Sunday, February 28, 2010

Puget Sound Coho Listing

Sam Wright, a former WDFW biologist who successfully petitioned for the listing of Puget Sound Steelhead has authored a petition to list Coho in Puget Sound. Sport harvest of Coho is still allowed in many areas of Puget Sound. Coho in the region were studied for a listing in the mid 1990s and while they were not listed at the time, the report concluded that if their trajectory remained the same as it was during the 1990s Puget Sound Coho would likely warrant listing in the future.

North of Falcon proceedings in late March will provide an opportunity for public comments on the need to stop the harvest of wild coho in Puget Sound.

Urban development, overharvest, prespawn mortality from stormwater runoff, hatcheries and poor marine survival all are contributing to Coho's problems in Puget Sound. More information on The Home Waters and Wild Fish Blog:

Explosion of Drug Resistant Sea Lice

New evidence is arising that drug resistant sea lice have exploded in Nootka Sound. Nootka on the Islands West Coast is home to some of the healthiest remaining stocks of wild salmon and steelhead, all of which are threatened by an explosion of sea lice in the area. Drug resistant sea lice pose a major threat to wild salmon because high densities of the parasitic sea lice are lethal to outmigrating juvenile salmon. Despite their mandate to protect wild salmon stocks, DFO and the BC Provincial government have repeatedly denied and ignored warnings about drug resistant sea lice. While the farming companies and government agencies deny the spread of drug resistance, Alex Morton and her team of researchers have uncovered evidence that at least one salmon farming operation in Nootka has been dealing with the problem this winter. Furthermore, they are bringing salmon from Nootka to Campbell River for processing, and dumping waste products including drug resistant lice into the Georgia Strait. These actions will very likely result in drug resistance spreading to the east side of the island, the migration corridor for all lower mainland salmon, including Fraser River Sockeye.

The denial and coverup of the spread of drug resistant sea lice is startling and is yet another example of the criminal negligence displayed by DFO and BC's Provincial Government. A lack of action at this point all but guarantees the problem will grow worse, adding to the already tragic impacts on wild salmon in the region.

Check out a video on the outbreak on Alex Mortons website Calling from the Coast:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feds Will Take Another Shot at 2008 BiOp

Judge James Redden has given NOAA three months to update the 2008 BiOp and bring it into accord with the Endangered Species Act. In September the Obama administration presented its updated version of the long contested 2008 Columbia River Biological Opinion. The plan remained largely the same as a Bush era plan with the exception of an Adaptive Management Plan which would reassess the situation on the Snake and Columbia in 10 years. Advocates of Snake River wild salmon have criticized the updated plan as inadequate, and the Western Branch of the American Fisheries Society has said the plan is insufficient to protect Columbia Salmon from extinction.

In order for the latest plan to be accepted, NOAA will have to include the various stakeholders in negotiations over the proposed measures to recover wild salmon. The plantiffs in the case against the federal government, Earthjustice, The Nez Perce tribe and the State of Oregon were all shut out of the negotiations last fall. All three groups are calling for the removal of the lower four Snake River dams, which would allow for recovery of ESA listed steelhead, chinook, and sockeye in the Snake system. More coverage of the BiOp:


Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Save Our Wild Salmon's Blog:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekly Action List 2/22/10

Weekly Action List 2/22/10
Please take some time to comment on these important issues.

-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.


-Tell the Fish and Wildlife Service that the Upper Deschutes should be included as Bull Trout Critical Habitat. Comment period ends March 15th More information:

-Tell your Senators to oppose weakening ESA protection for Sacramento Chinook and Steelhead. These runs have been declining dramatically over the past few years and ignoring ESA mandated guidelines for water withdrawls would set a dangerous precedent.

More information:

Sign and Send this Letter to your Senators:

Drug Resistant Sea Lice Spreading to BC?

As concerns about Sea lice have grown in British Columbia, fish farming companies have begun treating fish farms with chemicals designed to kill the parasites. This practice originated in Norway, home of the salmon farming industry. However in recent years sea lice in Norway have become resistant to the chemicals, leading to extremely high infection rates and wreaking havoc on wild populations of salmon. Now, there are signs that some sea lice strains in British Columbia may have become drug resistant. This evidence has emerged in spite of the complete denial by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Check out more information on the drug resistant sea lice on Alexandra Morton's blog.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

California Politicians Want more Water Diversion from Sac Delta

A group of California legislators led by Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein is seeking more water diversions from the Sacramento delta for irrigation in the Central Valley. Water withdrawals from the delta conflict with ESA mandated protections for Central Valley Chinook, Steelhead and Delta Smelt. Returns of Chinook to the Sacramento system have been at record low levels for three consecutive seasons, prompting closures of commercial and sport chinook fisheries throughout California and Southern Oregon. Added pressure from irrigators will only push Sac Chinook closer to extinction. More information in the Sacramento Bee:

More information on ongoing California water problems from Salmon Water Now:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Osprey Vol. 65 is Online

The Latest Version of the Osprey is available online. Subscribe today and support the voice of wild steelhead and salmon. In this issue:

  • Elwha River Dam Removal
  • Dam Removal on the Rogue River
  • Smith River Steelhead
  • Broodstock Hatcheries
  • Gear and Methods for Reducing Wild Steelhead Mortality
Check out the Osprey website and subscribe online today.

Landmark Deal on Klamath

Stakeholders including tribes, irrigators and the PacifiCorp (owners of the four Klamath Dams) as well as the and Governors of California and Oregon met last week to sign an agreement which could lead to the removal of the lower Klamath Dams in 2020. The deal aimed to address long standing conflicts in the Klamath region over the allocation of water for irrigation and instream flow as well as the future of the four Klamath Dams.

The future of the dams however remains uncertain and the issue of removal is subject to change should congress fail to allocate $500 million dollars for the removal process. The plan must also be approved by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who promised to use the best available science in reviewing the project and then come to a determination on the future of the dams. If the dams come out it would open more than 300 miles of mainstem Klamath to salmon, providing a major boost to Chinook, Coho and Steelhead in the basin. More information in the Oregonian:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Study Finds High Early Marine Mortality in Steelhead Smolts

A study published recently by researchers at Oregon State University tagged outmigrating juvenile steelhead and found that nearly half of tagged individuals died during the transition to the marine environment. The early marine period has long been thought limit future returns, however research exploring early marine survival in salmonids is only now becoming commonplace. Next is understanding what causes elevated mortality, and how human activities may effect estuary and nearshore conditions encountered by juvenile steelhead and salmon. See the study at the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Salmon Boom and Bust

Large returns of salmon throughout the region this past summer and fall have led to a surge of media attention focused on the short term abundance. This short term perspective looses sight of the fundemental fact that salmon populations are prone to highly variable abundance and if we only look at a single year we cannot understand the long term status of salmon populations around the area. A good article in the Oregonian last week brings attention to this very fact, and the fact that sooner rather than later excellent ocean conditions will return to more normal or poor conditions. Periods of high productivity are a time when salmon populations can make some recovery, expanding in diversity, distribution and abundance. However it is during the subsequent downturn that management, and policy are truly put to the test. The federal government has recently been comforted by excellent returns of listed salmon and steelhead to the Snake and Upper Columbia, and this fall the Obama administration fell well short of their responsibility to recover these stocks, likely because of the misconception that these populations are recovering. We should get a much better picture of the status of Snake and Upper Columbia salmon over the next decade and it is essential that we have the foresight to be cautious in management actions to protect listed fish, even during boom times.

Check out the article here:

and a Columbia Basin Bulletin article on the preseason Coho forecast for 2010. Returns are predicted to fall more than 60%:

Bill proposes dissolving WDFW into DNR

Washington SB 6813 is proposing to dissolve the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife into the jurisdiction of the state Department of Natural Resources. As proposed the bill would get rid of WDFW and the Fish and Wildlife Commission would be under the jurisdiction of DNR. The commission is currently appointed by the governor and has the power to appoint and fire the director of WDFW. Without a doubt WDFW has its problems, however abolishing our Fish and Wildlife management agency at such a critical juncture for the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead in our state would be a catastrophe.

DNR is primarily responsible for managing state lands and in past years has been heavily criticized for its complicity with timber industry interests. The last thing wild salmon and steelhead in Washington need is to be managed by the same agency that controls logging in many of our watersheds. Furthermore, since WDFW is to some extent overseen by the commission it is to some degree insulated from the unpredictable political climate of state government. DNR is run by the elected Commissioner of Pubilc lands, meaning that depending on the political climate fisheries management objectives, and the level of protection afforded wild salmon and steelhead could change dramatically.

The bill is designed to save the state money, and has just emerged. We will keep you posted shortly as this develops. In the meantime, check out a press release at WDFWs website:

and the Bill:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weekly Action List 2/13/2010

Weekly Action List 2/13/10
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.


-Tell the Fish and Wildlife Service that the Upper Deschutes should be included as Bull Trout Critical Habitat. Comment period ends March 15th More information:

Puget Sounds Rivers to Close Feb 18th

Photo by David Thurman

WDFW announced yesterday that steehead fishing in all Puget Sound Rivers not effected by previous closures will close February 18th. Last month the department announced early closures of the Skagit/Sauk Rivers, which will close February 16th. Steelhead in Puget Sound have been declining since the turn of the century, however in the last decade populations of wild steelhead have continued to decline prompting the federal government to list Puget Sound Steelhead under the endangered species act.

The latest closure represents yet another loss of catch and release angling opportunity in the Puget Sound region and under a proposed rule change, beginning next year all rivers in the area, with the exception of the Skagit and Sauk will close to steelhead angling February 16th. While a temporary reduction in catch and release mortality may be justified, it is not an effective tool for the recovery of depressed populations of wild steelhead and to date the department has done VERY little beyond changing sport fishing regulations. If recovery of Wild Steelhead is the goal in Puget Sound, the department should immediately begin designation of wild salmonid management areas, free from harvest and hatchery pressures on wild salmon and steelhead. The creation of these WSMZs is included in the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, however to date no rivers, or tributaries have been protected under these regulations.

Managers have identified poor marine survival as a factor limiting the abundance of wild steelehad in Puget Sound, however to date very little has been done to study or address the problem. Hatchery releases remain at record levels throughout Puget Sound, despite the fact that the productivity, and capacity for smolts is obviously reduced. Hatchery origin smolts, both steelhead and salmon currently outnumber their wild counterparts in many watersheds by more than 5:1 ratio. Furthermore, many hatcheries in Puget Sound get less than 1% of steelhead smolts back as adults, depressing wild productivity with very little return. Lets hope this latest closure will serve as a wake up call to managers that the status quo is failing and if Steelhead in Puget Sound are to recover measures which go beyond simply closing sport fisheries must be implemented.

WDFW News Release:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cle Elum Fish Passage Follow Up

Last week we wrote about an exciting fish passage project on the Cle Elum River and our concerns that an over reliance on hatchery supplementation would slow the establishment of productive, locally adapted wild salmon and steelhead populations in the Upper Cle Elum. A few more details on the proposed reintroduction strategy for the basin.

-The project has set recovery goals for all species except steelhead
Chinook: 3500 adults annually, Coho: 3500 adults, Sockeye: 35,000 adults.

-The current reintroduction relies heavily on hatchery supplementation to reestablish wild populations. The plan calls for the following levels of supplementation:


Release 500-1000 pairs of adults captured at Priest Rapids each year,

Up to 4,000,000 juvenile sockeye produced at an out-of-basin hatchery on Lake Osoyoos.

The Release of 4,000,000 out of basin juvenile sockeye is inadvisable for a number of reasons. That number of fish may actually exceed the capacity of Cle Elum Lake to produce sockeye smolts and will certainly reduce the survival and growth of juvenile offspring from the wild component of the run. Furthermore transfering out of basin hatchery fish into the Yakima Basin poses a risk of introducing disease (Including IHN) into the Upper Cle Elum Basin. Out of basin transfers of hatchery fish is a primary culprit in the spread of many fish diseases.


Release between 500,000 and 1,000,000 coho juveniles into Cle Elum lake.

Release 100-1000 pairs of adult Coho annually, depending on availability.

Once again the proposed level of juvenile supplementation will likely dramatically reduce the capacity for wild coho and other salmonids in the Upper Cle Elum system.


Fewer details are provided with regards to the reintroduction of Spring Chinook only that supplementation would be coordinated through the current YKFP chinook hatchery program on the Upper Yakima.

2500 pairs of hatchery adults may be taken from Rosa annually and transported into the Upper Cle Elum

Given the availability of wild colonists in the Upper Yakima Chinook should be allowed to colonize the river naturally. YKFP supplementation on the Upper Yakima may already be altering the productivity, and lifehistory distribution in the few remaining wild Upper Yakima spring chinook.


The current plan does not propose any hatchery supplementation for Wild Steelhead in the Upper Cle Elum.

Unfortunately the plan does not guarantee passage of wild steelhead into the Upper Watershed saying only, "NMFS would be consulted before any steelhead adults that voluntarily enter the adult fish trap below Cle Elum Dam are handled or transported to the resevoir above the dam using trap-and haul methods"

We are pleased that no supplementation is currently planned for wild steelhead in the Upper Cle Elum however, passage of Steelhead through the trap and haul facility is essential to the recovery of wild steelhead in the Cle Elum as well as the Upper Yakima. The Cle Elum offers some of the most intact and productive freshwater habitat remaining in the Upper Yakima. Populations of resident rainbow trout (present in the Upper Cle Elum) routinely produce smolts and failure to pass any returning adults would not allow the anadromous life history to recover in the Upper Cle Elum.

Check out the original post for links to the DEIS and details of how you can get involved and tell the Bureau of Reclaimation, and Department of Ecology that Wild Fish should be the priority of any reintroduction plan in the Upper Cle Elum.

Redden Rejects Latest BiOp

US District Court Judge James Redden has once again rejected the Columbia River Biological Opinion on the grounds that the revisions by the Obama administration violated procedural rules in not including plaintiffs and other stakeholder groups in the process. In his statement Redden said the latest Adaptive Management Implementation Plan (AMP) was a significant improvement and laid out steps by which the Federal Government could bring the plan into accordance with the law. Redden also encouraged NOAA to use the best available science during their review saying, "They cannot rely exclusively on materials that support one position, while ignoring new or opposing scientific information." hinting that the most recent revisions may not have satisfied the ESA mandate for recovery. The latest BiOp was put forth by the NOAA and the Obama administration this past September. See coverage in the Oregonian:

WDFW Response to Quileute IHN

WDFW is holding a meeting this Saturday February 13th from 10 a.m. to noon at the Forks Sportsmans Club to discuss their response to the Bogachiel/Sol Duc IHN outbreak. The state has announced plans to transfer 130,000 eggs from the Makah Tribal hatchery at Hoko falls. This out of basin transfer of hatchery fish is a blatant violation of guidelines established in the recently adopted Statewide Steelhead Management. The rule was put in place to reduce genetic introgression by out of basin hatchery stocks and to minimize the risk of disease transmission. This is the first test of the new rule against out of basin hatchery transfers and not surprisingly the state went back on their commitment. In their press release WDFW argues that fish at Makah tribal hatchery are, "genetically similar" to those in the Quileute. The ridiculous thing about this assertion is they are Chambers Creek steelhead (a stock originally from the South Puget Sound), meaning they are genetically similar to almost every other winter run hatchery stock in the state. These sort of management actions are extremely frustrating, WDFW is knowingly violating a rule that was put in place to protect wild fish.

Equally distressing is the fact that wild fish collected for the Snider Creek hatchery program will be killed to prevent the spread of IHN.

See this press release from WDFW:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fish Farm Poll

A poll in the Oceanside Star out of Qualicum BC asks,

"Do you believe fish farms are harming wild salmon stocks?"

The poll so far is being dominated by NO answers, however science is unequivocal. Salmon farms have already led to the collapse of Pink and Chum salmon in the Georgia Strait and Broughton Archipeligo and is likely hurting the survival of steelhead, sockeye, coho and chinook in the Basin as well. Take two seconds to vote in the poll and make your voice heard.

Low Snowpack

This year, El Nino has brought warm, dry weather for much of the early winter and snowpack in the mountains around the Northwest is about 50% of normal. Snowpack is critical because it ensures adequate instream flows throughout the summer. During low water freshwater habitats are less productive for rearing juveniles and adults salmon and steelhead may have an elevated risk of prespawn mortality. Snowpack is particularly critical for the Columbia Basin where runoff speeds passage of outmigrant fish through the hydrosystem to the ocean, and temperatures behind many of the dams often exceed 70 F during low water summers. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

State of the Salmon

The State of the Salmon is an annual scientific conference which brings together scientists from around the region for a multiday conference dedicated to wild salmon and steelhead, and the issues they face. This years conference is being held in Portland May 4-7, this years topic is Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon. Ecological impacts of hatchery programs on wild stocks are only beginning to be appreciated by managers and very little work has gone into understanding the nature and magnitude of these impacts, there should be some fascinating talks. More information at their website:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Weekly Action List 2/6/2010

Weekly Action List 2/6/10
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.

-Tell the Fish and Wildlife Service that the Upper Deschutes should be included as Bull Trout Critical Habitat. Comment period ends March 15th More information:

Critical Bull Trout Habitat Should include Deschutes

The Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced plans to dramatically expand the number of river miles deemed critical habitat for Bull Trout. The plan would designate more than 20 thousand miles of river as critical habitat. Unfortunately the plan fails to include the Upper Deschutes River which was once a stronghold for Native Bull Trout. Check out more information on Deschutes Bull Trout and how to submit comments to Fish and Wildlife at the Native Fish Society Blog:

Walla Walla Irrigation Buyback

An effort is underway to secure funding for a 300 million dollar irrigation project that would restore flows to the lower Walla Walla and provide irrigation water from the Columbia or Snake system. The headwaters of the Walla Walla are in excellent condition, however irrigation withdrawal most years leaves the lower river without very little flow. Some years the channel even goes dry. A similar project on the Umatilla River has been extremely successful.

Efforts to reintroduce Spring Chinook to the Walla Walla began in 2000 when the tribe released 300 adult chinook in the Upper River. Since then number have gradually grown and in 2009, 800 chinook returned, the highest count since the reintroduction project began. Efforts to improve instream flows in the lower Walla Walla should help improve passage into the pristine upper watershed and expedite recovery of the listen salmon. Recovery of wild chinook however may be hindered by plans to construct a hatchery designed to release 500,000 chinook smolts annually. Unless actions are taken to minimize the reproductive interactions between wild chinook and hatchery origin fish, the population may be unable to recover fully. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More Information on Quillayute IHN Outbreak

Latest Information on the IHN outbreak in Quillayute hatchery populations from WDFW's Heather Bartlett. From the Sounds of it, the Snider Creek Program is also affected. Furthermore, wild fish collected by the guide association for the broodstock are infected as well, meaning they may end up being wasted. The Snider program has a host of problems associated with it, not the least of which is the fact that they are taking wild fish from the most fragile part of the run (early) to provide broodstock for a harvest fishery. Maybe this will serve as a wake up call to WDFW and the guides association that this program has long been doing more harm than good.

We have had outbreaks of IHNv on the Olympic Peninsula. When you
say another, I am uncertain what the frame of reference is, so I
will summarize what we know at this juncture.

Department fish health staff detected IHNv in Bogachiel winter
steelhead several weeks back. We increased the frequency of pulling
adults from the trap in order to minimize the shedding of the virus
into the watershed as well as protect the juveniles on station. We
further destroyed over a thousand adult steelhead and buried them on
site to ameliorate further risk to juveniles at the hatchery as well

as protect fish in the river.

At this time it appears juvenile steelhead on station at Bogachiel
are free of the virus so there is no need to quarantine them. We
are currently exploring management options with the tribal
co-managers for the eggs that were taken by the spawned adults that
came up positive. Iodophor, a standard disinfection process
generally precludes vertical transmission of the disease (parent to
progeny), but we are remaining vigilant to understand if all the
precautionary procedures were employed to ensure these eggs indeed
are clear of the virus.

Regardless, at this time, the virus is clearly in the watershed as
now the Snider Creek wild adult steelhead collected by the guide
association have also been identified as positive for IHNv. We have
yet to make a final determination on what to do with these adults
and their progeny.

I anticipate these last issues will be the main topics of the
meeting…what is the risk the 400K eggs pose from IHNv positive
adults and what to do about the Snider Creek wild steelhead program
for this broodyear.

We are keenly aware of the risks this disease, and in particular
this strain poses and take this very seriously. State, tribal and
stakeholder discussions will help to shape the final decision. Heather