Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two New Wilderness Areas Proposed in John Day Basin

Two new wilderness areas are being proposed for Eastern Oregon's John Day Basin. Last week Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley proposed wildnerness designations for 16,000 acres of land in the John Day Basin. The designation would add to two other wilderness areas already in the immediate area and provide increased protections for one of the longest undammed rivers in the Lower 48. The John Day is home to one of the most robust populations of wild summer steelhead in the Columbia/Snake system.

Coverage in the Oregonian Online:

Feds Declare Yukon Chinook a Fishery Disaster

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke recently declared the Yukon River Chinook a fishery disaster based on a recent downturn in returns of the economically critical fish. Many communities in the Yukon basin rely heavily on subsistence fisheries for Chinook and in recent years catches have been dramatically reduced to protect the few returning fish. Chinook runs have been down all throughout western Alaska over the last five years. Managers blame poor ocean conditions for the dismal returns, but many also blame bycatch in a pollack fishery as a major factor in the downturn in abundance. Fortunately habtiat in most the region remains intact meaning that once ocean conditions improve stocks should respond accordingly.

See the NOAA press release:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weekly Action List 1/29/2010

Weekly Action List 1/29/10
Please take some time to comment on these important issues.

-Comment on a King County ordinance that would limit the placement of large woody debris by requiring a recreational safety review first. Comment period ends February 19th. See the original post here:

-Comment on Fish Passage and Introduction plans on the Upper Cle Elum River. This project has great potential to benefit wild salmon and steelhead but only if its done right. Comment period ends March 22nd.

EIS Complete For Cle Elum Dam Fish Passage

The Bureau of Reclamation and Washington Department of Ecology have completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the construction of fish passage facilities at Cle Elum Dam in the Upper Yakima River Basin. This past summer cooperative efforts between the Yakama Nation and local agencies passed sockeye salmon into the Cle Elum River above the dam for the first time in more than 100 years. Fish passage facilities will likely include a juvenile fish intake strucutre with the dam and a trap and haul operation for upstream migrating adults and would open upwards of 500 river miles draining 230 square miles as spawning and rearing habitat. The project is expected to benefit Spring Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Summer Steelhead and Bull Trout.

Sockeye are completely absent from the Upper Yakima Basin and recovery efforts will require supplementation to recolonize the newly available habitat. Plans to reintroduce Coho through hatchery supplementation are also in place. This is an exciting project that will open miles of high quality, historically accessible habitat and it is important that wild fish are allowed to colonize Cle Elum River habitats naturally and any supplementation project have clearly defined goals for population establishment with a predefined time-line for discontinuing supplementation. Chinook and Steelhead should both be allowed to recolonize naturally, ensuring the establishment of locally adapted stocks of both species through natural, colonization mechanisms such as straying.

Resident Rainbow trout provide a large genetic reservoir for steelhead reestablishment. On the Elwha River, predam removal monitoring has discovered that rainbow populations above the dam routinely produce smolts despite the fact that the population has been isolated from anadromy for over 100 years. With fish passage facilities in place, the population should gradually shift to a more anadromous dominated lifehistory.

Spring Chinook Salmon already spawn in the Upper Yakima Basin and undoubtedly fish will stay into the Cle Elum Basin. With fish passage facilities should allow these stray Upper Yakima Chinook into the Upper Cle Elum River.

See the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Full EIS on the Bureau of Recs website:

Public Comments on the EIS and fish Reintroduction Efforts can be made until March 22nd. Comments should be addressed to:

Ms. Candace McKinley
Environmental Protection Specialist
Columbia-Cascades Area Office
1917 Marsh Road
Yakima, Washington 98901-1749

Talking points:

-Cle Elum Fish passage is an excellent project and should be implemented as quickly as possible

-Hatchery supplementation in the Cle Elum Basin should be limited to species with no immediately available downstream source population.

-Hatchery supplementation should not be implemented for Steelhead/Rainbow Trout or Spring Chinook, both of which should be allowed to recolonize through natural processes.

-Any hatchery supplementation should be managed as a conservation hatchery, not for fisheries enhancement and should have clear goals for the establishment of wild, locally adapted populations of wild salmonids. Hatchery supplementation should also have clear, pre-established timelines for discontinuation.

-Steelhead which voluntarily enter the trap and haul facility should be passed into the Upper Cle Elum. Populations of resident rainbow trout routinely produce smolts which may return as wild steelhead. If these fish are excluded from the passage facility the anadromous lifehistory will never recover.

Temporary Hiatus on New Fish Farms

A BC Supreme court judge ruled last week suspended development of new fish farms in BC until December 2010 while control over the fish farming industry is transferred between the BC ministry of environment to DFO. This after the courts decided that fish farms must be regulated as fisheries rather than agriculture. See the article in the Georgia Straight:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Central California Dam Removal

A dam on the Carmel River in Central California is slated for removal. The 106 foot high San Clemente Dam is failing and could be removed as early as 2012. The deal between NOAA and local governments will open 25 square miles of habitat for endangered steelhead.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fraser Sockeye Fishery May Be Certified as Sustainable

Salmon advocates in BC are taken aback by the recent announcement by the Marine Stewardship Council that they will be giving Fraser River Sockeye a sustainable certification. Fraser Sockeye have been in steady decline over the last 15-20 years and this years run fell 9 million fish short of the preseason estimate of 11 million fish. A number of factors may be contributing to dwindling returns on the Fraser, among the primary concerns climate change and its effect on early marine and in river adult survival, many have also drawn a connection between dwindling returns and fish farming in the Georgia Strait. While commercial fishing may not be the primary threat to the future of Fraser Sockeye labelling a fishery sustainable when it has experienced declines of that magnitude is unacceptable.

More information in the Tyee:

Target Won't Sell Farmed Salmon

Target announced Tuesday that they're pulling farmed salmon from their stores in favor of Wild Alaskan Salmon. Target is the nations second largest retailer and the move marks a major step towards reducing the demand for farmed salmon and ultimately forcing more environmental responsibility by fish farming companies. More information from King 5 news in Seattle:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ocean Conditions Worsened in 2009

Salmon populations from California to Southern BC generally do the best when conditions off the continental shelf bring cool water and strong upwelling to the region. During 2007 and 2008 the combination of La Nina and a Negative Phase in the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) index resulted in some of the most productive conditions off the Coasts of Oregon and Washington ever recorded. Predictably, in 2009 conditions deteriorated significantly and generally by the end of the year conditions were fairly poor for salmon in our coastal oceans.

Variability in ocean conditions is part of the natural cycling of productivity in our ocean ecosystems. While these cycles are only beginning to be understood, salmon have evolved to cope with these dynamic and variable systems. It is important that managers and the public keep this in perspective when understanding salmon population dynamics and the cycles of inevitable boom and bust that come with changes in the ocean environment. This year saw record returns of Steelhead and Coho to the Columbia system, with excellent returns up and down the Oregon and Washington Coast. Rather than patting themselves on the back, or worse allow harvest, managers should have understood this burst of abundance for what it was. A temporary boom driven by a productive ocean and a chance to rebuild abundance and diversity by allowing higher than normal escapements.

See an article in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weekly Action List 1/21/10

As advocates it is imperative that we are informed and involved in our local fisheries issues and that managers and political representatives hear our voices regarding the management of our fisheries. Often managers hear very little from the public on the very important decisions they make, so one informed voice speaking for wild fish can have a substantial impact. Taking an hour or less per week to fulfill our duty as guardians of the resource and make public comment on the management of our fisheries is one thing that all of us can do to help wild fish. Starting this week we will be posting a weekly action list which will remind readers of what they can do each week for our wild fish.

For the first installment:

Weekly Action List 1/21/10

-Comment on a King County ordinance that would limit the placement of large woody debris by requiring a recreational safety review first. Comment period ends February 19th. See the original post here:

-Comment on a proposal before the Oregon State Forestry Board to increase logging in some of Oregon's most productive coastal watersheds. Comment Period Ends January 29th. More info at the Native Fish Society Wild Fish 4 Everyone blog:

thank you for taking the time to speak on behalf of wild fish.

Human Impacts on Marine Ecosystems

The magnitude of human impacts on marine ecosystems can at times be difficult to grasp. Undoubtedly humans are impacting our oceans and the biology they support. While scientists and society have acknowledged the threats posed by climate change and ocean acidification the range of activities which degrade the productivity and resilience of marine ecosystems are poorly understood.

Here is a thought provoking email from Bill McMillan on the subject:

Bill Bakke recently sent out an excellent quote from the book The Unnatural History of the Sea (the email and quote below).
Attached is a review of the book. Also attached is a news article about the increasing acidity of the upper 300' of the North Pacific.

Regarding the latter, back in 1999 or early 2000s the sky on the Skagit was continually obscured with a brownish haze that I subsequently learned was from dust storms raging across the deserts of northern China and Mongolia. This means that northern Puget Sound is in direct line with the prevailing air flows from northern Asia much of the year. In the past 4-5 years, in particular, the metal roof on the north side of our house has gone from silver to pervasive orange of rust. The roofs facing the south, west, and east on our home and all the outbuildings have not been similarly affected with little change the past 11 years. My suspicion has been it is related not only to the northerly direction (as we know moss grows on north side of trees), but that it has been greatly exacerbated by the recent increased industrial pollutants from China carried here by the prevailing winds (whatever pollutants that are carried include some that are particularly active in the shade and coolness on the north side houses, but presumably are also particularly active in the cooler and wetter areas of forested landscapes). In the case of pollutants carried from Asia that may be driving the acidity of the North Pacific (our own pollutants driving the acidification of East Coast forests and seascapes), this is likely one of the components contributing to the particularly noticeable decline in steelhead, and more recently Fraser sockeye, in the Georgia Strait/Puget Sound region. But it is not alone.

Anadromous fishery managers often call to their defense a convenient black hole represented by so-called "ocean conditions" that no one has control over as natural events beyond their ability to alter. But is this really the case? Are the oceans what we have made of them -- from little regulated harvests of bait fish and bottom fish; to scouring of the ocean floor with trawlers leaving devastated swaths in their wake; to broken away drift nets that continuously remain fishing for years to come; to massive releases of hatchery reared fish with little savvy in the wild attracting easy living for predator populations and resulting stresses on wild fish productivity due to both the increased predators and competition for limited available food; to coasts lined with salmon farms as factories for disease, proliferation of sea lice, and dependency on greater poundage of native fishes to feed those in the pens than the pens themselves produce; to lack of clean air and clean water standards for those nations without them and otherwise insufficient, or too little enforced, for those that do have them.

Do we need to better break down the terminology? There are legitimately cyclic conditions at sea that have a basis in what we broadly call nature. But both the highs and the lows of these cyclic conditions that result in swinging alterations in ocean productivity are in a continual declining trend due to the human caused factors listed above. Some of these human caused factors are directly related to fisheries management itself, and/or to the environmental standards fishery managers sometimes have significant opportunity to enforce, or in their ability to generate data from which to indicate the changes that have to occur in how we as humans operate. Then again there are some factors that fishery managers of one nation ultimately have no control whose source is another nation thousands of miles away. Although the latter we can't do much about beyond the goal of greater international cooperations through the agreed problem of climate change that we have all induced, there remain the other components of human conditions on the oceans we do have control over at the more localized scales of management in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska.


Sockeye Hatchery Program Expanding on the Snake

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is set to expand the current sockeye hatchery from 150,000 to 1 million smolts. The program was originally implemented as a means of rescuing Snake Sockeye from the effects of inbreeding depression that come from extremely small family sizes. While managers are touting the increased hatchery production as a means of restoring wild populations the fact is, until migration conditions (dams) change dramatically on the Snake, nothing will change. Now instead of being threatened only by high out migration mortality, endangered wild sockeye will be overwhelmed by large numbers of hatchery smolts and potentially large numbers of spawners. Hatchery reared salmonids have lower fitness when spawning in the wild, meaning they will erode the productivity of this already endangered wild stock.

Article from the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Skagit and Sauk to Close Early

Photo by Chris DeLeone

In light of poor run forecasts in the area WDFW has announced that the Skagit and Sauk Rivers will be closing February 16th. The Skagit system had been the last holdout of rivers open for the traditional March and April catch and release fishery in the Puget Sound, however last years return was only 2500 fish, a record low and almost 5000 fish below the preseason run estimate. WDFW's preseason forecasting is notoriously inaccurate in large part due to a lack of quality data on population size, freshwater productivity and environmental drivers of smolt survival in the ocean.

Runs in the Puget Sound area have been in steady decline for more than a century however as recently as the 1980s the Skagit system was getting more than 10,000 wild fish annually. Among the factors responsible for declines of wild steelhead in the Sound are loss of freshwater habitat, decades of over harvest which truncated run timing, diversity and reduced abundance, massive hatchery supplementation and poor marine survival. Factors contributing to poor marine survival are poorly understood however degradation of the Puget Sound ecosystem and ecological effects of large numbers of hatchery smolts are likely contributing to the situation. Each year more more than 4 million hatchery fish (Chinook, Steelhead, Coho) are released from the Skagit alone. WDFW committed to the establishment of Wild Salmonid Management Zones in the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan but has yet to implement any beyond those that already existed.

If we hope to recover steelhead in Puget Sound it is crucial that we set the conservation and recovery bar high and demand that critical watersheds such as the Skagit be protected as Wild Salmon Refugia. The Skagit is one of Washington's most storied steelhead rivers and it is a testament to the magnitude of loss in our wild anadromous salmonids when the system is deemed incapable of supporting a catch and release, selective regulations fishery.

Official WDFW news Release:

The Green will also close a month early.

Check Out Osprey Issue 60 with articles on the importance of WSMZs and a Skagit River Commentary:

Also keep an eye out for the upcoming Osprey and an article by Pete Soverel on catch and release fisheries as a means for minimizing impacts on depressed wild fisheries.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Obama Administration Wants to Dramatically Expand Protection For Bull Trout

The Obama administration wants to dramatically expand the amount of habitat deemed "critical" for the protection of federally listed Bull Trout in the Pacific Northwest. Bull Trout which are threatened throughout much of region are extremely sensitive to perturbations in habitat and the proposed changes would increase the amount of stream habitat protected as necessary for the survival of the species from 3,780 to 22,679 stream miles. Habitat protection for Bull Trout would also benefit other salmonid species.

See an article in the Oregonian:

New Closed Containment Coho Farming Deemed Sustainable

For the first time ever a salmon farming operation has been deemed sustainable by the Seafood Watch program run by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. A company called AquaSeed is growing Coho in a closed containment, freshwater environment dramatically reducing the environmental impacts of fish farming. Fish farms around Vancouver Island have been identified as a major threat to the future of wild salmon in the region and over the last few decades populations of all species of Pacific Salmon and Steelhead have declined dramatically in areas affected by fish farming activities.

Article here:

From the Scientific American:

Also, Marine Harvest Canada, a major fish farming corporation is developing a pilot project for Closed Containment Salmon Farming and are hoping to garner financial support from the Canadian federal governement:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oregon State Forest Update

A coalition of environmental groups including the Wild Salmon Center, Native Fish Society and Sierra Club have banded together to oppose destructive changes in the management of Oregon State Forests. Coastal Oregon is home to some of the healthiest river ecosystems and salmon populations in the Lower 48. There is a groundswell of public opposition to the timber harvest plan however time is running out to stop the plan. Check out a new website organized by the Wild Salmon Center and the Wild Fish 4 Everyone Blog (NFS) for more information on how to get involved. We will post an update next week with more info on how to make public comments

Wild Salmon Center Tillamook Page

Russell Basset's Native Fish Blog

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Proposed King County Ordinance Threatens River Restoration Efforts

Large woody debris is an essential component of healthy salmon habiats. Wood is part of the habitat forming process and in the rivers around Puget Sound a century of stream cleaning, timber salvaging and logging have left most streams with very little woody debris compared to historical levels. One strategy for river restoration which has proven particularly beneficial is the addition of well planned engineered log jams. Now a proposed King County Ordinance threatens to limit where and how large woody debris can be added to streams. This is a misguided public safety effort driven by a few poorly informed river users who believe woody debris is a public safety issue.

Nature is not inherently safe and boats/rafters who fail to use good judgment on our local rivers will be in danger. In reality Large Woody Debris additions pose very little public safety risk if boaters are properly cautious and are not under the influence of alcohol. It is not King County's job to make rivers obstruction free recreation corridors, rivers are dynamic, complex habitats and should be managed accordingly. River users have the responsibility to protect themselves and this ordinance would do FAR more harm than good.

Please write King County and tell them not to adopt this misguided ordinance. Our Rivers need all the help they can get, boaters, and intertubers face very little risk if they use good judgment.

Information on the County website regarding the proposed ordinance.

Comments can be sent by February 19th to:

Department of Natural Resources and Parks
ATTN: Cathy Jimenez
201 South Jackson Street, Room 600
Seattle, WA 98104-3855


Here's a form letter. Feel free to change it.

Cathy Jimenez
201 South Jackson Street, Room 600
Seattle, WA 98104-3855

I am writing you to voice my opposition to proposed county ordinance 16581. The addition of large woody debris to stream ecosystems is a critical component of any habitat restoration strategy and imposing onerous recreational safety standards could adversely affect restoration efforts by limiting the implementation of these vital habitat structures. Woody debris placement has been an effective means of increasing river habitat complexity which benefits our county by providing quality riverine habitat for threatened salmon and other species. Rivers are dynamic places which are never guaranteed to be safe, however with cautious boating and recreation the risk posed by engineered log jams is extremely trivial. Most incidents of boating related fatalities or injuries are related to poor judgment and the over consumption of alcohol.

The best way to address boater safety issues is by educating river users about the risks posed by boating and how to use the river safely. Over the last decade King County has been a national leader in stream restoration and stewardship and this measure represents a major step backwards. Please do not adopt ordinance 16581 as it would place undue regulations on an important habitat restoration activity in our county.


Steel Head

Lice Outbreaks Causing Alarm in Norway

Over the last year drug resistant sea lice have exploded on Norwegian fish farms. The chemicals used to treat sea lice on salmon farms has been used for over a decade in Norwegian aquaculture, however recently the parasites have become increasingly resistant. Now with widespread fear that huge numbers of lice may have huge impacts on the country's wild salmon. Recently the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research announced that during 2010 many fishfarms may have to be closed to protect wild salmon populations. While many in Norways government have entrenched interests in fish farming, including fisheries minister Lisbeth Berg-Hensen who is the former head of the Norwegian Salmon Farming Association, public concern about the impact of chemical resistant lice is spreading. The Norwegian Parliment is growing increasingly concerned with the issue and many members have questioned Berg-Hensen's impartiality. A recent poll in a Norwegian newspaper found that 84% of respondents thought she should resign.

Check out an article in the Irish Times:

and Alex Morton's blog:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Avian Predator Mitigation Efforts Paying off on the Columbia

Grant County PUD scientists say efforts to reduce predation by avian predators such as caspian terns and gulls at Wanapum and Priest Rapids dam appear to be working to some extent. The predatory birds normally congregate near the spill ways of dams where disoriented juvenile fish are passed from the reservoir above. This year predator hazing efforts began earlier and lasted later in the migration period and a new wire array downstream of the spill way was installed in 2008 designed to reduce the predation pressure on migrating juvenile salmonids. This year survival of both steelhead and sockeye outmigrants was over 95% a dramatic improvement over last year when only 91% of steelhead and roughly 85% of sockeye survived passage through each dam. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coho in the Upper Columbia

Recovery efforts are underway to reintroduce long extirpated Coho to the Upper Columbia. By the end of the 20th century dams, habitat destruction and overharvest had driven Coho to extinction in the Upper Columbia forcing managers to use Lower Columbia hatchery stock to reestablish runs on the Upper Columbia. In the last decade returns of hatchery fish to the Upper Columbia have increased dramatically raising hopes that abundant hatchery fish may eventually be able to establish naturally producing, locally adapted stocks. Managers hope to discontinue hatchery supplementation once subbasins reach about 1,500 natural spawners and they believe they are on track to meet that goal around 2026. More information on the coho reintroduction effort in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Sacramento Runs Remain at Record Low Levels

Numbers of Chinook returning to the Sacramento River Basin are expected to remain at record low levels for the third consecutive year. Most Chinook on the Sacramento system are of hatchery origin, and poor returns can largely be attributed to unfavorable ocean conditions, however many problems remain with irrigation withdrawls and other environmental impacts in the watershed. Commercial fisheries in California and Oregon target primarily Sacramento raising the possibility that they could once again be closed or extremely limited this year.

More information in an article from the Oregonian:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What Happens When You Stop Planting Hatchery Fish?

Wild fish get alot more productive. Hatchery fish have lower fitness when spawning in the wild. When they spawn with wild individuals they reduce the overall productivity of the wild population. This is true even for resident trout, check out this redd count data following ODFWs 1995 decision to stop planting trout in the Metolius. The number of redds has increased about 5 fold since they stopped stocking the river. Figure from the NFS Dechutes River Steward Tom Davis.

Former Idaho Biologists Speak out against BiOp

Renowned biologists Steve Pettit and Don Chapman are speaking out against the updated BiOp. In an article in the Pacific Northwest Inlander they discuss the state of the Snake and Columbia salmon and why nothing short of dam removal will suffice. Wild Columbia River salmon and steelhead are on average around 2% of historic abundance largely because of the dams. Check out the article at:

North Umpqua Q&A with Jay Nicholas

A link to a highly informative Q&A on the North Umpqua, its management and its future with Jay Nicholas a former ODFW biologist who now works for the Wild Salmon Center. As many of you probably know the North Umpqua has faced the threat of wild steelhead harvest for some time. Recently wild fish advocates won a victory and ODFW declined to open the river to harvest for the time being. The Umpqua is one of last robust and stable runs of wild winter steelhead in the Lower 48 and must be protected accordingly. Current threats include the future prospect of wild steelhead harvest, the potential stocking of winter hatchery fish to provide "harvest opportunity", and allowing bait on traditionally selective regulations water. See the whole interview at The Caddisfly Blog:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Oregon Coastal Rivers Threatened by Logging

The 1960s-80s left Coastal Oregon ravaged by destructive logging practices. Populations of wild salmon declined dramatically following massive habitat destruction including siltation, loss of riparian shade, removal of large woody debris and massive debris and mudflows from unstable slopes. Now the Forestry Board is considering repeating the mistakes of the past by weakening protections for critical habitats and logging some of the most important salmon streams on the coast. Once such stream which now faces a long uphill struggle is the Salmonberry. A tributary of the Nehalem River, the Salmonberry has traditionally been one of the most prolific producers of wild steelhead on the North Oregon Coast. Now logging damage in the upper watersheds has caused catastrophic habitat destruction.

Check out this presentation by Ian Fergusson Salmonberry River steward for the Native Fish Society. Some of the photos in the presentation really tell the story of the impact of irresponsible timber harvest.

Update on BC Court Case

An update from Alex Morton regarding an ongoing court case against Marine Harvest for their illegal take of juvenile wild salmon during operation of their fish farm facilities. We can only hope that DFO and the Courts will hold them accountable for their lack of regard wild populations.

Hello All:

Jan. 5, 2010 was the latest court date in the charges I laid under the Fisheries Act against Marine Harvest Canada for unlawful possession of wild salmon by-catch. Generally, when a member of the public witnesses a potential violation of the Fisheries Act, they simply report it to the federal fisheries (DFO) who does the investigation and lays a charge if they have the evidence. DFO asks the public to help under their Observe, Record, Report campaign. Many people have stepped forward over the years to help DFO successfully enforce the Fisheries Act and conserve our wild fish. I did report the wild salmon that were in the Marine Harvest vessel, Orca Warrior to DFO, they indicated they were investigating, but they never said whether they would lay a charge. So I did to protect the juvenile wild salmon of the Broughton.

At our last court date, a month ago in Port Hardy, the Department of Justice (DOJ - who is next in line after DFO to run this trial indicated they needed more time to investigate the charge. My lawyer, Jeffery Jones and I hope the DOJ will assume conduct and run the prosecution as that is what DOJ's mandate is, and they have the better resources and expertise to do this.

But on Jan. 5, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent an agent, as did Marine Harvest. But my lawyer and I were disappointed to hear that DOJ has refused to make a decision as to whether or not to prosecute. This means that we still don't know if we should conduct the trial ourselves and remain in limbo. It creates uncertainty in the trial process if at any time DOJ can suddenly step in and take over...or not.

However, Judge Saunderson clarified the matter and ordered the DOJ to make a decision within 30 days.

Jeffery Jones, who is working pro bono, also asked for disclosure from DFO and DOJ, because if we are to continue in the government's role as the prosecutor we need the government files on their investigation. Presumably, Marine Harvest would want disclosure from DFO and DOJ as well.

Judge Saunderson adjourned our application for disclosure until after he hears what the DOJ's intention is.

Alexandra Morton

Bill Bakke on the Future for Salmon in the NW

Bill Bakke of the Native Fish Society recently wrote an excellent piece on his predictions for what the next 10 years hold for wild fish. Bill has more than 30 years of experience working on behalf of fish, and paints a grim picture of our government's willingness to do anything that benefits wild fish. Still progress has been made with much more to come in the next decade. Check out Bills blog here or on the right hand tool bar in the blog list:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An Extinction Time Bomb. Climate Change and Threatened Salmon

The UN has declared 2010 the "Year of Biodivesity." Biodiversity is disappearing at an alarming rate across the globe and and IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) identified salmon as a group of species particularly likely to become extinct due the effects of climate change.

While this is somewhat of a generalization since each species of salmon will likely respond to climate change differently, it highlights the challenges salmon face over the coming century. Rising sea surface temperatures, changing wind and weather patterns and changes in coastal upwelling mean that salmon in the southern end of their range may experience far more hostile conditions in the Ocean than they have in their recent evolutionary history. Already many populations of salmonids are depressed in the southern range meaning these sub-populations have a high extinction risk.

Story on the UN's efforts and the 10 species facing the highest extinction risk:

All this means that there is no time to waste recovering salmon populations in the southern part of the range. The Snake River stands out as a perfect illustration of this challenge. The Obama administration recently chose not to push for removal of the Lower Snake River dams, opting instead to postpone consideration of breaching until salmon populations have declined further. During the 1990s ocean and in-river conditions on the Columbia were poor for juvenile salmon and steelhead survival and populations throughout the basin crashed to all time lows. Sockeye returns to Redfish Lake numbered in the Single digits in some years. Follwing an apparent change in ocean conditions at the end of the last decade, marine survival and consequently numbers of fish in the Columbia have improved substantially.

We're constantly barraged with the illusion of abundance by the banner returns of hatchery salmon to the system however the reality is the Columbia is on the path towards extinction. Wild returns are shadows of historic abundance and without swift action, populations will continue to decline when conditions turn more hostile in the ocean. Simply mitigating for extinction with hatchery production and habitat restoration will not save the wonderful, unqiuely adapted steelhead, chinook and sockeye of the Snake and Upper Columbia. Nor will it bring back the abundant wild Coho once found in the systems.

Big Returns of Hatchery Coho to the Upper Columbia:

The tragedy is that dam removal on the Snake would bring the fish back. The current mortality imposed on outmigrating salmon at each hydroproject is in the ballpark of 5-10% meaning populations would benefit greatly from the removal of the 4, outdated dams on the Lower Snake. Sadly long standing salmon defender Federal Judge James Redden of Oregon appears ready to accept the updated version of the 2008 BiOp. We can only hope that sooner rather than later those dams will come out, otherwise it may be too late.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Yakima Water Plan Moves Ahead

A consortium made up of three Eastern Washington Counties, The Yakama Nation as well as State and Federal Agencies is moving ahead with a water plan for the Yakima River. The goal is to have a plan in place by fall 2010 that will guide water management in the valley for the next 30 years. Among the measures included in the plan is improved fish passage at all the Dams in the Yakima Valley, habitat improvements, more water conservation and a more sophisticated way of buying and selling water rights.

The Yakima valley is one of Washington's most important agricultural areas, but balancing the needs of irrigators with those of fish, wildlife and the aquatic ecosystem has proven difficult over the last half century. Irrigation releases during summer have dramatically altered the hydrology of the system, dams currently block anadromous access to major portions of the drainage, and irrigation withdrawls during summer low water reduce flows to critical levels in many tributaries. Still, the Yakima is home to some of the healthiest runs of wild steelhead and fall chinook in the state and restoration efforts are underway to rebuild stocks of coho, spring chinook, sockeye and Upper Yakima Steelhead.

The next century will pose many challenges as climate change reduces snowpack and runoff. Many in the valley are pressing for the construction of more water storage in the form of a new dam probably in the Columbia area that would store water which could be pumped into the valley for summer irrigation. The plan however is contentious and the construction of a costly new dam is unlikely to solve the problems in the valley in the long run. More information on the plan in the Yakima Herald.

Gill Net Ban Could be on Oregon Ballot

The Northwest Chapter of the CCA is pushing to get a gillnet ban on the Oregon Ballot for November. Gill nets and Tangle nets are used in commercial salmon and steelhead fisheries, primarily on the Lower Columbia. Many wild fish advocates oppose the use of the nets because fisheries targeting abundant hatchery returns catch large numbers of endangered wild salmon and steelhead which cannot be released alive from a gill net. While live release is possible from a tangle net, the survival of the impacted fish is greatly reduced by the stress of being caught in a tangle net. WDFW has been working to expand the use of seines and other non-lethal fishing methods in Washington State and over the last two years a number of pilot projects have demonstrated its efficacy. While the ban would not apply to Native American fisheries, a move to non-lethal fishing methods might benefit wild salmonids in the Columbia greatly.