Saturday, November 28, 2009
A panel of scientists have spent the last year reviewing hatchery practices on tributaries of the lower Snake and its tributaries as well as the Grande Ronde and the Imnaha Rivers. Their conclusions and recommendations will be released December 4th in a draft hatchery reform plan, and beginning December 8th there will be a month long window for the public to submit comments on the plan. There will also be a public meeting on the plan December 8th in Pendleton OR. Anyone interested in attending the meeting should RSVP to Michael Schmidt of Long Live the Kings, at 206-382-9555, ext 27 or by email at email@example.com.
In much of the Columbia and Snake hatchery practices may be severely limiting wild productivity, hatchery reform is a critical part of recovery and it is crucial that agencies and utilities acknowledge the full spectrum of hatchery impacts when planning for reform. We'll keep you updated and as soon as the plan is released we will provide coverage. Readers will be encouraged to submit comments.
More information on the Columbia Basin Bulletin
Pacific Region Hatchery Reform Website
Friday, November 27, 2009
Throughout much of their historic range, wild salmon and steelhead abundance is only a fraction of its former size. As we implement recovery measures it is important that we understand the magnitude of abundance, and diversity that once existed in our watersheds. With little knowledge of historic habitat condition, and abundance of salmonid species, most agency estimates are based on our limited understanding of how precontact watersheds looked and how present day habitat conditions relate to drive productivity and abundance. Contrasting this approach is work by Bill McMillan and Nick Gayeski of the Wild Fish Conservancy which relied on historic cannery and catch records to paint a picture of what we've lost. While somewhat limited in its geographical scope, their work is the most comprehensive and accucrate estimate of historic abundance available, at least in the watersheds with canning records available. Their report details historic returns that border on unimaginable to present day anglers, with tens of thousands of wild steelhead returning to many systems and declines in the neighborhood of 80-98% in most areas. While their findings are discouraging, accurate estimates of historic abundance allow us to more effectively advocate for real recovery in wild salmon and steelhead populations around the region. Salmonid fish evolved in dynamic systems, prone to periodic disturbance and massive localized declines. Human impacts in the last century represent only the latest in a long series of disturbances. Fortunately salmon and steelhead are extraordinarily resilient, over the last 10,000 years salmon and steelhead have recolonized most of their present range from ice free refugia following the recession of pleistocene glaciers. Barring catastrophic extinction through most of their range, fish will undoubtedly recover their historic abundance at some point in the future. However, without honest accounting on the extent of loss and ambitious, science driven recovery measures we will certainly not see anything close in our lifetimes.
Check out McMillan and Gayeski's article at the Wild Salmon Center's website
A summary of the paper by Pete Soverel in Osprey Vol. 54
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Researchers working at the HJ Andrews experimental forest in Oregon recently published a report with the striking finding that snowpacks in their study area have already declined 50% over the last century, while there was no measurable change in the amount of annual precipitation. The effects of climate change are often discussed as though they are yet to come, however most climate researchers agree that the global climate system is already changing. Snowpacks are expected to decline throughout much of the west. That means lower water, and warmer summer temperatures in the rivers around our region. Coverage in the Columbia Basin Bulletin
Another recent climate study reported than since 2000 twice the number of record high temperatures have been set as record low temperatures. Info at Science Daily
A citizens advisory committee on forest management will be meeting for the first time on December 2nd at 1:15PM at the Oregon Department of Forestry Headquarters in Salem. The group is set to provide guidance for the Oregon Board of Forestry about how to best balance economic, environmental and recreational uses on State Forest Lands. Much of the Oregon Coast Range is State Forest and controversy this summer erupted when the Forestry Board opted to allow logging in some of the most productive salmon bearing areas on the North Coast. Logging activities in the last century severely degraded many watersheds and contributed to huge declines in populations of Coho Salmon which are now listed under the ESA. There is reason to be hopeful that the advisory committee will provide constructive, profish guidance to the Forestry Board, a number of the members are taken directly from environmental and wild fish advocacy groups. Among them are Jeff Hickman of the Sierra Club, Meryl Redisch of the Portland Audobon Society, and Bob Van Dyk of the Wild Salmon Center.
More info at Jeff Hickman's Blog
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Estuarine habitat is some of the most degraded, particularly in Puget Sound where upwards of 80% of estuary habitats have been lost to development. Chinook, Chum, Cutthroat and Bull Trout all use estuary habitats extensively during the critical early marine phase of their lifehistories. Consequently the availability of estuary habitat is known to limit abundance in some cases. This fall a major restoration effort on the Nisqually restored tidal flow to the entire estuary. It was already some of the best estuarine habitat in the region, and it just got way better. Biologists predict that once the estuary has reestablished itself, habitat improvements may on average double the return of Chinook to the Nisqually Basin. An interesting article this week in the Crosscut news provides details into the collaborative restoration effort. It also compares the success of a project like that on the Nisqually to the proposed 40 million dollar estuary restoration project to be carried out on the Lower Columbia, where unfortunately dams upstream are currently limiting productivity of wild stocks.
Also, check out the work being done by the Nisqually Land Trust at their website
On Monday before a packed house in Portlands US district court judge James Redden heard arguments for the third time on the 2008 Columbia River BiOp. While he has yet to approve the plan citing concerns over the unilateral decision making processes employed in writing the plan, he indicated that in general he supports the updated BiOp. Prior to monday, Redden has long held that the 2008 BiOp was illegal, and had thrown out the previous two iterations.
While the new plan does have a contingency for "studying" dam removal in 10 years if Snake River salmon continue to decline, it fails to act promptly or decisively on dams which are clearly the primary cause of declines in Snake River Chinook, Sockeye and Coho. Steelhead have fared slightly better with the dams however removal would almost certainly improve survival for all species. Furthermore the new plan removes some of the increased flow or "spill" during the smolt outmigration, which some believe played a considerable role in bolstering recent returns of salmon and steelhead to the Columbia. Lawers for the administration argue that increased spill comes at the cost of more greenhouse pollution because of lost opportunity for "green" energy at the dams. In reality though, its just a money saving measure. The Snake River dams generate less than 5% of our regions hydropower.
It is extremely disappointing to see the Obama administration and NOAA defending what is essentially a Bush era plan with such staunch determination. The plan is clearly flawed, and fails to address the fundemental cause for decline in Snake and Columbia River Salmon, the Dams. The Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (an association of fish biologists) voted unanimously to support the breaching of the Snake River dams, and the current BiOp continues to be contested by the Nez Perce Tribe and the state of Oregon. Either the administration is simly saying they accept extinction of wild salmon in the Snake as not only a possible but likely outcome or they're delaying taking real action for convenience sake. Regardless, once abundant wild populations, locally adapted to their natal streams in the high desert and rocky mountain habitats of the Snake will continue to dwindle and disappear.
More information in the Oregonian:
Analysis on Save Our Wild Salmon's Blog
Monday, November 23, 2009
Federal fish biologists have submitted a lengthy list of objections to a proposed natural gas terminal on the lower Columbia. Biologists are skeptical the Houston Based NorthStar energy would actually follow through with their proposed mitigation obligations and have also voiced dissatisfaction with the environmental impact assessment carried out by NorthStar. The company would need the go ahead from NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) biologists as well as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to go ahead with the project and opponents believe the environmental challenges to the project will in all likelihood kill it.
More information in the Oregonian
Sunday, November 22, 2009
A dispute between the EPA and BLM is bogging down cleanup at the states most toxic former mine site. Formosa Mine on Middle Creek, a Rogue River tributary has been closed since 1993 and is leaching thousands of gallons of toxic mine runoff into the creek annually. Still the BLM denies any of the contamination is coming from their land despite the fact that their land contains thousands of feet of the former mine's tunnels. The EPA, the agency required for studying and implementing the cleanup will not go forward testing necessary to begin the cleanup until BLM acknowledges its responsibility and committs funding for the cleanup effort. Meanwhile run off from the mine has poisoned Middle Creek and its South Fork, completely sterilizing the streams which were once prolific producers of both Coho and Steelhead.
The Japanese mining company which formerly owned Formosa long ago went through bankruptcy meaning the public is saddled with funding the cleanup of a superfund site with no recourse against the company. This is a perfect example of why people oppose mining operations like this. The company exploits the resource at marginal profit but with huge environmenta costs that it will never pay for. Then the public is responsible for the costly cleanup at huge cost.
Everyday Formosa mine produces enough acid runoff to fill two tanker trucks.
More information in the Oregonian
Also a good article about the Formosa Mine's impacts from Flux
Vancouver Island is home to hundreds of salmon bearing streams. Historically the many rivers on the island have supported robust runs of pink, chum, coho, chinook, winter steelhead, summer steelhead and in some systems sockeye and dolly varden. Over the last several decades however, logging, changing ocean conditions and tremendous growth in the fish farming industry have led to massive declines in salmon populations around the island. This year, Chinook and Sockeye in Clayoquot Sound are at levels so low that local biologists worry they may be locally extinct within a few generations. Despite the fact that the area has some of the most pristine habitat on the West Coast of the Island and is a UNESCO world biosphere a number of large scale fish farms have been developed in the area in recent years. Check out an article out of Tofino's Westerly News on the crisis and the lack of funding for monitoring and recovery of wild salmon.
The Bedwell and Moyeha Rivers are two of the Island's most pristine watersheds. Despite fantastic habitat the five year average return of Chinook to the Bedwell is 100 fish. This year an estimted 33 chinook returned to the Bedwell. Declines of Sockeye returning to Kennedy Lake near tofino are down 90% over the last decade, declines worse than those seen on the Fraser during the same period.
Friday, November 20, 2009
13 of Seattle's top seafood chefs have joined Trout Unlimited in a campaign against the development of Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay Region. The restaurants will be serving wild Alaska Salmon while simultaneously highlighting the risks Pebble Mine poses to the resource. The restaurants involved include the Steelhead Diner, Emmer & Rye, Art of the Table, Chiso, Flying Fish, Persimmon, Ponti Seafood Grill, Rover's Restaurant, Tilth Restaurant, Tilikum Place Cafe, The Pike Brewing Co., Palace Kitchen and Etta's Seafood. Pebble Mine is a proposed mine development in the headwaters of Telarik Creek and the Nushagak River. Talarik is one of the most important spawning tributaries for Iliamna Lake Sockeye. Iliamna is the largest lake on the west coast and supports one of the greatest runs of Sockeye in the world, it is also home to one of three populations of freshwater seals in the world. The Nushagak is one of the most productive Chinook systems in the region. Both systems run into Bristol Bay which annually supports one of the largest and most consistent Sockeye Fisheries in the world. Pebble Mine, has the potential to ruin it all.
More info on Pebble Mine at Stop Pebble Mine
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The House of Representatives voted yesterday to extend Wild and Scenic protections to Oregon's Molalla River. The Molalla is one of the Willamette River's most important tributaries. Wild and Scenic designation will provide added protection for the river and its fish by recognizing its outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Now the vote will go to the Senate for approval. More info on the Oregonian's website.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Early marine survival is a critical life history stage for outmigrating salmon and steelhead smolts, and growth and survival during the first few weeks at sea plays a large role in determining the adult return within a given cohort. Biologists in our area have long suspected that low marine survival in outmigrating smolts is a large part of why Puget Sound wild steelhead are continuing to decline. A new paper by NOAA researcher Megan Moore and coauthors Barry Berejikian and Eugene Tezak may provides some insight into patterns of migration and survival during the first few weeks of ocean life. The group used acoustic tags, which they implanted in outmigrating smolts. These tags allowed them to track survival and movement as fish passed out of Hood Canal and ultimately out the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Results show high early mortality and in 2006 only 31% of the outmigrating smolts even passed the Strait of Juan de Fuca acoustic array (about half way out), and mortality probably declined substantially after the first few weeks of life. Still, normal lifetime marine survival in healthy populations of steelhead in typically between 10 adn 25% and if almost 70% of fish die within the first few weeks at sea it is unlikley that their survival over the next two to three years is high enough to see 10% lifetime marine survival.
As a consequence of this low marine survival, many populations of steelhead in Puget Sound may still be producing as many smolts as they were during periods of better adult returns. However because of low marine survival, the return on the same number of smolts is substantially lower. Their findings are in line with a number of studies of early marine survival in Southern BC, an area which has seen concurrent declines in wild steelhead productivity since the mid 1990s. Melnychuk et al (2007) found nearly identical early marine survival for smolts from the Cheakamus and Squamish Rivers.
Lower marine survival is likely being driven by a number of factors including variation in food availability, predation pressure, and competition for resources with hatchery steelhead and salmon. See the abstract of the paper at AFS Journals
Those interested in reading the full paper or more info on the current reserach relating to early marine survival can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, more information on the Hood Canal Steelhead Project on Long Live the Kings website.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Judge James Redden of Oregon threw out the Bush Administration's 2008 Biological Opinion on the Columbia River system, saying that it failed to ensure recovery and therefore violated the ESA. Now it appears he is likely to toss the latest, highly contentious iteration of the BiOp brought forward by the Obama administration because the plan was written unilaterally and did not include the parties currently contesting the validity of the plan in federal court. The newest version of the BiOp failed to include provisions for dam removal in the near future and would only consider it in 10 years if Snake River salmon and steelhead had experienced dramatic declines. Fish advocates argue that by that time it will, in all likelihood be too late. Furthermore the latest plan actually had less fish friendly flow management than had been in place for the last few years. Hopefully Reddens decision will be a wakeup call to the administration that token measures will not bring back Snake River Salmon. If we fail to take substantial action on the Snake now it may be one of the biggest lost opportunities of our era. We'll keep a close eye on this over the coming weeks. More info in the Oregonian.
With fish passage facilities in place at Pelton-Round Butte Dam, managers are hoping that fish will soon be able to establish populations in the Upper Deschutes and its many tributaries. A new study however raises the possibility that if hatchery fish are passed into the upper river they may bring with them whirling disease. Whirling Disease is a parasite which effects the skeletal structure of young fish, causing deformities and extremely high mortality. Whirling disease has established a foothold in some of the hatcheries on the Lower Deschutes. Researchers fear that if hatchery fish are allowed into the upper basin they could bring the disease, and suggest that only naturally produced fish be allowed to pass into the upper Deschutes. More info in the Oregonian.
There are a host of other reasons to only allow wild fish into the upper river. Wild fish are typicaly more productive when spawning in the wild and allowing hatchery fish into the upper river may slow the establishment of naturally produced runs in the upper river. Additionally the Deschutes River gets an unusually high number of out of basin hatchery strays which lack the locally adaptive traits of the Lower Deschutes wild salmon and steelhead.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden and Congressman Peter DeFazio want more protection against mining in Southern Oregon's Siskyou Wild Rivers Area. They joined Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski in calling for a complete ban on mining in the federally protected lands. Nicore Mine could potentially threaten the health of both Rough and Ready Creek as well as the Chetco River two of Southern Oregons most productive salmon streams. Mining is extremely destructive, particularly suction dredge mining which was recently banned in California. Since 2001 880 mining claims have been made in the Wild Rivers Area, threatening to degrade rivers that would otherwise be afforded a high degree of protection. See more information in the Oregonian.
Throughout the Columbia and Snake River systems agency and academic researchers have been working to track the movements of juvenile and adult salmon and steelhead. The Seattle Times had an interesting write up this week describing ongoing efforts to track fish in Idaho's Salmon River. By tracking individual fish and their movement through the watershed biologists may understand sources of mortality for both smolts and upstream migrating adults. Tracking fish also provides insight into habitat use, spawning distribution and timing of different stocks. See the Seattle Times piece here.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Invasive Zebra and Quagga mussels pose a substantial threat to the Columbia River ecosystem as well as hydropower infrastructure. Recognizing the potential cost of allowing these highly invasive mollusks to get a foothold in the Columbia River system, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and now British Columbia have all signed an agreement designed to keep them out of the system. Check out the blog archives for more information on these aquatic invaders. Anglers should scrub boots with bleach solution between outings. Also see an article on the Columbia Basin Bulletin.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted on November 6th to approve WDFWs new hatchery and fishery reform plan, designed to speed recovery of wild salmon and steelhead. The document aims to reform state hatcheries within the recommendations of the HSRG (hatchery scientific review group) and will also focus on developing selective fisheries to remove hatchery fish, reducing their impact on the spawning population, working to implement HSRG broodstock standards by 2015, and integrate hatchery reform plans into watershed specific recovery plans.
The fact that the state has taken steps towards reforming the hatchery system is encouraging. Selective fisheries which minimize impacts on wild stocks while selectively removing as many hatchery fish as possible are crucial in balancing the need for commercial and sport harvest with recovery. HSRG recommendations, while a good first step place too much emphasis on maintaining the status quo by simply shifting hatchery production to an integrated "wild broodstock" system. For a variety of reasons, integrated hatchery programs may actually have impacts similar to those of the more traditional "segregated" programs. Watershed specific recovery plans and the implementation of Wild Salmonid Management Zones are both interesting possibilities with the greatest potential for speeding recovery of wild salmonids throughout the state. The plan provides the framework for considerable improvements in the way wild population recovery is balanced with hatchery supplementation however the true impact will depend largely on how the department ultimately uses the plan and how broadly they are willing to implement WSMZs.
See the plan here:
Monday, November 9, 2009
Fish farms, controlled largely by Norwegian based multinational corporations are wreaking havock on coastal ecosystems from BC to Ireland. Despite the weight of evidence against fish farms as they are currently managed, the industry and government regulators in Canada have been unwilling to take action to minimize fish farming impacts. A grassroots movement, led by scientist/activist Alexandra Morton has organized a global effort to demand changes in the fish farming industry. A new film exposing the global impact of fish farms will be showing in a number of cities around the world this week. Check out the Schedule here.
British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen has been appointed to oversee the Judicial inquiry into the collapse of Fraser River Sockeye with a report due out August 2011. Cohen has been directed to investigate at, "as broad a scope as possible" and the investigation will encompass a wide range potential factors in the decline, "including but not limited to, the impact of environmental changes along the Fraser River, marine environmental conditions, aquaculture, predators, diseases, water temperature and other factors.”In the meantime, we'll just have to hold our breath and hope the next two returns of Sockeye on the Fraser fare better than this years. More information in the globe and mail...
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Where Hope Resides is a new documentary film about the Skeena River, its fish and the environmental and political threats to the long term stability of salmon and steelhead runs in the system. The Native Fish Society will be hosting four upcoming showings of the film around Oregon and the events should be great. Here's a list of showings which will include a chance to meet the creators of the film. Admission is $10.
Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m., St. Francis McMenamins, 700 NW Bond. St, Bend, OR. Sponsored by Native Fish Society and Fly & Field Outfitters.
Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m., Oregon Sierra Club, 1821 SE Ankeny St., Portland, OR. Sponsored by NFS and Oregon Sierra Club.
Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. David Minor Theater, 180 E. 5th Ave. Eugene, OR. Sponsored by NFS, The Caddis Fly Angling Shop, and the McKenzie-Upper Willamette Trout Unlimited Chapter.
Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m., Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way, Ashland, OR. Sponsored by NFS and The Ashland Fly Shop.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that he will be calling for a judicial inquiry into declining Sockeye populations in the Fraser River system. Fish advocates and environmentalists have been calling for judicial inquiry into the sockeye collapse ever since it became apparent that this summers run would be catastrophically below the preseason forecast. Many independent biologists and critics have argued that the situation on the Fraser is analogous to the collapse of the Atlantic Cod fishery. Hopefully judicial review will highlight the factors leading to the decline of Sockeye abundance, and result in a decisive plan for protecting and restoring the Frasers legendary abundance of the species. More information will be available tomorrow as details about the nature and extent of the judicial inquiry are released. See this snippet in the Georgia Strait newspaper.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
After a 6 year legal battle, British Columbia's supreme court ruled yesterday that the Province did not have the legal authority to keep First Nations fishers from selling their catch. In 2003 a group of Vancouver Island first nations bands with over 4,000 members in total filed suit against the province to gain the right to trade in their treaty guaranteed fisheries. The tribes have argued that they have been stewards of the fisheries resources in their territories for thousands of years, and that trading in fish and other marine resources is a part of the fabric of their society. The full extent of the ruling is yet to be decided and will involve extensive negotiations between first nations bands and the provincial government. More info in the National Post
Around the world open, netpen salmon farming operations are having a huge, detrimental impact on their surrounding environments. In British Columbia, open net pen farms have been linked to massive declines in chum and pink salmon in the Georgia Strait and Broughton Archipeligo and may have contributed to the major crash in Sockeye abundance this year on the Fraser. Because of the environmental costs associated with open net pens environmentalists and advocates have been lobbying hard for the aquaculture industry to move to full enclosed farm systems. With full enclosure there is little to no risk of pathogens, effluent or parasites moving between the farmed salmon and their surroundings. Despite the obvious environmental benefits of a fully enclosed farming operation the industry has been unwilling to trasition to the new technology because of the costs. Now a Vancouver-based fish farming business Agri-Marine has launched the worlds first ever full containment Salmonid farm in China. Simon Fraser University professor emeritus Larry Albright helped develop the technology. This is a huge step and hopefully only the beginning of a complete shift to enclosed farming. If market forces demand enclosed farms, and consumers shy away from farmed salmon because of the environmental impacts the industry will have no choice but to reform.
More information at Simon Fraser's website.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Three States, Montana, Idaho and Washington as well as the Colville, Idaho Kootenai, Salish-Kootenai, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakima tribes all filed breifings October 23rd in support of the Obama Administrations "status quo" BiOp. That makes Oregon and The Nez Perce tribe (the tribe that is directly impacted by the Snake Dams) as the lone holdouts from the original legal challenge to the Bush 2008 BiOp which included. Each group stands to gain financially by complying with the flawed BiOp, including 750 million dollars which will go to the tribes for hatcheries and tributary habitat improvements. The State of Washington has also been pitifully complicit in the federal governments plan to further delay action on the Columbia/Snake and has provided zero leadership in demanding a biologically sound recovery plan. Check out the blog archives for lots more information on the BiOp.
In the Osprey Vol 60, Chairman Bill Redman reflects on the flawed BiOp and how the BPA and Feds were able to essentially bribe states and tribes into compliance (p.3):
Monday, November 2, 2009
If you love Deschutes country, you will not want to miss this. A new Comprehensive Plan for land management in Deschutes county is up for review. Currently wreckless development, realestate speculation and suburban sprawl threaten to destroy the social and environmental legacy of the Deschutes region. Land use has important implications for ground water, surface water quality and ecosystem integrity. So here's what you can do. First, skim through the Comprehensive Plan. It might seem daunting but a quick scan shouldn't take too much time. Here's the plan
Here's a recent email from Tom Davis, Native Fish Society Deschutes Country River steward who outlines actions we as the public can take to make sure the plan which is adopted will protect the natural bounty of the region and give Deschutes county a sustainable land use plan for the 21st century
Your Help Needed
contact info for the three county commissioners
Commissioner Alan Unger
1300 NW Wall Street
Alan Unger - E-mail Address
Commissioner Dennis Luke
1300 NW Wall Street
Dennis Luke - E-mail Address
Commissioner Tammy Baney
1300 NW Wall Street
Tammy Baney - E-mail Address