Thursday, December 29, 2011

Northwest Dam Removal Update

Condit Dam Removal Update from Andy Maser on Vimeo.

This fall marked a major step forward in the effort to remove aging dams throughout the Pacific Northwest, with two high profile dam removals on the Elwha and White Salmon River. While both projects remain works in progress, dam removal is already changing each river's landscape in unmistakable ways. The Condit Dam on the White Salmon came out with a targeted blast of dynamite and a flood torrent of backed up water and sediment, while the dam removal on the Elwha has been far more gradual. On the White Salmon chinook salmon were transported above the dam prior to the blast and this spring for the first time in almost a century, juvenile salmon will emerge from the gravels above the dam and follow the spring freshet to sea. Websites for each project are monitoring their progress and giving the public a glimpse of the changes that are underway.

The White Salmon Timelapse project:

The Elwha River Restoration project:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WDFW Rule Change Proposals

In October WDFW released proposed a list of rule changes to be implemented in the 2012-2013 fishing season. Among the proposals is the permanent adoption of the February 1st closure of Puget Sound Rivers, and the shortening of seasons on several Southwest Washington River systems. In the Willapa Bay region these closures are not a reflection of unhealthy fish populations but rather a lack of escapement goals that are based on the true productive potential of the river systems. While we support cautious management of wild steelhead, we also believe it is incumbent upon the state to provide catch and release fishing opportunities for wild steelhead when possible. Around the state escapement goals range from absurdly high to dangerously low and there is a glaring need for WDFW to adopt a statewide protocol for determining escapement goals and statewide fishing seasons based on this data. In areas where populations are ESA listed such as Puget Sound, WDFW should work collaboratively with NOAA to develop a list of criteria that would allow the opening of selective regulations, catch and release fisheries and monitor populations to ensure that these criteria are being met.

WDFW operates under the false assumption that simply closing sport fisheries will allow wild steelhead populations to recover, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sport fishing has an undeniable impact on wild fish, however it has a comparably small impact particularly when managed under selective regulations for catch and release. Under these conditions the risk posed by sport fisheries is reduced significantly and there is no justification for closing fishing in rivers where wild steelhead populations have been stable for the decades. In instances where populations of wild steelhead are deemed so fragile that they can no longer sustain catch and release fishing for wild steelhead WDFW should also work actively to eliminate other impacts by curtailing hatchery operations, and banning the use of bait all year. With fishing opportunities dwindling around the state we should demand leadership from WDFW that ensures catch and release sport fishing opportunities in areas where it does not pose an undue conservation risk.

Please take a minute to write WDFW and tell them to protect sport fishing opportunity for steelhead by adopting a statewide protocol for determining escapement goals and fishing seasons, and not to close steelhead fishing in areas where populations are stable and have consistently met these escapement goals.

Comments can be submitted before December 30th to WDFW’s rule coordinator at:

Or by mail

WDFW Rules Coordinator Lori Preuss
600 Capitol Way N.
Olympia, WA, 98501

Friday, December 23, 2011

Support the Osprey: Make Your Tax Deductible Year End Donation Today!

For over 23 years, the generous support of our subscribers has enabled The Osprey to bring readers timely, relevant news related to the science, management and policy of wild steelhead and salmon around the North Pacific rim. The handful of committed volunteers who make up our editorial committee are proud of our work on behalf of these magnificent fish and the quality of the content we deliver with the goal of advancing their protection and recovery.The Osprey’s pages are consistently filled with the informed writings of leading scientists, agency managers, elected officials, conservation organization leaders, and angler activists.

Over the last year we have joined the fight to keep misguided hatchery programs out of the Elwha, maintained pressure on federal officials to craft a lasting solution for imperiled Columbia and Snake River salmon, and joined a host of other non-profits in submitting comprehensive comments on a potentially disastrous expansion of hatchery production in the Klickitat River. We've also continued to bring our readers world class content from the regions leading scientists, policy makers and advocates including for the first time, a British Columbia issue.

But the battle continues, and we need your continued support to speak up against the critical threats to steelhead and salmon.

The Osprey is a committee of the Federation of Fly Fishers a 501 (c)3 nonprofit, meaning your donation is tax deductible. Please take a minute to visit our website and support our mission. With your support you will receive a subscription to our hard copy journal and a years worth of good fishing karma. Thank you!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Washington Department of Ecology Won't Allow Ban on Fin Fish Aquaculture

This year, citing concerns over the effect of salmon farms on wild salmon Jefferson County sought to become the first county in Washington State with a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). With ever more evidence coming out of Canada that open containment salmon farms spread parasites and disease to wild fish you'd think state resource managers would have applauded the counties decision. Except they didn't. Instead the Washington Department of Ecology demanded that the ban on fin fish aqua culture be removed from the SMP before it could be approved by the state. Jefferson County then compiled a bibliography of over 120 cited resources pertaining to fin fish aquaculture and revised their SMP, however despite these efforts Ecology has indicated that it will not support the SMP so long as it contains a ban on fin fish aquaculture.

Anyone else think it's time for a statewide ban on open net pen salmon farms? Better to get ahead of the curve than to live with the consequences of opening this pandora's box.

More information at the Jefferson County website:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Study Tracks Rapid Hatchery Domestication

A new study by Oregon State researchers is shedding some light on hatchery domestication, and calling into question the practice of using hatcheries as a means of recovering wild populations. While it is not the first study to document reduced fitness in hatchery fish and it certainly will not be the last, it does shed important light on the process by which hatcheries reduce the fitness of wild stocks. The authors reconstructed a multi-generational pedigree using genetic tools - basically a family tree - for a wild broodstock hatchery program in the Hood River. They found that the offspring of wild fish brought into captivity had significantly lower survival in the hatchery environment, however domestication occured rapidly and the offspring of first generation hatchery fish survived almost twice as well in the hatchery as offspring of wild fish.

More importantly the authors found that traits which confer success in the hatchery lead to poor performance in the wild. With so many hatchery programs around the region shifting their production to wild brood, these results highlight the fact that regardless of which broodstock a hatchery selects, domestication and a loss of fitness in hatchery populations is unavoidable. The hatchery environment itself imposes a profoundly different set of conditions, selecting for traits which are harmful in the wild. If managers are serious about recovery of wild salmon we need to start asking hard questions about just how necessary hatcheries are in that process. The long held dogma among hatchery proponents is that wild populations had been depressed to a point of no return and without hatchery intervention there could be no recovery. However, the more we learn the more that notion appears at odds with reality.

Check out this article in the Oregonian on the study:

A copy of the research paper here:

Christie et al - Genetic adaptation to captivity can occur in a single generation

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wrapping up the Cohen Commission

The three day emergency session of the Cohen Commission will wrap up today bringing the year long inquiry to an end, and the first two days have brought some interesting and unfortunate facts to light. Internal emails within the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have revealed explicitly what most spectators already knew, agency biologists are more concerned with winning a PR battle against salmon farming detractors than protecting wild fish by maintaining a high standard of objectivity in their science.

Furthermore,while CFIA officials very publically reported that follow up testing of samples which had tested positive for ISAv at the international reference lab in Prince Edward Island were negative" for ISAv, CFIA testing had actually revealed a weak, positive signal in seriously degraded samples. The result however was dismissed when it could not be duplicated and rather than stating the truth, that ISAv's presence in BC was unknown and yet to be confirmed fully, they reported that it was unequivocally not in BC. Now, just a few short weeks later yet more fish have tested positive for the disease and testing by DFO's own lab indicates that ISAv has been in BC at least since the 1980's.

Kristina Miller, DFO's resident disease expert also testified that while they have not been given access to testing farmed salmon since April 2010, a disease known as Heart and Skeletal Muscular Inflamation is now known to present in fish farms in BC, particularly those within the Clayoquot Sound Region. Clayoquot sounds is a UNESCO world heritage biosphere, and is home to some of the most pristine rivers on Vancouver Island, however some runs of wild salmon have hit rock bottom in the last few years dropping more than 20 fold in abundance from their recent average.

More information in the Common Sense Canadian:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Flies For Fins Raising Money for the Thompson

Flies for fins is raising money for habitat restoration on the Thompson River. Specifically, for habitat improvements on Spius Creek an important spawning tributary for Thompson River Steelhead. The Thompson is revered as one of the greatest steelhead rivers on the planet however in recent years the river has seen record low returns prompting serious concerns about the future of the Thompson's storied steelhead. Flies for fins is asking for help from the angling community to meet their goal of raising $12,000 for habitat restoration. Visit their website to buy and/or donate flies, guided trips and a variety of other fishing tackle.

More about their mission:

Over the past 10 years there has been considerable attention paid to the Thompson River and its declining steelhead stocks. In 2010 the Thompson River remained closed to fishing for the steelhead season as a result of an anticipated low return (final estimates indicate that just over 500 steelhead returned to the Thompson to spawn in 2010). This is a troubling circumstance which has resulted in a general cry for help from the angling community and other stakeholders to restore the Thompson River steelhead population to sustainable numbers.

The Steelhead Society of British Columbia (SSBC) has been actively engaging regulatory agency staff and other regional fisheries experts in an effort to determine how we can make a difference for Thompson River steelhead stocks.

During a recent conversation with a Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist, we were advised of bank stabilization issues on Spius Creek, a tributary to the Nicola River, which is the largest steelhead spawning tributary of the Thompson River.

Restoring and improving spawning and rearing habitat is key to preservation and enhancement of Thompson River steelhead. Unstable and eroding banks are often a natural occurrence; however, severe bank erosion can also result from human activities such as deforestation, as well as from riverbank trampling by domestic range animals.

In the case of Spius Creek, excessive bank erosion has resulted in the infill of important fish habitat such as pools, runs, and viable spawning habitat.

The SSBC contacted an expert to visit this particular site and provide an estimate of costs. The assessment found that the project costs to stabilize and enhance the three sites on the Spius Creek tributary would be $40,000.

The SSBC Directors have approved a motion to support the Spius Creek Bank Stabilization Project with a commitment of $10,000 and we are working hard to achieve the remaining $30,000. Flies for Fins has set a goal of raising $12,000 to contribute to this effort.

Oregonian Story Highlights Nez Perce Hatchery

A very interesting article from last weekend in the Oregonian explored efforts by the Nez Perce tribe to recover Snake River chinook salmon using hatchery programs. Today more than 6 million juvenile chinook are released into the Snake system annually. Returns of chinook to the basin have skyrocketed over the last decade and a half from a low of 400 in 1990 to almost 43,000 in 2010. Wild returns have also increased and now make up about a quarter of the total return.

While hatchery advocates are quick to point at the Snake as evidence that hatchery releases can help rebuild struggling wild populations, federal fisheries managers are more cautious, fearful over the genetic and ecological consequences of massive hatchery production. Recent improvements in chinook abundance have come during a period when good ocean conditions and court mandated spill have led dramatic improvements in many populations throughout the Snake and Columbia, including those which do not have hatchery programs.Undoubtedly, releasing 6 million hatchery smolts each year will serve to increase the number of fish spawning in the Snake, however that may mask the long term erosion of local adaptation and reproductive fitness in the wild population. True recovery cannot be achieved until wild populations are capable of sustaining themselves at levels above NOAA's recovery goals, something which is masked and likely hindered by the huge numbers of hatchery fish returning to the basin each year.

More information in the Oregonian:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cohen Commission Resumes Over ISAv

The Cohen Commission Inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye resumed this week amid concerns about the presence of Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) in British Columbia. Earlier this fall researchers at Simon Fraser University discovered ISAv in two juvenile sockeye from River's Inlet, triggering a media furor, and denials by the aquaculture industry and the government agencies responsible for managing salmon in BC. Since then more salmon have tested positive for ISAv and an unpublished DFO manuscript has emerged which indicates that Canadian Authorities have known about the presence of ISAv in the province for at least 8 years.

Today the commission heard from DFO's leading disease researcher Kristina Miller that samples dating back more than 25 years have tested positive for ISAv, suggesting that the disease may in fact be endemic in the Pacific and was simply undocumented. It appears to be asymptomatic in Pacific Salmon. While both sides of the debate will be relieved if this strain of ISAv proves to be an endemic disease unrelated to the aquaculture industry the controversy highlights two VERY important facts. First, DFO's dual mandate to protect wild salmon and promote salmon aquaculture has created a very dangerous conflict of interest, one which has led to the suppression of important research and obstructed further scientific inquiry into the disease risks posed by fish farms. Second, we know very little about disease ecology in wild salmon populations. The fact that ISAv could have existed all along, undetected is evidence that we are doing far too little testing for disease in wild populations, and that we have almost zero understanding of how disease impacts the survival and productivity of wild salmon.

More from the CBC:

The Cohen Commission Website:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Comment on Proposed Coos Bay Natural Gas Terminal

A proposal to build a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Oregon's Coos Bay has been approved by the US Department of Energy. The State of Oregon had previously requested that the permit be denied citing concerns that the environmental risks outweigh the economic benefit generated by the export of natural gas. Of particular concern is the dredging that will be needed to allow tanker ships access to the natural gas terminal. Coos bay is an important estuary for Oregon's coastal ecosystem and provides critical rearing habitat for juvenile salmon. The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) is expected to make a determination on the dredging by the end of this week. Please take a minute to tell Governor John Kitzhaber not to approve the dredging until a more thorough environmental review can be conducted.

More information at We Agree No LNG's website:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Floodplain Restoration on the Lower Sandy

A coalition of local and federal agencies are working together on a plan to restore over a mile of floodplain habitat at the mouth of the Sandy River. Confined by a dike to a single channel at its mouth since 1938 the delta of the Sandy will once again be allowed to migrate and braid naturally, forming valuable habitat for rearing and migrating juvenile salmon from the Sandy as well as other Columbia River tributaries. The project is set to start next July and estimates of the cost range from $500,000 to $2 million making it the largest habitat restoration project to date in the lower Columbia. More information in the Oregonian:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Statement from Simon Fraser Disease Think Tank

Last week, Simon Fraser's Centre for Coastal Studies convened a multidisciplinary panel of scientists from all around the world to discuss the issue of disease and the threats it poses to wild salmon populations. Recently salmon from several populations have tested positive for Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv), a disease which devastated the Chilean fish farming industry, and work on the Fraser River has linked high prespawn mortality in Sockeye salmon with a viral pathogen. Having identified some of the challenges and data gaps which limit our ability to understand the impact of disease on wild salmon populations the panel produced a consensus statement with some recommendations and ideas, however because the group represented a broad swath of the science community and included individuals with a variety of perspectives on aquaculture and industry finding a consensus limited the group to some fairly general, albeit important statements.

Perhaps more interesting from a conservation standpoint are the convener's recommendations. While the recommendations may not please the aquaculture industry, they are fair, scientifically defensible and rooted in the best available science and the precautionary principle. It is important to note that while a number of individuals from DFO were invited they were not permitted to attend, barred from speaking publicly about disease, aquaculture and Fraser Sockeye. See those recommendations by clicking the link below:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fall 2011 Edition of Strong Runs

The latest edition of the Native Fish Society's quarterly newsletter Strong Runs is now available online and includes a variety of content including:

  • The Sandy River campaign and the effort to reign in hatcheries there.
  • A Q&A with writer, angler and advocate Jeff Mishler
  • An update on the Klickitat DEIS and a proposed expansion of hatchery operations
  • Snider Creek Success, WDFW's decision to make the Sol Duc a wild refuge

click on the image above to read the newsletter

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lower Columbia Chum Getting a Boost

Listed Chum Salmon in the Lower Columbia River are seeing better than average returns this year. The fish which spawn in tributaries and a few mainstem areas of the Columbia River below Bonneville are wrapping up spawning and WDFW's counts of fish in the area have been encouraging. Check out this article from the Columbia Basin Bulletin on Chum counts this year and some restoration projects that are starting to pay dividends:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Congress Calls for Real Solutions on Columbia

Press Release from Save our Wild Salmon:

Congress Calls on Obama To Convene Wild Salmon Solutions Table

Bipartisan group of lawmakers join U.S. businesses and conservation groups in calling for a new approach to salmon restoration

WASHINGTON, DC -- In a letter sent this week, 52 Members of Congress called on President Obama to convene a “solutions table” to help protect and restore endangered wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake River basins of the Pacific Northwest.

With bipartisan support from lawmakers representing 23 states and territories, Congressmen Jim McDermott (D-WA), Tom Petri (R-WI), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) spearheaded the letter to bring together all parties with a stake in salmon restoration to create a broad-based, collaborative process that explores and identifies real salmon recovery solutions. The House letter follows a recent letter from nearly 1,200 American businesses calling for a new approach to salmon restoration by setting up such a collaborative process. The letter also follows a request from seven of the nation’s leading conservation groups seeking a meeting with the new Commerce Secretary, John Bryson, to discuss a similar approach.

“Discussion and open debate are critical to creating a successful salmon restoration plan," said Congressman McDermott. "The previous four plans did not consider all stakeholder views, and were unsurprisingly struck down in federal court. Now is the time to act. By convening a stakeholder’s solutions table that gives all affected parties a voice, we can ensure a thoughtful and successful salmon plan that not only saves taxpayer dollars, but can truly protect this cherished resource.”

Spanning seven western states (Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Utah), the Columbia-Snake River Basin was once home to the world's most abundant salmon runs, with as many as 30 million fish returning annually. Unfortunately, the Basin now sustains less than one percent of that historic number. Thirteen stocks of Columbia-Snake River salmon and steelhead, including all four remaining Snake River stocks, are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

In August, a U.S. District Court ruled the current Columbia Basin federal salmon plan illegal. It’s the fourth salmon plan to be invalidated by the courts over three administrations. Two decades of illegal plans have done little for salmon, and have cost U.S. taxpayers billions in failed efforts.

“For years I have strongly supported the notion that all scientifically credible options to restore historic Columbia-Snake River salmon runs should be thoroughly evaluated," said Congressman Blumenauer. "Had we done this before, we might have avoided years of legal uncertainty and taxpayer expense. The Administration has a significant opportunity to convene the region’s sovereigns and stakeholders and begin having a comprehensive discussion. It may be the key that moves us beyond the courtroom and towards solutions that finally satisfy endangered species requirements, support sovereign treaty rights, create sustainable jobs for local economies, and restore wild fish runs in the Columbia-Snake Basin.”

"Federal agencies have an obligation to American taxpayers to craft a salmon plan that makes fiscal and scientific sense before billions more in federal dollars are spent on ineffective efforts," Congressman Petri said. “To date, we’ve failed the American public on that front, and have instead thrown good money after bad on practices that simply haven’t worked. But by changing course and bringing stakeholders together, we can achieve a plan that works for salmon and federal taxpayers.”

"Genuine, durable salmon recovery in the Columbia-Snake River Basin will only come from bringing all the parties together to craft a comprehensive solution that everyone can live with - including fishermen, farmers, and energy consumers," said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations in California. "We thank the Congressional members who have signed this letter calling on the Obama administration to convene this process."

"We’ve spent $10 billion in taxpayer and ratepayer money, and wild salmon are still in trouble. We need a new approach, one that’s truly inclusive. Businesses like mine, along with other interests who are affected by the future of salmon in the Columbia Basin, we all deserve seats at the table," said Paul Fish, President and CEO of Mountain Gear, based in Spokane, WA.


Save Our Wild Salmon is a nationwide coalition of conservation organizations, river groups, fishing associations, businesses, and taxpayer and clean energy advocates working collectively to restore abundant, sustainable wild salmon to the rivers, streams and oceans of the Western salmon states.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Leaked Report: DFO Knew of ISAv in 2004

A Map of Salmon Farms in Southern BC and Washington

Research by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans dating back to 2004 has emerged which suggests the department knew of Infecious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) in British Columbia as early as 2004. The research which tested several species of salmon found the disease in 117 fish but was never published. Despite the importance of the work, DFO has not allowed researchers to publish their findings.

Recently researchers at Simon Fraser University and the Raincoast Research Society have documented ISAv in salmon in the Lower Fraser River and as far north as River's Inlet, prompting international concern and US agencies have initiated comprehensive testing in Puget Sound and Southeast Alaska. Canadian agencies however, have maintained that ISAv is not confirmed in British Columbia raising questions about their credibility and their cozy relationship with international fish farming corporations operating in British Columbia.

More information in the Seattle PI:

Read the leaked report here:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Speaking For the Salmon Tackling Disease Issue

Since 1998 Simon Fraser University has hosted Speaking for the Salmon workshops, bringing together the foremost experts in the field to address the issues facing wild salmon populations in the Province and throughout the North Pacific. The latest seminar titled, Managing for Uncertainty: Pathogens and Diseases in Pacific Salmon is being hosted this week and will focus on recent developments surrounding disease in British Columbia and its effect on salmon population dynamics. The meeting will bring together experts from a variety of backgrounds including some of the central figures in salmon research and policy in BC and will culminate with a free public presentation Thursday December 1st at 9:00 PM in Room 1900, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings, Vancouver. Seating is limited so reservations are required. Visit SFU's website to make reservations for what is sure to be a fascinating discussion:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Changing Landsape for the Columbia BiOp

Last week Judge James Redden, who has long presided over the lawsuit surrounding the Columbia Biological Opinion (BiOp), announced that he will step down before 2014 when the next Biological Opinion is due. The State of Oregon, The Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of conservation and fishing groups have been locked in a legal battle with the federal government since 2001 over the legality of the Columbia BiOp, winning three court decisions which found federal authorities in violation of the Endangered Species Act. As a result of the litigation, court mandated spill and other operational guidelines have led to improved survival for outmigrating smolts, and the BPA and federal government have invested millions of dollars in habitat restoration and hatchery reform. Yet the feds have fallen woefully short of their mandate to recover wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake, something which many believe will require the breaching of the four Lower Columbia Dams.

Also coming out last week was Trout Unlimited's announcement that they will be withdrawing as plantiffs on the Columbia BiOp marking a major change in course for the organization. The decision is somewhat puzzling given what is at stake on the Columbia, the track record for success through the courts and the Federal government's unwillingness to convene stakeholder meetings to decide the future of the four Lower Snake Dams. Departing the lawsuit Trout Unlimited states that they will focus instead on bringing stakeholders together to work out a management plan everyone can live with. Trout Unlimited has a long track record of working collaboratively with government and stakeholders to address conservation challenges, however given the intractability of the Columbia BiOp and the fundamental differences in the position of stakeholders and the government such a consensus may prove difficult to find.

An article from the Oregonian on Redden's departure:

An article from OPB on TU's decision:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Elwha In Science Magazine

Last week Science Magazine, a leading publisher of science journalism printed an excellent article on the Elwha Dam removal. The article discusses some of the specific research that is ongoing in the Elwha with quotes from many of the scientists involved about their expectations for the recovery of fish populations and the Elwha ecosystem, and places the project within the larger context of dam removals around the country. The author also touches on the issue of hatcheries with a great quote from Jack Stanford on the way that managers have used concerns over high sediment loads as a justification for hatchery intervention.

Dam removal is ongoing on the Elwha, and the FFF Steelhead Committee has joined with the Wild Fish Conservancy, the Wild Steelhead Coalition and the Conservation Angler in a lawsuit seeking a more robust scientific review can objectively examine the role of hatcheries in the recovery and develop an adaptive management plan which includes measurable recovery objectives and a time line for ending hatchery supplementation in the basin. The Elwha affords a unique opportunity to allow for a natural recovery of wild salmon in a pristine ecosystem, setting the bar for other recovery projects throughout the region.

Monday, November 21, 2011

SSBC Thompson Fundraiser This Week

This Wednesday in Vancouver, BC the Steelhead Society of BC is hosting a fundraiser to benefit Thompson River Steelhead. Money raised will go directly to habitat projects on Spius Creek an important spawning tributary if you live in the area come out and support a great organization and cause.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feds "Staying the Course" Towards Extinction on Snake River Salmon

A map from the Oregonian depicting the status of listed Columbia Salmon

Yesterday the federal government responded to a request for settlement by plantifs in the lawsuit against the Columbia River Biological Opinion (BiOp). Opponents of the Columbia River BiOp which include the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon, and a broad coalition of conservation and fishing groups have called on the Federal Government to convene discussions with stakeholders to craft a lasting solution for the Snake River and it's four lower dams. In their response the Federal Government indicated that they are uninterested in such a process and that instead they plan to "stay the course" with the controversial plan to recover Snake and Columbia salmon.

This begs the question though, what kind of future are we staying the course towards? Salmon populations in the Snake and Columbia have been buoyed by favorable ocean conditions which are cyclical in nature. Every year the federal government and the BPA spend millions of dollars on salmon recovery projects with questionable benefit, seeking to meet their legal obligations under the ESA and protect the status quo. This despite the fact that leading researchers at the American Fisheries Society, the worlds largest organization of fisheries professionals have stated unequivocally that the only way to ensure recovery of ESA listed salmon and steelhead in the Snake over the long term is to remove the four Lower Snake Dams.

Even under the most optimistic scenarios salmon and steelhead in the Snake and Columbia will not even reach "recovery" goals laid out by NOAA, but instead will continue to fluctuate around the same levels of abundance we've seen over the past decade. Even with massive investments by the BPA the federal government we're reaching the point of declining returns. Passage can only be improved so much at each of the 8 dams fish must navigate migrating from the pristine headwaters of the Snake, and at the end of the day the undeniable fact is that dams have turned a mighty river into several hundred miles of stagnating, predator infested lakes.

Looming on the horizon is the true elephant in the room, climate change. Interior basins of the Columbia and Snake may be some of the hardest hit by a warming climate, yet bureaucrats at NMFS refuse to even entertain the notion of proactively removing four antiquated dams that never should have been built in the first place. The federal government is living on borrowed time, begging a federal judge to let them "stay the course" to extinction. So as we approach the twenty years mark since the first illegal BiOp, it's back to court for another round in the never ending saga.

More from Save our Wild Salmon:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Klamath Dam Removal Legislation Introduced in Congress

Bills introduced last week in the House and Senate seek federal authorization and funding for the removal of four dams in the Klamath Basin. Sponsored by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkely in the Senate and California Congressman Mike Thompson in the House, the bills would authorize $536 million in federal funding for the project, authorizing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, commonly called the Klamath Accords.

This fall the Department of the Interior released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) indicating that they supported the removal of the four Klamath dams and that they total cost of the project might be significantly lower than previously projected. Still, Republican lawmakers who last year sought to kill Klamath Dam removal with riders attached to the House Appropriations bill remain adamantly opposed to the project meaning it faces an uphill battle in Congress.

Without authorization by 2012 the Klamath Settlement is nullified, something which could be a major setback to dam removal efforts.

More information from OPB's earthfix blog:

Monday, November 14, 2011

NOAA's Technical Recovery Draft for Puget Sound Steelhead Available Online

Since the listing of Puget Sound Steelhead in 2007, NOAA has been actively working to develop historical baselines which will allow for the evaluation of extinction risk and recovery planning in the Puget Sound Distinct Population Segment (DPS). Central to completing that task was the formation of the Technical Recovery Team (TRT) a group of scientists representing many of the state, local and federal agencies involved in steelhead management in Puget Sound.

Their draft titled, Identifying Historical Populations of Steelhead Within the Puget Sound Distinct Population Segment, attempts to identify demographically independent populations within the Puget Sound and will provide the foundation for recovery planning. Demographically independent populations are basically populations of steelhead with shared traits such as georgraphic distribution, entry timing, etc. So for example, Deer Creek summer run steelhead may be considered a demographically independent population for the purpose of the TRT.

It's a long document which brings together a wealth of information on steelhead life histories, population and genetic structure, migration timing, habitat use and historic documentation and is well worth the read. Check it out at NOAA's website:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

WSC Film Premier Raising Money for Wild Fish

The Wild Steelhead Coalition is hosting the Washington premier of Connect, a fly fishing film by Confluence Films. The film documents the experiences of traveling anglers around the world, from the Yukon to Tanzania, Africa. If it's anything like other productions by the Confluence Films crew it should be visually stunning and well worth the price of admission. It's a win win that the event will serve as a fundraiser for the Wild Steelhead Coalition and our efforts to protect the future of the Elwha River from the harmful impact of hatcheries.

Advanced Ticket Sales:

Confluence Films website:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Canadian Officials, "no confirmed cases of infectious salmon anaemia in wild or farmed salmon in BC."

A press release last week from the Canadian Food Inspection (CFI) agency stated unequivocally that ISA is not in BC, this despite previous tests both at the world reference laboratory for ISA and at an independent lab in Norway had confirmed the presence of the disease in two juvenile salmon from Rivers Inlet, BC. Since the two individuals tested positive for ISA in Rivers Inlet, independent testing on coho and chum sampled in the Lower Fraser has also confirmed the presence of ISA in BC. Yet the agencies responsible for the well being of wild salmon in British Columbia remain woefully behind the eight ball, happy to continue denying the presence of the disease.

Canadian officials have long had a close relationship with the fish farming industry but the latest turn is an egregious affront to the precautionary principle that should be guiding the management of wild salmon and aquaculture in BC, and its only a matter of time before they are exposed. The sad truth is, there is almost 100% certainty that ISA is in BC. The PCR tests administered on the samples at the world reference lab amplifies particular parts of the viral genome making false positives extremely unlikely. Until now the disease has never before been documented in the Pacific and there is literally only one place it could have come from...farmed salmon.

Indeed, US officials are so concerned about the inability of Canadian authorities to act responsibly that federal agencies are being tasked with undertaking independent sampling, expressing concerns that the Canadian government may, " have a motive to misrepresent its findings". In light of the response by the Canadian government it appears that these concerns are more than valid and it is unfortunate that there has not been an honest attempt to get ahead of the disease by rigorously sampling farmed and wild salmon around BC.

More information from a savvy Canadian blogger:

Article from the Seattle Times:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Support a Wild Elwha

The FFF Steelhead Committee has teamed up with the Wild Steelhead Coalition and Wild Fish Conservancy to challenge the legality of the Elwha Fish Recovery Plan. We believe that dam removal on the Elwha is a momentous opportunity to recover wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest, a chance to allow natural recovery of healthy wild populations in a largely pristine watershed. Given this opportunity we cannot sit by and allow a plan which calls for the release of nearly 4 million hatchery salmon and steelhead to go forward, particularly when that plan was never subject to formal public review or any independent scientific review. We cannot do this without your support, and the Wild Fish Conservancy is in the midst of a campaign to raise funds to support the lawsuit. Please visit their website today and support the cause, the future of the Elwha hangs in the balance.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

White Salmon Dam Removal Highlights Weaknesses in Elwha Recovery Plan

Dam removal is proceeding at Glines Canyon and Elwha Dams

For fish and river lovers this has been a monumental fall. In late September, work began to remove two dams on the Elwha River in what will eventually be the largest river restoration project in our history. As many of you have undoubtedly read, removing these two dams will restore access to more than 90 miles of habitat in the Elwha, much of which is pristine and protected within the Olympic National Park. With access to that much pristine habitat, wild salmon and steelhead populations are poised to recover to levels not seen in the Elwha in a century. Unfortunately, state and federal agencies in cooperation with the Elwha Klallam Tribe have agreed on a fish recovery plan that will release close to 4 million hatchery salmon and steelhead into the river each year, threatening the recovery of wild fish in the basin.

The argument for the hatchery is that the habitat in the lower river will be so compromised by the sediment trapped behind the two dams that the hatchery program is necessary to keep the fish from going extinct. That may seem like a logical argument until you consider two facts. First, the magnitude of hatchery releases is completely out of scale with the supposed need. Under the current plan hatchery fish will continue to outnumber wild by an order of magnitude in the Elwha for the foreseeable future, reducing the productivity and fitness of the wild population. The ecological effects of the hatchery are also considerable and will serve to reduce the survival of wild juveniles in the river, and as they migrate to sea.

Second, in light of what we know about hatcheries and their impacts on wild populations what are the alternatives? Surely a number of alternatives were considered by the Elwha Recovery Team, but because the federal government never issued an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Fish Recovery Plan we have no idea what they considered. Nor did we have the opportunity to suggest that perhaps a massive production hatchery is incompatible with the goal of the dam removal, recovering healthy wild populations in the Elwha Basin.

Even without a formal list of alternatives for the Elwha Recovery, we don’t have to look far for examples of dam removal projects where managers have opted not to rely on hatchery intervention. This fall in preparation for the removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, biologists with the USFWS captured nearly 700 adult Chinook and passed them above the dam. Like the Elwha, the removal of Condit unleashed massive amounts of trapped sediment which would have resulted in extremely high mortality for any juvenile Chinook incubating in the Lower River after the dam removal. Since the ultimate goal of the dam removal was to have Chinook colonize newly available habitats above condit dam, the biologists have solved two problems with one simple, inexpensive action. These fish will emerge next spring and migrate to sea and by the time they return Condit Dam will be gone. Given the existence of Chinook, coho and steelhead in the Lower Elwha the same type of recovery plan could have been implemented, instead the majority of returning adults will be taken into captivity, reducing the fitness of their progeny and delaying the natural process of colonization in the Elwha.

Both rivers are also home to healthy populations of rainbow trout, the resident life history of steelhead, and in both rivers these trout continue to produce substantial numbers of ocean going smolts each year. In both systems, a handful of these smolts survive to adulthood and upon returning to the river have been blocked from their spawning grounds, until now. Knowing this, managers on the White Salmon have had the wisdom to allow the fish to recover on their own, and they are optimistic that in a few generations steelhead will thrive again in the Upper White Salmon.

Contrast that with the $16 million the federal government spent on a hatchery on the Elwha. Despite assurances by NOAA’s regional administrator Will Stelle that hatchery operations are only temporary, no formal timetable for discontinuing hatchery releases has been set and no goals for wild recovery that would prompt reductions or outright elimination of hatchery releases are in place. Instead we have a blank check for permanent, massive hatchery supplementation in a river that in the absence of hatchery supplementation would likely be among the most productive in the region.

Given time the Elwha can again support robust fisheries for wild salmon, but by adopting a recovery plan which hinges on a production hatchery; managers are placing the cart before the horse. The Elwha is the project of a lifetime and given all the blood, sweat, tears and dollars that have gone into making it a reality, we need a fish recovery plan that works. One that will not only ensure harvest in the coming years but which will allow wild salmon to recover the diversity and abundance that once sustained the Elwha ecosystem. That dream can be a reality, but as long as the hatchery plan remains in place we won’t get there.

Friday, November 4, 2011

US Senators Taking ISA Very Seriously

Since news of the detection of ISA in wild sockeye salmon came to light in October the disease has been confirmed in three more species almost 400 miles away in the lower Fraser prompting concern that ISA may be wide spread in Southern BC. In response to the findings, a group of US Senators including Washington's Maria Cantwell and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have sponsored a resolution calling for federal agencies to immediately begin testing in US waters for ISA. The US federal government has taken the threat of ISA very seriously and a letter sent by the three Senators expressed skepticism at ability of the fish farming industry and the Canadian Government to objectively monitor fish farms for disease saying,

"We should not rely on another government -- particularly one that may have a motive to misrepresent its findings -- to determine how we assess the risk ISA may pose to American fishery jobs,"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pesticide Ruling Good News for Fish

This week a federal judge upheld a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which placed limits on pesticide use in close proximity to rivers and streams. Agriculture has encroached on many watersheds in the Pacific Northwest and the ruling was a major win for salmon and steelhead. Pesticide use can cause significant harm to both juvenile and adult salmonids, eroding water quality, killing terrestrial and aquatic insects which provide food and in some instances killing the fish directly. The effort to overturn the rule had been financed by agricultural chemical manufacturing companies.

More information in the Oregonian:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Crooked River Salmon Recovery Hinges on Flows

From the Bend Bulletin, an editorial by Native Fish Society River Steward Tom Davis calling for environmentally sound water allocation in Prineville Reservoir on the Crooked River which give recovering salmon populations adequate in stream flow to ensure recovery. HR 2060 guarantee's only 17 cfs for fish in the crooked at least ten times less than what is needed trout and salmon.

The reality is recovery of ESA listed salmon and steelhead in the Upper Deschutes will eventually require more water. For the time being NMFS has given Upper Deschutes salmonids an "experimental" designation, which does not come with the same stringent requirements that a normal ESA listing might. This wont last forever and when the time comes it is better for the fish to be on their way to recovery and for water management and use to be in balance with both agricultural and ecological demands of the system. Otherwise it will be up to the courts to decide for Central Oregon how they should best manage their water.

Here's Tom's Editorial

Solutions for Fish Reintroduction

For more than 40 years, the Upper Deschutes habitat was closed to steelhead, spring Chinook and sockeye. The first adult salmon of one of the most ambitious reintroduction efforts in U.S. history are now returning to Pelton Round Butte Dam.

The relicensing agreement for the dam included a temperature-management and fish collection/passage structure. The total reintroduction cost is expected to exceed $300 million. The threats include low flows, water quality, passage and politics.

Recent OSU research on Whychus Creek concludes “an estimated four steelhead trout adults would be expected to return.” Low flows that are too warm and inadequate state flow targets mean low potential for steelhead, so the Crooked River watershed is exceptionally important.

The steelhead fry released were twice the number of Chinook fry released above the dam through 2009. The Chinook smolts that arrived in 2010 at the dam's fish collection facility were five times the number of steelhead smolts and this may portend poor steelhead success. Hopefully the outmigration of steelhead will improve, since Chinook typically smolt in their first year, but steelhead can smolt in their first, second or third year.

The Crooked River below Prineville and many tributaries have flows that are too low and too warm. The good news is that the problems appear to have feasible solutions.

The total storage capacity of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Prineville Reservoir is 150,200 acre-feet, with 148,600 acre-feet of active/usable space. Of that, 70,282 acre-feet of Prineville Reservoir storage space is for irrigation and other storage accounts, with 82,000 acre-feet uncommitted.

This suggests that Crooked River flows can be adequate for Chinook, redbands and steelhead, without compromising irrigation or other needs. In drought years, some small, proportional reduction of flows for fish and irrigation may be needed. The actual flow augmentation releases would depend on credible flow targets and adaptive management decisions made as-needed by the responsible fish managers.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently analyzed a 2001 best-available-science study performed by a consultant for the USBR. Flow recommendations for steelhead spawning below Bowman Dam ranged from 140 to 160 cfs in the 2001 study.

The ODFW analysis emphasized flat-water boating and fishing in Prineville Reservoir. The impact of adequate flow releases on flat-water recreation during the infrequent low water years would usually be minor and mitigation is possible by extending/lowering the launch areas.

More than 100 large reservoirs and lakes exist in Oregon for such recreation. There are four large reservoirs and at least six large lakes within a one-hour radius of Redmond that provide flat-water recreation.

Reintroducing ESA-listed steelhead into hundreds of miles of habitat is a rare opportunity and should be a high economic, biological and ESA priority.

Flow augmentation for steelhead and Chinook will be needed for only three or four months during most years, and 70,000 acre-feet of reservoir space would accomplish that. The USBR supported “providing some of the now unallocated space in the reservoir for fish and wildlife.”

HR 2060 authorizes 17 cfs for downstream flows, which is way below best-available-science flows. It contains a “First Fill” provision so in the occasional dry years irrigation would get the water it would in a normal year and steelhead, Chinook and redbands would take the loss. The USBR testified that first fill presents an “increased possibility for conflict.”

Legislation should allocate 70,000 acre-feet of the available 82,000 acre-feet of unallocated Prineville Reservoir space to downstream flows and 5,100 acre-feet for City of Prineville mitigation. The full 70,000 acre-feet would seldom be needed. The flow release decisions must be by fish professionals and should vary by season, life stage, run characteristics and flows otherwise in the river. The flow objectives must be the 2001 best-available-science recommendations for steelhead and Chinook. For public transparency, these flows must be noted in the bill that eventually passes as objectives of the adaptive management process.

- Tom Davis, PE, is a volunteer with the Deschutes Reintroduction Network, an informal group working on fish reintroduction in the Upper Deschutes.

The Senate is considering a bill (HR 2060) which will have important implications for the future of the Upper Deschutes. If you live in Oregon please take this opportunity to weigh in on these issues. Here's a list of talking points drafted by the Deshutes Recovery Network:

· 82,000 acre-feet of Prineville Reservoir storage space is uncommitted, and therefore available. 70,000 acre-feet must be allocated to downstream flows for Chinook, steelhead and redbands. The actual water available in the 70,000 acre feet of space will vary according to year and season.

· The flows needed from Prineville Reservoir storage specifically for fish would vary over the year. The amount released must be based on adaptive management decisions by professionals from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) and US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).

· The flexible objectives of the ODFW-NMFS-CTWS-USBR adaptive management decisions must be the best available science (BAS) regarding optimum flows for steelhead and Chinook. The BAS is the 2001 Hardin-Davis evaluation prepared for the US Bureau of Reclamation. For public transparency these flows must be listed in the bill that eventually passes as objectives of the adaptive management decisions. The optimum, minimum steelhead flow needs below Bowman are 140 to 160 cfs for spawning and 160 to 180 cfs for juvenile habitat. The Chinook needs are similar.

· Dry-year proportional reduction of reservoir space for salmonid flows and irrigation is essential. First fill as requested by irrigation interests is unacceptable.

· The relocation of the Wild and Scenic River boundary downstream for a hydropower generator must avoid disturbing redband-spawning beds and the new location justified.

Contact the offices of Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley with your concerns.

Senator Wyden:

· To – Wayne Kinney - -
· cc – Dave Berick - -

Senator Merkley:

· To – Susanna Julber - -
· cc – Adrian Deveny - -

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chum Fishery on Fraser Threatens Thompson Steelhead

Trends in Thompson River abundance. From the Thompson Fisheries Blog

The Thompson River is home to one of the most revered runs of steelhead in the world. Known for their impressive size and tremendous strength, Thompson steelhead are considered by many to be the hardest fighting race of fish on the planet. Unfortunately, the last decade has been hard on the Big T and during each of the last three years the river has broken it's previous low water mark for steelhead returns with 690, 590, 500 fish respectively. For a river the size of the Thompson that is abysmal, particularly when compared to run sizes in from the 1980s to the mid 1990s when more than 3500 fish commonly returned.

Bycatch of Thompson River steelhead in gill net fisheries targeting chum have long been a major concern for the conservation of the run (check out total runsize v. escapement through the 1990s), but with the run clinging to it's very existence DFO has recently sought to rein in bycatch significantly. This year however, the department has changed course and opening the Johnstone Strait chum fishery for a total of 164 hours, posing a sigficant threat to the Thompsons imperiled run. Now, the DFO is planning to open the Fraser River for a gill net fishery targeting chum salmon, RIGHT when Thompson steelhead are migrating through the river. There is absolutely no justification for such a fishery and in opening the Fraser for a gill net fishery the department is all but admitting, openly that the extirpation of Thompson steelhead is not of any concern to them.

Give DFO's Lower Fraser Resource Manager Barbara Mueller a call (604)666-2370 and let her know how you feel about Thompson steelhead and this fishery.

Here's the fishery announcement:

Category(s): COMMERCIAL - Salmon: Gill Net Fishery Notice - Fisheries and Oceans Canada Subject: FN1072-COMMERCIAL - Salmon: Gill net - Area E - Area 29 - Fraser River Chum

Chum Test Fishery results at Albion are used to generate an in-season Fraser River terminal chum return. The current in-season estimate is 972,000 chum and a commercial surplus has been identified. Currently a commercial Area E Gill net chum opening in Area 29 is under discussion with the Area E Harvest Committee. An update outlining a fishery schedule and details for this opening will be announced by fishery notice as soon as possible.

Albion test fishery catch updates are available on the Lower Fraser Test
Fishing Information line at 604-666-6182.

Recorded updates for Area E fleet
are available on the Fisheries & Oceans Information line at 604) 666-2828.

Barbara Mueller, Resource Manager, Lower Fraser Area (604)666-2370 Fisheries and Oceans Canada Operations Center - FN1072 Sent October 31, 2011 at 15:34 Visit us on the Web at

Awesome Time Lapse of Condit Dam Removal

Explosive Breach of Condit Dam from Andy Maser on Vimeo.

Check out this fantastic time lapse video from last weeks dam removal on the White Salmon. The Video was put together by Andy Maser who's been providing regular updates on the progress at the White Salmon Timelapse blog. The video highlights the amazing erosive power of water and gravity. Only a matter of hours after the dam removal the river had transported a tremendous amount of the trapped sediment seeking its original channel. The river has alot of work to do before the sediment supply and the transport capacity of the stream are in equilibrium and until then the lower White Salmon will be a very muddy place but the coming winter rains will go a long way towards moving all the trapped silt out, and chances are by spring the river will really be starting to take shape immediately above the dam.

Two years ago Hemlock Dam was removed from nearby Trout Creek, a tributary of the Wind River. Today the creek looks remarkably natural in the reach that just two years ago was a lake.
This photo was taken in June 2010 less than one year after dam removal was completed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Seattle Times Editorial Board: Protect Wild Salmon From Fish Farms

With all the news coming out of British Columbia on ISA and other diseases, and the links being drawn between fish farms and disease in wild populations, the concerns over the salmon farming seem to have finally started to break through into the conversation about wild salmon and sustainability at the national level. Yesterday, the Seattle Time's editorial board weighed in a proposal by Oregon based Pacific Seafood that would nearly double Washington State's production of farmed salmon by building a massive fish farm in the Strait of Juan de Fuca just west of the Elwha River. It's good to see the Time's taking a stand on the issue and bringing it to the attention of it's readers in Washington State and throughout the region. While fish farms have not taken hold in Washington the same way they have in BC, the possibility that increasing scrutiny of the industry in Canada will lead to expanded operations in US waters is very real. It is critical that Washington residents are vigilant against this possibility in the coming years. From the Times:

Protect wild salmon stocks from industrial fish farms

Efforts to promote and sustain the recovery of Northwest salmon stocks are undercut by a proposal for a huge new farmed fish operation, and fears among scientists after the discovery of a potentially devastating virus.

PUGET Sound does not need another giant fish farm to produce Atlantic salmon as the region nurtures the return of wild salmon and worries about a nascent salmon virus.

Seattle Times reporter Craig Welch laid out plans by an Oregon company, Pacific Seafood, to more than double the amount of farmed fish grown in local waters. The proposal would produce 10 million pounds of salmon a year in cages in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The news comes as two Canadian researchers found two wild sockeye smolts were carrying a highly contagious virus, one related to a catastrophic outbreak in Chile among farmed fish.

The timing could not be any more disturbing. Billions have been spent in the Northwest to preserve and restore wild salmon runs, with the latest outlay of money and optimism invested in the removal of dams on the Elwha and White Salmon rivers.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, along with Alaska's two senators, have asked Congress to require federal agencies to investigate the hazards from the latest revelations of a virus risk and report back in six months.

The threat to Pacific Northwest jobs and local economies makes the research a priority.

Efforts to convert marine aquaculture into a giant export business should not be done at the risk of harming — devastating — the restoration of healthy wild fisheries.

Industrial fish farms have a legacy of trouble around the world: diseases, pollution, escaping nonnative farmed fish in the wild population, antibiotics, and the consumption of wild stocks to feed farmed fish.

Organizations, such as the Mangrove Action Project of Port Angeles, have worked for years to sound the alarm about the hazards of using aquaculture to replace, not supplement, wild fisheries.

Based on hard lessons, these concerns are indeed global. Recent commentary in the Scottish Daily Mail describes farmed fish as second only to Scotch whisky as an export earner, but a government proposal under review would ban fish farms from areas that are important to wild fish stocks.

Scotland is looking at a law already in place in Norway that would require publication of levels of sea lice associated with specific fish farms.

One developing option to vast marine farms are recirculating aquaculture systems. These closed operations allow filtration of water for reuse. Better ways to deal with waste, antibiotics and other chemicals without the potential for contaminating wild stocks.

The shock expressed by regional scientists at the discovery of a potentially deadly virus with a devastating history among Atlantic salmon has to be respected.

Cantwell is right to demand a federal investigation into the hazards. Protect the wild stocks of Northwest salmon as they get a fighting chance to make a healthy recovery.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

ISA found in Fraser Coho

The New York Times reported today that documents released on Friday show that Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) a disease brought to the Pacific Coast by the salmon farming industry, has been detected in a coho salmon sampled in the Fraser River. This after it was revealed last week that two juvenile sockeye from rivers inlet had tested positive for the disease, the first time ISA has ever been documented in the Pacific Ocean.

While this development isn't particularly surprising it means that ISA has very likely spread throughout the Georgia Basin, and perhaps further, already. Canadian officials and the fish farming industry have been in denial for the last week about the validity of the two samples tested from Rivers Inlet, even asserting falsely that the samples had been destroyed and therefore could not be retested by a Canadian government lab. The industry has also been denying that the disease could have come from salmon salmon farms despite the fact that ISA has never been present in the Pacific before and that the strain of ISA detected in the two rivers inlet Sockeye was a European strain. Wild fish advocates have lobbied for years to stop the import of eggs from European hatcheries, citing concerns about disease and now their fears appear to have been realized.

The US government appears to be taking the threat of ISA on the Pacific Coast relatively seriously and last week Maria Cantwell, joined by Senators from Alaska has asked government agencies to undertake a comprehensive assessment of ISA and the threat it poses to American salmon populations.

At this point damage control for the salmon farming industry may be pointless, the disease has very likely already spread throughout the region a grim reminder the risk that open net pen salmon farming poses to wild populations. The only long term solution to this problem is moving salmon farm production onto land in its entirety ensuring that wild fish are not exposed to the many parasites and pathogens present on salmon farms.

Check out this article in the New York Times:

More from Alexandra Morton's blog:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today's the Day Condit Dam Comes Down. Watch the Live Feed at Noon Pacific Time

Today the long awaited removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River will finally come to fruition. The dam removal, delayed since 2006 will open up nearly 33 miles of habitat for listed steelhead and 15 miles for Chinook and coho. Friends of the White Salmon is hosting a free live feed on their website so that members of the public can watch the dam removal today at 12 PM Pacific Standard Time. Check it out:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Huge Fish Farm Proposed Near Elwha in Strait of Juan de Fuca

The Seattle Time's ran a story last week on a proposal to build Washington State's largest open containment fish farm in the Strait of Juan de Fuca just west of the Elwha River. The proposal from Oregon based Pacific Seafood would be to raise more than 10 million pounds of farmed Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead, almost doubling the amount of farmed salmon raised in Washington.

This is a terrible idea and must be fought tooth and nail. Salmon farming in British Columbia has been implicated in the decline of wild salmon populations, spreading parasites to outmigrating juveniles. The recent discovery of Infectious Salmon Anemia (a disease brought into BC by the salmon farming industry) has prompted significant concern throughout the region and another disease known as Salmon Leukemia in wild populations have raised questions about the role fish farms are playing in spreading diseases to wild populations. Citing these concerns Jefferson County tried to ban fish farming outright but was blocked by the Washington Department of Ecology.

While the article does cite concerns from the local community, and some of the potential biological impacts of salmon farming it also gave the company and NOAA aquaculture boosters the opportunity to spread a little bit of misinformation to the public. Two quotes in particular should raise eyebrows the first being from NOAA aquaculture manager Michael Rubino who claimed that much of the concern over fish farming is based on science that is out of date saying,

"There's a huge amount we've learned about what to do and what not to do"

and from John Bielka the general manager of Pacific Seafoods,

"the science is behind us 100 percent."

Simply stating that the science supports your position doesn't make it true, and these quotes represent an intentional effort to mislead the public about the true impact of salmon farming. Apparently Mr. Rubino and Mr. Bielka haven't been paying attention because in the last few years research has only continued to add to our certainty that open net pen fish farms are extremely dangerous for wild salmon. That's to be expected from an industry spokesperson but for a NOAA program manager to be so woefully unaware is unacceptable.

How about this paper on the role of salmon farms in Coho salmon declines

Or this one that models salmon lice infestations in comparison to pink and coho survival and finds that in some years almost 90% of the mortality is attributable to sea lice...from salmon farms.

Or this one that shows that salmon leukemia is responsible for extremely high rates of prespawn mortality in Fraser Sockeye. While salmon farms have yet to be implicated in this disease outbreak, the farms have refused to do voluntary testing and high rates of prespawn mortality overlap conspicuously with the expansion of fish farming in British Columbia.

Salmon farms should be a major concern for Washingtonians who care about wild salmon, even before this proposal came to light. The prospect of putting 10 million more pounds of disease and parasite spreading farmed salmon into Washington's waters should be a non-starter, particularly with the enormous amount of resources and energy that have been invested in the nearby Elwha. The last thing the Elwha and the rest of Puget Sound needs are fish farms spreading into Washington State.

To ensure that we don't repeat British Columbia's mistakes we need a statewide ban on new salmon aquaculture as soon as possible. Stay tuned for more updates on the proposal and how you can help fight it.

Article from the Seattle Times:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Condit Dam Coming Down this Week

Dam removal is underway on the White Salmon River and the dam will be "officially" removed on Wednesday when the dam is blasted away in a final ceremony. An interesting article in the Oregonian today examines the dam removal from the perspective of three of the individuals involved, Tony Washines a Yakama Trial elder, Susan Hollingsworth a local kayaker and Rob Engle a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The USFWS has transported close to 700 fall chinook above Condit Dam this fall, giving the fish access to the river above Northwestern Lake for the first time since 1913.

More from the Oregonian:

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Wild Fish Conservancy's Wild Elwha Campaign

From the Wild Fish Conservancy:

Protect Wild Elwha Steelhead & Salmon

We need your help at this critical time to protect wild steelhead and salmon and stop the release of non-native steelhead on the Elwha River!

The long-awaited dam removal on the Elwha River is finally underway, marking the culmination of a two-decade effort toward restoring salmon and steelhead to one of Washington’s most pristine rivers. The Elwha dam removal will open up about 70 miles of protected river for spawning fish. Given the amount and quality of the habitat, biologists predict tens of thousands of wild salmon and steelhead could eventually return to the Elwha River above the dams within our childrens’ lifetimes. These are exciting times and we should all celebrate!
But dam removal is only the first step to complete recovery and an all-wild Elwha.The recovery will reach its full potential only if hatchery fish are removed.
The plan of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is to continue releasing non-native Chambers Creek winter steelhead into the Elwha despite written requests from every responsible agency asking that they discontinue the program. A five-year fishing moratorium will be in place during the dam removal period, so none of these fish will be caught in tribal or sport fisheries; yet some will return to the Elwha, possibly spawning with one of the few hundred wild steelhead that remain. That would effectively nullify the reproductive investment of the wild fish, which are the backbone of the river’s recovery.
An overwhelming demonstrates that hatchery fish will produce fewer offspring, undermine the genetic integrity of wild populations, compete for resources, attract predators, and spread disease to their wild counterparts.

We need your help to ensure a wild future for the Elwha and Olympic National Park! Over the next 30 days, we need to raise $20,000.00 to support our on-going efforts to stop the release of non-native Chambers Creek steelhead into the restored Elwha.

To date we have engaged with state and federal agencies on the issues of concern and on Friday, September 16th, served legal notice that we would file suit against the Olympic National Park, NOAA Fisheries Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife under the federal Endangered Species Act. It's our belief that the fish hatchery plan that the agencies are allowing for the Elwha River violates the ESA by harming Puget Sound Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout without the proper authorization.
Right now the momentum is on our side. We’ve had an overwhelming outpouring of support and the negotiations continue. But we can’t succeed without your help. New challenges and difficult decisions arise every day, but I am confident that with your help, we can continue to meet those challenges.
The time to act is NOW. Please consider making a gift to help us continue this important work. A donation of $5 or $10 would be great. $500 or $1000 would put us that much closer to reaching our goal. Any amount will help. Together we can get this done. Together we can ensure an all-wild Elwha future.

Visit their website to support the Wild Elwha: