Thursday, December 19, 2013

Canadian Petrostate: the Fight Continues for Canada's Soul and the Future of Our Climate

Today in Calgary the Joint Review Panel (JRP) convened by the Canadian National Energy Board (NEB) gave the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline the green light, contingent upon the company meeting a number of conditions. The Northern Gateway pipeline would carry bitumen (heavy unrefined oil) from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat on the North Coast of BC for export to Asian markets. Along the way the pipeline would cross the Fraser River before running down the Skeena watershed to Kitimat, with hundreds of stream crossings in its path. Then, at Kitimat the oil would be loaded onto supertankers and shipped down Douglass Channel, threatening the entire North and Central Coast of BC with a potentially catastrophic spill. Importantly, the JRP found that the risk of an oil spill would be significant, but still deemed the project to be in the public interest.

All told the project would bring the threat of oil spill to all of BC's most significant salmon bearing ecosystems, without any major economic benefit to the province. Further, it would expedite the extraction of bitumen from the Alberta Tar sands, the dirtiest, most environmentally harmful oil on the planet, for export to Asian markets. In short, the Enbridge Pipeline and others like it represent a blatant disregard for the environment that permeates the current Canadian regime. In the event of a spill it could unleash untold harm upon the freshwater and marine environments that are essential to BC's economy and to First Nations food harvest, and will move our planet ever closer to climate catastrophe.

With unanimous First Nations opposition to the pipeline, the fight is far from over, but the JRP approving the project is the latest in series of actions taken by the Canadian federal government to undermine environmental protections and expedite resource extraction projects no matter the cost. This year, the government made sweeping changes to the Fisheries Act, removing protection for habitats that do not currently support commercial, aboriginal or sport fisheries. That simple change removed habitat protections from a vast majority of aquatic habitats in Canada. The government also moved to streamline the Environmental Assessment process, and many potentially harmful projects are no longer subject to environmental scrutiny. Then this week, it was announced that the NEB not the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would be in charge of reviewing impacts to fish and fish habitat when energy projects are concerned, effectively bringing the politicization of the environmental review process right out in to the open.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beautiful Footage from Bristol Bay's Iliamna Lake

Iliamna Lake is the largest lake in the Bristol Bay watershed and has historically supported one of the largest populations of sockeye in the world. Since 1946 researchers from the University of Washington's Alaska Salmon program have been studying and documenting salmon populations in the Bristol Bay region, producing a tremendous body of foundational  research and providing data that has supported the management of the worlds most sustainable salmon fishery.

The vast majority of you are probably well aware of Pebble Mine, a massive open pit mine proposed for the headwaters of the Iliamna system. However, many of us who have opposed the mine we have never been fortunate enough to experience the Bristol Bay region first hand. A new short film by Jason Ching, a staff biologist with the UW Salmon Program provides a stunning glimpse into the wonders of Iliamna Lake and the work being done by UW in the watershed.

Salmon Research at Iliamna Lake, Alaska 2013 from Jason Ching on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Documentary Film Highlights First Nation's Salmon Stewardship

In the interest of full disclosure, we'll be upfront in telling you that our chair Will Atlas is the lead biologist on this project. 

Across the BC, First Nations are increasingly taking a leadership role in the monitoring and stewardship of resources within their traditional territory. On the Central Coast of BC, where the Canadian Federal government has cut the DFO budget to the bone, the Heiltsuk and other Central Coast Nations are taking the opportunity to take charge of monitoring culturally and economically important populations of salmon in their territory. 

In 2013, working with the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department (HIRMD), Qqs Projects Society, a Heiltsuk driven non-profit based in Bella Bella, built a traditional fish weir on the Koeye River to monitor sockeye as they migrate upriver to tributaries of Koeye lake. The Koeye is one of the largest rivers in the territory, and monitoring had previously been sporadic and unreliable at best. 

To tell the story of the pilot season of the weir project and its role in strengthening Heiltsuk stewardship, and to spread the word both within First Nations communities and more broadly, Qqs is working on a documentary film on the project. The film is due out in January and they are currently running a crowd funding campaign to support the costs of editing and post production. 

This is a great story that's all about what's right in the world of salmon conservation, local communities taking the lead to monitor and project salmon populations. So check it out, and please consider supporting the project. Even small donations help and they've got a some great rewards for their supporters, including unique prints of BC's Central Coast, a dozen mojo laden flies tied by our very own Will Atlas, and a hosted week at the Koeye River during the summer of 2014. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Five More Days to Comment and Help SW Washington Steelhead

The Washington Department is accepting comments on the proposed creation of three wild steelhead management zones in SW Washington until December 13th. The proposal would remove all hatchery steelhead from three watersheds, the Green and North Fork Toutle, East Fork Lewis and Wind Rivers, and would be a major step forward for wild steelhead in the region. While the plan isn't perfect, in that it allows the status quo to continue in several watersheds, it is a good start for WDFW as they seek to reform hatcheries and recover wild steelhead in our state. It is critical that WDFW hear from citizens of the state of Washington that they support the designation of these and other wild steelhead management zones, and now its never been easier to submit your comments. The Native Fish Society has set up an Action Alert, and all you have to do is fill in your personal information and press send. If you haven't already commented, please take 20 seconds to make your voice heard for wild steelhead.

Friday, December 6, 2013

NFS Action Alert: Keep Toxic Mining out of Southern Oregon's Pistol River

The devastation from Nickel mining lasts for centuries and is impossible to clean up

Thanks to the Native Fish Society it's never been easier to make your voice heard. The Rogue River-Siskyou National Forest is accepting public comment on a proposed Nickel strip mine in the headwaters of the Pistol River and Hunter Creek in southern Oregon. Both watersheds are important habitat for steelhead and salmon, and Nickel strip-mining would certainly have a devastating impact on water quality, and hydrology for centuries. Please take two minutes to submit comments through the Native Fish Society's website:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Make Your Voice Heard, Support Wild Steelhead in SW Washington!

In fall 2012 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) issued a Hatchery Genetic Management Plan (HGMP) for steelhead hatchery programs on the Lower Columbia. In it, WDFW outlined plans to maintain the status quo of hatchery releases and outplanting in several rivers with important populations of wild summer and winter steelhead. After an outpouring of opposition against this plan, including almost 500 written comments from wild fish advocates, WDFW decided to go back to the drawing board on the HGMP and initiated a stakeholder driven planning process that focused on the identification and establishment of thee Wild Steelhead Genebanks. These genebanks, also commonly referred to as Wild Steelhead Management Zones (WSMZ), would eliminate all releases of hatchery steelhead within a watershed,  setting aside the entire river system for wild steelhead populations and the fisheries they support.

On November 25th of this year WDFW released a document outlining their plans for the establishment of three wild steelhead genebanks in the SW Washington region. These include the Green River, a major tributary of the North Fork Toutle, the East Fork Lewis, an important watershed for both winter and summer-run steelhead in the region, and the Wind River, a watershed that has been managed as a de facto wild steelhead genebank since the 1990's when releases of hatchery summer-run steelhead were eliminated. Taken together, setting aside these three watersheds for wild steelhead is a major step forward for the department and for wild steelhead recovery in Washington. 

The plan does have flaws, including continued/increased hatchery releases on the Coweeman and South Fork Toutle without adequate collection facilities which means that these watersheds will continue to suffer the impacts of high numbers of hatchery fish spawning in the wild. Further, continuation of the status quo on the Kalama, and in particular the mining of wild summer runs for a broodstock program that has failed to create any detectable benefit to wild fish is ill-advised. 

WDFW is accepting comments on the proposed Wild Steelhead Genebanks until December 13th. Please take 5 minutes to submit comments and support wild steelhead in SW Washington!

Submit comments to:

In your comments tell them:

1. You wholeheartedly support the designation of the Green, East Fork Lewis and Wind as Wild Steelhead Genebanks. This is a major step forward for WDFW and for steelhead recovery in our state. 

2. You are concerned about plans to continue hatchery releases in the Coweeman and to expand the number of non-native summer-run steelhead planted in the South Fork Toutle. In both of these systems inadequate collection of returning hatchery fish means that WDFW is dangerously out of compliance with the recommendations made by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG), threatening these ESA listed steelhead populations with introgression, reduced fitness and productivity as well as numerous ecological impacts of hatchery fish. 

3. You believe that the wild-broodstock hatchery program on the Kalama has not benefited wild summer-run steelhead, and should be discontinued immediately. 

4. You would like to see the department initiate more rigorous monitoring of hatchery impacts on wild populations in SW Washington and if there is evidence that hatchery programs are failing to comply with HSRG recommendations take swift action to eliminate hatchery plants.