Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Fishing Methods Hold Promise for Wild Fish

For the last few years the Colville tribe have been working with WDFW testing and implementing commercial fisheries utilizing alternative fishing methods. Rather than the traditional gill net which is non-selective, catching both hatchery fish and threatened wild fish, the tribes have been using seines and tangle nets. The seines benefit both tribal fisherman and wild fish allowing them to sustain high levels of harvest on hatchery populations while releasing all unmarked fish. The tests have proven so successful that this summer the tribes fisheries used only seines. Now commercial fisherman on the Lower Columbia are trying their hand at alternative gear.

A pilot project, again led by WDFW is looking at the feasibility of using various types of seine gear in the lower Columbia commercial fishery. The project is motivated by the fact that lower river commercial fisheries are often limited by bycatch of ESA protected wild fish and an upcoming 2012 Oregon ballot initiative to ban gillnets altogether. More information in the Oregonian:


and check out this video about the Colville tribal fishery.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Salmon Farming Diseases? The Elephant in the Room

Check out a new film from documentary filmmaker Twyla Roscovich about the salmon farming diseases and how they may be threatening wild populations. While the film may overstep the bounds of scientific credibility with some of its assertions, the fact of the matter is that disease is a huge problem in the salmon farming industry and it is very plausible that diseases are being transmitted between farms and wild populations. Salmon farming companies and DFO have thus far obstructed any efforts to determine what role disease is playing in declining wild populations by refusing to release disease records from farms. Watch the film and join Alex Morton Monday at 10AM in Vancouver's Vanier Park to call for transparency in the salmon farming industry.

Want More Fish? Start with Habitat

A recent meta-analysis published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences suggests what many biologists have long observed, well done habitat restoration projects are the best way to increase the productivity of wild salmon populations. A century and a half of human activity and land use has resulted in severe degradation of many watersheds. Among the long list of haibtat changes is the loss of large woody debris in river channels, increased sediment and temperature loading, reduced connectivity between rivers and their floodplains all contributing to declining productivity of the freshwater environment. While many factors are involved in determining the ultimate abundance of a given salmon population, freshwater habitat is one of the most easily controlled and therefore provides the best avenue to the restoration and protection of wild runs. The team of researchers from Montreal's Concordia University found that among the more than 200 restoration actions they looked at, projects on average resulted in significant improvement of habitat metrics such as pool area, and large woody debris. Salmonid populations benefited greatly from improved habtiat condition and on average the researchers found a 62% increase in salmonid abundance following restoration efforts. In particular, juvenile steelhead/rainbows, with their long stream rearing showed the greatest increase.

Find the Paper Here: PDF

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rally To Save Wild Salmon

Rally this Monday in Vancouver's Vanier Park at 10 AM. The Cohen commission is currently investigating factors in the decline of Fraser Sockeye we have seen over the last 20 years. While this year's exceptional return brought inspiration and hope, it does not mean Fraser Sockeye are out of the forest. Salmon feedlots continue to spread disease, parasites and toxic effluent into the migratory corridors of wild salmon througout the Georgia Basin and it is imperative that the Cohen Investigation demand that disease records from the salmon farming industry be made public as a part of the judicial inquiry. Progress on this front is incremental and frustratingly slow, but the dedication of countless advocates and good, objective science is tipping the balance. Now it is just imperative that the public continue to put pressure on the government to protect wild salmon from feedlots, please come out and show your support for wild salmon. Much more information at Alexandra Morton's website:


Elwha Dam Removal Starts Today

Beginning today, project managers are beginning the process of dam removal on the Elwha, lowering the level of lake Mills as much as 18 feet to allow a pilot channel to cut through sediment at the upstream end of the lake. The pilot channel will expedite the process of sediment transport and allow the river to more quickly cut a stable channel once the dam has been removed. Most of the work to remove Glines Canyon and Elwha Dam will begin next summer when work crews will start notching, then demolishing the dams and restoring access to more than 70 miles of available habitat. More information in the peninsula daily news:


Monday, October 18, 2010

Environmental Permits Finally Approved for Condit Dam

Last week the Washington Department of Ecology issued final water quality permits for the removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, meaning removal of the 97 year old structure can finally begin in fall of 2011. The dams owner, PacifiCorp originally agreed to remove Condit in 1999 but a series of delays and the discovery of mercury in sediments behing the dam have slowed progress. Condit dam blocks the upstream passage of salmon and steelhead at river mile 3.3 and its removal will open more then 30 miles of historic habitat. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feds Approve Expansion of Bull Trout Critical Habitat

This week US Fish and Wildlife approved a plan to greatly expand critical habitat protection for Bull Trout which are threatened in much of their historic range. The plan expands critical habitat designation to more than 19,000 miles of stream five times what had been previously protected. Bull Trout were historically found throughout much of the West but are impacted by increased sedimentation and water temperatures associated with land use changes and habitat loss and have declined in many areas. The highly predatory species displays a wide variety of life histories throughout its range. In Puget Sound and other portions of the northern range, the fish spend part of their year feeding in salt water, primarily in the nearshore environment. In the Columbia Basin fish spend their entire lives in freshwater but are known to be highly migratory. More information in an article from the Oregonian:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Columbia DEIS Needs Public Support

Comment today and tell the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that the public supports the proposals within the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) for Columbia River Mitchell Act hatcheries. The plan represents a huge step towards recovering wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia, and includes measures such as raising performance goals of hatcheries to reduce interactions between hatchery and wild fish, construction of weirs to sort hatchery fish out of important spawning areas, and reducing levels of hatchery supplementation in programs which are deemed to fall short of performance goals. Despite NMFS sincere efforts to create a proposal that balances economic and social demand for hatchery fish and wild recovery, many commercial fishing and tribal interests are opposing the plan. They fear that reductions in the number of hatchery fish released into the Columbia would reduce their share of the harvest.

Unfortunately these vested financial interests fail to see the bigger picture, the Columbia can never reach its full potential as long as endangered wild stocks are mixed in with abundant hatchery returns. Commercial fisheries are open only as long as their "take" on listed stocks remains below an previously established level. Currently hatchery fish on the Columbia outnumber wild 10:1 and huge numbers of hatchery fish straying and spawning in the wild is limiting the productivity and undermining the diversity and resilience of many native stocks.

An article in the Columbia Basin Bulletin about opposition to the plan:

Comment today and tell NMFS you support the full DEIS and wild fish:


Check out a past blog post on the subject:

Salmon Farming Causing Coho Collapse?

A pair of recently published scientific papers are adding new fodder to the long running debate over salmon farming on the BC coast. The papers link the expansion of salmon farming in Broughton Archipelago to the collapse of Coho Salmon. The Broughton has been one of the largest battlegrounds in the fight to protect wild salmon from salmon farms, and at one point biologists feared that Pink and Chum Salmon would be extinct in a few generations. Steelhead and Chinook populations have also collapsed in the region where most freshwater habitat remains nearly pristine.

The biologists found that sealice can jump from juvenile pink salmon to larger juvenile coho during predation and that coho infection rates increased dramatically in areas with active salmon farming. The second paper found that populations of coho in Broughton which were exposed to sealice infestations suffered on average a sevenfold decline in productivity. Salmon farming companies have long asserted that sealice infestations do not negatively effect larger juvenile salmon such as coho, sockeye and steelhead. These two papers along with other evidence of collapsing populations in other parts of the BC coast provide damning evidence that sealice from salmon farms are likely threatening all species of salmon.

Check out an article in the Tyee:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oil In Eden

Oil in Eden: The Battle to Protect Canada's Pacific Coast from Pacific Wild on Vimeo.

Check out this documentary film about Enbridge Corporation's ongoing proposal to build a pipeline from the Alberta Oil Sands to the BC Coast at Kitimat. Oil would then be shipped down the BC coastline in tankers. Local communities and others fear that this tanker traffic and pipeline would ultimately lead to a catastrophic spill, permanently threatening the integrity of some of the most pristine marine and aquatic habitats in the world. More information at Pacific Wild:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Biologists Report Overall Increase in Global Salmon Abundance, Hatchery Fish a Growing Proportion

This week a group of fisheries biologists from Canada and the US published a paper documenting abundance and trends in in the three most prolific salmon species over the last 60 years. They report two increases in global Sockeye and Pink Salmon populations associated with warming conditions in the North Pacific. Global abundance increased following a regime shift in 1977 and 1989, many studies have reported widespread community changes and increases in the abundance of northern salmon stocks. During the same period, wild chum salmon abundance has remained more or less steady, however supplementation of chum has increased dramatically, particularly in the Eastern Pacific. Southeast Alaska is also home to huge Pink and chum hatchery programs and biologists are increasingly concerned that global hatchery supplementation may be reducing survival of many wild populations in the highseas. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gravel Mining Threatening the Chetco

Just a few short months after the controversy over proposed suction dredging on the Chetco environmental groups were back in court fighting to protect the river, this time from gravel mining. The groups argued that NMFS and the Army Corp of Engineers issued permits and approval for the project without considering the biological consequences of gravel mining on salmon. The Chetco is home to some of the strongest runs of Chinook and Steelhead in southern Oregon as well as threatened Coho. More information at Oregon Public Broadcasting's website:


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Highway 12 Spill Highlights Danger of Megaloads

Last week a tanker truck travelling along Idaho's Lochsa River crashed and spilled nearly 7500 gallons of diesel. Fortunately, it appears that none of the fuel made it into the river as the tanker crashed into a ditch which contained the spilled diesel. The Lochsa is a tributary of Idaho's Clearwater River and is an essential spawning tributary for threatened chinook and steelhead. While the river avoided catastrophe the crash adds fuel to an already fiery debate about the future of shipping along highway 12. Oil companies seeking to find affordable ways to transport equipment and fuel to the Alberta oil sands have proposed using the highway as a major shipping route. Locals however worry that shipping megaloads along the Wild and Scenic Lochsa would eventually result in a catastrophic spill or accident. More information about the crash in the Missoulan:

More information about the fight over the future of Highway 12 at Save our Wild Salmon:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Project Highlights Unique Salmon of the Snake River Basin

Salmon Film Teaser from Epicocity Project on Vimeo.

Filmmakers at the Epicocity project are collaborating with the group Save Our Wild Salmon to bring attention to the plight of Snake River Salmon. These uniquely adapted fish travel hundreds of miles to spawn more than a mile above sea level in the rivers of Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. Despite the pristine conditions of their natal habitat, wild salmon in Idaho are facing extinction in large part because of the four lower Snake River dams. Despite the conclusive scientific evidence demonstrating that the dams dramatically reduce the survival of outmigrating juvenile salmonids, policymakers in Washington DC have largely turned their backs on the salmon, thus far refusing to even consider dam removal. Check out the Film and send a letter to president Obama at Save Our Wild Salmon's website:

Bureau of Reclamation to Restore Access and Instream Flow on Vital Naches Tributary

Despite some opposition, the Bureau of Rec in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Yakama Fisheries are planning on going ahead with a plan to remove a small diversion dam on Cowiche Creek an important tributary of the Naches River. The plan would provide access to miles of upper Cowiche Creek and its forks and add instream flow to the Creek which has long been used for irrigation. The irrigation capacity will be maintained through a more efficient pipeline, however despite the availability of funds to move ahead with the project, the plan had run into opposition from the local irrigation district. Now the agencies appear poised to move ahead regardless and the project should greatly benefit threatened Steelhead and Coho. More information in an article from last spring in the Yakima Herald:

Also, check out the Washington Water Trust's website for more information about Cowiche Creek: