Monday, November 29, 2010

Closed Containment Gains Momentum

After years of struggle, advocates of closed containment aquaculture for salmon may finally be gaining some ground. Many stocks of wild salmon along BC's southern coast have been decimated by open net pen aquaculture, where millions of atlantic salmon are raised in a feedlot like setting, spreading parasites and disease to local populations of wild salmon. Despite the impact of open net pen aquaculture, industry and government officials have long argued against farming salmon in closed containment systems on land, saying it would be far too costly and would render the industry uncompetitive. Now though, the mentality appears to be changing. A number of high profile projects have been started by private parties and by non-profit organizations to demonstrate the viability of salmon aquaculture on land and a recent DFO study concluded that closed-containtment aquaculture could be economically viable and warrants further consideration. More information in a press release from the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR):

and from the Vancouver Sun:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Osprey Among 100 Best Blogs for Studying Oceans

The Osprey Blog was recently selected as one of the 100 best blogs for studying the ocean. The list was compiled by We're honored to be considered along side a great group of dedicated and passionate people working to increase awareness on the importance of our oceans and the environmental challenges we face. Check out the full list here...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Puget Sound Steelhead Issues Entering the Mainstream

Check out this informative and well written article on the state of steelhead returns in Puget Sound. It's great to see objective information about the management of our steelhead populations and what role hatcheries are playing in policy decisions around the area financially reaching mainstream audiences. Many hatchery programs in the sound have seen ocean survival below 1% during the last 10 years and returns of wild fish hit record lows the last three seasons. WDFW just announced that is will be closing significant portions of many Puget Sound Rivers to ensure hatchery egg take goals begging the question, if hatchery programs designed to enhance harvest opportunity are failing to meet even that modest goal, whats the justification for the program? The state is struggling financially and closing some of the hatchery programs around the Puget Sound would save money while simultaneously alleviating some of ecological and genetic impacts on wild populations.

Monday, November 22, 2010

WDFW Accepting Comments on Snider Creek Broodstock Program

The contract for the Snider Creek Broodstock program on the Sol Duc River is expiring in 2011 and WDFW is accepting public comments on the future of the program. The Snider Program takes early returning wild fish, spawns them in the hatchery and releases their offspring for harvest opportunity. In its 25 year history the program has been terribly managed and has been a massive waste of the few early returning wild fish that remain in the Sol Duc. It is critical that the public tells WDFW that this failing program needs to be curtailed. Comments are due before December 15th.

Comment at:

Snider Creek Steelhead Hatchery Bullet Points

1. General effects of supplementation hatcheries

Evidence in scientific literature suggests numerous negative impacts of supplementation hatcheries, of which I will discuss two; A) Fitness B) Ecological Interactions.

A. Low Fitness in the wild: Supplementation hurts wild runs through low productivity of HxH crosses and HxW crosses, and these effects can last multiple generations, potentially depressing productivity of wild populations.

B. Ecological Interactions: Residualized hatchery smolts as well as the offspring of hatchery-origin fish that spawn in the wild both compete with wild juveniles for limited food and space in freshwater rearing areas and may precociously spawn with wild steelhead. Scale data from WDFW in fact shows considerable proportions of the Snider Program adults return after rearing for an additional year or two after release in freshwater (Mean = 11.5%). This is direct evidence of hatchery smolts using, and presumably competing for, the same limited freshwater rearing habitats and resources as wild juveniles. Further, this percentage likely underestimates the actual percentage of released fish that residualize because residualized fish produce 11.5% of the adult returns after surviving for one year in freshwater. Surviving the additional year in freshwater likely incurs at least 50% mortality, suggesting that at least 20% of the initial releases actually residualize. This represents an additional ~10,000 (20% of a 50,000 Mean Annual Release) hatchery O. mykiss parr competing with wild juveniles as a result of the program.

2. Unclear or contradictory program goals

If the Snider program was designed to supplement the wild population, the mass-marking and open-harvest of returning adults is contradictory to that purpose. If the purpose of the program is to provide harvest, then it comes with the direct cost of removing individuals from the wild population to satisfy this objective. Further, if the latter is the case, there is already an existing segregated program to provide harvest opportunity that doesn’t require the mining of wild populations.

3. Impacts on already-depressed early component of wild run

The program removes wild fish from the segment of the wild population with run timing that is most depressed (early)—a time of year that wild steelhead retention was just outlawed by WDFW (in 2010) in recognition of the depressed state of early runs.

4. Low and inconsistent smolt quality, low rearing survival, and resulting impacts

The program consistently fails to meet state steelhead rearing guidelines. It has low eyed egg to fry survival (Mean = 72.4%) and low fry to smolt survival (Mean =69.6%), both of which should be greater than 90% in a successful hatchery program. It has highly variable mean smolt size (Range of Mean Annual Size = 5.5 to 17 fish/lb) between years, and high individual size variation within a year, both of which likely lead to much higher than desired rates of residualism because large numbers of fish are too small to smolt or are so large that they are likely to precociously mature and then may spawn with wild steelhead.

5. Disease impacts

Infectious Hematopoetic Necrosis (IHN) of the M clade, which is most virulent in steelhead, has spread throughout hatcheries across the Washington Coast over the last several years, exposing na├»ve wild populations to the diasease. Last year the positive test results for wild fish captured for the program resulted in their slaughter and thus the waste of those wild steelhead—they weren’t necessarily infected before being caught but may have been infected during holding together in close proximity at the hatchery—the program likely infected and then killed those wild steelhead with no tangible benefit.

6. Low productivity of program

The program produces small run sizes most years (Mean = 210 or 290 using either WDFW run reconstruction method), has low contributions to fisheries (Mean Tribal + Sport Catch = 140.2; Mean Total Run Size = 210 or 290 using either WDFW run reconstruction method), and very low smolt to adult survival (Mean = 0.34% in other words 3.4 returning adults for every 1000 smolts). This suggests bad hatchery rearing practices (see #4) and/or low smolt to adult survival. This is a much lower return rate than the segregated Chambers Creek stock currently planted on the Bogachiel and Calawah (Mean SAR = 8.3%, in other words 83 returning adults for every 1000 smolts released), and is poor in comparison to virtually all other existing steelhead programs in the state.

7. Cost

The program costs thousands of dollars per year to operate and oversee during a time when the state is in its biggest budget crunch ever.

8. Cumulative impacts of hatcheries in the Quillayute Basin

The Percent Hatchery Origin Spawners (PHOS) spawning in the wild from the segregated programs in the Quillyute Basin is already above the HSRG recommendation of 5% based on the WDFW run reconstruction data. To bring it in to line with HSRG recommendations, reductions in hatchery production are needed. A program like the Snider Creek program only increases the hatchery influence in a basin where it is out of compliance with HSRG recommendations.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wild Harvest Continues on the Olympic Peninsula

Following last years rule change proposals WDFW is reminding anglers that wild retention on Olympic Peninsula rivers does not open until February 16th. In years past, wild steelhead could be harvested beginning December 1st. The rule change is designed to help the depressed early component of the wild run recover. Unfortunately though, tribal netting continues to be extremely intense during the first half of the season, and while the state and tribes will argue that they're targeting hatchery fish, gill nets are non-selective. Also, this year the Pysht and Hoko are closed to retention because, "runs have recently been in decline". No surprise there. The WDFW policy appears to be, harvest wild steelhead until populations decline, even below the absurdly low escapement goals the state sets for steelhead populations.

It is time to change the paradigm of harvest or nothing. If we hope to have any fishing opportunity for wild steelhead in a few decades it is critical that the state understand the necessity of statewide catch and release. Not until sport harvest of wild steelhead ends can WDFW have any reasonable negotiating leverage with tribal fishers who continue to harvest more than 30% of wild runs on many Olympic peninsula rivers. The state of Alaska long ago realized the value of wild steelhead as a sport fish, managed for catch and release opportunity. Despite the fact that steelhead populations are healthy throughout much of the state, steelhead are managed for statewide catch and release in Alaska. Meanwhile, many populations on the Olympic Peninsula are in decline, largely due to overharvest. The Hoh River has missed its escapement goal 5 of the last 10 years. The Olympic Peninsula is fortunate to have some of the finest habitat remaining habitat in the Lower 48, sadly with continued overharvest of wild steelhead it's only a matter of time before populations decline further.

Press Release From WDFW:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Counties Begging for more Hatchery Handouts

Four counties, Pacific and Wahkiakum in Washington and Clatsop and Columbia in Oregon recently sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) complaining that the recent DEIS for the operation of Mitchell Act hatcheries on the Columbia is flawed. They argue that the plan, which outlined ways which federally funded hatchery operations could reduce their impact on ESA listed wild stocks is flawed because it should actually be providing more funding for increased hatchery production on the Columbia system. This letter demonstrates the sad reality of what the Columbia hatchery system has become, social welfare for communities which have become dependent on artificially produced fish to support both sport and commercial fishing. The assertion that the Columbia river system needs more hatchery fish is absurd, the river system is already home to 178 hatchery programs. Simply put, the numbers of hatchery fish is not limiting down river fishing opportunity.

Instead of dragging their feet and resisting change to a broken system, the counties should realize that commercial and sport fishing opportunities will continue to be limited as long as some upriver stocks are teetering at the brink of extinction. Hatchery fish are already extremely abundant in the Columbia, ESA listed wild fish are currently the limiting factor as fisheries must be managed to limit by-catch of fragile populations. How about developing more mark selective fisheries? How about understanding that wild populations cannot recover to a level that will allow the type of fishing pressure these counties want until hatcheries are no longer limiting their productivity, undermining their genetic integrity and adaptive potential? Fighting for the broken status quo is like fighting harder to escape quicksand. The DEIS is based on the best available science and if adopted it would be the biggest step forward for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia since the era of dam construction and hatchery supplementation began.

Here's a link to the story in the Oregonian:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bruce Brown on Hatcheries

Last month, as a follow up to a profile he wrote about Northwest author Bruce Brown, Ron Judd posted a short piece with some of Bruce Brown's thoughts on hatcheries. In 1982 Brown authored the now legendary book Mountain in the Clouds A Search for the Wild Salmon, a book which has served as a foundation for three decades of work to remove the Elwha dams and advocate for wild salmon. The debate about hatchery impacts on wild salmon is too often out of the public eye, yet hatcheries are among the biggest hurdles to the recovery of wild salmon in Washington State. Check out the story and the follow up in the Seattle Times:

Bruce Brown on Hatcheries:

Ron Judd's profile on Brown:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Elwha Weir is Up and Running

This fall, in preparation for the removal of the Elwha river dams in September 2011, biologists from the Elwha Klallam Tribe, NOAA, WDFW and the USFWS installed a resistance board weir on the lower river. The project is the largest floating weir on the westcoast and will allow for the safe capture and handling of all migrating salmonids while the river is below 2000 cfs. The Elwha once supported robust runs of all 5 species of pacific salmon as well as summer and winter steelhead, anadromous bull trout and cutthroat however since the construction of Elwha Dam in 1910, migrating fish have been blocked at river mile 4.9. With 90% of the river protected within the national park, the Elwha is perhaps the most pristine river in the Lower 48 states. Now with the dams coming out, the Elwha will be the largest dam removal and salmon restoration project in history with the weir giving biologists the unique opportunity to accurately monitor the recolonization process.

While the purpose of the Elwha dam removal has always been to restore robust populations of wild salmon and steelhead, concerns about high sediment loads in the period following the dam removal have prompted managers to implement a strategy that calls for the continued supplementation of Chinook, Coho, Chum and Steelhead in the Elwha. The weir however will allow biologists the opportunity to track the reproductive success of all species and compare between hatchery and wild spawners, and ultimately serve as a way to sort hatchery fish out of the spawning population.

For more information about the weir and to see photos check out:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Protect the Thompson From Hatcheries, Sign the Petition Today

This year, for the second time this decade, fisheries mangers opted not to open the BC's legendary Thompson River. For the last 5 years returns have hovered at extremely low levels, with only 800-1200 fish returning annually. Now, with steelhead stocks critically depressed some ill informed angler groups are calling for a hatchery program. Thirty years of science and recovery efforts elsewhere have demonstrated that hatchery fish are not adequate replacements for wild and that when spawning in the wild, their reproductive success is often reduced as much as 90%. Adding a hatchery on the Thompson would only serve to further depress wild stocks. At this point the wild population cannot afford such a setback. Sign the petition today and tell fisheries managers the Thompson must remain wild.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

McKenzie River Water For Sale

A judge recently ruled that the Eugene Water and Electrical Board could enter wholesale water sales agreements without the city's approval. EWEB currently can withdraw as much 76 million gallons per day from the McKenzie, however it owns a second right to an additional 118 million gallons per day which it currently is not exercising and which will be lost if it is not used. Now the utility wants to sell 4 million of those gallons to Ventana to ensure its claim on the additional 118 gallons is not lost, opening the pandoras box for a potential 21st century gold rush on the McKenzie's water. ODFW, anticipating a potential conflict has established a minimum flow requirement of 2000 cfs, required for protecting threatened Upper Willamette Spring Chinook as well as the river's unique population of Redband Rainbows. More information on the Oregon Fly Fishing blog:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salmon Farm Diseases Threaten All Westcoast Salmon

DFO and the Salmon Farming Companies are playing Russian roulette with the worlds greatest run of sockeye, exposing wild salmon from the Fraser as well as most of the rest of southern BC to disease and parasites from salmon farms and refusing to make disease records public. Furthermore, most salmon migrating from the rivers of the Lower 48 states migrate north along the west coast of Vancouver Island where salmon farms now fill Clayoquot, Nootka and other once pristince ecosystems. Exposing wild salmon populations to disease without regards for the consequences represents gross negligence and it is imperative that the public continue to put pressure on the government to take salmon farming out of the ocean and put it on land where it belongs. There are stirrings of change within the Canadian government and a bill has been brought to the house of commons by MP Fin Donnelly that would mandate all salmon farming operations be moved onto land. More information on bill c-518 and how you can get involved:

Check out this startling email from Alex Morton with links to some very informative articles:


There is a very real viral threat to BC wild salmon underway. I can't get government to react appropriately, so I am calling on all of you who are on BC rivers right now. Norway has just found a highly contagious RNA virus that has been sweeping through their salmon feedlots for 10 years. While the symptoms were obvious, the virus was difficult to identify. Norwegian salmon feedlots have been importing Atlantic eggs into BC every year. If they only just identified this virus ... their eggs could not have been screen for it. The door has been wide open to infect the Pacific with this Atlantic virus.

At the same time a DFO scientist is reporting that the majority of wild salmon that travel north out of the Fraser River through salmon feedlot effluent are being killed by an unidentified virus.

Brain lesions linked to sharp drop in sockeye stocks
VANCOUVER— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Many of you have told me about sending sockeye disease samples to DFO and never getting responses. I would strongly suggest you contact DFO about these samples until you get an answer.

Many of you have also written to me about sockeye dying on the riverside this year full of eggs. While this may be normal in low numbers, I am hearing extremely high numbers. Contact your local DFO officers until they come out with you and take samples and count the rate of prespawn mortality. I have been trying to inspire action with no success, so it is over to you.

A memo circulated yesterday by the Globe and Mail
reveals that senior DFO consider this "emerging disease factor" as one of the three causes of the sockeye crash last year. But they never mentioned this. They let the fishermen and First Nations take the blame. They left us in the dark, why?

Time is of the essence. Take pictures of any prespawn mortality. Go with your DFO community representative to take samples, open the dead fish and take pictures, particularly of their kidneys.

We all know this is up to us, but we also know your local DFO folks are almost certainly willing to help. I have cc'd the minister in case she cares to respond.

Please send me what you find so I can keep track.


Fish Passage Helps Sandy Coho, Steelhead

Stan Petrowski Photo

This year, for the first time in more than 50 years, the upper reaches of Cedar Creek, a Sandy River tributary will be accessible to anadromous fish. Cedar Creek is the site of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery on the Sandy River and a weir, designed to stop hatchery fish has blocked wild anadromous fish since its construction in the 1950s. Now, with the help of funding from the city of Portland, a new passage facility has been constructed allowing hatchery technicians to sort out hatchery fish and pass wild fish upriver. The project should benefit both Coho and Steelhead which historically spawned in upper Cedar Creek. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rogue Salmon Benefitting From Dam Removal

The last five years have been a whirlwind of dam removal on the Rogue River, making it a model of how local governments, fish managers and the public can work together to quickly remove dams, improve habitats and restore native salmonids. Since 2008 three mainstem dams which historically impeded fish passage have been removed and another dam has been removed on Elk Creek, a critical tributary for ESA listed Coho. Today the Rogue runs free 157 miles from Lost Creek Dam to the Pacific and the salmon appear to be benefitting. Check out this article in the Oregonian documenting some of the changes to the rivers habitat and how salmon are already spawning in areas which were inundated by dams just this summer.

More information:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Columbia Hatchery DEIS Comments Due Nov 4th

Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Columbia River, Mitchell Act hatcheries are due no later than November 4th. The DEIS lays out a range of alternative actions to reduce the effects of hatchery supplementation on wild populations. Among the actions included in the plan are some reductions in the overall number of hatchery fish, eliminating out of basin stock transfers and nonlocal hatchery programs, the construction of weirs at the mouths of many spawning tributaries and higher performance goals for federal hatcheries. In general the plan represents a major step forward from the status quo, however not surprisingly the plan is meeting with opposition from commercial fishing and tribal fishing groups. It is essential that the public stands up for sound science and tells NMFS to adopt the strongest performance goals laid out in the plan.

Much more information in older blog posts:


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Same Old Salmon Plan on the Columbia

Last Thursday, the state of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of environmental organizations filed a motion for a summary judgement on the Feds Columbia River Biological Opinion (BiOp). They asked Judge James Redden to strike down the the Obama salmon plan which is substantively the same as the 2008 BiOp which failed to pass muster in federal court. The new plan does provide for some increased habitat protection and restoration but does not guarauntee instream flow which has been credited with helping buoy salmon returns over the last few years. Further more the Obama plan includes no provision for removal of the four Lower Snake River dams despite the fact that they have been identified as major barriers to recovery of listed Sockeye, Chinook and Steelhead in the Snake system. The feds have continued to play politics with the Columbia system, choosing to continue spending millions of dollars annually to subsidize an unsustainable barging industry on the Snake River. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Columbia Salmon. NMFS must submit a reply to the motion by December 23rd a decision on the BiOp is expected to come in the new year.

Much more information in a press release from Save Our Wild Salmon:

Seattle Times Article:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Osprey Vol. 67

The fall edition of the Osprey is out this week. In this issue:

  • Great Lakes Steelhead; life history diversity in a colonized population.
  • Columbia River hatchery reform, science over politics.
  • Asian Carp
  • Court victory protects central valley steelhead
  • Smith River,CA progress
  • Secrecy and disease in the salmon farming industry
  • Tuolumne dam relicensing
Check out our website to subscribe to the Osprey and to read back issues: