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

Transplanted fishers released into park – PDN

Restoring species to the Peninsula continues.

A release of seven fishers from Alberta, Canada into Olympic National Park earlier this month is part of a program to increase the genetic diversity of the once-decimated native species. Five were released into the wild at Lake Ozette and two were released near Sol Duc, said Patti Happe, wildlife branch chief of Olympic National Park (ONP), on Friday. Leah Leach reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Transplanted fishers released into park (Paywall in place, you will need a subscription)

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

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.

Inslee says Lower Snake River dams report should be ready by this summer. NW News Network

It will be interesting to see what conclusions this comes to. Remember, it will be coming prior to a mid term election.

The fate of the four controversial Lower Snake River dams will be a topic of study this summer. Washington politicians said they plan to weigh in then on the fate of the four controversial Lower Snake River dams. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says a report should come out this summer on the four controversial dams on the Lower Snake River. Courtney Flatt reports. (NW News Network)

Inslee says Lower Snake River dams report should be ready this summer

Philanthropists pledge $5B to save threatened species – Washington Post

Good news for environmental organizations. More money to fund their work is always a positive step, since so many are hurting with the Pandemic. Also these wealthy Philanthropists have seen their stocks soar in the last year. Since our government gives them such low taxes, this is at least one way for them to pay back.


A group of philanthropists pledged $5 billion by 2030 to help conservation and protect biodiversity around the world. Steven Mufson reports. (Washington Post)

Philanthropists pledge $5 billion to save threatened species 

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

Taking the Temperature of Salmon -Salish Sea Currents

Good overview of one of the most critical issues facing recovery of endangered salmon. Rising temperatures in streams.

In the Puget Sound region, elevated stream temperatures are believed to be one of the great downfalls for salmon, especially in areas where streamside vegetation has been removed by farming, forestry or development.

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/taking-temperature-salmon

Cooke Aquaculture Secures Permit to Stock Risky Washington Fish Farm

From the Wild Fish Conservancy. Reproduced in it’s entirety.

Cooke Aquaculture Secures Permit to Stock Risky Washington Fish Farm
For Immediate Release, August 6, 2021


SEATTLE— Despite ongoing litigation and timing questions regarding the lease for the facility, the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife has granted fish farming giant Cooke Aquaculture a permit to stock its Hope Island
facility in-water net pens with steelhead.


A group of conservation groups challenged the initial permits for stocking steelhead in Cooke’s net-pens, and that
challenge will be heard by the Supreme Court of Washington in September. Fish farms can degrade water quality,
introduce disease to native fish populations and threaten imperiled animals like the Southern Resident orcas.
But the new permit, signed August 5 by the department, will allow for 365,000 steelhead to be transported and placed
in Cooke’s facility off Hope Island in south Puget Sound before the court’s decision.


“We feel blindsided by this fast-moving process, which could cause major environmental damage,” said Sophia
Ressler, Washington wildlife attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The stocking of this facility has the
potential to contaminate our waters and threaten the species that are so dear to our Puget Sound ecosystem.”
The lease for the facility expires in March 2022. Based on Cooke’s own timeline, this is long before the rearing of the
365,000 steelhead at this facility would be complete. Without a valid lease for this farm beyond that deadline, Cooke
would be required to remove these fish and relocate them.

“Right now, Washington’s highest court is deciding whether Cooke Aquaculture’s new project should have ever been
approved. Before the end of the year, the court could invalidate every permit granted to Cooke and require the
comprehensive environmental review demanded by Tribal Nations, elected officials and thousands of members of the
public,” said Kurt Beardslee of Wild Fish Conservancy. “This decision to approve the transport of fish into Puget
Sound net pens while the court’s decision is pending is fundamentally reckless and further demonstrates an alarming
pattern of state agencies putting the wishes of a billion-dollar industry ahead of wild salmon recovery, tribal treaty
rights and the public’s best interest.”

“The state failed the public and our imperiled wild fish when it granted these permits and allowing stocking to go
forward while our case is pending at the Washington Supreme Court is the epitome of irresponsible,” said Amy van
Saun, a senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “Industrial fish farming is not in the public interest.”
“We are dismayed to see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife again greenlighting Cooke’s plans to
industrially farm steelhead in Puget Sound,” said Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner and deputy legal
director at Friends of the Earth. “That this permit has been issued before oral arguments in our appeal over the
agency’s aquaculture permit is a slap in the face to all Washingtonians and the wildlife who depend on a clean and safe
Puget Sound.”

Background

Following a catastrophic failure at one of Cooke’s facilities in 2017, Washington state passed a law phasing out all
Atlantic salmon net-pen aquaculture by 2022. The permits issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife allow Cooke
to continue operating its net pens, which are placed directly into Puget Sound waters, by growing steelhead instead of
Atlantic salmon.

During a public comment period in fall 2019, thousands of Washington citizens and organizations filed comments
with the state agency, overwhelmingly calling for the proposal to be stopped and urging the state to draft a new
“environmental impact statement” on open-water aquaculture net pens.
Instead the state wildlife department issued a permit that relied on a cursory analysis and “mitigated determination of
non significance.” The calls for deeper scrutiny came from environmental advocates, commercial fishers and anglers,
legislators, other state agencies and at least five tribal governments from the lands around Puget Sound.
Washington is the only state on the Pacific coast that permits these facilities. At the beginning of 2020, Canadian
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to transition all open-water industrial aquaculture in British Columbia
to land-based facilities by 2025.

The conservation groups that brought this challenge are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC and by
attorneys at the Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity.
Additional Information:
• Open Brief (filed 2-11-20)
• More Information on the Lawsuit (press release 11-23-20)
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org Wild Fish Conservancy is a nonprofit conservation ecology organization headquartered in Washington State and dedicated to preserving, protecting and restoring the northwest’s wild fish and the ecosystems they depend on, through science, education and advocacy. For more information: http://www.wildfishconservancy.org
Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture, including aquaculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and a healthy, resilient environment.
Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, ensuring the food we eat and products we use are safe and sustainable, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who
live and work near them

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

Salmon-killing tires get congressional hearing – KUOW

This is a must needed first step towards changing the equation to what may prove to be one of the root causes of our loss of salmon. Worth noting that no Washington State representatives are on this committee (why? I don’t know). It also appears that it is populated by far more Republicans than Democrats. Again. Why? I don’t know.


A study that pinpointed a chemical from car tires as the cause of salmon die-offs in West Coast creeks has prompted a congressional hearing. The toxic effects of tire dust and skid marks on coho salmon were the subject of a U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday. Washington State University researcher Jenifer McIntyre said 6PPD-quinone, a chemical recently discovered in used tires, has been washing off roadways and killing coho salmon. John Ryan reports. (KUOW)

Salmon-killing tires get congressional hearing

With rollback of Trump proposal, new Biden plan cuts just 2% of spotted owl protections -OPB

Good news as the Biden Administration works to reverse the damage done by Trump.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to withdraw the previous administration’s rule that slashed millions of acres of critical habitat protections for the northern spotted owl. The proposed new rule would reduce the protected habitat area in Oregon by 200,000 acres — leaving far more land protected for the threatened owl than called for by the Trump administration. This comes after the Biden administration’s U.S Interior Department delayed and reviewed the Trump administration’s Jan. 15 rollback of 3.4 million acres of designated critical habitat protections for the imperiled species in Washington, Oregon and California. Monica Samayoa reports. (OPB)

With rollback of Trump proposal, new Biden plan cuts just 2% of spotted owl protections

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

Lawsuit Adds New Protections and Increased Foraging Opportunity for Starving Southern Resident Killer Whales – Wild Fish Conservancy

Wild Fish Conservancy put out this update on their work last week. It is interesting to note the details of what we are told about the government desire to protect and restore wild salmon versus the actual regulations that they are creating. I’ll reproduce the whole email here. But first, why is this information important to us here? 

Our Governor and fisheries management people publicly state that they are fighting to protect wild salmon stocks. Wild Fish Conservancy spends the time to be in the meetings and review the actual laws that are being passed, both state and federal to bring these goals to a reality. 

It appears that even with the best of intentions, the goals are washed out in the process, eventually continuing the practices that have led us here, with what seems like ‘greenwashing’ the work. Why? 

That a 10 year agreement between the U.S. and Canada of over 100 pages of work governing our joint salmon stocks would not include any reference to Southern Resident killer whales or their forage needs seems more than an oversight. 

We cannot rely on government to take a strong stance in their efforts to save the wild stocks. The pressures (in terms of real dollars) on them are too great to expect them to have the backbone to accomplish them. While so many organizations talk about actually taking the steps to restore salmon Wild Fish Conservancy is willing to sue to make sure the science is implemented in law. I dislike lawsuits, but at times, they are the only tool left, before all the salmon are gone forever.

As Kurt says at the end of this email: Despite NOAA’s acknowledgement that the current harvest rates are harming both ESA-listed Chinook and orcas, they continue to authorize the fishery to operate business as usual, citing speculative and unproven plans to mitigate this harm. To date, this hypothetical mitigation has yet to be implemented, yet the fishery continues to harvest at the expense of both protected species.

I applaud their efforts in an era when too little is being done to stand up to industry and government inaction and hope you will support their work as you can.

__________________________________

NEW PROTECTIONS
This week, as the result of a lawsuit by Wild Fish Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity, federal fisheries managers announced a proposal to increase protections and foraging opportunity for the starving Southern Resident killer whale population.

The action comes in the form of a newly proposed amendment to the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan, which guides the management of all salmon fisheries in Federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Once adopted, the newly proposed ‘Amendment 21’ will finally acknowledge and address the complex prey needs of the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whale population by limiting non-tribal commercial Chinook salmon fishing in years of low Chinook salmon abundance to protect foraging opportunities for the orcas. Killer whale scientists have identified lack of available prey as the primary cause of the Southern Resident’s decline.

These new protections are the result of a 2019 lawsuit challenging NOAA Fisheries for failing to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that the current management plan governing these West Coast fisheries is harvesting prey critical to the survival of the Southern Residents, especially in years of low Chinook abundance.

The fisheries’ impacts on the protected orca population had not been formally analyzed since 2009. Our lawsuit called for the agency to conduct a new analysis, as required by the Endangered Species Act, that considered over a decade of new scientific information about the reason for the population’s decline, their relationship to salmon, and the impacts of prey depletion on their survival and recovery. NOAA Fisheries finally agreed to conduct a new analysis which confirmed current management was not sufficient to meet the needs of the endangered Southern Residents and that actions would need to be taken to improve foraging opportunities for the starving whales, leading to the proposed new amendment.

SETTING A NEW PRECEDENT
As an action alone, the new amendment is a small step forward when considering the scope of the crisis facing the Southern Resident killer whales. At the same time, this action represents the beginning of a fundamental shift in how federal agencies should be managing commercial salmon fisheries. 

Amendment 21 sets a new precedent that says it is no longer acceptable to fundamentally ignore the prey needs of federally-protected killer whales when managing commercial salmon fisheries.

 

Below we’ve shared information about another lawsuit filed by Wild Fish Conservancy in 2020 over harvest practices in Southeast Alaska that are contributing to the decline of both Southern Resident killer whales and Puget Sound Chinook. Amendment 21, and the underlying litigation, have set in motion important momentum critical to the outcome of this second ongoing lawsuit.

A COASTWIDE THREAT
The Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan is not unique. For decades, commercial salmon harvest plans authorized by federal and state officials throughout the coast have ignored or failed to adequately address the prey needs of the Southern Residents. When fishery managers come to the table to make critical salmon harvest and allocation decisions, the whales are often not considered as a “stakeholder”, despite the population’s continued decline toward extinction and federal protected status.

A primary example is the Pacific Salmon Treaty, an international agreement between the United States and Canada that governs the management of all Pacific salmon stocks of mutual concern and is the most consequential and far-reaching management plan governing commercial salmon fisheries in Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. In 2018, the public had the opportunity to review the Pacific Salmon Treaty’s new 10-year agreement, which will be in affect through the year 2028. In the over 100 page document, there is not a single mention of the Southern Resident killer whales, let alone their foraging needs.

Last month, Wild Fish Conservancy submitted our summary judgement motion in another lawsuit against NOAA Fisheries launched in 2020 over the authorization of harvest in the Southeast Alaska Chinook troll fishery that is pushing both Southern Residents and wild Chinook populations in the northwest closer to extinction, a conclusion NOAA acknowledges in their own 2019 analysis of the fishery.

The Chinook troll fishery operates 10-months of the year outside of Southeast Alaska and is considered a mixed-stock fishery, meaning a fishery where Chinook are indiscriminately harvested regardless of their protected status, age, hatchery or wild origin, and what river they originated from.

Nearly all of the fish harvested in this fishery will go on to be marketed as sustainably-certified, wild-caught Alaskan Chinook. However, data confirms 97% of the Chinook harvested in the fishery originate from rivers in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. If given the opportunity, these Chinook would migrate back down the coast serving as the primary prey for the Southern Resident killer whales as the Chinook pass through the whale’s key forage areas. Instead, these fish are being harvested outside of the range of the whales and at levels that federal fishery managers acknowledge are unsustainable for the long-term survival and reproductive success of the Southern Resident population.

At the same time, wild Chinook are being harvested regardless of their origin and status under the Endangered Species Act, which further impedes the recovery of critical Chinook populations throughout the Pacific Northwest the whale’s depend on. 

Despite NOAA’s acknowledgement that the current harvest rates are harming both ESA-listed Chinook and orcas, they continue to authorize the fishery to operate business as usual, citing speculative and unproven plans to mitigate this harm. To date, this hypothetical mitigation has yet to be implemented, yet the fishery continues to harvest at the expense of both protected species. The insufficiency and hypothetical nature of the mitigation is at the heart of Wild Fish Conservancy’s arguments in this case. We will be sure to continue to update you as this extremely consequential lawsuit moves forward over the coming months.

Endangered predators and endangered prey: Seasonal diet of Southern Resident killer whales – PLOS One

New research out regarding Southern Resident killer whales and their needs for chinook. Very good research here, based on scat samples over long periods of time.

Abstract

Understanding diet is critical for conservation of endangered predators. Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) (Orcinus orca) are an endangered population occurring primarily along the outer coast and inland waters of Washington and British Columbia. Insufficient prey has been identified as a factor limiting their recovery, so a clear understanding of their seasonal diet is a high conservation priority. Previous studies have shown that their summer diet in inland waters consists primarily of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), despite that species’ rarity compared to some other salmonids. During other times of the year, when occurrence patterns include other portions of their range, their diet remains largely unknown. To address this data gap, we collected feces and prey remains from October to May 2004–2017 in both the Salish Sea and outer coast waters. Using visual and genetic species identification for prey remains and genetic approaches for fecal samples, we characterized the diet of the SRKWs in fall, winter, and spring. Chinook salmon were identified as an important prey item year-round, averaging ~50% of their diet in the fall, increasing to 70–80% in the mid-winter/early spring, and increasing to nearly 100% in the spring. Other salmon species and non-salmonid fishes, also made substantial dietary contributions. The relatively high species diversity in winter suggested a possible lack of Chinook salmon, probably due to seasonally lower densities, based on SRKW’s proclivity to selectively consume this species in other seasons. A wide diversity of Chinook salmon stocks were consumed, many of which are also at risk. Although outer coast Chinook samples included 14 stocks, four rivers systems accounted for over 90% of samples, predominantly the Columbia River. Increasing the abundance of Chinook salmon stocks that inhabit the whales’ winter range may be an effective conservation strategy for this population.

Read the whole research paper here.

Endangered predators and endangered prey: Seasonal diet of Southern Resident killer whales (plos.org)

The never ending Spotted Owl saga

Once again, after the Trump Administration tried to roll-back the laws protecting the last remaining old growth on the Olympic Peninsula, the Biden Administration will take a look at whether science played any role at all. Likely not. Even if it goes through, it won’t bring back the one log trucks that helped wipe out virtually all of the habitat for old growth species. That ship sailed with the passage of shipping whole logs to Japan in the late 1970s, and that was about the time the last one log truck ran on the Peninsula.. Long before the Spotted Owl was the issue. Blame it on the desire to cut every last old growth for profit. The Spotted Owl issue was simply a logical outcome of wiping out the forests that they depend on.


The U.S. Interior Department is delaying and reviewing the Trump administration’s last-minute roll-back of federal protections for the imperiled northern spotted owl, which called for slashing protections from millions of acres of Northwest forests. On Jan. 15, just days before leaving office, the Trump administration published a final rule revising Endangered Species Act protections for the northern spotted owl. The rule lifted critical-habitat protections for the bird from 3.4 million acres in Oregon, Washington and California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s had proposed a far more modest revision, seeking to remove critical habitat status from a little over 200,000 acres in 15 counties in Oregon. Monica Samayoa reports. (OPB)

OPB

Biden administration will reconsider northern spotted owl forest protection rollbacks

Federal Judge George Boldt issues historic ruling affirming Native American treaty fishing rights on February 12, 1974

On this day, history for both the NW Tribes and all Tribes across this country changed for the better. One of the most important rulings in the history of U.S.< > Tribal relations, no matter which side of this you may have been on. For the Tribes, it showed that the legal system could work for them. For non-natives, it showed that their dominance of the fisheries and other resources was over and that “honoring the treaties” was a not just a hollow phrase. Nothing would be the same again. It also represents the only way forward if we are going to continue to build a coalition that can effectively restore the salmon runs. The Tribes have been the most effective partners in doing this work, as shown by the Jamestown, Elwa and Port Gamble S’Klallam peoples. We raise our hands in thanks for this day. We have little time left to save the runs, and the small incremental progress being made needs to accelerate.



On February 12, 1974, Federal Judge George Boldt (1903-1984) issues an historic ruling reaffirming the rights of Washington’s Indian tribes to fish in accustomed places. The “Boldt Decision” allocates 50 percent of the annual catch to treaty tribes, which enrages other fishermen. At the same time Judge Boldt denies landless tribes — among them the Samish, Snoqualmie, Steilacoom, and Duwamish — federal recognition and treaty rights. Western Washington tribes had been assured the right to fish at “usual and accustomed grounds and stations” by Federal treaties signed in 1854 and 1855, but during the next 50 years Euro-American immigrants — armed with larger boats, modern technology, and the regulatory muscle of the state — gradually displaced them. The campaign to reassert Native American fishing rights began in 1964 with “fish-ins” on the Puyallup River led by Robert Satiacum (1929-1991) and Billy Frank Jr. (1931-2014), who defied Washington state attempts to regulate their fishing. (History Link)

Federal Judge George Boldt issues historic ruling affirming Native American treaty fishing rights on February 12, 1974

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