Monthly Archives: August 2009

Insight into Fraser failures

It seems a crisis is emerging on the Fraser River.  For those of us in the U.S. working to restore salmon runs, this article provides a glimpse into the complexity of Fraser River management and science (and politics).

Where have all the salmon gone?

And where on Earth are our public watchdogs? Scientists tipped them to this tragedy in 2007

Approximately 130 million baby sockeye from the Chilko, Quesnel and other interior river systems — the largest producers of the most valuable commercial stocks on the Fraser system — appear to have vanished during their annual migration to the sea in 2007.

This season’s shortfall in predicted returns of sockeye salmon — fewer than two million of the predicted 10.6 million are now expected to return — actually points to something really troubling, a possible ecological catastrophe on a vast scale somewhere in the lower Fraser or the Strait of Georgia.


Have we so degraded the Fraser that we are now in the early stages of an Atlantic cod scenario for British Columbia’s iconic wild salmon? Is there something else going on in this enormous ecosystem that has implications for us humans who are perched atop the food chain, perhaps more precariously than we like to think?


Most important, why aren’t we talking about this astonishing, colossal event in these broader terms instead of listening to Indian bands, sports anglers and commercial interests squabbling endlessly over the tattered remnants of what should have been a tremendous return while stunned fisheries managers blather about the difficulty of making the predictions they routinely make and try to calculate how many dwindling sockeye it will be OK to kill as by-catch in other fisheries?

Confusion about Fraser sockeye demise

Jeff Grout (or the reporter) needs to clarify why they reject the suggestion that sea lice infestation are responsible for this summer’s poor returns!

UBC’s Scott Hinch has studied how ocean and river temperatures affect salmon. 

Hotter water linked to poor sockeye returns

A UBC fisheries expert’s warning from the 1990s now sounds prophetic with this summer’s poor returns of Fraser River sockeye. UBC professor Scott Hinch predicted 15 years ago that warming sea-surface temperatures due to climate change would result in smaller and less abundant sockeye.

Some 3.3 million Fraser sockeye reached their spawning grounds in 2005. According to the Pacific Salmon Commission, surveys in the Quesnel and Chilko tributaries indicated that about 130 million sockeye smolts moved out to the sea in 2007 for their two-year ocean migration.

What happened to these juveniles?

Jeff Grout, FOC’s salmon resource manager, said he suspects that the fish didn’t survive at expected rates. He rejected any suggestion that fish farms are responsible for poor returns.

$150k for transient orca skeleton education

This project could help raise awareness about the risk to SRKW recovery posed by persistent pollutants.  Congrats to Anne, Chrissy, and the rest of the PTMSC team!

PTMSC awarded $150,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its Orca Project

Port Townsend, WA—Thanks to a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) has received $150,000 for its Orca Project. A new exhibit will be created to display the articulated skeleton of a stranded female orca discovered on Dungeness Spit in 2002. This transient orca had the highest concentration of PCBs ever found in a marine mammal.

“The story of this orca is the story of the health of our waters,” said Anne Murphy, executive director for the PTMSC. “It’s important to tell it and we’re honored to have the partnerships and support to move forward in the telling.”

Although preliminary work on the Orca Project has already begun with the creation of a bone atlas, the official start date for the grant is October 1st, 2009. PTMSC has 12 months to complete the project and fundraise at least a 1:1 match for the project. PTMSC will partner with several organizations including the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, the Burke Museum of Natural History in Seattle, the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Orca Network based on Whidbey Island.

In 2009, IMLS received 433 applications requesting more than $48.4 million for their Museums for America grants. After field review, 167 projects received funding totaling $19,176,000. Other Washington state IMLS grant recipients include the Seattle Art Museum, Pacific Science Center. Burke Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and the Point Defiance Zoological Society.

“The projects selected represent a wide spectrum of activities that will help museums serve their communities better through increased education programs, community outreach programs, and behind-the-scenes projects,” said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, director for IMLS.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is devoted to understanding, preserving and teaching about our marine and shoreline environment as guardians for a sustainable future. Located on the beach at Fort Worden State Park, the PTMSC offers two public exhibits: the Marine Exhibit (ME) features large touch pools and aquaria, and the Natural History Exhibit (NHE) highlights the rich zone where land meets sea. Both exhibits are open Wednesday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth and free to PTMSC members. For more information, go to or call 360.385.5582 or e-mail

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

Contact Christina Pivarnik, Marketing
Port Townsend Marine Science Center
360.531.0127 or