatchery Wont Save Idaho Sockeye

Redfish lake Sockeye a run which in the 1990s numbered in the single digits have seen a remarkable rise in numbers of the last two years. Indeed, favorable ocean and outmigration conditions coupled with a conservation hatchery program led to excellent returns this year and last. This year over 1200 sockeye swam past lower granite dam.

Now the state wants to build a much larger hatchery program with the goal of releasing 1 million hatchery sockeye smolts annually. While recent returns have been encouraging that we may be able to save sockeye in the Snake River, a production oriented hatchery program would almost certainly spell doom for wild sockeye in the system. Until the Snake River dams come out the state of Idaho could pour 100 million sockeye fry into the system and see nothing more than a diminishing return on an already ludicrous investment. By the states own overly optimistic numbers they expect 5000 to 10,000 sockeye returning annually, meaning they optimistically predict that 1% of smolts will return. However, given the fact that the last two years returns set records for adult abundance since the 1960s construction of the Snake dams it is unlikely survival will consistently be anywhere near that. Indeed since the construction of the Lower Snake dams the average number of recruits per sockeye spawner las been 0.18. Meaning ocean survival is more often less than .5% for outmigrant sockeye in the Snake system.

Not only is the proposed hatchery overly optimistic about the survival of their hatchery releases, with limited numbers of wild spawners in the system, wild fish would be lost within a few generations. Given the evolutionary and monetary costs associated with a hatchery program like this how can it make sense? Certainly such a hatchery program would be in violation of the ESA considering the number of hatchery spawners that would inevitably end up spawning in the wild. Paying hundreds of dollars of government money for each hatchery fish so they can return and expedite the extinction of wild Redfish Lake Sockeye is the last thing we need to be doing. When will our fisheries managers, government agencies and public understand...removing the Lower Snake dams, IS the cost effective solution in salmon recovery? A one time removal cost coupled with investments in new, rapid rail shipping in the Columbia Basin. Contact your representatives today and tell them to support H.R. 3503

an article in the Columbia Basin Bulletin about the proposed sockeye program

an article about the new Obama BiOp and why the Nez Perce, State of Oregon and Earthjustice say that by failing to propose dam removal as a primary option they have failed Snake River Salmon.

Redden considers new 2008 BiOp with an independed panel of scientists

Trailer park to estuary

40 acres of land which was once home to a trailer park has been restored to estuary at the mouth of the Salmon River in coastal Oregon. The parcel, which was bought by the Siuslaw National forest in 2003 is one of two ongoing estuary restoration projects on the Salmon and has restored tidal flow, and natural habtiat to the 40 acre parcel for the first time in 40 years. The Salmon River estuary is one of the most intact on Oregon Coast.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rogue Runs free at Savage Rapids

October 9, 2009- Friday, for the first time since 1918 salmon and steelhead in Oregon's wild and scenic Rogue River were able to migrate unimpeded beyond the former damsite at Savage Rapids. Savage Rapids Dam, a 30 foot tall irrigation diversion known as the most lethal dam to salmon of the four mainstem dams on the Rogue, was dismantled this summer. Yesterday marked the conclusion of the most important step in the dam removal, when workers using backhoes and other heavy machinery removed the last of the earthen fill comprising the temporary coffer dam constructed to contain the waters of the Rogue while the concrete dam was taken down. It has been estimated by biologists that restoring the free-flowing nature of the Rogue at Savage Rapids will result in more than 100,000 additional adult salmon and steelhead returning upstream. With the scheduled deomolition next summer of Gold Ray dam, the fourth and final dam to come down on the Rogue, the river will once again flow free in its entirety, completing one of the most ambitious river restoration efforts ever undertaken, and raising hopes for wild fish advocates everywhere, that the Rogue's once plentiful salmon and steelhead runs, may once again flourish. For complete coverage see the Los Angeles Times:,0,4938332.story

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

House Bill Considers Snake Dam Removal

Congressman Jim McDermott D-Washington has sponsored a bill in the house of reps which identifies the Snake River dams as major impediments to salmon recovery and would begin the process of removal. H.R. 3503 states that,

"proper information gathering and planning are undertaken to secure the preservation and recovery of the salmon and steelhead of the Columbia River Basin in a manner that protects and enhances local communities, ensures effective expenditure of Federal resources, and maintains reasonably priced, reliable power, to direct the Secretary of Commerce to seek scientific analysis of Federal efforts to restore salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and for other purposes."

and appears to place considerable weight on the option of dam removal as a means of recovering salmon, saving millions of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars on mitigation and moving our country forward in clean energy, and modern reliable transport options for shipping.

See the complete bill here, you can also write your congressional reps and tell them to support H3503. We will keep you posted as this unfolds.

Also, see coverage on Save Our Wild Salmons Blog

Thoughts on Hooking Mortality

With near record numbers of fish in the system, the Columbia and its tributaries are seeing alot of pressure this fall. This past weekend while fishing a Columbia trib I found 2 dead wild steelhead, presumably due to hooking mortality. While hooking mortality is a part of any catch and release fishery it is critical that we do everything we can do to minimize our impacts when fishing over ESA listed populations of wild fish. Dont fish hooks bigger than #2, pinch barbs (legally required), fight fish with authority dont let the fight go too long, and never remove wild fish from the water. Harvest every hatchery fish landed within the legal limit. Another thing to consider is your impact in terms of sheer numbers. Yes the fishery was opened to allow harvest of "excess" hatchery fish, however wild fish are still a major part of the catch, perhaps even dominant numerically at times. If you're having good fishing and you've caught a couple of wild fish perhaps its time to put the rod away, have a beer and savor the day. My personal cut off this fall will be two wild fish impacted per day on my rivers of choice. Once I have landed two wild fish its time for me to get off the water for the day.

Wild steelhead are a scarce and precious resource, and each wild female carries thousands of eggs with the promise of a future for their race of fish. Columbia fish are extrodinary when one considers the number of obstacles they have to overcome to return as adults. Fish returning to the Upper Columbia or Snake must outmigrate through up to 9 slack water impoundments, pass over the dams and survive the predator gauntlet that is the Columbia hydrosystem and estuary. Adults withstand in river temperatures approaching 75 degress, migrate hundreds of miles, dodiging nets, sport anglers and seals all the way. They are special fish, freerising and beautiful. Superlative sport fish in everyway. Handle them with the most care possible.

On a more uplifiting note, check out the picture of a perfectly appointed 10lb wild female. One couldnt ask for a finer fish on a light spey rod.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Good Steelhead Survival in the Columbia

Preliminary data released by NOAA fisheries is showing high migration survival for steelhead going through the Columbia hydrosystem in the spring of 2009. While the data is only preliminary and estimates of survival may still change a few percentage points, the current estimate of survival from Lower Granite Dam to below Bonneville is almost 70%, far exceeding the 2003-2008 average of 40%. The exact reasons for high survival are unknown although this year smolts headed out to Sea about two weeks earlier than average meaning many were allowed to migrate freely without barging. Good outmigrating conditions and excellent ocean productivity have resulted in a banner year for steelhead returns on the Columbia, lets hope next year brings the same.

While good outmigration survival is encouraging, it is important to remember it is not the norm. Mortality through the hydrosystem historically has been upwards of 10% of outmigrant smolts per hydroproject. Not until the outdated dams on the Snake are removed can we expect to make more than year to year gains on the overall downward trend in the Columbia system. More info at the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Nisqually River Delta

The Nisqually Delta, already one of the most intact in the Puget Sound area is getting a lift. A 12 year 12 million dollar project to create the Nisqually River National Wildlife refuge is wrapping up and will give the river access to almost all of its historic delta. The project is of major significance because of the importance of estuary habitat for both Chinook and Chum salmon juveniles. In the Puget Sound area where urban development, agriculture and other land use changes have left most deltas dyked, the Nisqually presents a unique opportunity to see estuarine habitat functioning much as it would have historically. See an article in the Seattle Times

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rally this Sat in downtown Vancouver

The Canadian federal and BC provincial governments are failing wild salmon monumentally. Hopefully the terrible sockeye returns on the Sockeye this year will serve as a wake up call to managers, politicians and create public opposition to fish farms in the Georgia Strait where steelhead, pink, chum and now sockeye have all collapsed concurrent with the growth of the fish farming industry.

This Saturday there will be a rally of fishermen, conservationist advocates and others concerned with the future of wild salmon in the Lower Mainland BC. For those interested in attending here's the information straight from Alex Morton:

I am writing to remind you that this Saturday, October 3, there is a rally being held in Vancouver on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery at 1pm on Georgia Street between Howe St. and Hornby St. It has been organized by a few citizens who realize that unless we take a stand, we will be losing our wild salmon. I have heard from many people who plan to be there from a wide area of the Province and Washington State.
There has been a very long and difficult history between people and this fish that feeds us and our environment. Many people know they have not done what they can to make sure future generations have this generous fish but it is time to move past this and take a stand.
If you cannot be there you can help by contacting your MP telling them to ask Prime Minister Harper everyday in question period what he has done to bring our sockeye salmon back from collapse. Why has the Minister of Fisheries, Gail Shea and her top BC official Paul Sprout said that fish farms will not be part of this investigation? Ask your MP everyday for a Judicial Inquiry into the disease history of every salmon farm in the spring of 2007 when our sockeye were last seen.
Contact your MP until they tell you they have done this. Unless we get people under oath, we will lose our salmon just like the east coast lost their cod.
It is immoral of the governments we elected and pay to degrade the eastern Pacific with their inattention to this. We need this fish to power our Province and this fish needs us.
Alexandra Morton

Preliminary Klamath dam removal agreement reached

Stakeholders in the Klamath River dam dispute have released a draft agreement detailing the removal of four of the river's dams. PacifiCorp, Native American Tribes, Washington, Oregon and conservation groups plan to sign the agreement by years end and the dams would be removed starting in 2020. While some conservation groups decry neglect of wildlife refuges in the agreement, it is a landmark step for this once prolific salmon producer of the Northwest. See AP coverage at KATU.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Feds Release Steelhead Recovery Plan on Columbia

The federal governments fish management agency NOAA has released a plan to recover steelhead in the Columbia Basin. Among their planning recovery actions are efforts to improve habitat, reform hatcheries and minimize predation, the plan will cost about 1 billion dollars in total. NOAA believes the middle Columbia ESU, essentially the Wind River up to the Yakima river is the closest to recovery. Like the 2008 BiOp, the plan fails to address the most fundemental impediment to steelhead recovery in the Columbia Basin...the dams. See an article about the plan in the Oregonian

A link to the recovery plan and other documents at NOAAs website