Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fish Passage Underway on the Upper Deschutes

As this years smolt migration winds down, managers at Lake Billy Chinook's newly constructed fish passage facility are nearing their goal of passing 50% of out-migrant smolts through a newly constructed fish collection tower. Anadromous fish were extirpated from the Upper Deschutes in 1964 with the construction of Round Butte Dam, cutting off access to many of the Deschutes' largest tributaries including the Crooked and Metolius River. The project to create a fish passage facility at Round Butte has been a technologically challenging one, made more difficult by density differences in Metolius River water, which being cooler naturally settles to the bottom of the reservoir. In an attempt to address the problem, Portland General Electric built both surface and subsurface fish collection into their smolt intake structure. While 50% is far below an acceptable level for downstream fish passage it represents an important first step towards reintroduction of wild chinook, sockeye and steelhead into the once productive rivers of the Upper Deschutes. Hopefully managers can learn from this season of passage and continue to improve the design and function of the fish collection facility.

More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"America's Great Outdoors" Listening Session Coming to Seattle

This Thursday July 1st, representatives from both the Department of Interior and EPA will be at Seattle's Franklin high school for a listening session on the America's "Great Outdoors". This is a great opportunity to meet face to face with officials from the Obama administration and tell them its time for a lasting solution to problems on the Snake River. Two years ago when president Obama was elected to the white house he promised to bring scientific credibility to the policy making process. So far the actions of his administration on the Snake and Columbia BiOp have been neither objective, or scientifically motivated and the current BiOp is essentially a politically motivated repackaging of the Bush administrations previous plan. Lets turn out and tell federal officials that we want our free flowing Snake River back, we want real recovery for listed Chinook, Steelhead and Sockeye, the four lower Snake River dams must go before its too late.

Register Here:

Franklin Highschool
3013 S. Mount Baker Blvd.
Seattle, WA 98144-6139

Thursday July 1st, 6:30PM-9PM

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sockeye Run Breaking Records on the Columbia

After 2008 when more than 230,000 Sockeye returned to the Columbia basin, this years preseason forecast of 125,000 was looking fairly modest. Now, after 3 consecutive days of near record numbers past Bonneville the Technical Advisory Committee has updated the forecast to 250,000 fish which would break the previous set in 1955. Sockeye counts of course only began with the construction of Bonneville in 1938, meaning abundance was likely already well below historical levels. Still, the large return three years running is highly encouraging (last years total was 177,000) and raises hope for Snake River Sockeye. Runs of sockeye to the Snake River in the 1990s were critically low and the fish were once thought to be all but extinct when in 1990 zero fish were counted at Lower Granite Dam. Runs on the Snake remain extremely depressed and last years run of 1219 fish was the largest return observed at lower Granite since counting began in 1975. The majority of Columbia River Sockeye return to the Okanagan River, however the Wenatchee River also supports a substantial population and recovery efforts are underway to reintroduce long extirpated sockeye to the Yakima Basin.

The exact cause of this year and last years large returns of Sockeye to the Columbia is unknown and it is likely a combination of good outmigration conditions, court ordered spill and favorable ocean conditions. What is sure though is that there is hope for the future of Columbia sockeye. It is probably not a conincidence that two of the largest runs of sockeye on record have come on the heels of court ordered increases in spill mandated by Judge James Redden in response to an inadequate 2008 BiOp, so why would it make sense to reduce future spill levels as is recommended in the Obama administrations relabeling of the failed 2008 BiOp? Columbia and Snake Sockeye still face a long road to recovery, and if spill has been working keep it coming...

Columbia Basin Article

Oregon Gill Net Ban Covered in High Country News

An interesting article earlier this week in the High Country News discussing ongoing efforts to ban gill nets in Oregon waters. Sports fishing and conservation groups have pushed for a ban on gill nets because of high incidental catch of threatened and endangered upriver stocks, however the proposal has yet to make it on the ballot. The Coastal Conservation Associated (CCA) plans to put a proposal on the ballot as early as 2012. This particular piece is interesting because it provides perspectives from multiple stakeholder groups and is fairly objective. Check it out at their website.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

16 Million Hatchery Chinook Wont Save California's Fisheries

California Fish and Game recently issued a press release lauding their release of 16. 5 million hatchery raised chinook smolts into the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta's as the savior of the regions beleaguered commercial fisheries. Poor returns of chinook to the Sacramento since 2007 have led to widespread closures of commercial fisheries in California and Southern Oregon. Unfortunately hatchery fish cannot rescue these failing fisheries, and an over-reliance on massive hatchery releases is a large part of the problem in the first place. Healthy wild stocks offer highly diverse groups of subpopulations capable of thriving even in the face of changing environmental conditions. Sadly, habitat destruction has combined with an industrial scale hatchery mentality on the Sacramento and San Joaquin to destroy most of the remaining wild chinook in the region and while hatchery programs occasionally experience boom times when conditions are favorable for the hatchery monoculture, the only long term insurance against collapse are diverse locally adapted wild populations. Hatcheries are a crutch enabling state and federal bureaucrats to put off the hard decisions which are truly necessary to protect and restore wild fish. As long as dozens of dams in the Sac and San Joaquin block passage of salmon to their historic range, and short sighted California politicians continue to push for huge water withdrawls from the Sacramento Delta salmon fisheries up and down the coast will continue on their current downward sprial. See the press release on CDF&Gs website...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Murray, Cantwell Are You Listening?

Frustrated by the continually unresolved situation on the Snake river a group of concerned business owners, and citizens from Eastern Washington have come together to call upon Washington Senator's Maria Cantwell and Patty Murry to provide more concrete leadership on solving the problems of the Snake River. The group called "Working Snake River for Washington" was joined this week more than 120 Western Washington business owners and citizens who added their voices to the call for action, sending their own letter to Cantwell and Murry and publishing adds in both the Seattle Weekly and Stranger.

The fact that all parts of our state are asking for visionary leadership from our political officials highlights the fact that issues of the Snake and Columbia are not merely a regional concern for communities of Eastern Washington. The Snake and Columbia unite us as a state and indeed as a region, and wild salmon in the Snake River basin are being strangled into extinction by a lack of political will to do anything about the four monolithic dams of the Lower Snake. Meanwhile the federal government spends millions of dollars annually to keep the dams in place and every BiOp since the process began in the 1990s has been rejected as inadequate. Check out a press release from the group:

Open letter echoes Eastern Washington leaders’ earlier request that senators bring stakeholders together to craft a comprehensive solution for salmon and the state and regional economy

Seattle, Wash. – On Tuesday, 120 Western Washington business owners and community leaders wrote to U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell urging their leadership in solving the Northwest salmon crisis. The open letter to the senators also appears as a full-page ad in today’s Puget Soundbased weekly the Stranger.

These leaders want the senators to bring together all interests —farmers, fishermen, energy users, business owners and local communities—to craft a durable science-based and economically viable salmon restoration plan. They acknowledge past tensions surrounding the salmon issue, but note the enormous economic opportunity if Washington can forge an effective long-term solution.
“Salmon aren’t just a part of our state’s natural heritage, they are also very important to our economy,” said Jeremy Brown, commercial salmon troller and Washington Trollers Association board member.“Especially in our coastal and river communities, salmon has traditionally been a huge source of good jobs and income. The population declines of Columbia Basin salmon in the past several decades havetaken a heavy toll on the health of our communities. It’s time to sit down together to figure out how we can constructively address these issues for people on both sides of the mountains.”

Kevin Davis, who owns and operates the Steelhead Diner and Blueacre Seafood in Seattle with his wife Terresa, stressed that his business success depends on fresh, high-quality foods. “I am working constantly with both farmers and fishermen, and I see absolutely no reason why Washington state can’t chart a path forward that supports both healthy farms and healthy fisheries,” Davis said. “We need both. I know that we can find common solutions to our common problems, and bringing people together to finally start that discussion is the right next step.”

Regional orca experts and federal scientists recognize how critical Columbia basin chinook are to the diet of Puget Sound resident killer whales. The Columbia and Snake rivers were once the West Coast’s greatest source of chinook salmon.
“One of the biggest threats facing our resident orcas today is the availability of food,” said People For Puget Sound executive director Kathy Fletcher. “Our killer whales depend largely on chinook salmon - whose numbers have dropped significantly in the Northwest. This relationship between orcas and salmon is one more connection -- like those of food and energy -- uniting the people of Eastern and Western Washington. And its one more reason why we need leadership from our senators to bring our communities together to find effective lasting solutions. No salmon -- no orcas. It’s that simple.”

More than 50 Eastern Washington business and community leaders began the discussion with Senators Murray and Cantwell in late April in an open letter urging their support of a new inclusive approach to Columbia Basin salmon recovery. U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) previously expressed support for resolving the salmon recovery stalemate through a regional stakeholder negotiation that considers all credible options, including the removal of the four lower Snake River dams.
“I am certainly encouraged by the effort and support of so many business and community leaders on the other side of the mountains and for their interest in sitting down together to work through the issues in a way that can benefit everyone,” said Spokane resident Don Barbieri, chair for Red Lions Hotels and a signer of the eastside letter. “The uncertainty caused by the failure to resolve the salmon crisis affects all of us.”

The Western Washington letter signers — a cross section of business and community leaders — seek a cooperative approach to salmon recovery and to the issue of the lower Snake River dams. An inclusive stakeholder process could not only protect and restore endangered salmon, but also leverage solutions that improve transportation networks, produce clean and affordable energy, and create jobs in all three sectors.

“Healthy fish populations, and especially salmon and steelhead, are my bread and butter,” said Dave McCoy of Seattle’s Emerald Water Anglers, a successful Puget Sound-area guiding business. “The Columbia River and its tributaries really need to be viewed as a special resource for all the people of the region. The courts are typically good at reminding us about what we can’t do. That’s why a stakeholder process makes sense, where we can come together to work on what we can and should do. But we need the support and leadership of Washington’s senators to truly make it happen this time.”

Thirteen salmon and steelhead stocks remain listed under the Endangered Species Act despite 20 years of litigation and expenditure of more than $9 billion on failed restoration efforts. “Our coalition of fishing businesses and conservation groups recognizes that the salmon restoration process must work for our farmers, shippers, energy users and riverside towns,” said Save Our Wild Salmon outreach director Joseph Bogaard. “We are committed to working with fellow stakeholders and our elected leaders to craft a solution that restores our salmon and benefits our communities across the state and throughout the region.”

The Western Washington leaders letter has more than 120 signers, including 50 businesses, 40
community leaders, 20 organizations, and several prominent local scientists. For more information and to view the letters with an up-to-date signers’ list or to find copies of the open letters published in the Pacific Northwest Inlander and the Stranger, visit:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oregon Congressional Reps Introduce Bill to Protect Chetco From Mining

Press Release from Ron Wyden's Office:

Seeking to protect the Chetco River from expanded suction dredge mining that threatens salmon and steelhead breeding grounds, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced bills in both the House and the Senate to permanently raise the federal protection levels of more than three miles of the river and put in place new prohibitions on future mining that will preserve the Wild and Scenic portions of the river. U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and David Wu (D-Ore.) have also cosponsored the legislation.

Under the legislation simultaneously introduced in the House and the Senate, portions of the Chetco River would be upgraded from Scenic to Wild while other portions would be upgraded from Recreational to Scenic.

“This legislation would protect the Chetco from the threats of out-of-state miners, preserve it for generations and save critical salmon habitat,”Wyden said. “Suction dredge mining presents a clear danger to the Chetco, and we want to do everything we can to prevent it.”

“The Chetco River is one of our state’s most pristine and beautiful rivers,” DeFazio said. “It should be enjoyed by all Oregonians, not just a few dozen miners who can potentially patent mining rights on the river at 19th Century prices using 21st Century technology. This legislation will help put an end to the often illegal, sometimes violent, user conflicts between a small group of rogue miners and the general public in southwest Oregon.”

“The Chetco River is one of the most endangered rivers in America and opening it up to destructive mining would put the health of the river and its fisheries at even greater risk,” said Merkley. “We have a responsibility to protect the Chetco River and prevent threats to the livelihood of Oregon’s salmon and steelhead fishermen.”

The Chetco River was recently identified by American Rivers as one of the nation’s most endangered rivers. The legislation introduced by Wyden, Merkley and DeFazio would provide federal distinction for much of the Chetco river as Wild and Scenic, carrying with it protections meant to preserve the waterway. The legislation would also prohibit any new mining claims along the river and will require current claims to meet a rigorous validation process in order to have their claims maintained. Earlier this year, Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley and Representative DeFazio asked the Obama administration to exempt the Chetco River from an antiquated 1872 law that would have allowed the mining to proceed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Can the Salmon Farming Industry Reform in Time?

In the Georgia Basin where salmon farms have been implicated in declines upwards of 90% in some salmon populations, the salmon farming industry has increasingly become the subject of intense public and scientific scrutiny. If the industry hopes to stay alive over the long term major reforms are necessary to ensure that they are not having undue impacts on wild populations in the region. Among the principal concerns regarding salmon farms are high densities of parasitic sea lice, which transfer easily to outmigrating juvenile salmon. While sea lice are typically not lethal for adult fish, juvenile fish which become parasitized have extremely high mortality. Further compounding the problem is the fact that SLICE a drug used to treat sea lice outbreaks in salmon farms is increasingly ineffective. Already Norwegian Salmon farms have seen high levels of resistance to the drug and despite adamant denials by industry groups, there is mounting evidence that drug resistance is emerging in sea lice at North American farms.

The only way to reduce the environmental impact of salmon farming is to move the industry onto land, keeping parasites and disease out of the migratory corridors of wild salmon populations. While progress has been painfully slow up to now, some within the industry appear to be getting the message and there have been an increasing number of land based salmon farming operations springing up around the province. The only question now is, will the Canadian government intervene on behalf of wild salmon and help expedite the transition to landbased salmon farming and if not, will it be too late for wild salmon in the Georgia Basin?

An article about increasing drug resistance in sea lice:

Two articles about new landbased salmon farming operations in BC:

The Osprey Vol. 66 is now online

The latest issue of the Osprey is now available online. Subscribe today and support the voice of wild steelhead. In this issue:

  • Gold Mining Threatens Salmon in Southwestern Oregon
  • Hatchery Management Zones and Wild Fish
  • Habitat Protection in the 21st Century
  • Smith River Update
  • IHN Threatens Wild Fish on the Olympic Peninsula
  • Toxic Bait, Cured Salmon Eggs
Check out the Osprey website and subscribe online today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekly Action List 6/14/2010

Weekly Action List 6/14/10
Please take the time to make your voice heard on these important issues.

-Tell your Senator that you support an expansion of the Wild Rogue Wilderness.

-Take action to protect the Chetco River, one of Southern Oregon's most productive salmon and steelhead streams from suction dredge mining.

-Tell NOAA that Oregon Coastal Coho deserve protection under the ESA. Most populations of wild coho on the oregon coast are below 10% of historic abundance.

-Tell Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell that Washington State wants a dam free lower Snake river. More information

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Wilderness on the Lower Rogue

Nationally designated as a wild and scenic river flowing through the Wild Rogue wilderness, the Lower Rogue represents on of the largest continuous lengths of roadless river in the Lower 48. Despite these protections, the lower Rogue is threatened by plans to log old growth timber in the adjacent Siskyou National Forest and Zane Grey Roadless area. To protect the Rogue from these threats and ensure that the lower river can offer a pristine wilderness setting as well as productive habitat for salmon and their habitats forever a group of environmental organizations called the Save the Wild Rogue Coalition is pushing for a major expansion of the Wild Rogue Wilderness. The proposal is gaining momentum and recently a major timber industry group announced that they will not oppose the protections. More information at Oregon Wild's website.

Act now and tell your senators to protect the Lower Rogue

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good News for John Day Steelhead

A federal Judge ruled this week that grazing in the Malheur National Forest violates the endangered species act in allowing livestock to damage critical habitat for threatened summer steelhead. The decision should make way for significant improvements in spawning and rearing areas within the National Forest and is a big win for the future of the John Day system. More information on the Metalheads Blog

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crosscut: Let's really talk about taking down those Snake River dams

A great editorial piece in the Crosscut this week on the urgent need to take down Snake River Dams. Endangered Salmon and Steelhead in the Snake River are doomed to extinction without the removal of these monolithic dams and the time has come for our region to take a step forward in removing them once and for all. Let the Snake flow freely once again!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chetco #7 of US Most Endangered Rivers

With much of its habitat protected within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest the Chetco River in Southwestern Oregon is a stronghold for winter steelhead and fall chinook and is protected as a Wild and Scenic River. Now with a proposal to suction dredge mine more than 24 miles of the river threatening the future of the watershed, American Rivers has listed the Chetco 7th on their list of America's most endangered rivers. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and a group of Senators and Congressmen have asked the department of the interior to revise an antiquated 19th century law which allows private companies and individuals to undertake destructive riverbed mining in public waterways. Visit American Rivers for more information.

take action

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cleaning up The Columbia River Takes Time and Money

A new bill proposed by Oregon Congressman David Wu aims to tackle some of the persistent pollution problems affecting the Lower Columbia River. The bill would provide roughly 40 million dollars in funding to clean up pollution in the Lower Columbia and in the Willamette River, the largest tributary of the Lower Columbia. Pollutants enter the Columbia from urban runoff, agricultural pesticides and other nonpoint sources. The issue is further complicated by the fact that since no one state has jurisdiction over the Columbia efforts to clean up pollution require partnership between the state of Washington and Oregon. Currently the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership is relying on data which has not been collected since 2007 due to a lack of funding.

More information in the Columbian

Friday, June 4, 2010

Diversity is Essential for Healthy Salmon Populations

A paper published this week in the journal Nature authored by a group of University of Washington biologists titled, "Population diversity and the portfolio effect in an exploited species" adds to large and growing body of scientific research pointing to the critical importance of lifehistory diversity within salmon populations. The group used long term data sets from the Bristol Bay Sockeye fishery, one of the worlds most productive and consistent salmon fisheries to track the relative contribution of various stocks and life histories to the fishery overtime. What they found is that while the size of some subpopulations within the Bristol Bay stock complex changed dramatically over time, the high level of diversity within the region created stability overall in the numbers of salmon returning. The new paper builds on a previous paper by the group which first described the stock portfolio effect, whereby the dynamics of a group of populations are not synchronous.

Unfortunately, Bristol Bay is exceptional in the sense that the full spectrum of the historic diversity remains intact. In many watersheds in the Lower 48 many population groups have been homogenized by a century and a half of overharvest, habitat loss and hatchery supplementation. In the Columbia system in particular where as many as 90% of the returning salmon are of hatchery origin, much of the historic diversity has been destroyed. Without high levels of diversity buffering the population from environmental variation,y the abundance of salmon booms and busts with changes in ocean productivity and river passage conditions. Work by Jon Moore at the Northwest Fisheries Science center has focused on Snake River Chinook, finding that over the last 40 years populations have become significantly more synchronous leading to large swings in productivity overall.

More information in a Seattle Times Article

Abstract of Schindler et al. in Nature

Moore et al. in Conservation Letters

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Protect Oregon Coastal Coho Today!

Stan Petrowski photo

Oregon Coastal Coho were listed as threatened in 2005. While there has been some recovery since coastal populations hit rock bottom in the 1990's, many coastal rivers remain below 10% of historic abundance and the threat of logging, development and harvest remain. Under pressure from the timber industry, developers and proharvest groups the federal government has conducted a status review for Oregon Coastal coho and comments are due from the public before 7/25/2010. Continued protection under the ESA is essential to protect critical coho populations and their habitats, particularly when ODFW opened a harvest fishery for wild coho this year rather than allowing populations to rebuild abundance and diversity. Additionally, because the Oregon Forestry board recently approved plans to increase timber yield on state lands, the state of Oregon has shown a lack of political will to protect coastal watersheds making federal mandates for protection of critical habitat particularly crucial. Comment today and tell the federal government that you support continued protection of Oregon Coastal Rivers and their endemic Coho under the endangered species act.