Northern Washington Tribes fear devastation of salmon by extreme floodwaters – KUOW

While this story is not specifically about the Peninsula, it is about issues that we faced along with the Bellingham and B.C. environment in the last month. Our rivers flooded also, just not quite as bad. As we all know, the salmon of this region are on the brink of extinction, along with our Orcas. Every year our human induced climate brings 500 year floods to already destroyed ecosystems the fish become more threatened. The Salish Sea is an ecosystem itself, what is happening to the east and north of us is tied to us by the water.

When a month’s worth of rain hit northern Washington and southern British Columbia in just a couple of days in mid-November, the resulting extreme flows scoured streams and riverbeds. They flushed away gravel and the salmon eggs incubating just below the surface, likely by the millions.

KUOW

https://kuow.org/stories/northern-washington-tribes-fear-devastation-of-salmon-by-extreme-floodwaters-ffcd

How heat waves warp ecosystems – High Country News

Just this week I was in an online discussion with a noted wildlife journalist here on the Peninsula who wanted to blame a series of environmental horrors he had recently seen on a certain restoration project, because the project was close to the area he was viewing. I tried to explain that the last few years had seen a variety of shocks to our ecosystem, and what he was seeing was far more widespread than just the area in question. Fish kills, algae blooms, massive die offs of shellfish, are easily observed but hard to map to a single root cause. But today in my inbox was this story and so I share it to help all of us understand that what is happening is anything but a local issue. The effects are widespread and causing destruction across an enormous range of wildlife. Welcome to the new world of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem under global warming.

Initial reports were sobering: A billion shellfish and other intertidal animals baked to death on the coast of British Columbia. The Portland Audubon Society declared a “hawkpocalypse” as it tended to scores of sick and injured birds. And in eastern Oregon, state officials estimated that tens of thousands of sculpin, a bottom-dwelling fish, perished in streams already throttled by drought.

High Country News

December’s first razor clam digs moving ahead on Washington coast

More good news.

OLYMPIA – Razor clam digging continues in December, as shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have approved the next round of digs for Washington’s coastal beaches.

Photo courtesy NOAA

The latest tests for marine toxins came back all clear from the Washington Department of Health, which means the first round of December digs can proceed as planned.

“The weather hasn’t always been cooperative the last couple of weeks, but there’s still plenty of opportunities to hit the beach and dig for some razor clams,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager with WDFW. “Hopefully December will bring some clearer winter days for people to get out and enjoy this amazing resource.”

Read the whole story here:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/decembers-first-razor-clam-digs-moving-ahead-washington-coast-0

Will Reviving B.C.s declining salmon stocks require a rethink of hatcheries? – The Narwhal

Someday the people unwilling to even consider the end of hatcheries will come around to the science that is more and more frequently showing it doesn’t help.


After 150 years of experimenting, it’s becoming clear that pumping more baby fish into the ocean may actually be making the problem worse. Ryan Stuart reports…Releasing more fish into the environment might seem like an easy solution to declining numbers. But in nature, this rarely works. 

The Narwhal

https://bityl.co/9NdB

Researches make surprising discovery while tracking Chinook.

A controversial finding in recent chinook research.

Researchers made a surprising discovery while tracking Chinook salmon in both the foraging areas of endangered southern resident orcas and the growing, healthy population of the northern resident orcas in B.C. In a study published last week in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, the researchers stated they expected to find the robust population of northern residents fat with fish, and the southern residents stuck with lean pickings. Instead, the team found four to six times the density of big Chinook in the area they tested in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, part of the southern residents’ core foraging area, compared with the area they sampled in the northern residents’ territory, in the Johnstone Strait. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

https://bit.ly/3FWT9ka

An underwater mystery on Canada’s west coast

Not really a “mystery” to the tribes who lived and continue to live along this coast. Great work by regional archeologists in uncovering the stories of this incredible aquatic farming by the tribes. What we lost by the European invaders ignorance of the people’s they were conquering is still an unfolding story.

Tens of thousands of wooden stakes poking up from British Columbia’s shoreline have smashed a long-held stereotype of Canada’s First Nation people.

https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20211013-an-underwater-mystery-on-canadas-coast

Conservation Groups Challenge Washington’s Artificial “Fix” to  Southern Resident Killer Whale and Salmon Recovery 

This in from the Wild Fish Conservancy. After trying to move the needle with the WDF&W they have decided that the courts need to get involved. The State should not be allowed to ignore the very laws that it imposes on everyone that lives here, simply to try scientifically dubious efforts to appease special interest groups. To be clear, see the items I’ve boldfaced below to highlight the criticality of this lawsuit.


October 13, 2021— This week, conservation organizations Wild Fish Conservancy and The Conservation Angler  filed suit against the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for its repeated refusal to follow state  environmental laws when setting statewide hatchery policy, including when it recently embarked upon a massive  expansion in the production of hatchery salmon that could cause irreparable damage to fragile wild fish  populations and to endangered Southern Resident killer whales. 

Filed in King County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that the Department has been ignoring the requirements  of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) since 2018, when it suspended key components of a science-based  hatchery reform policy designed to prevent state hatcheries from continuing to contribute to the decline of wild  populations of salmon and steelhead and from impeding their recovery. This significant action to abandon  science-based hatchery reform was taken without any public notice and was widely criticized, including in a  letter signed by 77 prominent fisheries and orca scientists and advocates, who called on Governor Inslee to  reinstate the science-based policy recommendations and another letter delivered to the Washington legislature by  five former Fish and Wildlife Commissioners responsible for implementing the hatchery reform policy in the  early 2000’s. 

After neutralizing the safeguards provided by this hatchery reform policy, the lawsuit alleges, the Department  began to massively increase hatchery production of Chinook, coho, and chum salmon at state run facilities,  purportedly to provide more food for Southern Resident killer whales. However, the Department did not support its hatchery expansion plan with any evidence that the Southern Resident killer whales would actually eat or be  sustained by hatchery salmon. Killer whale scientists agree the whales subsist primarily upon older and larger  Chinook that are found almost exclusively in the native Chinook populations that hatcheries have failed to  produce, protect, or restore.  

Even worse, the Department refused to engage in the SEPA process, including drafting an environmental impact  statement that would have assessed any and all potential adverse impacts of the proposed hatchery expansion on  both threatened wild salmon and steelhead populations and on the starving Southern Resident killer whales.  Hatcheries have long been recognized as one of the four primary threats to wild fish populations.  

“The Department took a big gamble, with the only certain payoff going to Washington’s fishing industry, while  all the risks are borne by our orcas and wild salmon populations,” said David Moskowitz, Executive Director of  The Conservation Angler. “But state environmental law does not allow the Department to risk the future of our  fish and wildlife on such an unproven strategy—it requires our agencies to make well-informed decisions based  

on a careful analysis of the potential adverse environmental impacts of their actions.” 

In 2020, at the same time the Department was actively implementing massive hatchery increases without  environmental scrutiny, the Department released a report titled ‘A review of hatchery reform science in  Washington State’ that found “hatcheries have potential for large magnitude ecological impacts on natural  populations that are not well understood, not typically evaluated and not measured” and that “…a focus on  efficiency and maximizing abundance prevents widespread implementation of risk reduction measures.”  

What’s more, the report recommended that prior to increasing hatchery programs, more environmental review  was necessary to evaluate cumulative hatchery effects and to ensure increases wouldn’t harm wild fish recovery,  warning large-scale hatchery production “can magnify the political pressure to take advantage of abundant  hatchery runs at the expense of natural populations” and concluding that increasing program size can raise both  “ecological and genetic risks”. The authors warned that “a rigorous justification for program size is essential for  implementing scientifically defensible hatchery programs.” 

“No doubt, many people supported the state’s ‘Orca Prey Initiative’ with the best of intentions, because it  was presented to the public as a scientifically-credible and rigorously vetted solution to feeding the  starving population of Southern Resident killer whales. The problem is that scientists know that producing  more hatchery fish is not going to solve the problem, and will likely make this crisis worse”, said Kurt  Beardslee, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. 

“As ridiculous as it sounds, reducing overharvest of the whales’ primary food wasn’t even considered as  an acceptable solution by the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force and other resource managers.  Instead, the plight of the Southern Residents provided an opportunity for powerful commercial and  recreational fishing interests to push for massive increases in hatchery production, putting our orcas and  wild salmon at even greater risk”, Beardslee says. 

### 

Wild Fish Conservancy is a conservation ecology organization dedicated to conservation, protection, and  restoration of wild fish ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. wildfishconservancy.org 

The Conservation Angler fights for the protection of wild Pacific anadromous fish populations throughout the  Northwest, all the way to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. theconservationangler.org 

Wild Fish Conservancy and The Conservation Angler are represented in this matter by Animal & Earth  Advocates, PLLC of Seattle, Washington.

Orcas off Point-No-Point

Reader Wendy Feltham sent in these photos she took Thursday as she was bird watching at Point-No-Point. These are J-Pod, according to the OrcaNet.

Swinomish tribal members say steelhead net pens violate fishing rights, add their voice to state Supreme Court case – Seattle Times

This raises an interesting queastion. Since Cooke has created some joint partnerships with some other tribes in the area to produce black cod, it will be interesting to see if this lawsuit, if successful, could be used non tribal people to sue other tribes who are doing the same aquaculture. We’ll track this in the future to see how it plays out.


…The Swinomish Tribe has joined as a friend of the court in a lawsuit to block permits that allow steelhead farming in a commercial net pen just offshore near Hope Island. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case next week. In its brief filed in the case, Swinomish tribal leaders, elders and fishers say the pen is a deep cultural insult and violation of their treaty fishing rights. The pen’s anchor lines foul their nets, tangle crab pots and force tribal fishers to keep clear of a productive fishing area they reserved a right to in the Treaty of Point Elliott, tribal members stated in declarations. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

Southern resident grandmother orca ‘missing and likely dead’ – AP

More bad news for our Southern Residents.


The Center for Whale Research has declared an orca in one of the Puget Sound’s endangered southern resident killer whale pods “missing and likely dead.” Mother and grandmother L47, or Marina as she was also known, was missing from the center’s 2021 census, according to a Monday news release, and she hasn’t been spotted since Feb. 27. The 47-year-old orca “did not appear to be in particularly poor condition” in that sighting, but she was missing from surveys this summer conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Associated Press)

B.C. Sea Stars approaching extinction?

Seems hard to fathom, that we may be losing the entire species.

A new study published by the Royal Society said sea stars are getting close to extinction as waters along the west coast. Sea stars in the waters off British Columbia that died off in the billions about a decade ago are not recovering as expected, an expert says. Hina Alam reports. (The Canadian Press)

Expert says B.C. sea stars melting away because of wasting disease

Judge hears lawsuit over fish farms: Skagit Valley Herald

The battle over fish farming in Puget Sound is not over yet.

Whether Cooke Aquaculture’s plan to raise native steelhead at fish farms in Puget Sound is a simple business transition or a complex threat to the marine ecosystem is being debated in King County Superior Court. Judge Johanna Bender heard testimony Thursday over Zoom in a lawsuit environment groups brought against the state Department of Fish & Wildlife for granting a permit to the seafood company to raise steelhead. The environment groups — Wild Fish Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth — contend Fish & Wildlife did not meet the requirements of SEPA, the State Environmental Policy Act, before issuing a mitigated determination of non-significance for Cooke Aquaculture’s proposal to move into the production of steelhead following a state-mandated phase-out of non-native Atlantic salmon. The state Office of the Attorney General and Cooke Aquaculture disagree. Kimberly Cauvel report. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Judge hears lawsuit over fish farms

Some B.C. restaurants remove wild salmon from menu in response to declining stocks – CBC


This is an interesting idea. I know that master chef Tom Douglas still supports having wild salmon in his restaurants as a way to keep the fishermen (and women) employed and keeping the wild cycle in play. It is worth remembering that certain stocks are being closed or only open for a day or two. I assume we will see more of this in the near future.

The Naramata Inn in the Okanagan has temporarily removed wild salmon from its summer menu, a decision chef Ned Bell said he made in an effort to allow salmon populations to recover. “It is a species that needs all the love we can give it.” Bell, who is a former Ocean Wise executive chef, said that it’s a temporary measure and he looks forward to bringing salmon back on his menu and supporting community fisheries again. The Vancouver-based Ocean Wise Conservation Association rates the sustainability of seafood so that consumers can avoid eating species that are over-fished or in decline. Michelle Gomez reports. (CBC)

Some B.C. restaurants remove wild salmon from menu in response to declining stocks

Finding the Mother Tree: ecologist Suzanne Simard offers solutions to B.C.’s forest woes – The Narwhale

An interesting interview with one of the scientists who early on figured out the differences between a “forest” and a “tree farm”.


From eating dirt as a child to discovering the mycorrhizal network below the forest floor, Simard has spent her entire career trying to find answers about how forests work; now, armed with those answers, she’s calling for change. Matt Simmons report. (The Narwhal)

Finding the Mother Tree: ecologist Suzanne Simard offers solutions to B.C.’s forest woes

Vibriosis infections on rise, state officials say -Associated Press


A word of caution for those of us who like to eat shellfish. The recent heat wave has a cost.

An outbreak of vibriosis in Washington has already surpassed the highest number of cases ever recorded by the state for the month of July, the state Department of Health said in a press release. Health officials say 52 cases of vibriosis have been reported in July, KING-5 reported. They blame the record-breaking high temperatures that killed millions, if not billions, of sea creatures during the Pacific Northwest heat wave. The infections are associated with eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters, that are contaminated with Vibrio. (Associated Press)

Associated Press

Read the whole story here:

Vibriosis infections on rise, state officials say

How healthy is the Salish Sea? Canada-U.S. study tracks ecosystem decline – Coast Reporter

We hear from our Puget Sound Partnership that things are doing “better” from their indicators. However, this new study sheds another perspective on the issue. I’m wondering after the recent heat wave, whether shellfish are going to remain a “positive” indicator.


A joint Canada-U.S. report on the health of the Salish Sea has found either an overwhelming decline or stable trend in nine out of 10 environmental indicators tracked by researchers. The only positive? Shellfish. Stefan Labbe reports. (Coast Reporter)

How healthy is the Salish Sea? Canada-U.S. study tracks ecosystem decline

and read the whole EPA report here:
Health of the Salish Sea Ecosystem Report | US EPA

Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps? PSI

We are just beginning to understand the incredible loss of shellfish from the latest heat wave.


The putrid smell of rotting shellfish on some beaches in Puget Sound and elsewhere along the West Coast were a clear sign that large numbers of clams, mussels, oysters and other intertidal creatures were killed from exposure to extreme low tides, record-breaking temperatures and a blazing hot sun. The total losses of shellfish that perished late last month may be difficult to estimate, but experts are beginning to piece together evidence from shoreline residents, state and tribal biologists, and commercial shellfish growers. Their goal is to describe what took place during the record-breaking temperatures of June 25-29 during some of the lowest tides of the past century. Christopher Dunagan reports. (Puget Sound Institute)

Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps?

New short video by Pacific Wild

Pacific wild opposes wolf culling. The have been doing some beautiful short 30 second spots. No message, just the beauty of the wolf.

https://vimeo.com/572671100

Goodbye to Caroline Gibson

For the second time in a couple of months, we have lost a huge force in the environmental protection of the Strait. The sudden death of Kurt Grinnell was shocking enough. But this time it’s Caroline Gibson, a woman who’s smile powered real change in this corner of the country. Caroline died after a long struggle with cancer. She leaves a hole that cannot be easily filled, both in those who worked with her and those who called her a friend. 

Caroline Gibson

Caroline’s defining characteristic was her smile and almost limitless positive energy. She helped define the Northwest Straits Foundation as it struggled to keep itself afloat after the Great Recession. The Northwest Straits has been a part of this area since 1998, when Patty Murray and the late Jack Metcalf lead a bi-partisan effort to create an earmark under NOAA to fund it. The goal was to enable citizen involvement in protecting the Strait. It has worked well enough to have established many Marine Resource Committees at the county level in the Northern Sound, and launch an incredibly successful project to remove derelict commercial fishing nets from the Straits. Caroline was a force behind those efforts. 

It seems unfathomable to think that she is gone. Every time I stopped by the house she shared with her partner Walt, she was always a well spring of good cheer. “Let’s have a glass of wine!”, was her happy answer to any issue that was cropping up. And over that glass she would often lay out the history of an issue,  the players behind it and her ideas on what was needed. She loved the Straits, the ocean and all it shelters. 

The work of any environmental activist is exhausting, having to endure hundreds of hours of dreary meetings, endless fundraising, and seeing politicians get elected who distinctly have no interest in protecting the environment. But I never heard Caroline do anything but look for ways to solve the problem. 

My sincere condolences to her family and friends. We all loved Caroline. 

_________________________________________________________

Don Hunger took over the NW Straits Foundation when it became clear that Caroline’s illness was making it impossible to do day to day work. He had this to say today on the Foundations web site https://nwstraitsfoundation.org

Celebrating The Life Of Caroline Gibson
 

The Salish Sea is a better place because of all that Caroline Gibson gave during her lifetime. She worked selflessly to build a diverse community of passionate individuals, organizations and agencies who are committed to restoring its coastlines, cleaning its waters, and preserving its habitat. All so wildlife and humans can enjoy the Salish Sea’s life-sustaining benefits for generations to come.

During her career in the Northwest Straits, Caroline served as a member of the Jefferson Marine Resources Committee, as the Marine Program Manager at the Northwest Straits Commission, and as Executive Director of the Northwest Straits Foundation. Her spark and passion inspired others to not just talk about marine conservation, but to roll up their sleeves and do it!

She formed the Salish Sea International Kelp Alliance increasing awareness, understanding and support for kelp as critical habitat. She worked with commercial fisherman on ways to reduce lost gear and mitigate impacts to marine wildlife. And, she was a great storyteller developing shared values and relationships.

As I celebrate her life, I see the color of sea blue with my eyes closed. That deep twinkling blue that water makes when light pierces it from a clear sky. The way salt water blue shifts when a lens of freshwater seeps in from a shoreline ledge. Like when I was a kid and mom said the North Atlantic was too cold, even in summer. But I leapt in anyway because the water deep down was shimmering like diamonds.

Caroline will always be in the water. Or on the shoreline calling us to jump in. Following the color of water down to where the salmon swim and the crabs skitter along sideways through eel grass pretending not to see us in an eternal hide and seek. We’ll swim until our skin is taut and numb, with the exquisite taste of bright salty water on our tongues.

It’s difficult to understand that Caroline’s not here. That somehow, she wasn’t one who miraculously overcame cancer. Even after two years of saying “I’m still here” with a twinkle in her eye and witty smile on her lips; that it wore her down. Us too. We all would stop it from taking her too soon if we could.

Caroline’s spirit filled a room. You didn’t have to know her to feel it. She simply radiated a joy for thinking, learning, and sharing life on a different frequency than the rest of us. I’m convinced that even the orcas and the crabs could feel it.

Looking out on the blue waters of the Salish Sea there’s comfort in knowing her spirit will always be there, and her work will be carried on by all of us.

Don Hunger, Executive Director

July 12, 2021

Researchers identify shellfish-killing phytoplankton behind massive summer die-offs in Puget Sound -KNKX

Why continuing scientific research on the Salish Sea is so important to continue funding. 

In July of 2018 and 2019, large numbers of oysters, cockles and clams died on beaches all around Puget Sound. No one knew why. It was a particularly bad couple of years, but summer mortality events with mass die-offs of shellfish happen regularly. They’ve been recorded by researchers in western Washington as far back as the 1930s. The source has remained a mystery. Now, scientists have pinpointed the cause: two species of toxic algae that don’t threaten people much — but can wreak havoc on the ecosystem. Beginning to figure out what’s killing so many shellfish is a breakthrough for growers and communities who live near the beaches. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)

https://www.knkx.org/post/researchers-identify-shellfish-killing-phytoplankton-behind-massive-summer-die-offs-puget-sound

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