Thoughts on the Mount Polley Tailing Mines Disaster – What it means to us

The ongoing nightmare on Quesnel Lake from the Mount Polley Tailing “Pond”, has huge ramifications for us in Washington State and the Olympic Peninsula. This fiasco is being whitewashed by the politicians from both the Provincial and the Federal level in Canada. The official line is ‘it’s not that bad” when the truth is it’s likely far worse than anyone imagines. Huge amounts of highly toxic materials, including the possibility of radioactive material (that is now being discussed in official circles), pose grave downstream risks to the Salish Sea  and the Columbia Basin.

The primary talked about toxin in this stew is mercury. Lots of it. It’s used in this kind of mining and ends up being a by-product that can’t be removed,  just managed. We already deal with mercury in our fish, to a manageable degree. However, without knowing how much mercury might be in the tailings that are now in the Lake, the government has been suggesting that there is nothing to fear from the water. Let’s be clear, mercury ingested in significant amounts can cause Minamata’s Disease. Look it up on Wikipedia. It was highlighted in a Pulitzer Prize winning article in Life Magazine in the 1970s, when an entire village in Minamata Japan suffered from horrible birth defects because of unregulated mercury poisoning. The Canadian Government is putting it’s people at serious risk by inaction. And us too. 

To quote part of the Wikipedia article:

Symptoms (of mercury poisoning and Minamata Disease) includeataxianumbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision, and damage tohearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanityparalysiscoma, and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect foetuses in the womb.

All these were experienced in Japan in the 70s in Minamata. 

And this is just one of the toxins that was contained behind this tailing dam. 

Without immediate work to setup coffer dams and drain the areas around the spill in Quesnel Lake, we may see a huge amount of mercury, along with other toxins, enter the Salish Sea, and the Columbia River Basin and affect the Sockeye that come out of Quesnel, one of the largest sockeye spawning habitat in Canada.

These fish make up the primary food of the remaining local pods of Orcas. And our fishermen catch them and we eat them. Lots of them. In other words, our fishing industry and our Orcas could be at risk.

We need our politicians to act now, to demand that the Canadian government stop pretending this not a serious problem and begin cleanup of this spill. There has been to date, no work begun on cleaning up the spill! 

This is not just about the lame excuses that Victoria and their muzzled scientists gives us about how they think their untreated sewage is not affecting the Straits. This is about possibly poisoning our fish and ourselves. And if we don’t stop it soon, it may be permanent. An oozing toxic mess that’s not cleaned up will pose a threat for decades to come. Just ask the folks at Hanford.

The mine managers and the regulators that refused to enforce the laws, have created an environmental disaster of monumental proportion that has yet to fully unfold. What matters now is protecting the entire river systems that will carry this muck to the ocean. 

What’s the possibility of the US having a significant say in this issue? Read the following excellent article about our treaties with Canada, and the power that we have to force them to change legally. And remember that it’s because we have a Democratic, environmentally supportive president that we can read something like this. In a different previous era, our government would likely have been looking the other way in support of rampant environmental degradation.

Stephen Hume: Political fallout from Mount Polley mine spill may come from U.S.

Fishing report from the PDN

Wondering how the salt water fishing is going? Here’s todays’ report from the PDN.

Goodbye and thank you to Carol Burns – Northwest Filmmaker

On this 40th anniversary of the Boldt Decision, news has come that filmmaker Carol Burns passed away on April 22nd in Olympia. She was a young filmmaker when she documented the struggles of the native people around Tacoma and Olympia, including Billy Frank Jr. that led up to the legal challenge that became the Boldt Decision. Her film is the only known original documentary footage that tracked the tribal people who were being harassed and arrested along the rivers of that area. Her work will survive as the lasting documentary of that era, as many of the prinicipals have now died, or are elderly. I attempted to get a new, updated documentary done on this last year, talking to many people in Olympia and Seattle, but found no real interest in it among any of the agencies or peoples that were involved. No one had any desire to fund such an independent effort, including the State Historical Society. In ten more years,  the remaining people who could tell the story first person are likely to be gone. I understand that the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission has done video interviews with many of the original tribal participants, but not as a focused documentary film. Hopefully, somewhere down the road an enterprising filmmaker will go to them and work out a way to fund a project to relook at Boldt 40+ years after.

You can watch, “As Long As The Rivers Run” on the Internet Archive here:

Part of Carol’s Obituary from the Olympian Newspaper:

Carol M. Burns was born in Olympia, Washington on February 19, 1939, and passed away April 22, 2014. Carol was well known in the Olympia area for her many contributions to the causes that were close to her heart. A filmmaker, she was one of the founders of Capital Area Community Television Association, now in its 32nd year, and known as TCTV. Her best known work is the 1970 film As Long As the Rivers Run, about one Indian family and their struggle to hold on to their treaty rights and traditional way of life. A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 10, 2014, at 12:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Olympia. 

New Quotas Clear Way For Banner Summer Salmon Fishing In Pacific Ocean – KPLU.ORG

Good news for sports fishermen this year.

A federal fisheries management panel approved what some charter captains are calling the best ocean fishing season in 20 years. Meeting at a hotel in Vancouver, Washington, the Pacific Fishery Management Council on Wednesday adopted the 2014 season quotas unanimously after days of lengthy negotiations between commercial troll and recreational fishing representatives, treaty tribes and government regulators. The quotas are a big turnaround from the recent past when ocean salmon fishing was sharply curtailed or not allowed at all. Tom Banse reports. (KPLU)

Ocean salmon quota options reflect strong runs – Tacoma News Tribune

Good news at least from the forecast for these fish.

Under options approved this week, recreation anglers fishing off the Washington coast this year could see a higher catch quota for chinook salmon and certainly higher coho quotas. The three alternatives for ocean fishing, approved late Thursday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, are in response to projections of a higher abundance of hatchery chinook and a significant increase in the number of coho bound for the Columbia River. The council establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast. Chinook options range from 47,500 to 60,000 fish, while the coho options range from 159,600 to 193,200 fish. Jeffery Mayor reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)

Read the whole story at:

Yo! Rockfish ReCompression Video – Funny and really worth watching

Are you a fisherman? Catch rockfish? Check out this newer rap video on how to get rockfish back safely into the water and save it. Remember that rockfish take a long time to grow, and they stay in their local territory. So it’s important to get them back in the water quickly. I was unaware that the recompression techniques can save even severely barotraumaed fish. Barotrauma often kills rockfish if not recompressed. Luckily we, and those fabulous little rockfish, can get down with our bad selves and the help of this most epic video montage. The following Rockfish PSA was concocted by the masterminds of California Sea Grant and NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

be sure to catch the rap at the end as well.

Octopus fishing rules are topic of meeting April 23 in Port Townsend

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday, April 23 in Port Townsend to solicit input on the protection of Puget Sound’s giant Pacific octopus population. The first of two workshops to solicit public input on the issue is set for 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, April 23 at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., Port Townsend.

Fishing net on Hood Canal removed after five months – Kitsap Sun

So NOAA and the State are no longer funding the Derelict Gear project. Here’s part of the results of that failure on their part.

A deadly fishing net, first reported in November abandoned in Hood Canal, was removed last week by enforcement officers for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sgt. Ted Jackson of the agency said he felt compelled to take action when he received no response from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, which had previously investigated and removed a portion of the net. The net was abandoned just north of Big Anderson Creek near Holly. Jackson said the net was still catching marine life before it was removed Friday. He estimated that between 60 and 80 crabs, mostly dead, were tangled in the net along with several sand dabs, a type of flounder. Chris Dunagan reports.

More details come to light on upcoming salmon fishing seasons – Seattle Times

Good overview of what the fishing season might bring.

Now that we’ve gotten all the obvious salmon fishing seasons finalized lets dissect what kind of summer and fall opportunities there are besides the expected gargantuan 6.2-million plus pink salmon return.

Read the rest of the story at:

Canadian fisheries continue to decimate herring fisheries

The Canadian government retreat on all things environmental continues. While the quotas continue to get higher, the amount of fish in the water shrinks. Outcome is likely a total collapse of the herring fishery, sooner than later. They allowed it in Newfoundland, and now here.

Judith Lavoie reports. Quota rises as herring count falls

Oregon Ballot Measure seeking to ban gillnetting – Salem News

This apparently is not targeting the tribal seine netters. The petition is to move to a seine net method instead of gill nets.

(PORTLAND, OR) – Two powerful nonprofit organizations today announced their support for a proposed ballot measure to stop commercial gillnet fishing on the lower Columbia River.

The Humane Society of the United States and Oregon Wild endorsed the measure sponsored by the Stop Gillnetting Now coalition, which is headed for the November ballot.

“Gillnets are indiscriminate, catching and killing endangered wild salmon, as well as other marine life, such as seals, beavers, and seabirds,” said Scott Beckstead, Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Animal welfare groups in Europe and Australia are fighting the deadly impacts of gillnets and we wholeheartedly support this local measure to enhance salmon recovery and to protect other creatures from harm.

Read the whole story here:

Fishing & Shrimping have huge turnout -PDN

LEE HORTON’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Mixed early results for spot shrimp. – Here’s a good rundown of the fishing this week from the folks at the PDN…

“It was a good opener,” state shellfish biologist Mark O’Toole said.
“The weather was decent — especially compared to last year — participation was up in several areas, and the catch rates were relatively good overall.”

As we say, part of the reason we protect the environment is to continue a sustainable harvest now and into the future for our kids.

Winter Herring Quota in Canada could be ‘catastrophic’

Winter herring quota could be ‘catastrophic’

This year’s Strait of Georgia herring fishery opened on November 7 with a quota of 6,000 tons, a massive increase on last year’s 283 tons. Raincoast Conservation Foundation is asking for a moratorium on the herring fishery until stocks have recovered, especially in light of the recent announcement of the proposed National Marine Conservation Area.

Read Island Tides online | Page 1, also single article ‘Reprint’ in Fisheries archive (Back Issues & Reprints)

178 lb halibut caught in Straits last week – Seattle Times

I assume that this is a record catch for the Straits, not heard of one this big in the past, but I seem to remember that halibut traditionally got much larger than this. A case of ‘changing baseline’ that we are excited to catch a fish smaller than we used to? Or am I mistaken? Any older fishermen that can clarify the size of this catch in historical terms?

5/26 Seattle Times
Monster halibut caught in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca
Posted by Mark Yuasa

Geoff Meredith of Puyallup had family visiting from Virginia, and managed to show them what a true “Barn Door” halibut looks like by landing a 178 pound halibut last Friday off Green Point in 85 feet of water.

More at

What’s good for Orca is good for fishermen – Billy Frank

A great opinion piece by Billy Frank Jr. the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. He makes some excellent points. Read the whole piece, it’s pretty short.

Tribes and orcas have a lot in common. Together, we have always depended on the salmon for food.

The last 100 years have been hard on the tribes, the orcas and the salmon. Habitat loss and damage has pushed some salmon populations to the edge of extinction, threatening the orcas, tribal cultures and our treaty rights.

But instead of looking at the main causes for a weak local population of orcas, the federal government is asking us yet again to reconsider how we fish. We just spent several years working with our salmon co-managers to develop a five-year plan to manage our Puget Sound chinook fisheries in light of the recovery needs for fish listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Now, a half-step away from final approval, the federal government is asking us to go back to the drawing board and quickly produce a new two-year harvest plan that addresses how our fisheries might affect orca populations.

The rest of the story is at


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