Monthly Archives: March 2009

Earth Hour

Here’s an opportunity to act (at least symbolically) for resident orca and WA salmon by reducing electricity (mostly from hydropower) demand for a special hour: 8:30-9:30pm this Saturday, March 28.

On March 28 you can VOTE EARTH by switching off your lights for one hour.
The results of the election are being presented at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. We want one billion votes for Earth, to tell world leaders that we have to take action against global warming.
Switch off your lights for one hour March 28th, 8:30-9:30 pm.

Columbia River sea otters after 100y?

Interesting that the WA sea otters (a transient orca food source?) may be expanding their range from the NW coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Though the Salish Sea habitat is certainly appropriate for them, they apparently are rarely seen east of a line between Port Angeles and Race Rocks. Reference
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The reappearance of sea otters this month at the mouth of the Columbia River after an absence of perhaps as much as a century is heart-warming news in its own regard and also powerfully symbolic.
Russian hunters, eventually joined by Britons, Canadians and Americans, decimated a West Coast sea otter population once estimated at up to 300,000. Native people were drafted into the international trade, trading pelts for western goods, until only 1,000 to 2,000 otters remained when the slaughter finally was banned in 1911.
Even in the remote Aleutian Islands, sea otters have taken four steps forward and three steps back, with the population plunging from as many as 100,000 in the 1980s to around 6,000 by the year 2000. This may be because orcas shifted to preying on otters after environmental-related declines in their preferred menu items – seals and sea lions.
A self-sustaining population of otters has been reestablished along the northern Olympic Peninsula and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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Who gets what % of the salmon?

This article is the first I’ve seen that juxtaposes salmon consumption rates of recreational fishers with a non-human predator, in this case, the CA sea lions. It will be an interesting exercise to see what factors reduce the runs on the various rivers of the West Coast where SRKWs forage annually. At 100kg of salmon per day per orca, is it possible SRKWs as an endangered species should have a more prominent seat in the annual development of salmon fisheries management policy?
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No more free lunch on the Columbia
Tuesday March 03, 2009, 3:25 PM
The leading argument against the killing of California sea lions that feast on endangered fish at Bonneville Dam is that the lions eat a “mere 4 percent” of the salmon and steelhead swimming upstream to spawn.
That figure is based on the share of all the salmon passing through Bonneville over an entire year. In fact, the sea lions are at Bonneville only a few months, and their impact is much greater on those stocks migrating in spring. NOAA Fisheries has estimated that removing 85 sea lions a year for two years could increase the returns of listed spring chinook and steelhead by up to 12.5 percent, a much higher return than the region would get from expensive improvements at dams.
Sport fishermen targeting hatchery fish, not endangered wild species, are allowed about 13 percent of the salmon run. Sport fishing, meanwhile, provides hundreds of millions of dollars in annual economic benefit
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Snake River Salmon on KUOW

The most prominent appeal in this discussion was whether we can move away from litigation and towards more collaborative processes to restore the wild populations of Columbia salmon and steelhead. The agreement between 3 tribes and federal agencies (the “Columbia Basin Accords”) may be a step in the right direction. However, many feel the 2008 biological opinion (“BiOp”) is not acceptable and that the Federal agencies need to have their feet held to the fire (by Judge Redden, potentially .

The speakers made a strong suggestion that salmon fisheries will be closed again this year south of Cape Falcon. This is due to the poor condition of the Sacramento River runs, but will also presumably help protect runs from the Kalamath, Rogue, and OR coastal rivers. Ocean conditions north of Cape Falcon are looking about the same as last year (moderate) and we may have a stronger Columbia Coho year. The Pacific Fisheries Management Commission will meet next week; folks will probably start fishing around May 1.

Rob of Trout Unlimited was clearest: There are 1000s of miles of good habitat in the Snake River Basin (NE Oregon and Idaho). If you took down the 4 lower Snake River dams, you would enable wild runs to access that potential salmon refuge. We haven’t had a regional dialogue about realistic solutions to the goal of salmon recovery (to which most parties agree)! The courtroom encourages battle lines, not a serious, creative problem-solving approach. At the end of the day, the only way to have sustainable runs is to have access to habitat in healthy river systems. We’ve spent about $8B on salmonid recovery since initial listing in 1991 and the long-term trends are generally pointing towards extinction of wild runs.

Jerry (42′ salmon trolling fisherman) was also well-spoken: Rail is a good competitor for transport which is the main service provided by the lower Snake River. A problem with 400ton barges is that smaller wheat farmers must aggregate their product and can only get commodity prices. Rail cars could allow an organic wheat farmer to differentiate their product. This year we’re still looking at survival. Eight years from now I hope we’ll have honest commitments from the hydrosystem (the BPA and Army Corp have been too insulated by past administrations). Recent biological opinions have downplayed the impacts of the hydrosystem and have especially avoided the elephant in the room: the lower Snake dams.

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Salmon and the Snake River Dams

03/05/2009 at 9:00 a.m.

Snorkeler with salmon, 1999. Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives.

Snorkeler with salmon, 1999. Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives.

KUOW 94.9 FM



Phil Rigdon is the Director of Natural Resources for the Yakima Nation. He is also a member of the Yakima tribe.
Rob Masonis is Vice President of Western Conservation of Trout Unlimited. He is a sport fisherman.
Stuart Ellis is on the habitat committee of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. He works for the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.
Jeremy Brown is a commercial fisherman from Bellingham.
Are salmon on the verge of being moved? Tomorrow, an Oregon federal judge will hear a case which may decide the fate of the salmon runs of the Columbia and Snake River basins.
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NW salmon forecasts and fisheries dates

Here is an excerpt from yesterday’s WDFW announcement that describes the forecasts for many Columbia and Salish Sea salmon runs.  To Pat’s credit, there was a quick correction to a painful error (suggesting that adipose-clipped fish weren’t hatchery fish).  In conjunction with the process-map in the previous post, these dates should help us orca-advocates be in the right place at the right time to “speak for the whale’s” share of NW salmon…  Better speak now before they start shooting orcas like the CA sea lions lounging at the Bonneville debacle…

Preseason salmon forecasts developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes, were released today at a public meeting in Olympia.

Forecasts for chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon mark the starting point for developing 2009 salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas. Fishery managers have scheduled a series of public meetings through March before finalizing fishing seasons in early April.

While several salmon runs are up this year, fishery managers still face a number of challenges in crafting fisheries that meet conservation goals for weak salmon stocks, said Phil Anderson, WDFW’s interim director.

“Conservation of wild fish will continue to be our top priority,” Anderson said. “We will work hard with tribal co-managers and our constituents to create fishing opportunities for hatchery fish while ensuring that we are successful in meeting conservation objectives for wild fish populations.”

One constraining stock this year is the Bonneville Pool hatchery fall chinook run, a major contributor to Washington’s coastal fisheries. Although the overall return of Columbia River fall chinook is forecasted to be higher than last year, catch quotas for chinook in the river and the ocean will likely be low because of the poor Bonneville Pool return and restrictions needed to protect wild salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

While salmon forecasts are up overall in the Columbia River, coho and chinook returns to Puget Sound are expected to be slightly down this year.

A few individual Puget Sound coho stocks, including the Skagit and Stillaguamish, are expected to return at low levels and will require additional protective measures this summer, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW. The overall summer/fall chinook forecast for Puget Sound, where wild chinook salmon are listed for protection under the federal ESA, is 222,000 fish, a slight decrease from last year’s forecast.

“It’s important that we continue working to recover and protect wild salmon populations in Puget Sound,” Pattillo said. “One management tool we can use that helps with those recovery efforts and allows us to provide meaningful recreational fishing opportunities is mark-selective fisheries.”

In the last two years, WDFW has added several recreational mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook in Puget Sound. These fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon – marked with a missing adipose fin – but require that they release wild salmon.

Pattillo said consideration of additional mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook in Puget Sound, as well as in the ocean, will be on the agenda during this year’s North of Falcon meetings.

A bright spot for Puget Sound this year is the pink salmon run. More than 5.1 million pink salmon are expected back to Puget Sound streams this summer, nearly 2 million more fish than forecasted in 2007. The smallest of the Pacific salmon species, the majority of pink salmon return to Washington’s waters only in odd-numbered years.

Another strong fall chum salmon return also is forecasted for Hood Canal and other areas of Puget Sound, where the run is expected to total nearly 915,000 fish. But a Lake Washington sockeye fishery is unlikely this year. The sockeye forecast is about 20,000, well below the minimum return of 350,000 sockeye needed to consider opening a recreational fishery in the lake.

Meanwhile, coho returns to several coastal rivers, including the Hoh and Quillayute, are expected to be up this year, Pattillo said.

State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet March 8-13 in SeaTac with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters off the Pacific Coast.

Seven additional public meetings have been scheduled in March to discuss regional fisheries issues. Input from these regional discussions will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the “North of Falcon” and PFMC meetings, which will determine the final 2009 salmon seasons. The meetings are set for:

* March 4 – Grays Harbor fisheries discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main St., Montesano.
* March 5 – Willapa Bay fisheries discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Raymond Elks Lodge, 326 Third St., Raymond.
* March 11 – Puget Sound commercial fisheries discussion, 10 a.m.-noon, WDFW Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek.
* March 11 – Puget Sound recreational fisheries discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., WDFW Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek.
* March 16 – Columbia River fisheries discussion, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Vancouver Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way, Vancouver, Wash.
* March 19 – Final Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay fisheries meeting, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E., Olympia.
* March 19 – North of Falcon salmon fisheries discussion, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Benton PUD, 2721 W. 10th Ave., Kennewick.

Two public North of Falcon meetings, which involve planning fishing seasons for Washington’s waters, including Puget Sound, also will take place in March. The first meeting is scheduled March 17 at the Lacey Community Center, and the second meeting is scheduled March 31 at the Lynwood Embassy Suites. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.

The PFMC is expected to adopt the final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 4-9 meeting in Millbrae, Calif. The 2009 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters will be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

Preseason salmon forecasts, proposed fishing options and details on upcoming meetings will be posted as they become available on WDFW’s North of Falcon website at .