Thursday, July 28, 2011
Over the last decade, as the impacts of salmon farming on wild stocks has emerged as a significant concern, DFO has drawn criticism for their unwillingness to confront the salmon farming industry. In fact, DFO has become a major booster of foreign aquaculture investment in BC and the Maritime Provinces serving as industry apologist and PR firm while ignoring their mandate to responsibly manage wild salmon resources.
With the Cohen commission underway the issue has finally come to a head and in the next few weeks the commission will be exploring the impact of aquaculture and disease in the decline of Fraser Sockeye. Recently leaked documents have revealed the degree to which DFO has sought to manipulate public perception at the highest levels. An internal memo, written by well respected scientist Brent Hargreaves highlighted inadequacies in science being done by some members of DFOs research team, research which sought to undermine confidence in the validity of previous findings that sea lice spread from salmon farms were contributing to the collapse of some salmon stocks in the Georgia Basin.
Last spring DFO researcher Kristina Miller and collaborators published a paper documenting the widespread prevalence of viral pathogen in Fraser Sockeye which was contributed to extremely high prespawn mortality rates. Understandably there was widespread media interest in the research and its potential implications for salmon recovery in the Georgia Basin. However despite the importance of the research, DFO would not allow Miller to conduct interviews or speak publicly about her work. Many have rightly accused DFO of muzzling Miller in an attempt to reduce the impact of her incredibly important work on the ongoing proceedings around the decline of Fraser Sockeye.
Since the publication of Miller's paper in Science, evidence has emerged indicating that the disease is salmon leaukemia and there is a distinct possibility the salmon farms are serving as a source. Another leaked DFO document from 2006 indicates that the department has known about the presence of a widespread disease, then believed to be viral, and had documented its presence in juveniles and adults of several species. The brief also indicated that there was evidence that the disease led to reduced early marine survival in infected juveniles. If that is the case, salmon farms could be having a major effect on the survival of salmon from Puget Sound to the northern end of Vancouver Island.
Unfortunately DFO remains unwilling to flex its regulatory muscle to protect wild salmon from disease. All this new information further heightens the need for for comprehensive, independent disease testing on salmon farms. Yet to date it has not occurred despite the substantial implications of Dr. Millers research for salmon throughout the region. In fact DFO is so friendly with the salmon farming industry they won't even go so far as to ban the import of juvenile salmon eggs despite the substantial risk of spreading infectious salmon anemia (ISA) to wild populations. ISA was responsible for the collapse of the Chilean salmon farming industry and should it end up in BC it could have a devastating effect on wild salmon up and down the coast.
With so much at stake DFO has yet to do anything but cover the salmon farming industry's dirty tracks leaving Canadians to hope that the Cohen commission will lead to significant changes in policy. The next few weeks will be telling.
More information on DFO's information control campaign in the Vancouver Sun:
and from the Common Sense Canadian:
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Thanks in large part to the leadership of Washington representative Norm Dicks the House of Representatives voted today to strike the so called "Extinction Rider" from the house Interior and Environment appropriations bill. Dicks and other House Democrats were joined by 17 Republicans including Washington Reps. Dave Reichert and Jaime Herrera in opposing the rider that would have prohibited the US Fish and Wildlife service from listing any new species under the Endangered Species Act. Longtime anti-salmon crusader Doc Hastings of Eastern Washington was among the 202 Republican lawmakers who supported the ban against future ESA listings. The ESA has been a powerful and effective tool for salmon recovery in the Northwest and recent improvements in salmon returns on the Columbia can be in part attributed to court ordered improvements in flows for ESA listed salmon.
More information in the Seattle PI:
Despite narrowly averting catastrophic political meddling in the implementation of species protection threats remain in appropriations act including section 447 which would prohibit the EPA from implementing measures to protect clean water, the communities and species that depend on them from pesticides.
Furthermore, a rider in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (HR 2354) will block implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Agreement, a landmark agreement between irrigators and the federal government to provide adequate water for ESA listed salmon and steelhead in the watershed while simultaneously providing water for agriculture.
More from Save our Wild Salmon:
contact your legislator and tell them these riders would be a terrible set back for the environment and economy in our region:
by phone: (202)224-3121
by email: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
Last week the Oregon Secretary of State gave approval to an initiative that would seek to ban the use of gill nets for all non-tribal fisheries in the state. With the initiative passing legal muster, the Coastal Conservation Association who is sponsoring the initiative, must now collect more than 87,ooo signatures to get the proposal on the November 2012 general election ballot. The Columbia River stands as one of the few remaining gill net fisheries left in the state, and Oregon shares jurisdiction of that system with Washington making the ramifications of the ban unclear. In recent years there has been an effort by state agencies to move commercial fisheries away from non-selective gear such as gill nets and towards seines and other nets that allow for the release of ESA listed wild fish and other non-target species. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
On Monday House Republicans brought a spending bill to the floor which included more than 30 policy riders aimed at undermining federal environmental regulations. Several of these riders threaten to directly impact our government's ability to designate endangered species such as salmon, or identify critical habitat for federally listed species. Further, the riders slash funding to the land conservation fund, and cripple the EPA's ability to address emissions which cause climate change. Washington Congressman Norm Dicks and California's Mike Thompson have taken the lead in the fight against these harmful riders calling them "extinction riders" and proposing amendment that would strike such environmentally harmful language from the bill. More information in an article from the Seattle Times:
Take Action by visiting Save our Wild Salmon's website and contacting your legislator:
Monday, July 25, 2011
An interesting article today in the Seattle Times on the early stages of the Elwha dam removal process. As reservoir levels drop in preparation for dam removal the river is cutting down through the layers of fine sediments which have settled out in the lake over the decades. Scientists are tracking the progress and it appears to be going as planned. Another interesting aspect of the dewatering is the amount of large woody debris it is unearthing. Waterlogged logs long ago buried or sunk in Lake Aldwell are visible once again, and could play a major role in shaping the river's channel downstream of the dam once the river flows freely again. The first few years after the dam removal will be extremely dynamic as the channel moves freely across the historic floodplain cutting down through the layers of fine sediment. In past dam removal projects researchers have been extremely surprised by the ability of the river to move fine sediment and restore a more natural, stable channel. The Elwha is the largest project of its type ever attempted and it will be fascinating to watch the recovery unfold, it's already underway. More in the Times:
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Starting in 2012 passage facilities on the North Fork Lewis River will provide access to 117 miles of habitat above Merwin dam. While much of the historic habitat has been inundated by three hydroelectric impoundments there is hope that wild salmon and steelhead can benefit from access to high quality spawning areas in the Upper North Fork Lewis watershed. WDFW has worked with PacifiCorp, owner of the three hydroelectric dams to design a fish passage facility that meets regulatory requirements needed to renew the dams licensing. The project will cost 110 million dollars in total. More info in the Seattle Times.
Friday, July 22, 2011
HR 2018 contains several potentially harmful provisions that would undermine the EPA's authority to enforce the Clean Water Act. Given the range of threats currently facing wild salmon and steelhead throughout their range, from Climate Change to Pebble Mine crippling federal regulations on clean water could have potentially disastrous consequences. Recently the White House released a statement of policy on HR 2018
July 12, 2011 (House Rules) STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY H.R. 2018 - Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (Rep. Mica, R-FL, and 39 cosponsors) The Administration strongly opposes H.R 2018 because it would significantly undermine the Clean Water Act (CWA) and could adversely affect public health, the economy, and the environment.
Under the CWA, one of the Nation’s most successful and effective environmental laws, the Federal Government acts to ensure safe levels of water quality across the country through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since the enactment of the CWA in 1972, the Federal Government has protected the waterways our citizens depend on by using its checks and balances authority to review and adjust key State water pollution control decisions, where necessary, to assure that they reflect up to date science, comply with the law, and protect downstream water users in other States. H.R. 2018 would roll back the key provisions of the CWA that have been the underpinning of 40 years of progress in making the Nation’s waters fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.
H.R. 2018 could limit efforts to safeguard communities by removing the Federal Government’s authority to take action when State water quality standards are not protective of public health. In addition, it would restrict EPA’s authority to take action when it finds that a State’s CWA permit or permit program is inadequate and would shorten EPA’s review and collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers on permits for dredged or fill material. All of these changes could result in adverse impacts to human health, the economy, and the environment through increased pollution and degradation of water bodies that serve as venues for recreation and tourism, and that provide drinking water sources and habitat for fish and wildlife.
H.R. 2018 would disrupt the carefully constructed complementary CWA roles for EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and States in protecting water quality. It also could eliminate EPA’s ability to protect water quality and public health in downstream States from actions in upstream States, and could increase the number of lawsuits challenging State permits. In sum, H.R. 2018 would upset the CWA’s balanced approach to improve water quality across the Nation, risking the public health and economic benefits of cleaner waters.
If the President is presented with this legislation, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
The Cohen Commission is getting set to reconvene for another round of hearings and before they've even started a controversy has erupted within DFO. A leaked 2003 memo shows internal conflict over DFO's leading salmon farming cheerleader, Dick Beamish's "shoddy science" and his boisterous, illogical support for the salmon farming industry. In the memo, well respected DFO scientist Dr. Brent Hargreaves indicates his strong disapproval of some of the research being done by Beamish and other DFO colleagues saying,
"The research on sea lice that has been conducted by Beamish has been strongly and widely criticized in both the scientific community and the public media...I think to a large degree it was the inadequacies of Beamish's research and conclusions that led to the lack of public confidence in DFO science"
Sadly in the years since the memo was written the problem has gotten worse. DFO and the BC government continue to hide critical information from the public about the impact salmon farms are having on the regions wild salmon. With the Cohen Commission about to turn its sights to aquaculture it looks like things could get interesting. More information in the Common Sense Canadian:
and from Alexandra Morton:
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Last week the Gifford Pinchot Task Force filed suit in Tacoma to make the US Forest Service conduct an environmental review of a proposed mine in the area around Mount St. Helens. The mine which is owned by Vancouver BC based Ascot Resources is cited in the Green River watershed. The Green which is a tributary of the North Fork Toutle has served as a vital refuge for wild salmon and steelhead since the eruption of Mt. St. Helens devastated the Toutle watershed in 1980 and building a mine in the area could have a substantial impact on water quality in the fragile watershed. More information at the Gifford Pinchot Task Force's website
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Diminished Reproductive Success of Steelhead from a Hatchery Supplementation Program (Little Sheep Creek, Imnaha Basin, Oregon)
A recent study authored by a group of biologists from NOAA and ODFW explores reproductive success of hatchery v. wild steelhead in a tributary of the Imnaha River in Oregon. The "integrated" hatchery program in which hatchery juveniles were progeny of wild parents or parents of relatively recent wild ancestry still showed a dramatic decline in reproductive fitness relative to their hatchery counterparts (30-60%). This research adds to the ever growing body of evidence that hatchery fish are extremely unsuccessful when spawning in the wild and that hatchery spawners dramatically reduce the productivity of wild stocks and further call into question managers ongoing reliance on hatcheries in recovery efforts.
Download the paper at the American Fisheries Society Website:
Hatchery supplementation programs are designed to enhance natural production and maintain the fitness of the target population; however, it can be difficult to evaluate the success of these programs. Key to the success of such programs is a relatively high reproductive success of hatchery fish. This study investigated the relative reproductive success (RRS) of steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss (anadromous rainbow trout) by creating pedigrees for hatchery and natural spawning steelhead. We genotyped adult steelhead that returned to a weir and were released upstream to spawn in Little Sheep Creek, a tributary to the Imnaha River in eastern Oregon. The broodstock for this supplementation program were originally chosen from natural-origin steelhead returning to the weir and in subsequent years consisted of both natural- and hatchery-origin individuals. Microsatellite analyses showed the broodstock to be genetically similar to the natural population across years. We also genotyped adult resident rainbow trout from multiple locations upstream of the weir and determined the parentage of progeny collected at various life history stages, including returning adults in subsequent years. Analysis of progeny sampled at both the juvenile and adult life stages suggested that the RRS of hatchery-origin fish was 30–60% that of their natural-origin counterparts. Using generalized linear models to address the importance of various factors associated with reduced reproductive success, we found that the greatest effects on RRS were origin (natural versus hatchery), length, return date, and the number of same-sex competitors. Natural parents were less negatively affected by same-sex competitors. Differential survival of juveniles and the behavior of offspring and/or spawning adults may all contribute to diminished fitness in hatchery-reared salmon, although it could not be determined to what extent these effects were of a persistent, heritable nature as distinct from an environmental effect associated with hatchery rearing and release strategies.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Restore the Elwha Without Hatchery Fish
The dam removal will open up about 90 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 children's lifetimes. The recovery will reach its full potential only if hatchery fish are removed from the Elwha.
On the Elwha we have an opportunity to restore wild salmon and steelhead to a pristine river unlike any remaining in our state. Before dam construction in 1910, the river supported robust populations of steelhead and five different species of salmon, including some of the largest chinook ever documented.
Given time and conservative harvest management, there is reason to believe that within a few decades we will see those magnificent fish return in similar numbers. Unfortunately, we are poised to squander what would otherwise be a tremendous opportunity.
Each year, Washington state releases hundreds of millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead from hatcheries to supplement sport and commercial fisheries. These releases are known to be harmful to wild stocks: interbreeding with wild fish, altering their genetic makeup and reducing the survival of their offspring; competing for space and resources; introducing disease; attracting predators; encouraging overfishing, to cite just a few deleterious impacts. Countless researchers have confirmed that hatchery programs are incompatible with healthy, abundant wild salmon and steelhead.
The stated goal of the Elwha River dam removal is to restore healthy populations of wild salmon and steelhead to the watershed. Yet despite an overwhelming body of evidence confirming the harmful impacts of hatcheries, state, federal and tribal governments have agreed upon a plan that relies heavily on hatchery supplementation. Faced with the single greatest opportunity to restore wild salmon, they've opted for business as usual, perpetuating a failing paradigm of replacing native fish with a man-made alternative.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, long advocates for dam removal in the watershed, have built a huge, new hatchery which will be used to plant steelhead, chinook and other salmon species, threatening the future of wild fish in the basin. These fish, bred in captivity, are no longer able to produce self-sustaining numbers of offspring when spawning in the wild. Consequently, large numbers of hatchery fish spawning in a river can greatly reduce the productivity of wild stocks.
A five-year fishing moratorium is scheduled to take effect this year, yet managers have been adamant about continuing to release hatchery steelhead and salmon into the Elwha, despite the fact that none will be caught in sport or commercial fisheries. Instead, these nonnative fish will return to spawn with the few remaining wild fish that have managed to keep a tenuous foothold below the dams.
For decades, hatchery salmon and steelhead have sustained tribal fisheries on the Elwha. Understandably, the tribe fears that without hatcheries they will no longer have opportunities to fish. While we believe strongly that the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe should have the opportunity to fish in accordance with their treaty rights, continuing to release nonnative hatchery fish in the Elwha throughout the recovery period is wrongheaded and counterproductive.
The Elwha River restoration is an opportunity to see the capacity of wild salmon and steelhead to recover without costly, ineffective hatchery intervention.
If we hope to restore the Elwha to its former glory, we must let wild fish recolonize the river naturally. For generations, the river sustained the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe and, unlike many rivers in our region, the wild Elwha remains more than capable of giving life to its people and standing as a singular example of a world-class wild fish-restoration project, one that will ultimately allow wild salmon and steelhead to return to levels unthinkable in the 21st century.
It's time we get out of the fishes' way.
Will Atlas is chair of the Federation of Fly Fishers Steelhead Committee; Kurt Beardslee is executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy; Rich Simms is president of the Wild Steelhead Coalition.
Congress is considering a bill which would strip the EPA of its ability to enforce the Clean Water Act. HR 2018 may come to the floor as early as Wednesday and would give the states veto authority over the implementation of the Clean Water Act. The bill would be a tremendous setback in efforts to protect Bristol Bay from the threat of open pit mining and would open a pandora's box for special interests including mining, oil and gas extraction, logging and other potentially destructive activities to severely impact our public waterways. Visit Trout Unlimited's website to take action OR call your congressman at the congressional switchboard 202-224-3121.
Monday, July 11, 2011
In the last decade we've seen an unprecedented push for dam removal throughout the Pacific Northwest. Dams have long been a primary culprit in the decline of wild salmon in the region and with dam removal finally outpacing construction there is hope that we may finally be reversing the tide and beginning an era of recovery for wild salmon. While dam removal projects have been a major success in many watersheds some of the more regionally significant dam removal proposals continue to be mired in uncertainty. In these cases the dams may be removed but without major changes in the management of the watershed it may not pay dividends for wild salmon.
An independent panel of scientists assigned to review the Klamath Basin accords recently unleashed a fury when they concluded that the landmark agreement which would remove several dams in the Klamath basin may fail. Their conclusions were based on lingering concerns over water quality. They come as an alarming reminder of the degree to which water issues, both quantity and quality remain a major factor limiting the recovery of Klamath Basin salmon. Dam removal in the basin would open hundreds of miles of habitat for spawning fish but until upstream dewatering and nutrient pollution are curtailed it may be all for naught. More information in the Oregonian:
In Washington State the Elwha dams are scheduled for removal this year. Unlike the Klamath 90% of the Elwha basin is protected within a national park. With Elwha and Glines canyon dams gone fish will have access to 90 miles of pristine river. In the Elwha the pollution comes from downstream, in the form of massive hatchery programs; more hatchery fish are released into the Elwha each year than the entire Oregon Coast. These hatcheries release millions of salmon and steelhead annually and have long supported harvest in the 6 miles of river below the dams. With access to the upper watershed finally restored these programs have run their course. A five year fishing moratorium means they will no longer provide fishing opportunity, yet they may profoundly hinder the ability of wild fish to recover in the watershed.
The push for dam removal is a hopeful change of course but with dams coming down around the region it is critical that we not view it as a cure all. We've come too far to squander these opportunities, with the dams gone we must seek to address the wide variety of impacts from agriculture to hatcheries that may potentially hinder wild salmon recovery.
Friday, July 8, 2011
With the Cohen commission on a summer hiatus and a critical August testimony looming on disease in the Georgia Basin, there is increasing concern that disease could be playing a major role in declining Fraser Sockeye. DFO researcher Kristina Miller recently published a paper in the Journal Science which implicated a viral pathogen in killing large numbers of migrating adult sockeye in the Fraser. DFO was later discovered to have known about the virus for almost 5 years without taking action and evidence has suggested that the disease, believed to be salmon leukemia, is also infecting juveniles and adults of other species.
Furthermore, poor fish culture practices and a long standing practice of denial has led many to wonder if it is simply a matter of time before ISAV (Salmon Anemia) spreads to BC. The disease which has long been associated with open containment fish farms has ravaged the industry in Chile as well as Europe and would have a devastating effect on wild salmon in BC. Thus far the government regulators have refused to block the import of salmon eggs from Europe the only way to keep the disease from reaching BC. More information in the Tyee:
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Seattle's KUOW featured an excellent discussion on the future of Snake and Columbia Salmon and the dams in the basin on their Tuesday airing of weekday. The show included dialogue between Lorri Bodi from the Bonneville Power Administration, William Rodgers a law professor from the University of Washington and author Steven Hawley whose recently published book, Recovering a Lost River provides an in depth account of the science and politics in play on the Snake and what's at stake for the basin's wild salmon. To read more and to listen to the archived show visit KUOW's website.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
co-Chair FFF Steelhead Committee
With over a century of declines due to dam building, habitat degradation and overharvest, tribal fisheries in the Columbia Basin depend largely upon hatchery supplementation. In the Middle Columbia hatcheries managed by the Yakama Klickitat Fisheries Project release millions of smolts annuallly and provide much of the harvest opportunity for both tribal and sport fisheries. In the Klickitat alone 600,000 spring Chinook, 90,000 skamania steelhead as well as 4 million fall Chinook and 3.5 million coho both of which are non-native and there is currently a proposal to build yet another hatchery in the basin.
Unfortunately these programs come at a significant cost to ESA listed wild fish and recent work by the Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Commission (CRITFC ) found that non-native fall Chinook were inbreeding with the fragile population of native spring Chinook, undermining the genetic and evolutionary integrity of the population. A tagging study assessing fish migration past Lyle Falls on the lower Klickitat estimated approximately 1000 wild summer steelhead ascended the river in 2010, while another 5,000 hatchery summer runs were passed into the upper river. Of those 5,000 hatchery steelhead only about half were harvested leaving the rest to spawn among the wild population, undermining the productivity of the ESA listed wild stock.
These effects are not unique to the Klickitat and Yakima basins; however the scale of the hatchery programs and their impact on wild populations is undeniable. On the Yakima a spring Chinook hatchery on the upper river has in a few generations shifted the life history of the fish towards earlier maturity and smaller body size. Despite the effects of domestication Yakima Tribal fisheries continue to push for large scale hatchery supplementation, even going as far as suggesting that these programs have been responsible for recovery in the basin, this despite a tremendous body of scientific evidence suggesting the contrary. In November biologist Bill Bosch was interviewed in the Columbia Basin Bulletin and compared redd count data from the Upper Yakima to the Naches which is unsupplemented. Over the last 10 years Chinook populations as indexed by redd counts have increased 160% on the Naches while the number of redds has increased 245% on the Upper Yakima. These data are misleading however because of the high proportion of the redds in the Yakima were constructed by hatchery fish spawning in the wild, yet Bosch went as far as saying that the Naches, “appears to be declining while the upper Yakima is holding its own, replacing itself”. This is simply not the case. A 160% increase in wild redd abundance should be applauded and represents a tremendous improvement, while the spawning population in the Upper Yakima is likely dominated by hatchery origin fish and their offspring.
The Yakama Nation has an understandable desire to fish in accordance with their treaty rights. Hatcheries provide harvestable fish despite the depressed status of wild populations. However, this harvest comes with the cost of hatchery-induced undermining of the genetic and evolutionary integrity of wild fish within their watersheds; something that is both wrong and deeply at odds with much of the other extremely important work they do for wild fish. The tribe has been ardent advocates for fish passage and restoration work in the basin and are actively engaged in a wide variety of projects ranging from fish passage at Cle Elum Lake where they hope to recover native sockeye to irrigation water buybacks to ensure adequate instream flows. Moving forward however it is crucial that the tribe and the state address the impacts that hatcheries are having on the productivity and genetic integrity of wild salmon and steelhead in the Klickitat and Yakima Basins. The first step being to discontinue the release of non-native fall Chinook and coho in the Klickitat and addressing the threat posed by hatchery summer steelhead spawning in the wild.
The Klickitat is a nationally designated wild and scenic river and holds tremendous promise for the recovery of listed summer steelhead and spring Chinook, however the current management wastes this opportunity turning one of our state’s most distinctive and stunning rivers into little more than a hatchery raceway.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Almost 50 years after they were wiped out from the Clackamas watershed, biologists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service last week began the process of reintroducing the fish to the system. This month a handful of fish ranging from adults to juveniles from the Metolius will be released in the Upper Clackamas with the goal of establishing a viable population of the threatened fish. Bull Trout have suffered throughout their range as logging and other land use changes degraded cold water spawning tributaries and overharvest depressed populations beyond the point of recovery. The Clackamas project is one of the first of its kind and may ultimately serve as a model for other native fish reintroductions.
More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin: