Thursday, December 31, 2009

Make Your Tax Deductible Year End Donation to The Osprey

Keep The Osprey going strong with your tax deductible year end donation. Follow the links through the Federation of Fly Fishers Website. Make Sure to designate on the second page of the Donation Form that you want your gift to go to The Osprey.

https://www.fedflyfishers.org/default.aspx?tabid=4329

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sacred Headwaters Petition


Sign a petition ASAP demanding that BC permanently protect the sacredheadwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine from coal bed methane extraction. These watersheds are some of the last best places for wild salmon and it would be a travesty to turn them over to Royal Dutch Shell for the short term profits and massive environmental fallout of coal bed methane extraction.

Petition Link Here:
http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5875/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1444

WDFW Employee Speaks out Against Hatchery Practices


A really good summary of how hatchery practices are driving many populations of wild fish into decline. By former WDFW employee Sam Wright:



WILD FISH EXTINCTIONS CAUSED BY THE LONG-TERM USE OF HATCHERY FISH ZONES TO MANAGE PACIFIC SALMON (ONCORHYNCHUS) IN WASHINGTON AND OREGON

A common management practice in Washington and Oregon since the early 1960s is the planned, deliberate overfishing and eventual extinction of wild Pacific salmon populations in order to harvest comingled populations of salmon that are produced by artificial production (Wright 1993). In Washington, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Wild Salmonid Policy identified 89 separate naturally spawning Pacific salmon populations that were being subjected to this practice or nearly one-third of all existing Pacific salmon populations in the State (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) 1997: Table II-1, p. 9).

I was the project leader and lead author for this EIS process and had to work with an Assistant Attorney General (AG) assigned to WDFW. My original language in Table 3 described the process in part as “planned, deliberate overfishing and eventual extinction of wild salmon populations in order to harvest comingled hatchery fish”. The AG stated that “this sounded like something illegal” and changed the language of the Table title to “Current fish management plans and practices overfish 89 wild stocks in order to harvest comingled hatchery fish at rates that are not sustainable by wild populations.” This is an example of one of many ways that have been used to disguise the process.

My initial attempt to stop this practice occurred in the early 1980s when I was administrator of the Habitat Management Division for the Washington Department of Fisheries (WDF). My work included involvement in a wide array of habitat protection, enhancement and mitigation projects. I soon began to wonder if I was knowingly committing illegal acts. Was it illegal to commit public funds to habitat improvement work when I knew that viable adult salmon spawners were never going to be provided to reap projected project benefits? Was it illegal to force a landowner to correct an upstream fish passage problem when I knew that spawners were never going to be provided to utilize habitat above the obstruction? Was it illegal to force a developer to fund a costly mitigation project when I knew that spawners were never going to be provided to justify the expenditure? I was also concerned that the “secret” would eventually be revealed to the public and that this could destroy our future ability to protect salmon habitat.

In 1982, I advised WDF that it was essential to end this practice since it was probably illegal in several different respects. The practice appeared to be illegal under the legislation that created WDF and had never been reviewed under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). In addition, all of the more recent hatcheries requiring environmental reviews did not even hint at this practice in their environmental documents. At best, the practice was simply very poor resource stewardship. I then provided a plan to eliminate this practice that was later described in Wright (1993).

The first part of my recommendation was to mark all hatchery Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) and all hatchery coho salmon (O. kisutch) by removal of their adipose fins. The basic principle involved was the ability to manage wild and hatchery salmon as “separate species” and the adipose mark enabled this to be done in practice. The second part of my recommendation was that natural spawning escapement objectives needed to be established for all existing naturally spawning salmon populations and that all fisheries would then be managed to achieve these objectives. The third part of my proposal was that existing and planned hatchery programs would be adjusted as necessary to make them compatible with achieving these natural spawning escapement objectives.

The adipose marking proposal was initially rejected by everyone, but gradually came to be accepted and is now widely implemented. The problem is that it was decoupled from both the establishment and management for natural spawning escapement objectives and the need to make hatchery programs compatible. Adipose marking is meaningless by itself when the same high exploitation rates continue to be applied in non-selective fisheries harvesting comingled wild plus hatchery salmon and hatchery programs continue to be incompatible.

My only successful attempt to expose this problem in a formal publication occurred in Wright (1993). The subtitle was “Salmon managers need to abandon the use of hatchery fish management zones.” WDF tried to stop publication but had to settle for a disclaimer stating that “The views in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Washington Department of Fisheries.” There was a great deal of luck involved in the peer review process since two of three reviewers were not from Washington or Oregon. Two subsequent attempts to expose the problem in formal publications failed when the majority of peer reviewers were from Washington and Oregon.

I initially had high hopes for resolution of the problem when Puget Sound Chinook and Lower Columbia River Chinook were listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Both areas had many Chinook populations on the list of 89 that were being deliberately overfished (WDFW 1997). However, all of these same populations were then assumed to be indistinguishable from hatchery Chinook or “genetically extinct” as wild populations. In Puget Sound, a total of 37 defined Chinook salmon populations were divided into 22 “A” and 15 “B” populations, with the latter group judged to be extinct. The situation in the Lower Columbia River was far worse, with North Lewis River fall Chinook being the only remaining population that was not determined to be extinct.

Unfortunately, my prediction of mass extinctions had been fulfilled. This extinct classification allowed the status quo practices of existing hatchery programs and high exploitation rates to continue for all of these populations. Some even had “escapement goals” identified to complete the public illusion of responsible resource management. Many hatchery Chinook never make it all the way back to existing hatchery traps and end–up spawning naturally. These can then be identified as an escapement goal without compromising the desired hatchery programs and high exploitation rates.

Over the years, there have been many varied attempts to disguise hatchery fish zones such as the “escapement goals” established for 15 Puget Sound “B” group Chinook salmon populations. The only citable reference that precisely identifies salmon populations where there is clear, unambiguous management intent to put adequate numbers of viable natural spawners on the spawning grounds is the Salmon Fishery Management Plan of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PMFC 2003: Table 3-1,15p.). This confirms the solitary status of North Lewis River fall Chinook and that both the entire Columbia River system and the entire South Puget Sound Region are huge hatchery fish zones for coho salmon. As predicted for wild Chinook salmon, there have also been massive extinctions of wild coho salmon populations.

The common practice of deliberately overfishing naturally spawning salmon populations in order to harvest comingled hatchery fish continues to be alive and well in Washington and Oregon (albeit with some new disguises commonly called “hatchery reform”). The solution is still exactly what it was in 1982. At a minimum, resource managers in Washington and Oregon should at least be honest about what they are doing so that countless millions of dollars will not continue to be spent in hatchery fish zones when the same money could be spent much more productively in wild salmon zones. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent and the management status (wild or hatchery zones) has never been used (as a criteria) to prioritize competing project proposals.

References

PFMC 2003. Fishery management plan for commercial and recreational salmon fishery off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California as revised through Amendment 14. Pacific Fishery Management Council, Portland, OR.

WDFW 1997. Final environmental impact statement for the Wild Salmonid Policy. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, WA.

Wright, S. 1993. Fishery management of wild Pacific salmon stocks to prevent extinctions. Fisheries 18(5):3-4.


Author: Sam Wright, 1522 Evanston Ct. NE, Olympia WA 98506 (360-943-4424, sam.wright@att.net)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Federal Funding for Culvert and Road Removal Doubles

Congress approved an appropriation last week that would double funding to over 19 million dollars for removing culverts and removing deteriorating roads on roads in Oregon and Washington. In passable culverts block salmon and steelhead from accessing thousands of miles of habitat throughout the Northwest and deteriorating forest roads can lead to erosion and landslides which can smother spawning gravels in spawning streams.

More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:
http://www.cbbulletin.com/369793.aspx

Friday, December 25, 2009

Logging in the Tongass National Forest


The Tongass National Forest in South East Alaska is home to some of the last great continuous stands of old growth, temperate rainforest in the world. In 2003 the Bush administration passed a law that provided an exemption for the Clinton-era roadless rule, allowing logging to continue more or less unchecked in Tongass. Now a Native Tribe, represented by EarthJustice is taking the federal government to court saying that the 2003 exemption is inconsistent with the 2001 roadless areas law.

Tongass is home to a rich diversity of salmon, trout and char. Timber harvest and associated road building pose serious threats to the integrity of stream and riverine ecosystems where salmon spawn and rear.

More information in the San Francisco Chronicle:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/12/23/financial/f061858S65.DTL

Press Release from EarthJustice's website:
http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/2009/alaska-native-tourism-and-conservation-groups-seek-protection-for-roadless-areas-in-tongass-national-forest.html

Emails Released from Independent Review of BiOp


Emails released this week shed light on some of the comments the federal government received from an independent panel of scientists asked to review the updated version of the Columbia River BiOp. The plan relies heavily on improving tributary habitat and includes a provision to study dam removal in 10 years if salmon populations on the Snake continue to decline. Among the concerns raised by reviewers were that the plan was too vague about actions, that there is uncertainty around how much improving tributary habitat can actually increase abundance, and that hatchery effects were essentially unaddressed.

What is mind boggling is the amount of money being spent to keep archaic Snake River dams in place. While improving tributary habitat and tweaking passage facilities may help keep populations from extinction true recovery could be achieved with the removal of the four lower Snake dams. Those four dams represent a bygone era in American history, a time when daming every river was literally the goal and in doing so we inundated one of this country's greatest rivers. For a whole host of biological, cultural and economic reasons the Snake River dams should be removed. Time is ticking for Snake Salmon. With climate change looming the opportunity to recover a large portion of the former diversity and abundance is slipping away. As the ocean and riverine environment becomes more hostile to the salmon with a changing climate, the effects of the dams will only be magnified. By the time we are "studying" dam removal it might be too late.

See coverage of the emails in the Oregonian:
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/12/e-mails_show_internal_debate_o.html

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wild Steelhead Coalition's State of the Steelhead

Commissioned by the Wild Steelhead Coalition, author Dylan Tomine takes a poetic look at factors driving declining abundance throughout steelhead's range. With case studies from California to the Skeena, Tomine's writing is worth taking a look at. Click on the cover to read the report.

WDFW Closes Cascade River

Last week WDFW closed the Cascade River to fishing to protect returning hatchery fish and allow the hatchery to reach its egg take goal for this year. The North Fork of the Nooksack has also been closed all year because of chronically low hatchery returns and the fact that the hatchery has regularly missed its egg take goal over the past few years.

In an era when managers are increasingly acknowledging the impacts of hatchery supplementation on wild stocks why is the state fighting so hard to save these failing hatchery programs? Over the past decade survival of hatchery steelhead in Puget Sound has plummeted meaning each year state hatcheries are scrambling to get enough fish back to spawn the next generation. With a recent state rule banning between basin transfers of hatchery fish, programs which consistently fail to meet egg takes would be forced to close. We have to ask ourselves, are these fisheries providing the benefits they claim, when terminal areas which provide most of the harvest opportunity are closed to protect hatchery fish? These programs are expensive and the bottom line is, they aren't working very well. Now the Nooksack closes February 28th to protect wild fish, and the Skagit will in all likelihood close early this year for the second time in 3 years. Given the state of the wild returns, and the glaringly obvious failures of the steelhead hatchery programs why is continued supplementation justified?

In 2007 more than 500,000 smolts were planted in the Skagit system and produced a return incapable of supporting harvest. The question is what is the impact of that supplementation on the wild stocks? Most biologists will agree that the early marine period of a steelhead's lifehistory limits survival and year to year variation in early marine survival dictate subsequent adult returns. If wild fish are experiencing the same difficult early marine conditions how does having half a million hatchery smolts competing for limited resources not hurt their chance of survival? This is a simple case of a cost and benefit analysis. No one knows how much harm these two steelhead hatchery programs are doing, however given their very low benefits, the availability of other hatchery programs nearby and the great potential for ecological impacts from huge numbers of hatchery smolts it seems prudent to consider discontinuing these two steelhead programs. Numerous rivers in Oregon have been designated Wild Fish Refugia, why are none of the major watersheds in Puget Sound receiving the same protections?

A press release from WDFW on closing the Cascade December 19th
http://wdfw.wa.gov/do/newreal/release.php?id=dec1609a

2007 smolt releases in Washington
http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/harvest/07-08/smolts.htm

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Columbia River Science Under Represented in BiOp


When the Obama administration took office they promised to give science its rightful place in American policy making. After 8 years of politically motivated policy on the Columbia and Snake by the Bush administration, salmon advocates were hopeful that under new leadership there would science driven changes to the Columbia hydro system. Now NOAA and the Obama administration have submitted and ardently defended a BiOp with few changes from the original Bush plan, and NOAA has refused up to now to release the scientific reports which guided their decision making process. Without peer review, and public scrutiny science simply doesn't fly. An interesting post on Save Our Wild Salmon's blog this week covering the science and decision making process on the Snake and Columbia systems.

http://saveourwildsalmon.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Juvenile Fish Transport System Working on the Upper Deschutes

photo by Dave Thurman

A massive project designed to give fish access to hundreds of miles of historic spawning habitat in the Upper Deschutes Basin appears to be working. Over the past few years Portland General Electric in cooperation with the Warm Springs Indian Tribe have been developing a trap an haul facility designed to get fish above Round Butte dam where they can access the upper Deschutes, Metolius, Crooked and numerous smaller tribs for spawning. Fish have been blocked from the upper river since 1968.

The most costly and technologically challenging part was a tower built to create an artificial current in Lake Billy Chinook which guides outmigrant fry into traps waiting for them at the dam facility. The fish are then hauled around a series of three dams and release them into the lower river. They're still fine tuning the operation of the smolt trapping facility however fish are already finding their way into the system, long before the bulk of the fry normally migrate. Fish this season are primarily from hatchery fry releases in the Metolius, Crooked and Whychus Creek. This past summer was the first time adults from the lower river were passed over the dam complex to spawn naturally so wild produced fish are still a year away from entering the system.

While technological fixes to problems like dams are rarely enough to restore wild populations, the early results from this project are encouraging. The project has the potential to open so much habitat for wild spawning fish, however it is unfortunate that they continue to plant hatchery fish in the Upper Deschutes watershed. Concerns over the spread of whirling disease have led some biologists to recommend not releasing hatchery fish. Furthermore continuing to release high numbers of hatchery fish will only lower the productivity of the wild spawners, slowing the ability fish to establish locally adapted populations.

Check out an article in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:
http://www.cbbulletin.com/369344.aspx

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Osprey Website is Live


The new Osprey website has officially launched. Check it out for improved usability, content archiving and links to lots of great conservation organizations. Archives are still being switched over, we appreciate your patience.

http://www.ospreysteelhead.org/homepage.htm

Fall Strong Runs

The fall 2009 newsletter of the Native Fish Society, strong runs is out. Check out the latest edition for information on the true costs and benefits of hatchery programs, ongoing efforts by Native Fish Society Stewards, updates from around the region and much more. Click the image to read:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sacred Headwaters


The sacred headwaters of the Nass, Stikine and Skeena Rivers are under threat from Royal Dutch Shell. The company hopes to develop massive coal bed methane extraction in an area of Northern BC which is the headwaters for three of the most productive salmon ecosystems in the world. Without major media coverage, the plan may go ahead uncontested, however a number of local and indigenous groups are fighting the proposal. The environmental impacts of coal bed methane extraction could be catastrophic and the potential cost to the ecosystems is far outweighed by the prospect of corporate profits. It is critical that BC protect this region as it is one of the last strongholds for a vast diversity of wild salmon and steelhead. Learn more about the Sacred Headwaters and what you can do to help

homepage for the effort and some links to other organizations involved:
http://www.sacredheadwaters.com/

An outline of the issues:
http://www.forestethics.org/sacred-headwaters-the-issue

Story on Land Conservation in the Recession


An interesting story this week from NPR on the challenges and opportunities for land conservation groups during the recession. Listen to the story here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121549466

Conservation trusts throughout the northwest are working to permanently protect critical habitats for salmon and steelhead. Recent success stories include the purchase of over 7,000 acres in the Hoh River watershed for conservation easement, restoration of the Nisqually Delta, and work by western Rivers to purchase thousands of acres on the Lower Klamath.

Forest Service Reworking Protections for Fish and Wildlife


After 8 years and three failed attempts by the Bush administration to ease protections for fish and wildlife to benefit logging the Forst Service is trying to rewrite basic environmental regulations that regulate logging on National Forest Lands. Regarding the plan, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack was recently quoted as saying,

"Our national forests and grasslands are great natural treasures that we must conserve and restore for the benefit of future generations."

healthy upland and riparian forest ecosystems are critical for health of adjacent stream and river habitats. By stabilizing banks, contributing woody debris, shading the channel and slowing the speed with which water runs off the landscape, healthy forests maintain critical linkages to aquatic communities. Many areas are only beginning to recover from 20th century logging which in some cases had extremely adverse effects on wild salmon and steelhead in our region.

Info on the logging plans at the Oregonian:

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/12/forest_service_will_bolster_pr.html

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Salmon Recovery Board Funding

Washington State Recently Announced 43 Million Dollars in funding for salmon recovery projects throughout the state. The money comes from the Salmon Recovery Board also known as the SRF (pronounced surf) Board is awarded to projects that restore and protect important salmon habitat throughout the state of Washington. Snohomish County in Washington received the largest chunk of funding with $5.5 million. More information at the SRF Board website

http://www.rco.wa.gov/srfb/board/board.htm

Protecting the Sandy River Gorge Forever


Portland Metro authorities recently finalized a deal to buy over 40 acres of land along Gordon Creek a critically important tributary of the Lower Sandy River. The purchase adds to a conservation holding of over 1,600 acres on the lower Sandy that provides habitat for Fall Chinook and Steelhead. The Gordon Creek watershed is one of the best in the area, with high water quality and trees over 125 years old. Now efforts have begun to control invasive plants and restore damaged areas along the Creek. Western Rivers Conservancy and others have also been working to protect areas of the Sandy which is designated a Wild and Scenic River and is one of the most intact watersheds near an urban area in the US.

Environmental Groups Want New Direction on Klamath


A coalition of environmental groups are pushing for a new direction on the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement recently announced for the Klamath Basin. Earlier this fall stakeholders in the Klamath Basin as well as PacifiCorp and the States involved reached a settlement that would likely lead to removal of Klamath Dams sometime in the next 10-20 years. The Oregon and California have both started the process of raising the money necessary for dam removal however the current plan is no guarantee of dam removal as the Secretary of the Interior will be charged with deciding whether dam removal advances the public interest. After recent developments with the 2008 BiOp and the Obama administrations unwillingness to consider removing the four lower Snake dams, many are skeptical that dam removal would ever happen on the Klamath.

Environmental groups are unhappy with many of the concessions in the settlement and believe that a new plan needs to be negotiated separately from a basin wide water settlement. Conflicts between irrigators and fish advocates (tribes and fishermen) over the allocation of water in the Klamath Basin have focused on maintaining adequate in stream flow for salmon during the warmest months of summer. When too much water is diverted during these critical warm periods massive fish kills have occurred in the lower Klamath as they did in 2002.

More information in the Oregonian:
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/12/coalition_forms_to_fight_klama.html

and the Northcoast Environmental Center:
http://yournec.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=3&pid=761

Friday, December 18, 2009

DFO Refuses to Accept Fish Farming Impact


Canadian Federal Fisheries managers remains unconvinced that sea lice are leading to declines in populations of wild salmon. Despite numerous peer reviewed articles linking salmon farming and sea lice to massive declines in pink, and chum in the Georgia Strait, fisheries minister Gail Shea said at a recent stakeholder on wild salmon that,

"I don't think we can say unequivocally that sea lice kills salmon. We can say, sure, it's a factor but it's safe to say we have to do more research."

This after Shea recently attended an international aquaculture convention to promote the development of the fish farming industry in BCs coastal waters.

It is unfathomable why people charged with the management of wild salmonids can be such cheerleaders for the salmon farming industry. Sea lice, a parasitic copepod thrive in salmon farms where net pens confine fish at unnaturally high density. When outmigrating smolts and fry pass the net pens lice are transferred from adult fish to juveniles. Small fish infested with multiple sealice stand little chance of survival and many independent scientists believe the link between sockeye declines and salmon farming needs further exploration.

Despite the massive weight of the evidence, DFO continues to assert that fish farms are not the problem and that Fraser Sockeye are disappearing because of climate change.

See an article on Shea's statement in the Squamish Cheif:
http://www.squamishchief.com/article/20091218/SQUAMISH0101/312189958/-1/SQUAMISH/fisheries-minister-downplays-fish-farms-in-local-visit

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giant Squid Moving North, Could Signal Changes in Ocean Environment


Over the last decade humbolt squid have shown a dramatic northern range expansion. Following the 2002 El Nino the squid species, historically found off the coast of Baja Mexico, appeared around Montery. Since then they have been found increasingly farther north until 2004 when they were caught by fishermen off Sitka Alaska. Scientists believe the northward advance of the species is being driven increasing areas of anoxic, oxygen depleted water. The squid are thought to be highly resistant to anoxic conditions and oxygen poor bottoms waters have been rising an average of 10 feet per day. The squid which may grow to weights in excess of 100 lbs are a major concern because they are voracious predators which could have a substantial negative impact on valuable fisheries. See an article from the Christian Science Monitor:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2009/1215/Squid-invasions-signal-changes-in-the-Pacific-Ocean

Study: Some Bait Cures Kill Juvenile Salmonids


Scientists at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University concluded that a number of commercially available egg cures are lethal to juvenile salmon and steelhead when ingested. The rearchers identified sodium sulfide as the ingredient killing the young salmon. See the Oregonian Article here:

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/12/some_fish_bait_can_harm_juveni.html

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Letter to the Fish and Wildlife Commission


Commissioners of the Washington State

Department of Fish & Wildlife

600 Capital Way North

Olympia, WA 98501

RE: Proposed Rules to Establish a Series of Wild Salmonid Management Areas

Dear Commissioners:

On May 31st of this year, the Steelhead Summit Alliance collectively, and the Wild Steelhead Coalition, Wild Fish Conservancy, Federation of Fly Fishers and the WA State Council of Trout Unlimited individually, proposed specific rules to create Wild Salmonid Management Areas (WSMAs) on 19 river reaches in Washington State. These proposals were submitted as part of the “major” rules proposal cycle.

It has been 18 months since the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan was adopted by the Commission and there has been no observable staff action to implement the WSMA proposals adopted in this document. Further, the Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy passed by the Commission at its November meeting reiterates its intent in this regard and yet no progressive movement is being made on this critical item.

The WDFW staff has recommended the implementation of portions of some of the rules we proposed on several of the rivers recommended, but has refused to establish formal Wild Salmonid Management Areas on them. When our proposed rules are taken only in part, and do not specifically include the hatchery fish free zones, the intent is subverted and the results of the proposed rules are, at best, distorted. This is akin to cutting off one leg of a chair and expecting anyone to sit on it.

We strongly disagree with the staff recommendations to reject these proposals to establish uniform and formal WSMAs. As we noted in the introduction to our rules proposals, we have worked very hard to include only river reaches that would have little or no immediate impact by being formally categorized as WSMAs for the first tangible action in this regard. Yet the Department staff continues to completely reject the implementation of this policy.

We now request that the Commission direct the WDFW staff to approve the establishment of WSMAs on as many rivers as may be practicable at this time. We would be happy to consult with them on the particulars of this matter.


Sincerely,


Rich Simms

President

Wild Steelhead Coalition


Bill McMillan

President

Wild Fish Conservancy


Kurt Beardslee

Executive Director

Wild Fish Conservancy


Sam Mace

Vice-President of Conservation

WA Council of Trout Unlimited


Bill Redman

Steelhead Committee

Federation of Fly Fishers

Monday, December 14, 2009

Western Rivers Conservancy Fall Newsletter


The Western Rivers Conservancy is an organization dedicated to protecting some of the most productive, ecologically significant, beautiful rivers in the Western US. Among their achievements is the purchase of large portions of land in the Hoh River drainage which led to the formation of the Hoh River Trust along with countless smaller projects to protect or restore critical habitat in streams and estuaries around the west. In their fall newsletter they highlight a particularly exciting project, the purchase of 47,000 acres from Green Diamond logging company on the Klamath Basin. In partnership with the Yurok Tribe, they now own major portions of the Lower Klamath, including Blue Creek one of the most critical drainages in the region. During summer when low flows and elevated stream temperatures threaten migrating salmonids in the mainstem, Blue Creek provides lifesaving cold water from its high elevation drainage which the fish use as refugia during their migration. By protecting Blue Creek, Western Rivers Conservancy and their Yurok partners have ensured that migrating salmon in the Klamath will always have their cold water refuge.

See their riverlands newsletter for fall 2009:
http://www.westernrivers.org/media/riverlands_fall2009.pdf

Record Run Forecasted for Columbia Chinook


Biologists are cautiously predicting a record return of 470,000 upriver spring chinook this year, exceeding the previous record of 439,885 fish in 2001. In the past preseason run size predictions were based almost entirely on the number of jacks that returned from the previous year. Jacks are salmon which return after only one summer at sea and their abundance is thought to be a good indicator of the overall abundance of fish their age, the adults typically return after 2 or 3 summers at sea. Over the last few years, jack counts have become a less reliable predictor of chinook abundance. This year managers have retooled their model for preseason predictions and for the first time included information on ocean productivity in their run forecast. While there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the forecast last years record return of jacks coupled with excellent ocean conditions in the spring of 2007 bode well for a large return of the economically valuable fish.

Large returns are encouraging, however most of the run is of hatchery origin, and wild upriver spring chinook remain imperiled. Bycatch in large commercial fisheries as well as the broad range of hatchery impacts from massive supplementation and mitigation programs are both driving wild productivity down and until dams are removed on the Snake recovery of wild spring chinook on the Columbia is unlikely. Still this years forecast calls for over 70,000 wild fish meaning that for at least another generation the fish are holding on.

More information on the Spring Chinook Forecast in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368669.aspx

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Logging in the Mt St Helens National Monument

Two logging projects currently planned in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest may threaten critical habitat for threatened bull trout. The Wee Burn Thin and the Pepper Cat Thin both have the potential to do harm to tributaries of the Lewis River which currently support bull trout and The Gifford Pinchot Task Force has tried unsuccessfully to appeal the National Forests decision to log the Muddy River and Pine Creek watersheds. The Task Force is concerned that the planned logging authorizes cutting on steep, potentially unstable slopes. Logging in steep areas adjacent to streams channels can cause massive landslides increasing sedimentation in stream habitats which smothers eggs, homogenizes habitat and results in elevated summer stream temperatures. Furthermore the Wee Burn Thin alone would reconstruct 11 miles of road with 13 stream crossings. Road building associated with logging can cause massive slope failures when unmaintained roads in steep areas collect water. Land slides caused by poorly constructed roads were a primary cause of sedimentation and habitat destruction on Deer Creek, a tributary of the NF Stilliguamish.

More information on the Gifford Pinchot Task Force Website:

http://www.gptaskforce.org/conservation/task-force-appeals-plans-for-destructive-timber-sale/?searchterm=Wildcat%20Thin

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Osprey Website Coming Soon!

New Osprey Website Coming Soon. Click for a preview. Bookmark: http://www.ospreysteelhead.org/

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Canadian Think Tank on Fraser Collapse


A think tank of fisheries scientists organized by Simon Fraser University concluded a week of meetings yesterday with a press conference where they revealed their preliminary conclusions on potential causes for declines in Fraser Sockeye abundance. They also presented a list of knowledge gaps, areas where current scientific understanding is inadequate to fully address the problems on the Fraser. Among the potential causes for decline that the scientists identified were, low early marine survival caused by poor conditions in the ocean environment, changes in predation pressure, and salmon farming. Biologists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had been scheduled to attend but pulled out with the announcement of the judicial review over the management of the Fraser Sockeye. With judicial inquiry DFO biologists have been given a gag order and cannot discuss the situation on the Fraser publicly.

The reality is that declining productivity of Fraser Sockeye is probably being driven by a host of factors. A changing global climate does not bode well for Sockeye in the southern portion of their range such as those on the Fraser, and changes in productivity of the Georgia Strait are likely leading to higher juvenile mortality. Despite DFOs denial, salmon farms in the migratory corridor of Fraser Sockeye are almost certainly playing a role as well. Scientists in the think tank concluded that future research on Fraser Sockeye should expand monitoring and understanding of mortality and vulnerability throughout the lifecycle of the fish by:

-assembling and analyzing all existing data on Fraser River sockeye health and condition and estimate survival throughout their life cycle.

-gaining a better understanding of the potential for transmission of parasites and disease from farmed salmon to wild salmon.

-expanding programs to assess the timing and migration of juvenile salmon at various locations in the Fraser and in the coastal marine environment.

-determining why some marine populations and species are faring better than others as ocean conditions shift as a consequence of climate change.

More Coverage in the Vancouver Sun:
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Scientists+urge+quick+action+Fraser+sockeye+collapse/2322493/story.html

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reintroducing Bull Trout to the Upper Clackamas



The Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans recently to reintroduce Bull Trout to the Upper Clackamas River just outside of Portland. The plan calls for releasing around 30 adult, 30 sub-adults and as many as 2000 juveniles in the first wave of the reintroduction which could begin as early as this summer. Bull trout were historically abundant in the Clackamas as well as a number of other rivers in the area. Today bull trout populations in the lower Columbia are highly fragmented by dams and populations have been reduced to a fraction of their former size. Fish introduced to the Clackamas will be taken from the Metolius River which has a relatively healthy population of the large, piscivorous predators.

See an article on the reintroduction on the Oregonian website:
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/12/gone_for_decades_bull_trout_co.html

Also those interested should check out the US Fish and wildlife services draft recovery plans for Bull Trout in the Lower Columbia and Willamette which can be found at:
http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=E065


In recent years the Clackamas has been a bright spot in the management of wild fish in Oregon. North Fork dam, operated by PGE allows managers to sort out hatchery clipped fish, maintaining the upper river as a spawning refugia for wild steelhead, salmon and now bull trout. The populations have responded with recovery to a fairly sustainable level from critically low levels in the late 90s. More information on PGEs website.

http://www.portlandgeneral.com/community_environment/initiatives/protecting_fish/clackamas_river/clackamas_fish_runs.aspx#winter

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Draft Lower Snake Hatchery Review


The Draft Lower Snake Hatchery Review report was released last week complete with a summary of current operations on the system as well as recommendations from the US Fish and Wildlife Service's hatchery review team. While the plan is not perfect it represents one of the most progressive, and complete hatchery reform efforts to date and would institute a number of changes which would be major steps forward for wild salmon and steelhead on the Snake.

Salmon and Steelhead are in big trouble in the Snake system. Coho are extinct, many sub-populations of chinook are extinct with others just barely hanging on, and steelhead are threatened with most wild populations between 400 and 800 adults. With climate change already in happening and a federal government which is willing to fight tooth and nail to keep the Snake River dams, it is important that hatchery impacts be reduced as much as possible to allow for conservation and recovery of wild productivity, abundance and diversity. Abundance and diversity represent natural adaptive capital which will be essential if fish are to hold on over the next century and hatchery reform is a huge part of the puzzle.

Among the highlights are: proposed weirs at the mouths of a number of tributaries which would allow removal of hatchery marked fish from the spawning population, elimination of out of basin outplanting, and honest accounting about the genetic and evolutionary impacts of hatcheries and creative problem solving to reduce their impact and allow real recovery in wild stocks.

see the recommendations state by state at
http://www.fws.gov/pacific/Fisheries/Hatcheryreview/reports.html

Public comments will be accepted until January 7th. It is important we write and tell the USFWS we support their efforts and emphasize the importance of hatchery reform for wild fish. A few quick talking points.

-We strongly support terminating outplants of non-native Lyons Ferry Steelhead into Lower Snake tributaries.

-We strongly support building weirs to exclude hatchery fish from spawning in the Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla Rivers.

-Integrated hatchery programs should be implemented cautiously if at all. Clearly stated conservation goals should be established and wild eggs should not be taken to support harvest.

-Given the findings of Araki and Blouin on the Hood River any domestication may have fitness costs and integrated hatchery programs may dramatically reduce productivity of wild stocks.

-All management actions should prioritize conservation and recovery of wild populations with a focus on maintaining and recovering diversity and abundance.

Comments can be mailed to

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fishery Resources,
Attn: Hatchery Reviews,
911 NE11th Avenue,
Portland, OR 97232,

or sent via email to Don_Campton@fws.gov.

Landmark Film on Logging Impacts



A film from the 1960s exposes the impacts of logging on the Umpqua system. In a story which played out too often in the past century timber harvest stripped entire tributaries bare, exposing them to flash flooding, sedimentation, habitat simplification and high summer temperatures. The film had a profound influence on the passage of the first forest protection rules in Oregon and features some very cool underwater footage of adult steelhead, and angling on the North Umpqua.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Satus Dam Removal


Amid a number of high profile dam removal projects that happened in 2009 the removal of Satus Dam seemingly slipped through the cracks. Despite the lack of coverage, removing Satus Dam will greatly benefit ESA listed steelhead. Satus Creek is one of the most productive spawning tributaries of the lower Yakima and removing the dam will allow increased flood plain connectivity improving habitat for miles below the dam. It will also allow easier migration for anadromous and resident fish as they move through the system to their spawning grounds. Removal was funded by NOAA and American Rivers and was carried out by the Yakama Nation. Background on the removal project from the Yakima Herald.

http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2008/05/02/yakamas-will-tear-down-dam-on-satus-creek

Also, see information on Satus from American Rivers in a report they released on all the dam
removal projects of 2008.
http://www.americanrivers.org/assets/pdfs/dam-removal-docs/2009-dam-removals.pdf

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Act Now to Protect Icicle Creek

Icicle Creek is one of the most pristine and productive tributaries of the Wenatchee River. Most of the creek flows through wilderness, sadly, because of the diversion dam at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, wild salmon, steelhead and bull trout are largely unable to access the upper basin. The Hatchery is on lower Icicle Creek and has for years been severely degrading water quality in lower Icicle through irresponsible diversions of the creeks flow, and blocking upstream migration of listed species including Bull Trout, Steelhead and Chinook Salmon. Now the hatchery is having to apply for permitting under the Clean Water Act and for them to receive the permit they must first get a stamp of approval from the Washington Department of Ecology.

More information about Icicle Creek and the Wildfish Conservancy's lawsuit against the hatchery in Crosscut News.

http://crosscut.com/2009/07/15/agriculture/19107/

Check out the action update the Wild Fish Conservancy for information on how you can help protect this vital tributary of the Wenatchee River.

Action Alert! - Help Protect Icicle Creek

Comments Due DECEMBER 18, 2009

The Washington Department of Ecology is accepting public comments on its Clean Water Act “certification” for the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. These comments are due December 18, 2009. The US Environmental Protection Agency will issue a wastewater discharge permit for the facility after Ecology "certifies" that the activities there meet the state's "water quality standards" by placing conditions on the EPA-issued permit. This "certification" is a powerful tool in that all aspects of the facility can be addressed, not simply the wastewater discharge. This does not affect the proposal by the Hatchery to rebuild its intake or Structure 2. The public comment period for that will come later.

Icicle Creek starts high in the spectacular Stuart Range and Alpine Lakes Wilderness, ultimately joining the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth, Washington. It drains 216 square miles of mostly National Forest land and much of that designated Wilderness. The Hatchery has been operating along lower Icicle Creek since 1940 and while it serves important social functions it has also been responsible for unacceptable environmental impacts to Icicle Creek. The Hatchery:

  • blocks ESA-listed wild salmon, steelhead, charr and other species from reaching 150 stream miles of pristine Wilderness habitat;
  • diverts water from the stream into a lifeless "canal" without a valid water right at critical low flow periods, depriving a one-mile reach of the river of needed flow
  • withdraws large amounts of water through an unscreened intake, sucking fish into the hatcheries plumbing; and
  • pollutes Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River with phosphorus and toxic PCBs.

In its application to Ecology, the Hatchery proposes to keep operating in the same manner that they have been for years: blocking wild fish migration, diverting water, and discharging high levels of phosphorus. Ecology has sufficient information to direct the Hatchery to change operations to protect the river. In 2002, the Hatchery admitted that blockage of upstream fish passage is not required for its operation. Later, the US Fish and Wildlife Service's analysis of Icicle Creek bull trout migration determined that these threatened fish need to migrate at the exact time the Hatchery blocks the river. But instead of mandating that the stream be opened to allow fish passage, Ecology has called for another study. Moreover, Ecology allows the Hatchery to divert stream water into its canal in order to recharge its wells without ensuring that fish are protected in the section of Icicle Creek adjacent to the Hatchery. The Hatchery is simply asked to "monitor" their phosphorus discharges and is given the entire life of the permit (five years) to finally come into compliance. Ecology should direct the Hatchery to study reducing their production and "recirculation" methods of raising fish which are less polluting.

Tell Ecology that this wild stream, one of the largest Wilderness watersheds in Washington, deserves better. Personalize the sample comment letter or send it in as it is written (but personalizing it is always better). Put "Leavenworth Fish Hatchery Comments" in the subject of your email. Make sure that you copy your email to the elected and agency officials in the cc list.

Thanks for helping wild fish and the habitats they depend on! For more information please contact Wild Fish Conservancy at (425) 788-1167 or email Mark Hersh (mark@wildfishconservancy.org) or Tyler Cluverius (tyler@wildfishconservancy.org) if you have any questions.