In our on-going efforts to monitor Pacific salmon dynamics and interpret them from the perspective of southern resident killer whales, today brings news of a 6-hour commercial net fishery opening on the lower Columbia River. It’s amazing that it’s even worth going out in a boat when the catch is limited to the first six hatchery-origin chinook! I guess one can infer there about 200 boats in the fleet, based on the limit and the predicted total catch of about 1200 chinook (70% from upper Columbia and Snake Rivers).
From the southern residents’ perspective, interesting questions are how many fish are expected and when are they arriving (especially compared to past years). The columbian.com article ends with this:
The forecast is for an upper Columbia run of 198,000. Through Sunday, a total of 262 spring chinook have been counted at Bonneville Dam.
The source of these data was revealed by a recreational fisher’s guide to catching spring chinook on the lower Columbia as the Fish Passage Center (FPC) which is in the business of counting fish in the ladders of the many Columbia River dams. The guide also gave a big-picture description of the overall spring run timing as “about 6 weeks in late March through April” and provides a nice summary of how the fishery follows the fish up the various tributaries of the Columbia, starting with the Willamette (because OR releases hatchery fish there a couple weeks before WA).
It would be interesting to juxtapose the timing and locations of all available winter/spring orca sightings outside of Puget Sound from past years with the time series of spring Columbia (and Fraser?) fish passage. For starters, here is a link to Columbia adult fish passage data, some of which are summarized in the following graph that shows the spring chinook run is just beginning on the Columbia. And here I was thinking that commercial and recreational openings would not occur until some substantial portion of the run had made it to the spawning grounds!
Now is the time of year when the NWFSC crew would typically be preparing for their spring cruise to search for southern residents on the outer coast of WA, including off the Columbia where they have observed SRKWs feeding on chinook from the upper Columbia and Snake . Unfortunately, NOAA funding and/or ship logistics have ruled out such a cruise this year.
The clipping below is from a Daily Astorian article on an EPA report regarding global warming’s potential influence on Northwest salmon. Of most import for killer whale conservationists are the implications of what James Martin calls a “perfect storm” for salmon: low snow pack with low, warm flows in the summer.
Martin provides a nice quote regarding the economic impact of such a storm:
“In Oregon, Washington and Idaho, it’s a 35,000-job industry, and it’s worth $3 billion dollars per year,” he said. “So it’s a lot more than just a hobby. There’s a lot at stake.”
That’s about 30x the $100M estimate of ecotourism value associated with the southern residents.
The article also mentions a report co-authored by Martin and Patty Glick called A Great Wave Rising.
Dan Drais of Save Our Wild Salmon
recently handed me a copy and it looks like an admirable, balanced attempt to bring climate science into the on-going struggle to devise a legal federal plan for recovering endangered fish in the Columbia/Snake basin. I particularly like that it is rich in reputable citations with which I (and global warming skeptics) can understand the uncertainties in the trends and projections.
A quote from Glick suggests that “Heat” should be added to the 4 H’s that govern northwest salmon abundance: harvest, hatcheries, hydropower, and habitat. But just last night, David Montogomery claimed the 5th H should be “History” — the history of salmon-human interactions, particularly in Britain and in the Northeast U.S. So, for me “Heat” has become the 6th H and I’m even more convinced that salmon recovery (linked with killer whale recovery) is one of the most complex, grand environmental challenges of our time.
|The EPA warns that climate change threatens Oregon’s cold-water fish populations
|East Oregonian Publishing Group
|U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s report on global warming
|contains some dire predictions for Oregon’s time-honored reputation as a Mecca for coldwater fishermen.
|Released July 17, the report warns that the time may come when salmon- and trout-fishing trips are no longer much of an option for residents or visitors. EPA scientists further caution that warming temperatures could lead to a 50- to 100-percent decline in Chinook salmon returns in some areas, since salmon require cool water and are extremely sensitive to increasing temperatures.
Once Oregon is hit by a perfect storm comprised of “a little less snow pack, lower summer water flows and higher summer temperatures, bam! We’ll go over a threshold, and suddenly we won’t have salmon or steelhead or trout,” Martin said.