Author Archives: scottveirs

Forage fish spawning habitat selection

Theresa Liedtke et al focuesd on 2 forage fish species: Pacific sand lance and Pacific herring

Initially focused on Liberty Bay (Poulsbo, WA; today’s data) with non/urban coastline; now working at Possession Point (s Whidbey Island) to get higher wave action and feeder bluffs.  12 sand/sediment samples, 500ml samples preserved eggs.

Findings: 40k eggs in Liberty Bay, 83 per sample; predominantly surf smelt (94%), sandlance and rock sole remaining; >60 eggs/sample called “high egg count” sample and included in a regression.

High egg counts associated with: shell fragments, high position on beach, and proximity to sediment source (eggs moved by wave action?).  If you had all 3, you had 82x chance of finding eggs on that beach.  Not associated: armoring, shade, freshwater input, upslope development.

Thus far, no eggs at Possession Point.

K. Dodd: dynamics of Port Madison fish

Data from N end of Bainbridge and repeat trawl survey from Tom Quinn’s UW class (~20 trawls/year from 1991-2008, over 2nd weeend in May, 4 depths (10-70m)).  Time series started just after 1989 fish closure, so expected increase in catch rate over time, but that wasn’t the case.

Catch anomaly shows an actual catch that is higher than expected (based on number of trawls completed compared with historical average for that depth and location).  Catch anomaly decreases for rockfish and slendersole, but increased for english sole.  Some species show up episodially: 1990 pulses of shiner perch, mid90s pulse for Pacific hake, big tomcod pulse in 2000, and 2003-4 for walleye pollock.  No trend in ratfish.  English sole was most abundant overall.

It’s unclear why these declines have occurred.  WDFW has sometimes seen increases for the same species and years in other parts of Puget Sound.

Alejandro Frid: rockfish & predation risk theory

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center

Focusing on quillback rockfish and interactions with one of their prey, 3 genera of demersal shrimp which show strong spatial association.  An example from 8 reefs in Howe Sound and adjacent Georgia Strait, depths 14-25m, daytime, 10 Jul – 18 Nov, 2008

Lingcod are the main predator of quillback rockfish.  Estimated biomass in Strait of Georgia down 90% in last 100 years, majority in Howe Sound are <75cm.  Smallest quillback should have strongest avoidance of encounters with lingcod at the expense of access to the shrimp.  Counts per minute (CPM) of small quillbacks rise with shrimp and fall with lingcod.  Large quillback CPM also rises with shrimp, but doesn’t alter with rising lingcod.

If we control for structural complexity of the habitat, then shrimp CPM decreases with rising activity of rockfish.

Predators should be managed not for demographic persistence alone, but for the maintenance of risk-driven ecological processes.

Eric Eisenhardt: Efficacy of bottomfish recovery zones

We have a great op in the San Juan Islands to compare marine reserves set up in ~1990 (mandatory) with bottomfish recovery zones (BRZ) were established ~7 years later (voluntary).  Overall, regulations have changed over time, essentially getting more restrictive.

Methods: 300 dives since 1997; transects to compare recovery zones with paired (nearby) reserve

lingcod length: bigger in reserves (2001-2002), but not significantly differnt in 06-07.  Same results with copper rockfish.

populations declining over this period 01-07, except black rockfish which have increased in population and size.

Why aren’t BRZs working better?

  • Using substrate maps, we can see that BRZs have similar areas to the the reference sites and actually have proportionally more rocky habitat.
  • Fishing effort is pretty even over all (e.g. along the west side of San Juan Island, Pile Point and Lime Kiln are about the same as Eagle Point)
  • Compliance issues may be the problem, or the size of the BRZs may be too small

It’s been 10 years.  What shall we do next?

  • Change nothing
  • One larger BRZ?
  • Make BRZs mandatory
  • Make them larger and mandatory

Anne Beaudreau on lingcod in the San Juan Islands

What are the interacting relationships between rockfish, the lingcod that eat them, and the fishers who take lingcod (and rockfish)?  In reserves we can look at predatory role of lingcod without fishing pressure.  We can also look at differences in lingcod population structure and feeding between non/reserves.

Most samples from central San Juan Channel in rocky habitat.

Body size:

  • non-reserve: 35-80cm, mean ~45cm
  • reserve: quite a few large females, 80-120cm.

Catch rate: in reserves we had many more days when we caught >3 lingcod/hour.

Acoustic telemetry synopsis

  • Limited movement: 8/9 tagged lingcod never left reserve
  • Diet composition: rock fish are 20% of diet in reserves, only 5% in non-reserves (maybe because there are more rockfish in reserves, or maybe larger rockfish in reserves eat more rockfish, or maybe there are habitat differences)
  • Estimated rockfish consumption (modeled): consumption of rockfish in reserves may have been 5x non-reserve, with implications for how to recover rockfish!


  • Pop structure differs between non/reserves
  • diet variations suggest local diffs in fish communities
  • there are unexpected ecological consequences of creating reserves…
  • match scales of research and management (got to get down to pretty small scales!)

John Calambokidis PSGB’09 talk

Changes in marine mammal populations of the Salish Sea: What will the future look like?


  • Harbor seal populations have stabilized — probably at historical levels —  in all areas of Washington after rising from lows of the 70s and 80s, often generating (old) conflicts with human fishers…
  • Many haulout areas were actually dynamited, so artificial areas are often used.
  • CA and northern sea lions: Conflicts at Ballard Locks and more recently at Bonneville dam due to human-made structures that were meant to help (not concentrate for predators) threatened fish species


  • Grey whales: abundance about 20k up from ~10k in ~1970; seasonal resident whales have been in conflict; ’99-2000 mortality/stranding events was prey-related, but there are ship-strike issues and entanglement questions
  • Fin whales: 2002 four were struck/found in Salish Sea (probably hit on outer coast)
  • Harbor porpoise: common in PS prior to 1950s; virtually eliminated; on the rise; 2007 three strandings with evidence of entanglement.
  • Humpbacks: dramatic recovery off US west coast 600 in early 1990s, to 1500 now, increasing at 7.5%/yr; used to be whaled in BC, but now we’re getting sighting in inland sea; SPLASH (’04-’07) showed extreme site fidelity, North Pac pop estimate of ~20k.  Since 1990 prey has switched from krill to fish, partially because of more coastal habitat use.
  • Blue whale: Jan 2009 first confirmed sighting in 50yrs.

What will future look like?

  • Protection does work: PCB ban reduced levels in seals; ESA listing has helped many populations, e.g. greys
  • Challenges remain: emerging contaminants; conflicts with fisheries (KW-Chinook link); vessel traffic and development
  • Many populations could reach carrying capacity like the seals
  • Conflicts with shipping, development…

Lynne Barre PSGB’09 talk

Implementation of the recovery plan for SRKWs

Section 7 consultations: Looking at Federal actions (funding, permiting, regulating) that might affect hydropower (hatchery production), water treatment plants, sewer outfalls, in-water construction, upland projects, habitat restoration, research, tidal and wave energy, etc.

Recovery plan implementation: started in 2003 really with funding before plan was final (research, enforcement support, education); broad approach to address all threats; adaptive process.

Prey: coordinating with ongoing salmon recovery efforts,  starting to inform their process as we learn more about what KWs eat.

Contaminants: Puget Sound Partnership put KWs on the cover!

Vessel impacts: we want to minimize disturbance

  • monitor vessel activitiy around whales
  • continue evaluation of voluntary measures
  • evaluate need for regs or restricted areas

Back in March, 2007 we made an Advanced Notice of Propsoed Rulemaking

Another step was to write a draft environmental analysis of proposed rules:

  • economic analysis and regulatory impact review
  • many cooperating agencies: WDFW, DFO, Coast Guard
  • internal review on-going, some delays (due to administrative turn-over?) before published in Fed Register

Oil Spill Response Plan

  • Action in recovery plan and recovery criteria: effective response plan in place
  • Oct 2007 workshop to discuss tools
  • Draft Response Plan for workshop and public review.  It was recently submitted by WDFW as appendix to Northwest Area Contingency Plan


  • A big part of the Recovery Plan requires coordination with DFO, Canada.  SRKWs listed under SARA; helped develop U.S. recovery plan
  • KW listed in WA state: state vessel regulation in 2008; WDFW particpated in developing recovery plan

Outreach partners

More at or via

Health of the Salish Sea: panel discussion

Andrea Copping, Chief Leah George-Wilson, Richard Beamish, Mary Ruckelshaus, Joel Baker

Richard Beamish: State of the Salish Sea (Richard Beamish)

  • Warming trends over last 30yrs  in Strait of Georgia [SoG] (steady) and Puget Sound (slower)
  • Decline in % early marine survival of Coho from 15% down to 1% since 1996 (entrance to SoG through Sept based on clipped fin).  The cause is unknown.
  • Total returns of pink salmon to Fraser are on the rise (from 5 to 20M fish since 1960)
  • Coded wire tag Chinook caught in SoG and PS show that U.S Chinook are caught in Canada, but not visa versa (e.g. 15-25% of juveniles caught Nov 2008)

Times Colonist, Feb 6, 2009: Report calls for salmon watchdog.  Dick says an independent audit team should be led by biz leader, and include judge, dean of science, 3 PIs, 3 NGOs.

Chief Leah:

  • We no longer harvest shellfish because of industrial pollution in Indian Arm, Burrard Inlet.  My 15 year old isn’t learning something we’ve done for ~10k years.
  • Tsleil-Watuth partnered with Health Canada government (didn’t fund as anticipated!) and sought external funding.  We’re gathering data and acting to determine impacts of development and inform long-term planning and resource management.

Joel Baker (Chair of Puget Sound Partnership Science Committee)

  • We’ve been working on ecosystem restoration in our countries for ~40 years.  Why are we still here?
  • 1) Ecosytems are complex!  W.A. Wulf:

There is only one nature – the division into science and engineering is a human imposition, not a natural one.  Indeed, the division is a human failure; it reflects our limited capacity to comprehend the whole.

  • 2) Dave Dix wants a pie chart breaking down the sources of trouble, but our reductionist approach leads to complex results that are hard to communicate (without new tools?)
  • 3) Ecosystems are changing (what is the baseline and can we affect the trajectory?)

We need a new model for ecosystem restoration!

What’s the role of the science community in ecosystem restoration?

  • We need to adopt technology to observe and understand the Salish Sea in real-time, in analogy to medical imaging of the body and observation of metabolism.
  • Answer the questions: How does PS work?  Wha has it changed and what will it look like in 2020?  What are individual and cumulative actions?

Mary Ruckelshaus (NWFSC/PSP science lead)

  • The Salish Sea ecosystem is BIG — from mountainous watersheds to deep ocean
  • The human uses of the ecosystem are multitudinous, as are the humans! I am two with nature.” – Woody Allen
  • There is some collective crankiness that may stem from the 100s of suggestions for how to be green… from lawn care to recycling.
  • How should we scientists react to that common question: “Just tell me what 3-10 things people should do?”  How to see the forest for the trees?!
  • Quantative modeling frameworks like Integrated Ecosystem Assessments enable a systems approach.  If we change management in the watershed, the model predicts effects in nearshore and deep water.

We’re getting results  through this type of approach.  In each a policy change (incentive, regulation) affects actions in an ecosystem.  Biophysical models predict the effect of the change on services (human use) which lead to costs/benefits assessment through economic and cultural models.

Aquaculture or riprap management decision affects eel grass ecosystem which changes Dungeness crab harvest rates and even get down to commercial fisherment boosting sales of beer…

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries in not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny.”  — Isaac Asimov

Q: Is there a need for a new version of the Joint Marine Science Committee/Panel?  Andrea: maybe.

Keynote talk: 2009 Puget Sound Georgia Basin

Andrew Rosenberg from U of New Hampshire speaking on “Ecosystem-based Management:developing a framework for implementation” at 9:25am PST.

Evidence for ecosystem effects:

  • We know ecosystem-level impacts occur (from scientific and traditional knowledge)
  • We know regine shifts occur and that our perception change with shifting baselines
  • Keep in mind that we are approaching theoretical limits of marine productivity in many ecosystems!

Perspective from Gulf of Maine:

  • Over 40 years, ~6 major management regimes occurred, none of which had much effect except the extension of U.S. waters to 200mi (excluded European fishers, though they were eventually replaced by  U.S. overfishing!)
  • Real limitations on fishing pressure started working for cod, haddock and yellowtail in ~1994 (when he became regional administrator!) [we were arguing about whether sustainable harvest was 10-18% of standing stock, yet we were harvesting 66% while arguing!]
  • We wasted a lot of time discussing how much fishing should be reduced when we should have been struggling with WHO should take the reduction!
  • The discussion of WHO should alter their existing use of the marine ecosystems is getting complicated by emerging uses (e.g. wind power, tidal power, LNG ports).

An Ocean Blueprint was an important step for the U.S. because (through broadly-based consensus, including admirals and oil execs) it found:

  • Oceans and coasts are major contributions to U.S. economy (usual statement)
  • Oceans and coasts are in trouble
  • Existing management structure  (based on extraction metrics) is incompatible with the complexity of the ecosystems
  • EBM is the proposed solution (effective governance, science, education) and it must account for many services (beyond just food) provided by the sea

Jane Lubchenko led effort to articulate what EBM means: COMPASS

Five features of EBM:

  1. Focus on ability of ecosystem to support human well-being
  2. Natural boundaries matter (not political ones)
  3. Various sectors of human activity interact so management should be integrated (in many cases, local and larger scales)
  4. Impacts are cumulative!  (filling in 10 hectares of salt marsh is typically worse then 1)
  5. Tradeoffs in services among sectors must be made and should be explicit — locally and LME-wide

International comparison of EBM approaches revealed common requirements for success:

  • Political leadership (bottom up or top down)
  • Legislative mandate is very helpful
  • Overarching policy declaration
  • Implementation structure

In Gulf of Maine, these components took these forms:

  • Regional governor’s agreement (top down); MA Ocean Partnership Fund (bottom up)
  • MA Ocean Policy Act; Federal Oceans 21?
  • Ocean plan created…
  • Common goals established…

Information mining and assimilation (backed by a information system) supports an iterative triangle process:

  1. Identification and prioritization of activities and ecosystem components
  2. Evaluation of activities
  3. Implementation of changes to activities

What is inter-jurisdicational coordination happen?

  • CZMA authority
  • Special Area Management Plan
  • Programmatic General Permit

How should public and stakeholders be involved?

  • Advisory Council
  • Public/Private Partnership (very important to be able to do things outside of governmental/regulatory environment)

Informing EBM requires:

  • Models
  • Decision Support Tools
  • Indicators (NOT 100s of indicators!): monitoring ecology or socio-economics; measure progress; inform adaptation; communicate results

You CAN end up with a better management system, though you may be feeling uncertainty at the beginning of this conference…

Blackmouth fishing in the San Juans and beyond

Last weekend was the beginning of blackmouth season in Marine Area 7 (the San Juan Archipelago and vicinity).  I’ve been wondering if WDFW should encourage fishing for Puget Sound resident Chinook as there are some indications that resident Chinook are loading up J pod with persistent pollutants, while decreasing fishing pressure on Fraser River Chinook (their summertime favorite) as well as whatever less-polluted fish they eat during the wintertime.

The appended WDFW email announcement just came out and essentially encourages blackmouth fishing.  How many blackmouth of what ages (and pollutant levels) get harvested by humans each year?  How many are harvested by killer whales?  What is WDFW doing to get clean fish into the SRKWs?  What else could we do as a society.

Puget Sound anglers are currently abuzz about salmon fishing in Marine Area 7, where the first weekend of the blackmouth season yielded a fish for every two rods. The fishery continues daily through April 15, under regulations outlined in the state Fishing in Washington  rules pamphlet.

“Blackmouth fishing in the San Juans is off to a smoking start,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  “Over the last several years, the Islands have been a great place to go blackmouth fishing.”

Four more areas of Puget Sound will open to fishing for resident chinook Feb. 14, including marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal).

1/21/09 announcement said:

Blackmouth salmon:   One in three anglers have been catching hatchery chinook in Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass to Skagit Bay) in Puget Sound.  Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) opens Feb. 1 and marine areas 5, 6, 11 and 12 open to blackmouth fishing Feb. 14.