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:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ISA in the New York Times

Monday's announcement that Infectious Salmon Anemia had been detected in British Columbia sent a shockwave through the region that has prompted concern throughout the Pacific Northwest. The implications of ISA on the west coast are potentially profound and while there is no other possible culprit but open net pen fish farms, the industry has been quick to cast doubt on the credibility of the science in a floundering attempt to protect their financial interests.

Coverage of the issue has been extensive, highlighted by an article in Monday's edition of the New York Times. Jim Winton, a fish pathologist with the US Geological Survey in Washington State has long been at the forefront of research on ISA and is quoted in the article saying that ISA in the North Pacific needs to be treated as a "disease emergency." This is absolutely correct, there is a tremendous need for research immediately and there needs to be a change in the way the issue of disease is managed by DFO. The salmon farming industry must be held accountable for the disease and parasites that have wrought havoc on wild populations in BC. Not testing is not an option and the burden of proof must be shifted to the industry and away from the wild fish and those that would come to their defense.

ISA on the west coast is bad news, but with an appropriate response it doesn't have to be catastrophic. Hopefully this will serve as a wake up call to the Canadian government and prompt legislation mandating that all salmon farms be moved onto land as soon as possible.

Article in the NY Times:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Transplanted Bull Trout Spawning in the Clackamas

This fall Bull Trout are spawning in the Clackamas River for the first time in more than 50 year. A reintroduction effort is underway, transplanting modest numbers of fish from a healthy population in the Metolius River into the Upper Clackamas, and last week scientists observed transplanted individuals spawning in a small tributary. Bull Trout were extirpated from the Clackamas in the early 1960s. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Infectious Salmon Aneima (ISA) is in BC

Map of BC Fish Farm Tenures with Rivers Inlet Shown to the North

This week it was announced by Simon Fraser University researcher Rick Routledge that juvenile sockeye from Rivers Inlet had tested positive for Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA). ISA is the same virus that led to the collapse of the Chilean salmon farming industry with upwards of 70% mortality in farmed salmon however it had not previously been documented in the North Pacific. For years advocates, concerned about the spread of the deadly virus had been lobbying the BC government and DFO to ban the import of eggs however their requests were met by inaction. Now because of this gross negligence, wild salmon throughout the North Pacific are threatened with a potentially catastrophic disease.

The only possible vector for the disease are farmed salmon however Rivers Inlet is approximately 100 kilometers by water from the nearest fish farm. Diseases such as ISA can be transmitted from adult salmon to other adults, from adults to juveniles of from adults to their offspring via vertical transmission and the fact that it was found in juvenile salmon and that it was found in an area which does not have fish farms in the immediate vicinity suggests that ISV has been in British Columbia for some time. While these findings are very new, it is essential that comprehensive testing be done area the region on both farmed and wild populations to determine the potentially sources of the disease and its consequences for wild salmon and steelhead.

This development only adds to the weight of damning evidence piling up against open containment fish farms. It's time for fish farms to be moved on land. Fish farming companies are opposed to such regulations, arguing it would cost to much. Unfortunately, wild salmon and the society and economy which depends on them are currently paying the price of salmon aquaculture and it's time for that to change.

Again, if this disease has spread wild salmon in Washington and Alaska could be effected and it is essential that we understand the extent to which the disease has spread and do whatever possible to contain it.

Check out this article in the Vancouver Sun:

Learn more and support research on disease in the wild populations by visiting Alexandra Morton's website:

Osprey Vol. 70

Osprey volume 70, our first ever BC issue is out in mailboxes and flyshops everywhere. The issue is full of great content and photography showcasing British Columbia's salmon and steelhead and some of the pressing conservation challenges they face.

In this issue:
  • Skeena River Update.
  • BC steelhead under siege, the fight against open net pen fish farms and enbridge will shape the future for BC's wild salmon.
  • Run of River Hydropower, taking water out of as many as 800 rivers throughout the province.
  • Thompson River Collapse.
  • By-catch Blues for the Dean, Skeena and Fraser
  • Keogh River steelhead research
To get your copy of the issue visit our website and subscribe today:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Submit Comments on the Enbridge Pipeline

The Canadian Government is accepting comments on the Enbridge Pipeline proposal which would carry oil and bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat on the Douglas Channel on BC's northern coast. The pipeline would cross the Fraser, Skeena and several important tributaries before being loaded into oil tankers at Kitimat.

The proposal has drawn heated criticism because the risk it poses to the Fraser and Skeena, two of BC's most productive salmon rivers and to the Central Coast ecosystem, one of the largest tracts of roadless coastal wilderness in the world. Eighty percent of BC residents oppose the pipeline and despite millions of dollars offered by Enbridge, first nations bands have rejected allowing the pipeline through their territory.

Whether or not you are a Canadian it is criticall important you make your voice heard. Tell the Canadian Government why the Fraser, Skeena and Central Coast are important to you and how the pipeline would adversely affect British Columbia.

Comments can be submitted online:

or by mail:

Secretary to the Joint Review Panel

Enbridge Northern Gateway Project

444 Seventh Avenue S.W.
Calgary, AB T2P 0X8
Fax: 403-292-5503; toll free fax: 1-877-288-8803

and must also be emailed to Enbridge and it's counsel:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nez Perce ask Idaho Senator Crapo to Bring Together Stakeholders on the Snake River

The Nez Perce tribe of Idaho sent Senator Mark Crapo a letter last week asking for his help in bringing together stakeholders to find an enduring solution based on the best available science. The federal government has never produced a Biological Opinion (BiOp) that met it's legal obligation to recover Snake and Columbia salmon and most experts agree, the only way to recovery Snake River salmon is to remove the four lower Snake dams.

Still, the latest BiOp produced by the Obama administration did not seriously consider dam removal and relied instead on a series of proposed habitat improvements in tributaries and the estuary with questionable survival benefits to wild salmon and steelhead. The Nez Perce have joined a lawsuit which also includes the state of Oregon, as well as commercial fishing and environmental groups, that challenges the legality of the BiOp.

Their Letter:

Re: Issues surrounding_ mainstem hydro litigation (National Wildlife Federation et a/ v. National Marine Fisheries Service, District of Oregon) Dear Senator Crapo: I write to you on behalf of the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe). The Tribe would like to emphasize the timely opportunity that exists to explore- carefully and comprehensively - solutions to the ongoing litigation over the operation of the federal dams• in the Columbia River Basin.

The Tribe believes that among the lessons learned in the most recent round of this
longstanding litigation are two that should strike all parties, on all sides -- and perhaps collaborative political leaders such as you even more - as particularly significant. First, partial collaborations- operational plans that address the concerns of only a segment of stakeholders in a complex matter of litigation - do not work. In the end, the rule of law is intended to be applied by the courts disinterestedly, even if its application were demanded by only one entity.

Second, the long-term certainty that was the apparent intention ofthe accords signed by many state and tribal sovereigns does not exist. The Oregon District Court's recent ruling concludes that the present plan of operations for the lower Snake River and mainstem hydro system does not satisfy the law, and offers at most the Court's allowance of an interim period of operation, with injunctive spill, while NOAA Fisheries faces again its legal obligations with respect to the listed species.

There may be people and entities that are satisfied with this form of uncertainty. If they were to constitute the prevailing view, the Tribe and, it is confident, the State of Oregon and the fishing and conservation groups that make up the NWF plaintiffs, are prepared to continue their demand for compliance with federal law as long as needed. But the Tribe believes this type of uncertainty will be unacceptable to people and entities that prefer comprehensive problem-solving and long-range planning. They•will recognize the simultaneous opportunity presented by this litigation to carefully craft a solution that is more far-reaching, and beneficial to the entire Northwest region, than mere 10-year operational actions and biological opinions.

The Tribe believes that you possess a broader and more long-term view of these issues,
and may see the opportunity presented here. The Tribe believes that among the key immediate needs, in order to even begin to take advantage of this situation, is the engagement and understanding of the relevant federal agencies at a Washington, DC level, and that you can assist with that effort.

In conjunction with the legal discussions that would be necessary between NWF, the State of Oregon, the Tribe and the United States, the Tribe believes there will be value in establishing a stakeholder "solutions table" to explore all scientifically-sound options and to help develop recommendations to the Administration and Congress that could lead to the recovery of imperiled populations of salmon and steelhead while simultaneously providing new opportunities that accommodate and even enhance the social and economic needs of affected communities and of the region at large. Again, the Tribe believes that you can assist with this concept.

None of us can predict whether such an exploration would be successful. But continuing the interim approaches of the past should be seen as risky, and the failure to even make an effort at truly long-term planning and problem-solving should be seen as unacceptable . Thank you for your time and consideration of these issues. Please• contact me by any means and at any time with thoughts or questions.

Very truly yours,

Brooklyn D. Baptiste


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WDFW Gets it Right on the Sol Duc

After reviewing public comments on the renewal of the Snider Creek hatchery, WDFW announced this week that starting in 2014 the Sol Duc will be designated as a Wild Steelhead Genebank. The Snider program, which takes early timed wild steelhead from the Sol Duc and rears their offspring in a hatchery run by the Olympic Peninsula Guides Association will be moved from the Sol Duc, with the Bogachiel or Calawah as likely destinations.

The Sol Duc is home to what is arguably the healthiest population of wild steelhead in the state and it's designation as a wild steelhead refuge marks a major step forward in the implementation of the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan. Thanks to everyone who took time to stand up for the Sol Duc and submit comments.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hood Canal Recovery Project Impeded by Harvest

Tarboo Creek, a tributary of the Hood Canal's Dabob bay, has been the subject of substantial restoration investment with more than 20 million dollars spent to protect and restore habitat in the creek and estuary. Given these investments and the relatively good quality of habitat in Tarboo Creek wild coho and chum should be thriving in the watershed. Unfortunately, short sighted harvest has taken a toll on Tarboo Creek salmon. During fall, when Coho are staging to enter the creek, they school en mass in Dabob Bay. With tribal fisheries targeting large numbers of hatchery fish in the area and a fishing boundary that allows fishing in the estuary of Tarboo Creek, wild coho have been decimated in recent years while staging off the mouth of the creek.

This year, citing concerns over extremely high harvest rates on wild coho returning to Tarboo Creek, WDFW proposed extending the fishing boundary out from the mouth of the creek. The plan which would have protected wild fish returning to Tarboo Creek while still allowing fishing in much of Dabob Bay was approved by other local tribes but rejected by the Skokomish.

More information in the Kitsap Sun:

and a write up by Doug Rose:

Friday, October 7, 2011

100,000 Dead Sockeye in the Fraser

This year an alarming trend of extremely high prespawn mortality for Fraser River Sockeye has continued and since August local biologists estimate as many as 100,000 Harrison River sockeye have died before spawning. Large numbers of Coho and Pink salmon have also been found dead, having failed to successfully spawn. Prespawn mortality is a fact of life in salmon and steelhead populations however the number of fish which make it back to the Fraser only to die before spawning is an order of magnitude higher than it should be and there is strong evidence to suggest that salmon on the Fraser are dying from disease.

This year DFO biologist Kristina Miller identified a viral pathogen as the likely cause of recent spikes in prespawn mortality on the Fraser. Most believe the disease to be Salmon Leukemia yet she took the witness stand earlier this summer for the Cohen commission, Miller had not been allowed to speak publicly about her findings. Despite the huge implications of Millers work she has not been funded to test fish farms for the disease and managers appear unwilling to explore the link between aquaculture and disease in Fraser salmon.

More information on Alex Morton's blog:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Upper Deschutes Salmon and Steelhead Have Passage, Now they Need Water

Two years ago Portland General Electric completed construction on state of the art fish passage facilities at their Pelton Round Butte facility, giving salmon and steelhead passage into the upper Deschutes for the first time since the 1960s. Now congress is preparing to pass legislation that will guide flow management and water allocation in the Upper Deschutes, Crooked River and tributaries into the foreseeable future. Passage to the upper watershed was achieved through considerable effort and expense, 300 million dollars to be exact, and it would be a terrible waste for recovery to flounder because congress fails to provide biologically sound minimum instream flows for salmon and steelhead.

It is critical that Oregon's Senators understand the importance of guaranteed minimum instream flows for wild salmon and steelhead in the Crooked River. If you're an Oregon resident please email them at:

Senator Wyden:

· To – Wayne Kinney - -

· cc – Dave Berick - -

Senator Merkley:

· To – Susanna Julber - -

· cc – Adrian Deveny - -

The essential points to make to the staff of Senators Merkley and Wyden are:

  • The legislation passed by Congress must provide for adequate flows in the Crooked River for the ESA listed steelhead and Chinook being reintroduced above the Pelton Round Butte Dams.
  • 82,000 acre-feet of Prineville Reservoir storage space is uncommitted, and therefore available. 70,000 acre-feet of reservoir storage space should be allocated to downstream flows for Chinook, steelhead and redbands. The actual water available in the 70,000 acre feet of space, and the water released for anadromous fish, will vary according to year and season.
  • The flows released from Prineville Reservoir storage specifically for fish would vary over the year. The amount released must be based on adaptive management decisions by ODFW, NMFS, CTWS and USBR professionals. The flexible objectives must be the best available science (BAS) regarding optimum flows for steelhead and Chinook, which is the 2001 Hardin-Davis evaluation for the US Bureau of Reclamation. For public transparency these flows should be noted in the bill that eventually passes as objectives of the adaptive management decisions.
  • Dry-year proportional reduction of reservoir space for salmonid flows and irrigation is essential. First fill as requested by irrigation interests is unacceptable.

Also check out this article about the issue originally published by H. Tom Davis the Native Fish Society's Deschutes River steward in Salmon Trout Steelheader:

Deschutes River Reintroduction

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dam Removal Getting Underway on White Salmon

photo from The Columbian

Change is underway on the White Salmon River. Salmon are spawning above Condit Dam for the first time in 100 years and engineers are busy demolishing the dam in prep for October 26th, when the final 15 feet of Condit dam will be blasted away finally removing the antiquated dam. The Chinook are spawning above the dam thanks to an effort by US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists who rounded up a dozen pairs of fall chinook staging in the Lower White Salmon.

For salmon in the White Salmon passage the fish above the dam is a win win, providing natural colonization opportunities above the dam and ensuring that their offspring are not subject to the harsh conditions in the lower White Salmon as stored sediment quickly works its way out of the system.

Biologists hope to capture at least 500 of the estimated 2000 fall chinook which return to the Lower White salmon and pass the fish above the dam. Check out this article in the Columbian for more information detailing the capture effort and why biologists opted to allow salmon and steelhead to colonize the river naturally. Biologically, the situation on the White Salmon is very similar to that on the Elwha; small populations of wild salmon persist below the dam, fish which given access to the upper watershed will colonize and thrive. Unfortunately the management of the two systems couldn't be more different and currently the plan on the Elwha is to release nearly 4 million hatchery fish throughout the period following dam removal.

Also check out the White Salmon Time Lapse blog. It provides alot of coverage of the dam removal including frequent updates, lots of photos, videos and historical perspective.

More Budget Cuts Could be Coming for WDFW

With Washington State's expected budget shortfall rising to 2 billion for the upcoming year, the state is looking everywhere for cuts and budget savings. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has already weathered major cuts to their budget and staff but may, once again be on the cutting block as the legislature and governor look to balance the state's budget. While the final budget has yet to shake out budget cuts at WDFW would likely mean even less funding for monitoring, enforcement and the planning and implementation of recovery projects for listed salmon and steelhead.

The state is also considering significant cuts to its most sacred cow, hatchery production. Pre-recession WDFW spent approximately $52 million each year on hatcheries, while that number will undoubtedly come down with reduced funding, the state should be looking at the recession as an opportunity to shift salmon management in our state towards a more holistic approach of allowing wild salmon and steelhead to recover naturally, without the hindrance of expensive hatchery programs that depress the productivity and resilience of wild stocks.

Long term the state needs to look at funding WDFW at least partly through revenue from license sales. Most anglers in Washington would likely be willing to shell out another $20-40 a year for a license if they knew it was going into the management of their local fisheries, rather than into the general fund.

More in an article from the Seattle Times:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Take Action to Protect the Klickitat River

The Klickitat River in southern Washington is among the crowned jewels of the Pacific Northwest. Long revered for its large native steelhead and spring Chinook, the river has some of the most intact habitat for fish and wildlife in the Middle Columbia Region.

Unfortunately, decades of hatchery released non-native Coho, Skamania steelhead and fall Chinook threaten the survival of Klickitat native salmon and steelhead. Since 1999, native Klickitat winter and summer steelhead have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Similarly, the native run of wild spring Chinook which once numbered in the thousands has a thirty year average of 300 fish.

Potential expansion of hatchery operations in the Klickitat basin, detailed in the July of 2011 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the Yakama Klickitat Fisheries Project (YKFP) will further imperil the river’s wild native salmon and steelhead.

The actions within the DEIS do not rely upon the best available science to recover wild native fish, jeopardizing wild runs by continuing most releases of non-native hatchery fish at or above their current numbers.

BPA and YKFP are required to solicit and respond to public comments during the DEIS process. This means that before anything is changed on the Klickitat BPA and YKFP must respond to the concerns raised during the public comment process.

This is where you come in. Please take 2 minutes to read over the comments below, personalize the letter and send your message to BPA.

Comment period ends October 10th. Please take a few moments to visit the Native Fish Society's website to submit comments.