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.