Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Yakima River steelhead are getting access to almost 20 miles of habitat. Cowiche creek, a tributary of the lower Naches River. Blocked since the 19th century when irrigation dams were constructed to water crops in the Naches Valley, an updated irrigation system will allow for unimpeded passage of fish for the first time in over 100 years. A productive tributary Cowiche is known to support steelhead, coho and spring chinook and the restoration project has been a top priority for recovery groups in the area. Yakima steelhead and chinook are listed as threatened under the ESA. More info in the Yakima Herald
Satus dam is also slated to come out soon, Satus creek is one of the most productive spawning tributaries in the Yakima drainage and supports a large portion of the spawning steelhead in the basin. Dam removal will ease passage and allow the river to access the historic flood plain in the area below the dam. Also, see more coverage of on going recovery efforts in the Yakima drainage in the most recent issue of the Osprey.
ODFW and harvest groups have been pushing for some time to open the North Umpqua to wild harvest during the winter steelhead fishery. The North Umpqua supports one of the last truly robust runs of wild winter steelhead in the lower 48, why on earth would you ever open a harvest fishery on such a stock? Sign the petition today and tell ODFW what they're doing is wrong headed.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
A pink and chum salmon fishing operation on Russias Kuril Island was certified as sustainable by the Marine stewardship council. It is the first fishing operation in Russia to become certified and in doing so, the company Gidrostroy has committed conducting the fishery in a manner comensurate with the sustainable certification. That means working to minimize the impacts of hatchery releases on local wild stocks, among other things. See more information at the Wild Salmon Centers website.
Around the semi-arid west many fish bearing streams also provide water for irrigation. With the degradation of riparian and upland forests and high water demand, many streams are running dry during the summer months. Now, a new water offsets program run by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation is putting water back in thirsty streams. Industry users of water can buy water credits equivalent to their use and the money will go to pay irrigators to leave money in the stream. In the past irrigation has been a use it or loose it proposition where those who held water rights were compelled to use their entire allocation. With the new program however there is a financial incentive for some farmers to leave the water in the stream. The project is having very tangible effects on a few streams already and is only getting started. See more coverage in the Oregonian.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
If the Snake River dams ever come down it will be in large part because of Judge James Reddens work from the bench. This week he asked the critics of the 2008 BiOp (Nez Perce Tribe, The State of Oregon, earth justice) to submit their opinions regarding the updated BiOp. They will have until Oct. 2nd to file responses at which time the administration will be given 2 weeks to respond. See coverage in the Oregonian.
Salmon are a keystone species meaning that in many ways their abundance and distribution drives the community dynamics of their ecosystems. From fly larvae to bears, literally hundreds of species feed on salmon and their carcasses when they return. These marine derived nutrient subsidies dramatically increase both aquatic and terrestrial productivity when salmon return in high abundance. As salmon stocks have dwindled around the region the indirect impacts on their ecosystems are too often undocumented and unconsidered. Apex predator species such as grizzly bears are especially vulnerable because of their food demands. Other stream rearing salmonids such as coho, chinook, steelhead, bull trout and cutthroat may also be adversely affected by lower biomass of salmon entering freshwater. See a couple of interesting articles.
A recent study in Washington and Oregon found that 138 species feed on salmon.
Bears are at risk because of declining salmon abundance
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Check out the Native Fish Societies online newsletter Strong Runs. The Summer issue just came out. In this issue
-Columbia system Steelhead Decline
-John Day Lands Protected
-Nehalem River, misguided agency actions impede wild recovery
A range of voices are represented in the reader comments however it seems most of those who were inclined to write in feel the BiOp failed to go far enough to ensure recovery of wild Snake River Salmon and Steelhead.
An editorial exploring the motives behind the way the Obama administration handled the BiOp and wondering if some of the more ambitious promises can be kept.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Outmigrating fall Chinook from the Clearwater River are showing a curious migration pattern. Normally most Chinook smolts head straight out and hit the salt water during the spring through the fall, however On the Snake system the overwhelming majority of fall spawning chinook from the clearwater are overwintering in the Lower Mainstem Snake. The pattern was first noticed in the 1990s and scientists with the federal government and the Nez Perce tribe are now hoping to understand whats driving juvenile chinook to spend the entire winter in freshwater. The artificial slack water habitats on the lower Snake typically slow down the passage of fish downstream and there's a chance fish just aren't getting through the system in time to hit their physiological window for smolting. See more coverage in the Oregonian.
Friday, September 18, 2009
As biologists and policymakers look for areas to concentrate restoration efforts, an increasing amount of attention is being paid to Columbia River estuary. Estuarine and early marine survival are thought to more or less control within cohort returns, so if biologists want higher returns a good place to start is understanding the estuary. A recent scientific conference brought together some of the brightest minds working on the Columbia estuary today. Among the topics discussed were tagging studies designed to track juvenile salmon survival through the estuary, the threat of invasive species in the Columbia estuary, the ecological role intertidal habitats in salmon survival and how best to direct research money. The 235 kilometers from Bonneville dam to the mouth of the river are considered the estuary however by far the highest mortality is observed in the lowest reaches. More information at the Columbia Basin Bulletin.
Drs. Gordon Hartman and Casey McAllister, two retired DFO biologists with 85 years of combined experience issue a letter last month slamming the recent performance of DFO. While the agency once stood fast opposing environmental degradation threatening Canadas fisheries resources, it has taken on the role of industry cheerleader recently. This point was made all too obvious by the fact that while the Fraser Sockeye run was literally collapsing under their feet, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea was in Norway promoting salmon farming. See the article in the Victoria Times Colonist.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
A seemingly inconsequential minnow species, present in only a few streams in the Lower Mainland of BC have sparked a major change in the way environmental policy is enforced in Canada. When the Nooksack Dace was listed under the Federal Species at Risk Act, DFO was charged with formulating a recovery plan. Among the normal responsibilities for drafting a recovery plan is the identification of critical habitats, however for political reasons the maps and the list of activities which could threaten those habitats were omitted from the final plan. A consortium of four environmental groups led by Ecojustice sued the federal government over the plan and won.
In the United States the practice of suing the government over their failure to address ESA mandate is fairly widespread and has been used frequently on the Columbia River and in other threatened systems. However in Canada the species at risk act was only adopted in 2004 meaning that this lawsuit sets a powerful precedent for future habtiat protection, designation and holding the goverment to their legally mandated obligations. See an informative article in the Vancouver Sun.
A video from a cool canadian website called calling from the coast, shows evidence of unhealthy levels of sealice infestation on outmigrant sockeye smolts. Still, the DFO refuses to even consider the idea that collapsing sockeye stocks are impacted by fish farms.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
After the final round of hearings this weekend the Fish and Wildlife commission has chosen Phil Anderson to become the director of WDFW. Anderson had been acting as interim director for the last 9 months following Jeff Koenings departure. While Anderson is not especially well known in the conservation community we are looking forward to working with him in his new capacity as director to ensure the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead around our state.
As expected the Obama administration announced it will be supporting the Bush Administration 2008 BiOp with a few minor modifications. The original plan did not include any possibility of dam removal and the new plan includes only lip service to the removal of Snake Dams as a, "contingency of last resort". While a number of tribes and the state of Washington have signed off on the 2008 BiOp their consent is primarily based on promised money for habitat restoration and increased hatchery production. The Nez Perce Tribe and the State of Oregon both refused to go along with the plan because it failed to address the fundemental problem of the Snake Dams. Environmentalists and advocates had been hopeful that a new administration would look at the overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of the Snake Dams and decide removal was the best option. For the time being however we are left disappointed as we watch wild Snake salmon and steelhead slowly disappear. More coverage in the Oregonian
Lots of Good Coverage on Save Our Wild Salmon's website
The Full Plan
Sunday, September 13, 2009
For those of you on facebook we suggest you become a fan of "Osprey Steelhead News", a page we recently created. You should be able to find this page via a search. We will be posting many of the updates you see here on the blog and hope that it will provide another avenue to share this important information.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The EPA has moved to minimize the impact of agricultural pesticides. New regulations include buffer strips of non-agricultural plantings around streams, lower levels of spraying and a requirement to limit spraying during high wind periods and periods of heavy rain. Agricultural pesticides can be lethal for salmon both juveniles and adults. See more information at the Oregonian.
Friday, September 11, 2009
A new global research effort called the, "Ocean Observatories Initiative" is bringing funding to study ocean cylces, patterns and biological linkages in the Northwest. The project, spearheaded by the National Science Foundation and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership will bring more than $125 million to the University of Washington and $14 million to Oregon State for ocean climate and ecosystem research. Ocean conditions can be highly variable, salmon and steelhead acquire over 95% of their biomass in the marine environment and variation in ocean conditions play a large role in determining recruitment in Salmon populations. Little is known about how environmental patterns drive biological productivity or how climate change will likely affect the ocean climate and ecology. See more on the Columbia Basin Bulletin
At a meeting held tomorrow in Olympia the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will name a new fish and wildlife director. For anyone interested in attending, the meeting will be held in the Natural Resouces building at
Natural Resources Building
1111 Washington St. SE
Olympia, Washington 98501
More information on the director search on WDFWs website
Natural Resources Building
1111 Washington St. SE
Olympia, Washington 98501
More information on the director search on WDFWs website
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Endangered Coho Salmon are taking a beating from a three year drought in parts of Northern California. Dry conditions are meaning even lower, warmer water than normal for rearing Coho Salmon and Steelhead and with a continued lack of rain many streams dry up all together. While Northern California watersheds naturally experience a pronounced summer dryspell and low flow, drought, changes in land cover and water withdrawls all contribute to lower flows. See an article about California Biologists who try to "rescue" stranded juvenile salmon when streams start to dry up.
In April a newly constructed fish passage facility at Round Butte Dam collapsed. While the mistake was costly and delayed implementation of downstream passage at the dam, Portland General Electric in Cooperation with the Confederation of Warm Springs tribes has begun work to repair and implement the passage project. The costly project is designed to provide anadromous access to much of the Upper Deschutes including the Crooked and Metolious Rivers, upstream passage blocked since the construction of Round Butte Dam.
Friday, September 4, 2009
While conservationists typically consider the primary threats to salmon and steelhead the "4 H's", Hatcheries, Harvest, Hydropower and Habitat, recent research has pointed to the threat of invasive species. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has recently highlighted the threat of Quagga mussels, a relative of the notorious zebra mussel, as a potential invader of the Columbia River. In recent years they have been discovered in a number of western states, including the Colorado River basin. While there is no clear understanding of how these invaders may affect salmonids, their filter feeding is likely to cause significant alterations to the food web. See the CBB for more.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Thanks to efforts by WaterWatch the Grant's Pass Irrigation District has agreed to 800 cfs for instream flows. This water was formerly guaranteed for usage by the Savage Rapids dam operation but the Oregon Water Resources Department has officially transferred those rights to instream flow except in times of extreme drought. The Savage Rapids dam is scheduled to be removed this fall and it will benefit the river's acclaimed salmon and steelhead runs. For more info see here.
The Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership recently announced that they have increased their goal to restore the river from Bonneville Dam to the Pacific Ocean. Having already restored 14,000 acres they hope to restore another 5,000 to benefit the native ecosystem that relies on a healthy river. Human development spanning more than a century has degraded the estuary, an important part of the Columbia for salmonids. See here for more information.