Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More on Clayoquot Salmon Farming

Great video from the Common Sense Canadian documenting the research being led by the Wild Fish Conservancy in Clayoquot Sound. WFC has been leading research to understand recent catastrophic declines in the pristine watersheds of the area. Now Mainstream Canada has a proposal to build yet another 56 acre salmon farm. Salmon farms are known to take a substantial toll on wild populations through the transmission of parasites and disease from farmed fish to wild juveniles and adults prompting fish advocates and wide range of objective scientific observers to conclude that the industry must move onto land if it seeks a sustainable future. Building yet another salmon farm in Clayoquot Sound, already home to some of the highest densities of salmon farms in the region is a terrible idea in light of recent trends in wild salmon populations in the area and the mounting evidence that salmon farms are at least partly responsible. Check out this video and then submit comments telling the BC government to stop the project from going forward until the impact of salmon farms in the Clayoquot is better understood.

Comment Here:


Check out the Wild Fish Conservancy's Website:


Monday, May 30, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

A very informative figure from a 2004 USGS report on water quality issues in the Yakima Basin. This shows only the lower river but provides a telling look into the magnitude of water diversion and the degree to which natural flow conditions have been altered to benefit irrigators. In some reaches more than 80% of the river's water is diverted through irrigation canals. The problem is particularly accute during the smolt migration as reduced instream flows slow outmigration exposing smolts to warmer water and abundant native and non-native predators.

Meanwhile in the Upper Yakima and Naches irrigation releases keep the rivers artificially high throughout the summer hindering their ability to support healthy aquatic communities and reducing the amount of slow, edge habitat essential for rearing fry.

We hope the Yakima Basin Water plan will start to address some of these issues by providing substantive increases in spring runoff flows and reducing the proportion of the Yakima's flow which is diverted for irrigation purposes.

Read the plan here:


Friday, May 27, 2011

WDFW Seeking Comments on Snider Hatchery

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is soliciting a second round of public comments on the Snider Creek broodstock program. The program has for 25 years taken early returning wild steelhead from the Sol Duc River into a broodstock hatchery run by the Forks Guide Association. The contract with the Guide Association for Snider Creek is due to expire in 2011. On average the program takes about 50 wild steelhead annually from the fragile early returning wild run. Throughout its history the program has been plagued by low returns, inconsistent smolt quality, and a high degree of residualization raising concern about its potential impact on the naturally occurring population of early timed winter steelhead in the Sol Duc. WDFW has conducted an analysis of the Snider program showing that on average over its 25 year history only 129 Snider Creek fish have been caught each year. The analysis provides a thorough review of all the state's data on the Snider program as well as a list of potential options.

The four options for the Sol Duc are as follows:

1. Eliminate the Snider Program and discontinue all other hatchery plants designating the Sol Duc as a wild stock gene bank.

2. Relocate Snider Program to the Calawah and designate the Sol Duc a wild stock gene bank.

3. Renew Snider as is

4. Renew Snider with additional requirements

In our view option one holds the most promise for the long term health of steelhead populations in the Quilleyute. Given the growing body of scientific literature documenting the rapid decline in reproductive fitness in wild broodstock fish they do not offer a viable alternative to segregated hatcheries. Furthermore, high levels of residualization and the competition it creates between hatchery residuals and wild parr may dramatically reduce the capacity of the system. The Sol Duc is home to one of the largest populations of wild steelhead in the state making it an ideal location for designation as a wild steelhead gene bank which would protect the genetic integrity and productivity of its wild fish in perpetuity.

While we are encouraged by WDFW's willingness to consider desire to designate the Sol Duc as a wild fish only system, moving the Snider Program to the Calawah doesn't make sense. Wild populations on the Calawah are already subject to the effects of a segregated winter run and a skamania stock summer run program and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that early timed wild steelhead in the basin are best served by the outright elimination of the Snider Creek program.

WDFW will be hosting a pair of community meetings on the future of the Snider Hatchery

* June 7 – From 6-8 p.m. at the Forks Sportsmans Club, 243 Sportsmans Club Road, in Forks.
* June 9 – From 6-8 p.m. at the WDFW North Puget Sound Regional Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., in Mill Creek.

Comments to the state will be accepted through June 30th and can be sent to

snidercreek@dfw.wa.gov or by U.S. Mail to: Snider Creek, 48 Devonshire Road, Montesano, WA, 98563.
Find the news release from WDFW here:


Find WDFW's review of the Snider Program and a list of potential actions here:


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Green River Among America's Most Endangered

When Mount Saint Helens erupted in 1980 it sent a boiling lahar of hot ash and mud flowing down the North Fork of the Toutle River, devastating the system's once robust populations of salmon and steelhead. Remarkably, as river conditions have stabilized salmon and steelhead have begun spawning in the watershed once again. A major reason for the rapid recovery were nearby watersheds which escaped the eruption mostly unscathed. Among those critical refuges is the Green River in Washington's Cowlitz county, a tributary of the North Fork Toutle and the most productive spawning area remaining in the basin. Now, American Rivers has listed the Green River as one of the nations most endangered rivers because of a proposed mine in the watershed. The mine could be as large as 3000 acres and thus far the Forest Service has refused to conduct an environmental review of its potential impacts. Visit American River's website to learn more and take action.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Fish Farm Proposal for Clayoquot Sound

Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island is a UNESCO world heritage site. Home to some of the most intact marine and estuarine habitats in western Canada, and the highest density of fish farms in the entire province of BC. Over the last decade populations of wild salmon in area rivers have collapsed completely despite pristine freshwater habitat. Ongoing research conducted by Washington State's Wild Fish Conservancy is exploring the impact of salmon farming on wild populations in the area. Now yet another proposal is on the table for a fish farm tenure near Plover Point. More information and a link to submit comments on the proposed tenure at the Georgia Strait Alliance's website:


Comment here:


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SE Alaska Land Deal Threatens Tongas Old Growth

The Sealaska native corporation of South East Alaska has a proposal before congress that would open u 85,000 acres outside of their original land grant to timber harvest and other exploitative industries. Since 2010 the native corporation has spent almost $300,000 lobbying congress and campaigning to open up virgin forest lands on Prince of Wales and Koskuisco Islands. As many as 79,000 of those acres would be opened for logging threatening some of the largest tracts of old growth temperate rainforest on the planet. The plan if approved would pose a significant threat to the Tongass ecosystem and the salmon populations which thrive in the old growth coastal watersheds. More information in an article from the Anchorage Daily News:


Monday, May 23, 2011

Oregon Senate Wont Increase Timber Production on State Lands

In a vote last week the Oregon Senate chose not to bring Bill 464 to the floor. The bill which would have required that the state maximize timber production in Tillamook State Forest posed a significant threat to several important salmon and steelhead bearing streams in the region. More information in the Oregonian:


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Research Tracks Movement and Survival of Juvenile Salmon through the Georiga Strait

Ocean survival has long been thought to exert a strong influence on salmon population dynamics with early marine survival considered the most critical phase in a salmons migration. Despite its known importance, difficulties in tracking the movement and survival of juvenile salmon once they hit the marine environment have long limited our ability to understand the processes that affect survival in the ocean. However constantly improving tag technology and a new network of acoustic telemetry receivers called the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking array (POST) are shedding light into the movement and mortality of smolts as they enter the Pacific. Now a group of Canadian researchers have published findings from a four year study of early marine smolt migration in the Georgia Strait. Lead author David Welch and a group of collaborators tagged coho, Chinook, sockeye and steelhead in 14 locations throughout the Georiga Basin and tracked movement and survival from their natal watersheds to the continental shelf. Their findings shed new light on the movement and timing of mortality for juvenile salmon in the ocean.

Like previous they found that coho and Chinook spent a protracted period in the Georgia strait, with most spending the summer months feeding and making much more gradual progress towards the high seas. Steelhead and sockeye however moved much more directly towards the open ocean. Smolts from most of the study populations migrated through the Northern Strait of Georgia and Queen Charlotte Sound while a few migrated south through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Populations showed consistency between years and individuals in their route of migration. Steelhead and Sockeye showed a median survival of 16.5% from tagging to their exit of the Salish Sea, however as the authors point out that leaves a large proportion of the total mortality unexplained by early marine survival. Some have suggested that mortality once fish exit the Georgia Strait may be due to the delayed effects of parasitism or disease from salmon farms however more research is needed and should shed important light into the timing and nature of high seas mortality during the lifecycle of ocean migrating salmon and steelhead.
Read an article in the Globe and Mail

read the paper Welch et al. 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Proposed Coal Mine Threatens Vancouver Island's Comox Valley

A proposal to build a 3,100 hectare underground goal mine in Vancouver Island's Comox Valley is raising alarms in local communities concerned over the potentially catastrophic environmental impacts. Residents are concerned over potential contamination of local aquifers, surface waters and the impact they may have on Baynes Sound, an important estuary both ecologically and for the extremely valuable shell fish industry. The coal would then be shipped over land and loaded onto ships for export at Port Alberni, at the mouth of the legendary Stamp River. All in all the project poses a tremendous risk to river and marine ecosystems in the Comox Valley and Port Alberni and should not be approved. There are a series of town hall meetings scheduled on Vancouver Island

Monday May 30, 2011 – Florence Filberg Centre, 411 Anderton Ave, Courtenay, BC

Thursday, June 2, 2011 – Port Alberni Athletic Hall, 3727 Roger St. , Port Alberni, BC

Friday, June 3, 2011 – Union Bay Community Club, 5401 South Island Highway, Union Bay, BC

and a 40 day public comment period began May 18th and runs through the end of June. More information at Coal Watch:


Friday, May 20, 2011

Puget Sound Chinook Recovery Falling Short

Despite ambitious goals and plans to recover threatened Puget Sound Chinook, a recent report to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) found that so far the plan appears to be falling well short of its stated goals. Only about 30% of the needed funding has been secured for restoration in the Puget Sound and most populations have not seen significant recovery since the listing more than a decade ago. On the Upper Skagit, by far the ESUs most prolific producer of Chinook the ten year average abundance has been approximately 11,000. The Upper Skagit has a recovery goal of 26,000 fish. WDFW and NMFS have sought to negotiate reductions in the catch of Washington's listed chinook by Alaskan and Canadian fisheries however the majority of harvest still occurs outside of state waters. More information in an article from the Northwest Fishletter:


Washington's Agency Consolidation Bill Still Alive

A bill which earlier this year proposed to consolidate Washington's natural resource agencies by joining the administrating function of the departments of Agriculture, Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation and Conservation is still on the table. After taking a several month hiatus to rework the bill, its sponsor Senator Kevin Ranker has reintroduced it. The legislature has until May 24th to pass the law. More information:


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reminder: Yakima Comments Due By Tomorrow

Comments on the Yakima Draft Water Project are due by tomorrow. The plan which aims to provide for the long term water needs of both fish and irrigators includes a number of provisions which could, if implemented have tremendous benefit for wild fish in the basin. Please take a few minutes for the Yakima. More information on how to get involved:


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BPA Drops the Ball on Wind Power

With a record snowpack and a wetter than usual spring, the Columbia River is flush with runoff and rather than spilling more water over the dams, the Bonneville Power Administration is unilaterally breaking contracts with wind power generators to avoid generating more power than the system can carry. The BPA argues that they are legally bound to limiting spill in order to maintain dissolved oxygen levels at 115 percent saturation. High gas saturation below dam spill ways can harm juvenile salmon causing gas bubble disease among other physiologically damaging reprocussions, however short duration exposure to 120 percent concentration is not thought to harm salmon and Oregon recently increased their water quality standard to 120% to allow more water to be spilled. More spill helps pass juvenile salmon downstream quickly through the hydrosystem and would keep wind turbines generating electricity, a win win for NW salmon and green energy. More information in the Seattle Times:

Read a guest editorial in the Times:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

California Irrigators Oppose Commercial Salmon Opening

Last week a group of irrigators in California's Central Valley filed suit against federal fish managers for their plan to open the waters off the California coast for the first full commercial salmon season in several years. The farmers argue that the federal government violated the endangered species act in allowing the fishery, and are concerned if salmon continue to decline in the central valley that irrigation withdrawls will be sacrificed to protect fish. After years of fishery closures, the California fishing industry is on life support and the law suit could be a major set back for the industry. The Central Valley BiOp has highlighted the need to reduce irrigation withdrawls in the delta to protect salmon and endangered smelt and regardless of the impact of this lawsuit on the commercial salmon industry irrigation and habitat loss remain the two greatest threats to Central Valley salmonids. More information in the San Francisco Chronicle:


and an editorial on the lawsuit from the Daily Astorian:


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trinity River Restoration Flows

Beginning with the construction of Trinity Dam in 1963 flows on the Trinity River have been regulated with water prioritized for irrigation. With seasonal high flows truncated by an artificial hydrograph the river gradually incised and lost connectivity with its floodplain. Recently however, the ESA listing of coho in the Klamath Basin has led to changes in flow management to better replicate the natural runoff regime restoring the function of the river's floodplain and creating off channel habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead. Check out this series of photos from the Redding Record Searchlight of the Trinity in runoff:


More information on the 2011 flow release schedule:


Osprey Issue 62 with an excellent article covering restoration efforts on the Trinity:


Monday, May 9, 2011

With Final Hearing Finished Redden Remains Skeptical

With the final rounds of oral arguments on the latest iteration of the BiOp finished, Federal Judge James Redden indicated today that he believes that he remains skeptical. He said that while the federal government has made significant progress towards a legally sound recovery plan, but that "the job isn't done yet." He also expressed concern that promised habitat restoration actions were already falling behind schedule and to what degree the federal government would be accountable in 2013 and 2016 should the current plan fail to bring about recovery.

It is still unknown when the judge will issue his verdict however even if he deems it illegal many believe the federal government would appeal the decision with the ninth circuit court rather than update the BiOp. More in the Oregonian:


and an article from the Columbia Basin Bulletin:


Map of Listed Columbia Stocks

Graphic from the Oregonian

This map produced by the Oregonian shows the 10-year average abundance of natural spawning populations of listed salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin. None of the listed stocks have recovered above 75% of their recovery goal. Furthermore, recovery goals for many listed stocks are a tiny fraction of the Columbia's historical abundance.

BiOp Goes Back to Court Today

With oral arguments on the Columbia BiOp beginning today in Portland the Oregonian ran an excellent article with background on the status of Columbia and Snake salmon, some of the threats as well as the long history of dams on the Columbia. Despite a legal battle spanning two decades and three presidential administrations many expect today to be the final hearing on the biological opinion. The state of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of non-profit groups (including The Osprey) contend that the federal government's plan falls short of ensuring recovery of imperiled salmon on the Snake and Upper Columbia. The BiOp calls for investments in freshwater and estuary restoration but does nothing to address the long term threat posed by 14 mainstem dams. More in the Oregonian


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oral Arguments on BiOp Set For This Monday

With the final round of legal proceedings on the updated Columbia River BiOp sent to begin on Monday, Judge James Redden last week sent a letter to those involved in the case identifying what he believes to be the six core issues which remain to be resolved. The State of Oregon, The Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups have sued the federal government over the plan. The six issues are

  • Federal defendents have argued that increased abundance and productivity of Columbia stocks means that they are trending toward recovery. Does this mean that a survival improvement is sufficient to avoid jeopardizing the species despite their already threatened status?
  • Does the most recent data reflect survival and recovery gaps for most listed populations? If so what are the consequences?
  • Are federal defendants predictions regarding the specific survival benefits of habitat improvements based on independent, reliable and scientifically verifiable information?
  • Has the federal government exhausted all feasible options for hydro mitigation actions which are likely to improve survival of the listed species?
  • What are the prospects for the survival and eventual recovery of listed Upper Columbia stocks in light of severely degraded habitat?
  • Given the uncertain survival benefits resulting from proposed habitat restoration will the federal government consider reporting on progress and revising the plan in the event that Comprehensive Evaluations in 2013 and 2016 do not reflect the anticipated improvements?
Redden has now presided over the legal proceedings surronding the BiOp since 2003 and has so far deemed each BiOp illegal on the grounds that it fell short of the ensuring the recovery of ESA listed salmon on the Columbia River. In 2006 despite objections from the federal government and manages of the hydrosystem he ordered spill over dams to improve fish passage down river during the critical smolt outmigration. Since then upriver stocks have seen a tremendous improvement in productivity and many have cited court ordered spill as a major contributor to improved runs.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Taneum Creek Dam Removal Video

Last year a coalition of local stakeholders including the Yakima Tribe, Bonneville Power Administration and the Kittitas Conservation Trust worked together to replace a diversion dam which had previous blocked most anadromous fish from 30 miles of high quality habitat in upper Taneum Creek. Currently, tributaries provide the majority of spawning and rearing habitat for anadromous fish in the Yakima Basin and the replacement of the 120 year old diversion dam should pay immediate dividends for wild fish. Check out a video documenting the project here:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Budget Battle Ends with Most Harmful Riders Removed

This spring congress sought to pass a budget which would have slashed funding for important conservation programs and included a number of extremely harmful riders including some which would have defunded Klamath dam removal studies, removed the EPA's authority under the clean water act, and removed funding for the implementation of the BiOp for Central Valley Salmon and Steelhead. While many conservation programs did see reductions in federal funding the harmful riders which had previously been included in HR1 were not in the final budget. Furthermore some conservation programs which had been slated to be removed from the federal budget altogether were kept in place, albeit at lower levels of funding. Read more at trout unlimited's website:


Monday, May 2, 2011

Oregon SB 945 Protects Salmon From Road Runoff

Oregon State Senators are currently considering a bill which would phase out copper from brake pads throughout the state. Copper is known to inhibit salmon's physiological function and can cause high levels of prespawn mortality in returning adults, when fall rains flush large amounts of dust and other material that has collected on roadways. Washington and California have already passed legislation to remove copper from brake pads. If you're an Oregon resident, contact your legislator and ask them to support SB 945. More information and a link to contact your state senator: