The battle of sea lice and salmon goes on

An update on the battle to remove fish farms from Canada. The industry denies it’s a problem here, 100 miles south…

  • Increased sea lice infestations, scientists say are caused by salmon farms, threaten the already-vulnerable wild Pacific salmon populations in western Canada, worrying conservationists and First Nations.
  • Three First Nations in the region are now deciding on the future of open net pen Atlantic salmon farms dotting the channels and waterways in and around their territories. They hope their decisions will pave the way to protect wild salmon, a culturally important species.
  • So far, ten farms have been closed and the future of seven farms are to be decided this year, in 2023.
  • The impact of the closure of the farms on sea lice and wild salmon populations is still unclear, say scientists, and more time to monitor the data is needed.

As sea lice feast away on dwindling salmon, First Nations decide the fate of salmon farms (mongabay.com)

How much of orca decline is in their DNA? – Salish Current

Interesting new study out..

A fully sequenced SRKW genome might also give scientists a look at the genetic variations and immune system genes that are important for the whales’ survival, and offer a better understanding of the population’s history and size prior to European colonization, Ford added. The information could also verify current pedigrees and aid scientists in comparing Southern Residents with Northern Residents and other similar populations that are thriving, to determine what factors are setting them apart.

How much of orca decline is in their DNA? – Salish Current (salish-current.org)

Port Townsend City Council recognizes rights of whales in WA

On Monday night, the Port Townsend mayor and city council took the step to declare that the Southern Resident Orcas have inherent rights. Port Townsend is the first county in Washington State to take this step, in a growing movement known as the Rights of Nature. The “Rights of Nature” framework is the recognition that Nature is a living being and rights-bearing entity. Rights recognition takes Nature out of the realm of property.

Mayor David Faber, Patrick Johnson of QUUF and members of the North Olympic Orca Pod

Patrick Johnson of the Green Sanctuary Environmental Action Team from Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship read the following:

On behalf of Legal Rights for the Salish Sea, Earth Law Center, and our friends and supporters at the Green Sanctuary Environmental Action Team from Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and the North Olympic Orca Pod, we’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Mayor Faber and the members of the Port Townsend City Council for supporting this proclamation recognizing the inherent rights of the Southern Resident Orcas. We have been asking our decision makers to take BOLD action to save these unique and critically endangered orcas, and tonight YOU have done that! Your leadership and compassion for Nature will be a model for other city/county councils to follow. This is historic! 

Central to a “Rights of Nature” framework is the recognition that Nature is a living being and rights-bearing entity. Rights recognition takes Nature out of the realm of property. It reflects an inseparable human-Nature relationship rooted in mutual enhancement and holism rather than dominion, subjugation, and exploitation. Rights of Nature, therefore, offers a framework in line with natural law and science, allowing us to properly respect and value Nature (intrinsic values) as decision making occurs. Over twenty countries already embrace Rights of Nature concepts at some level of government.

In 2018, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (comprised of American Indians/ Alaska Natives and tribes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Northern California, and Alaska) passed Resolution #18-32 recognizing a sacred obligation to the Southern Resident Orcas, “our relatives under the waves.” The Resolution explains that the sacred obligation “to ensure all our relations are treated in a dignified manner that reflects tribal cultural values that have been passed down for countless generations” is to be understood in the context of “an inherent right and a treaty right, and in terms of indigenous ways of knowing the natural law” as embodied in their relationship to the Southern Residents. 

At a more fundamental level, recognizing the Southern Residents’ inherent rights shows that we as a society value them as living beings. It shows that when we say we want to prevent their extinction, we mean it. This will undoubtedly require changes in the way we do business; opening space for innovations so that we can have a future with clean rivers, ocean and seas, and healthy habitats for humans, animals and plants alike. 

We would not be here without the pioneering work and commitment to Ocean Rights by Michelle Bender and Elizabeth Dunne at the Earth Law Center. Many thanks to our friends at the Center for Whale Research, especially Ken Balcomb; Dr. Debra Giles at Wild Orca; and Howard Garrett, Susan Berta and Cindy Hansen, and everyone at the Orca Network. 

The following is the proclamation of the city of Port Townsend:

Press Release from the Earth Law Center

Port Townsend, WA (December 6th, 2022)—Yesterday evening, Port Townsend’s Mayor David J. Faber signed a Proclamation describing the City of Port Townsend’s support for action by local, state, federal and tribal governments that secure and effectuate the rights of the Southern Resident Orcas.

The Southern Resident Orcas (“the Orcas) are culturally, spiritually, and economically important to the people of Washington State and the world. However, despite federal legal protections for nearly two decades, the population continues to decline and is critically endangered, with only 73 individuals left in the wild.

The Proclamation states that the Southern Resident Orcas possess the inherent rights to: “life, autonomy, culture, free and safe passage, adequate food supply from naturally occurring sources, and freedom from conditions causing physical, emotional, or mental harm, including a habitat degraded by noise, pollution and contamination.”

Kriss Kevorkian of Legal Rights for the Salish Sea (LRSS), with the help of Patrick Johnson, of the Green Sanctuary Environmental Action Team from Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, introduced the idea of the Proclamation. “We are so grateful to the Mayor and City Council of Port Townsend for taking bold action to save these unique and critically endangered Orcas.” says Kriss Kevorkian, founder of LRSS.

Legal Rights for the Salish Sea partnered with Earth Law Center (ELC) in 2018 and are working to educate local communities on a new legal tool to protect Nature and communities – Rights of Nature. Together, they are leading a campaign to gain support for recognizing the rights of the Orcas at the local and Washington State level, and to take immediate actions to protect and restore the Orcas’ rights by addressing their main threats to survival.  “Recognizing the Southern Residents’ legal rights means that we must consider their wellbeing and needs in addition to human interests in decision making, and that they will have a voice in a variety of forums, including courts. Through their human guardians acting on their behalf and in their best interests, the Orcas will be able to express what they need to exist, thrive, and evolve,” explained Elizabeth Dunne, ELC’s Director of Legal Advocacy. “When structures such as the lower Snake River dams interfere with the Southern Residents’ ability to obtain prey (salmon) crucial for their survival, then to realize their rights we must find solutions to remedy the problem,” said Dunne. 

Legal rights for species and their habitats is not new. Hundreds of Rights of Nature laws exist in approximately 30 countries. Both San Francisco and Malibu passed resolutions protecting the rights of whales and dolphins in their coastal waters in 2014; New Zealand’s Government legally recognizes animals as ‘sentient’ beings; the Uttarakhand High Court of India ruled that the entire animal kingdom are legal entities with rights; and the United Kingdom now recognizes lobsters, crabs, and octopus as sentient beings.

Howard Garrett, co-founder of the Orca Network, supports this effort because he sees recognizing the Southern Residents’ inherent rights as “essential to the orcas’ survival and well-being. Without this recognition, people will continue to put economic and self-interest above the Southern Residents’ very survival.”

“Over the past few years, we have continued to see the population decline, and actions to recover the population have been slow and piecemeal. Business as usual is not working” says Michelle Bender. “We thank the leadership of Port Townsend and hope more local communities support a call for policies that give the Orcas, and all Nature, a voice in decision making and a seat at the table.”

This effort is also supported by an online change.org petition and declaration of understanding, of which over 10 organizations have signed onto.

Earth Law Center created a toolkit to help advocates introduce a resolution to their local communities, share the campaign on social media and other helpful talking points. You can take action and view the toolkit here.

#         #         #

Earth Law Center (www.earthlawcenter.org) works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. ELC partners with frontline indigenous people, communities and organizations to challenge the overarching legal and economic systems that reward environmental harm, and advance governance systems that maximize social and ecological well-being.

Legal Rights for the Salish Sea (LRSS- http://legalrightsforthesalishsea.org/) is a local community group based in Gig Harbor, WA, founded by Dr. Kriss Kevorkian, educating people to recognize the inherent rights of the Southern Resident Orcas. Under our current legal system humans and corporations have legal standing but animals and ecosystems don’t. We believe that animals and ecosystems should also have legal rights, not just protections that can be changed by different administrations.

Net Pen Aquaculture Industry Targets DNR’s Hilary Franz

In a series of articles across multiple platforms, the net pen aquaculture industry and their allies have targeted Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Hilary Franz for attack and lawsuits after her controversial decision to end net pen aquaculture of Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

Posts on LinkedIn (which does not allow critical rebuttal) by Jeanne McKnight, a PR specialist that works for the aquaculture industry, along with articles in SeaWestNews about the benefits of net pen aquaculture point to a new attack on Franz by the industry. Past Chairman of the Pacific Aquaculture Caucus Peter Becker also weighs in with his opinion in a long reply to McKnight’s original post.

The articles and posts point out that Franz came from a law degree background and not the “fisheries science industry”, so as not to be capable of deciding for an industry that has long been in the driver’s seat regarding influencing the regulators charged with regulating them. Cooke did an excellent job in the past of dividing to conquer the regulators by helping legislate multiple agencies to regulate multiple aspects of each farm, ending in a fiasco of collapsing nets due to poor maintenance and escaped fish. Franz rightly decided that Cooke should be banned from the near shore waters and shorelines of the State because of that incompetence. Her agency is charged with protecting those wild stock resources (along with other agencies).

The articles also raise smear tactics based on her decision by saying she ‘cherry picked’ the tribes in support of her decision (not even notifying the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe who are partnering with Cooke Aquaculture for a sable fish net pen in Port Angeles harbor). This blog believes that Franz will exempt the Jamestown in the near future and allow them to create net pens for black cod as long as Cooke is not part of the business model.

All these are desperate tactics by an industry under attack both here and in Canada. The long-time work of Dr. Alexandra Morton in Canada, raised scientifically valid hypothesis and proofs over and over again that the industry is partially if not fully responsible for the collapse of wild stocks in many rivers in Western British Columbia while the industry takes credit for 97% of Canadian salmon produced being farm raised (as reported in an article in the industry journal SeaWestNews.) That statistic can also be read to mean that since farmed salmon have arrived 97% of wild salmon have vanished. The question is why is that statistic true? Alexandra Mortons’ research, among others such as Dr. Lawrence Dill, point to the reasons that the industry would rather ignore. Viruses from the farms as well as sea lice coming from the pens that are co-located in passages that the wild salmon have to traverse. The industry here claims that sea lice are not the problem that they are in B.C.

The reality is that this issue is not over yet, though Commissioner Franz’ decision (political though it may be) is not without the possibility of challenge in the courts. Washington State Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (not DNR) having lost a limited case ruling in the Washington State Supreme Court in a unanimous decision that only dealt with whether or not the permit for Cooke had met SEPA standards, the industry believes DNR may not be on the most solid ground to uphold this new decision. Can they argue that the decision was arbitrary and capricious? The industry also sees this as a test to save the geoduck aquaculture industry from a similar fate, as many of the same issues raised in this case could be applied by environmentalists to the near shore. Actually, they already have been but have not yet found the political support to stop the ongoing destruction of our shorelines by geoduck aquaculture illegally supported by both DNR and the Army Corps of Engineers (as decided in recent court battles lost by both agencies. )

Don’t go popping champagne bottles just yet, as we have not seen the end of the industry as it relates to this issue. The arc of justice may be finally bending in the way of environmental protection as it relates to the problems of net pen aquaculture, but the industry will do its best to bend it back to profit over wild stocks.

Dept. of Nat. Resources Bans Future Net Pen Aquaculture – Major Win for Environmentalists, Tribes, Salmon & Orcas.

Today, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz made history when she announced a new groundbreaking executive order that will prohibit commercial net pen aquaculture in Washington state marine waters. During the press conference, a question about the net pen proposed by the joint business venture of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Cooke Aquaculture to create a net pen to farm Black Cod (Sablefish) was deflected with a mention that Commissioner Franz had been in discussions with them on this issue. It was not clear whether they were not going to be allowed to put the pen in under the Tribe’s name or not. Franz also mentioned that upland farming of salmon would likely be approved by DNR. The industry has long stated that this method is not commercially viable at this time.

This ends a long history of industry “spokespeople”, who have been involved with Marine Resources Committees both in Clallam and Jefferson Counties, touting the benefits of these pens and disrupting anyone coming forward to raise concerns, such as when Professor Dill, a researcher from a distinguished Canadian University came to Port Angeles a few years ago to discuss his scientifically based concerns and was shouted down by industry representatives.

While Commissioner Franz’ concerns about ending destruction of the near shore by these farms could easily be carried over to the nearshore beach destruction by industrial geoduck operations over thousands of acres of beaches throughout the Sound and Hood Canal, there was no discussion of that issue today.

This blog has been a long time critic of Commissioner Franz, due to her seemingly lack of concern over industrial aquaculture in our waters. We welcome and thank her for finally taking strong legal action on this issue. It has been viewed both here on the West Coast, nationally and internationally as a major step towards recovering and protecting our waters.

Press Release from the Wild Fish Conservancy, the major group working to end this policy.



“This new policy was announced earlier today by Commissioner Franz at a press conference on Bainbridge Island overlooking the Rich Passage net pens alongside leaders from Wild Fish Conservancy and Suquamish Tribe. The news comes on the heels of another long-awaited and widely-supported decision announced earlier this week by Commissioner Franz that DNR has refused new decade-long leases to global seafood giant Cooke Aquaculture to continue operating commercial net pens in Puget Sound.

“After the incredible news announced earlier this week, it is almost impossible to believe we are now celebrating an even bigger, groundbreaking victory for our wild salmon, orcas, and the health of Puget Sound,” said Emma Helverson, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “By denying new leases to Cooke and bringing forward this comprehensive, bold new policy to prevent commercial net pens from ever operating in Washington marine waters again, Commissioner Franz is ensuring Puget Sound will be protected, not just now, but far into the future for the benefit of generations to come.”

Together, the lease denial and executive order will require Cooke to remove all of their net pen facilities from Puget Sound before the end of year, marking the end of the commercial net pen industry that has operated in Washington state for over 40 years. The benefits of these actions for the recovery of wild fish, water quality, and the greater health of Puget Sound cannot be overstated. Immediately, this action will cease chronic untreated pollution that has been discharged daily at these aquatic sites for over forty years. Finally, these heavily polluted and degraded sites will have the opportunity to heal and begin the process of natural restoration as part of the largest passive restoration project in Washington State.

The decision will also eliminate many major risk factors that harm the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, including ending the risk of exposure to viruses, parasites, and diseases that are amplified and spread at unnatural levels by massive densities of farmed fish and the risk of future catastrophic escape events in which farmed fish could compete with, attempt to interbreed, or spread pathogens to threatened and endangered wild fish.


DNR’s decision will also restore the public and Tribal access to over 130 acres of Puget Sound that have been restricted by this industry for over forty years. More broadly, Washington’s decision will unite the entire U.S. Pacific Coast in excluding this industry from marine waters. Combined with Canada’s recent commitment to transition open water net pens out of British Columbia waters, this decision also has the potential to eliminate a major limiting factor to wild Pacific salmon recovery at a coastwide, international scale.


“After the news earlier this week, we’ve heard from colleagues all around the world in places like Chile, Tasmania, Scotland, and so many others working to protect their own public waters from the environmental harm of commercial net pen aquaculture,” says Helverson. “Today’s historic decision is setting a new standard that will serve as a model and rallying cry to bolster the efforts of communities and governments around the world working toward this same end and we stand committed to leveraging our massive success to support their efforts.”


Cooke is the same company found at fault for the catastrophic 2017 Cypress Island net pen collapse that released over 260,000 nonnative and viral-infected Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. Cooke purchased all of Washington’s net pen facilities in 2016 with plans to expand exponentially in Washington waters.

In response to this expansion plan, Wild Fish Conservancy launched the Our Sound, Our Salmon (OSOS) campaign in April 2017 to raise public awareness about the environmental impacts of commercial net pen aquaculture. In 2018, a coalition of over 10,000 individuals and hundreds of businesses and organizations under the banner of OSOS, worked in concert with Tribal efforts, to advocate for Washington’s landmark law banning nonnative Atlantic salmon aquaculture.

In July 2020, in response to Cooke avoiding the ban by transitioning to native species, the OSOS campaign launched a new initiative, Taking Back Our Sound, with the goal of preventing Cooke from receiving new leases. Through this effort, 9,000 individuals and 127 business and organizations called on DNR’s Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz through a petition and direct actions, which included a Bainbridge Island city resolution, to deny new leases to Cooke and to restore Puget Sound for the benefit and use of all. In making her decision over Cooke’s lease request, DNR was required by statute to issue a decision in the best interest of the public.
“It’s clear this victory for wild salmon, orcas, and Puget Sound belongs to no one person or group. Without the separate actions of thousands of individuals, Washington’s Tribal Nations, businesses, organizations, chefs, fishing groups, scientists, elected officials, and so many others working together over the last five years, this would never have been possible,” says Helverson. “It is truly inspiring to see what is possible when the public unifies their voices and works together with the law and science on their side toward the shared goal of a healthier Puget Sound.”

‘Momentous’: Feds advance demolition of 4 Klamath River dams – AP

More dams are slated for removal to save what’s left of the historic salmon runs. Decommissioning could mean that the method that they use could allow the dams to be reinstated if the runs go extinct. It can mean clearing around the dams to allow the river to free flow but leave the dams standing. As the story tells, this was driven by the local Tribes (with help from environmental organizations), who’s treaties the Federal Government ignored for over a century. For those of us who have seen this remarkably beautiful river, it is a joy to think it will be freed again. Now to continue the move to solar power, wind power and wave power to replace the dam’s energy output. That part of the coast has lots of sunshine and of course, wave action galore.

U.S. regulators approved a plan on Thursday to demolish four dams on a California river and open up hundreds of miles of salmon habitat that would be the largest dam removal and river restoration project in the world when it goes forward. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s unanimous vote on the lower Klamath River dams is the last major regulatory hurdle and the biggest milestone for a $500 million demolition proposal championed by Native American tribes and environmentalists for years. The project would free hundreds of miles of the river, which flows from Southern Oregon into Northern California. Gillian Flaccus reports. (Associated Press)

WA Dept of Natural Resources Cancels Leases for Remaining Net Pen Salmon Farms in Puget Sound

While many are glad to see this long-awaited decision, it is by no means the end of Cook Aquaculture and its efforts to farm fish here. But if they indeed do remove the Rich Passage net pen, it could be good news for the remaining salmon that run through Orchard Rocks off southern Bainbridge Island. Why? Because it has never been fully investigated as to whether this net pen was partially responsible for the collapse of the salmon run through the passage and Agate Pass. Given recent news that the Hood Canal Floating Bridge may be a significant cause of salmon collapse in Hood Canal, and the hunch by some old fishermen that stocks collapsed after the net pen in Rich Passage went in, anything is possible. Obviously, shoreline development in the area at that time also had a good deal to do with the salmon loss.

A reminder to all that Cooke still has a business agreement with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the two are rearing Black Cod (Sablefish) in Port Angeles harbor. My guess is that Cooke will look for additional opportunities like this and will approach other tribes if they haven’t already. Still to come, is understanding how the recent unanimous Supreme Court ruling may affect this decision. Will Cooke and allies sue in court, based on their previous win? I don’t think this is as over as it seems, but for now, it’s a good decision, long overdue.


Official Press Release:

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has ended the remaining two finfish net pen aquaculture leases on Washington’s state-owned aquatic lands.

DNR officials informed Cooke Aquaculture Monday that the agency will not renew expired leases for the two remaining finfish net pen aquaculture facilities in Washington; in Rich Passage off Bainbridge Island and off Hope Island in Skagit Bay.

“Since the catastrophic Cypress Island net pen collapse in 2017, I have stood tall to defend the waters of Puget Sound,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “This effort began by terminating finfish net pen operations due to lease violations. Despite years of litigation – and a company that has fought us every step of the way – we are now able to deny lease renewals for the remaining net pen sites. Today, we are returning our waters to wild fish and natural habitat. Today, we are freeing Puget Sound of enclosed cages.”

“This is a critical step to support our waters, fishermen, tribes, and the native salmon that we are so ferociously fighting to save,” said Commissioner Franz.

DNR’s denial of Cooke Aquaculture’s request to re-lease the sites to continue finfish net pen aquaculture gives the company until December 14 to finish operations and begin removing its facilities and repairing any environmental damage.

The Hope Island lease expired in March and has been in month-to-month holdover status since. The Rich Passage lease expired in November.

Decision Draws Support

Salish tribes and conservation groups hailed the decision as a step toward protecting the habitat of struggling stocks of native salmon.

“We are very pleased that Commissioner Franz rejected Cooke Aquaculture’s lease application. Removal of the existing net pen will restore full access to the Tribe’s culturally important fishing area in northern Skagit Bay. Swinomish are the People of the Salmon, and fishing has been our way of life since time immemorial. Cooke’s net pens have interfered with the exercise of our treaty rights for far too long. We look forward to the day when the Hope Island net pen facility will be a distant memory,” said Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Steve Edwards.

“This decision is a joyous and historic victory for the recovery of wild fish, orcas, and the health of Puget Sound,” says Emma Helverson, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “For years, the public has overwhelmingly called for an end to this dangerous industry in our public waters. Commissioner Franz’s response proves she is both accountable to the public and dedicated to protecting Puget Sound’s irreplaceable public heritage for current and future generations.”

“We say, ‘the table is set when the tide goes out.’ Seafoods have always been a staple of Samish diet and traditions,” said Tom Wooten, Samish Indian Nation Chairman. “By removing the Sound’s remaining net pens, our delicate ecosystem now gets a chance to replenish, repair and heal. We are grateful and lift our hands to the DNR’s partnership in helping protect the Salish Sea that tie us to our history and culture.”

Denials End Saga Started by 2017 Collapse

Cooke Aquaculture had previously leased four sites for net pen aquaculture from the Department of Natural Resources, recently growing steelhead trout in the net pens after years of using them to grow Atlantic salmon.

DNR’s letters denying an extension of Cooke’s leases lists several areas where the firm violated terms of the leases. DNR determined that allowing Cooke to continue operations posed risks of environmental harm to state-owned aquatic lands resulting from lack of adherence to lease provisions and increased costs to DNR associated with contract compliance, monitoring, and enforcement.

In August of 2017, a net pen at Cooke’s Cypress Island fish farm collapsed, releasing hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. As a result, DNR terminated that lease. Cooke was fined $332,000 and found negligent by the state Department of Ecology. The net pens were removed in 2018.

In December of 2017, DNR terminated Cooke’s Port Angeles lease due to Cooke operating in an unauthorized area and failing to maintain the facility in a safe condition. Cooke challenged that termination in the superior court and that litigation is still pending.

The Washington state Legislature in 2018 phased out Atlantic salmon farming, and the company since shifted operations at its remaining leaseholds in Rich Passage and Hope Island to grow sterile steelhead trout.

Future Net Pen Policy will be Announced Friday

Following the denials of these lease renewals, Commissioner Franz is reviewing policies for net pen salmon aquaculture throughout Washington’s state-owned aquatic lands, and will announce this decision at a press conference alongside partners and tribes at 11 a.m. Friday, November 18, on Bainbridge Island.

Seattle Times article (Behind paywall)

WA will not renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms, 5 years after spill | The Seattle Times

Reducing collisions between ships and whales? There’s apps for that, but they need work – NW News Network

The ability to give ships captains a reliable source of information on location of orcas is a work in progress.

Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often in the Pacific Northwest that ships collide with whales. But when it does, it’s upsetting, tragic and the whale probably dies. Three separate teams have developed smartphone-based systems that can alert commercial mariners to watch out, slow down or change course when whales have been sighted nearby. A recent ride-along on a big container ship demonstrated that real-time whale alerts are still a work in progress.

Reducing collisions between ships and whales? There’s apps for that, but they need work | Northwest News Network (nwnewsnetwork.org)

West Coast gray whale population continues to decline but scientists remain cautiously optimistic -KNKX

The story points out the possibility of this being part of a natural population swing, but…they aren’t sure.


U.S. researchers say the number of gray whales off western North America has continued to fall over the last two years, a decline that resembles previous population swings over the past several decades. According to an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries released Friday, the most recent count put the population at 16,650 whales — down 38% from its peak in 2015-16. Associated Press and Bellamy Pailthorp report. (KNKX)

West Coast gray whale population continues to decline but scientists remain cautiously optimistic | KNKX Public Radio

New film about spring Chinook delves into history, culture and science in unique habitats – PSI

Worth a watch!


A new film, titled “The Lost Salmon,” opens with a video montage that takes us through some wondrous scenes: A wide aerial shot of California’s majestic Salmon River, moving to an underwater view of salmon swimming through the clear water and then to an action spectacle of wild salmon practically flying through the air to surmount a rushing cascades. Christopher Dunagan reports. (Puget Sound Institute) 

Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy-Salish Sea Currents Magazine

Excellent series by long time Northwest journalist Christopher Dunagan

Following dam removal, migratory salmon have been free to swim into the upper Elwha River for the first time in 100 years. Their actual behaviors and reproductive success may well be driven by changes in their genetic makeup. Our seven-part series ‘Returning home’ examines how the fish are doing and whether the Elwha’s genetic legacy remains intact. 

Salish Sea Currents

Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy | Encyclopedia of Puget Sound (eopugetsound.org)

Causeway removal meant big jump in juvenile salmon – AP

Good news from the work done by North Olympic Salmon Coalition (NOSC) and the State.

Only six juvenile salmon were found during seining in the five years before the bridge opened. During this year’s seining, over two days in May, volunteers netted close to 1,000 juvenile salmon

https://www.knkx.org/environment/2022-06-06/causeway-removal-meant-big-jump-in-juvenile-salmon

Ediz Hook enhanced for salmon, public use – NWTTM

Here’s an update on the work at Ediz Hook in Port Angeles by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. They have been removing debris from the shore and planting eel grass to renew the nearshore habitat for fish and other species.

Below the surface, the tribe and partners Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington Sea Grant have been restoring eelgrass beds on the sand spit’s south shore for the past four years, with greater success than expected

Northwest Treaty Tribes January 2022

Read the whole story here. https://nwtreatytribes.org/publications/magazine/

Good news, bad news for whale sightings in 2021

Reports in from Pacific Whale Watch Association that whale sightings were up was reported in The Canadian press, (CBC), as good news. It is, in totality of sightings for Biggs and humpbacks. But if you read the details, you find that Southern Resident Orcas sightings are actually down. Let’s take what we can of the positive but not be fooled into thinking we have turned around the issue of local residents. As mentioned in the article, the Biggs eat seals and sea lions, which have been overpopulating the area and eating vast amounts of food that competes with the resident southerns. (another way to think of this is that because we have depleted the salmon runs there are fewer fish to feed all the mammals that eat them). This may help balance out the food chain, but we won’t know for a number of years.

… it’s a different story for the endangered Southern Resident whales — the other principal killer whale found in the region — as their sightings dropped to a record low last year. The salmon-eating mammals were documented on just 103 days, or 28 per cent of the year.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/record-whale-sightings-2021-1.6311282

Read the whole story here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/record-whale-sightings-2021-1.6311282

How do we stop tire debris from killing coho? NWTTM

Over the last decade science done at the UW has identified a chemical in our tires that leaches out as we drive and ends up killing salmon when it runs off into the lakes, rivers and bays of Puget Sound. This issue will require billions of dollars to fix, just as the culvert problem, created over the last 100 years of road building has done. But it must be done if we are to save coho in our waters.

This article, in the Northwest Treaty Tribes magazine does a good job of updating us on the issue and what is being done about it now.

We need to deal with these impacts immediately by filtering 6PPD-Q from
stormwater before it enters the water. The Nisqually Tribe is working with McIntyre, Long Live the Kings and the state Department of Transportation to develop a compostable biofiltration system on
Highway 7 where it crosses Ohop Creek. If we are successful, similar systems could be retrofitted along all roadways to remove this lethal, toxic chemical.

Northwest Treaty Tribes Magazine -2022 January

Read the whole story here: https://nwtreatytribes.org/publications/magazine/

Extreme Weather Threatens Salmon Recovery – NWTT Newsletter

More data coming in on the toll on salmon of last summer’s record hot weather.

After last summer’s record high temperatures and low water flow, Lummi Natural Resources staff discovered about 2,500 dead adult chinook in the South Fork Nooksack River.

Northwest Treaty Tribes Winter 2002

The NWTT newsletter is a great resource for stories on salmon recovery and other Salish Sea marine issues. This month, they include:

  • How do we stop tire debris from killing salmon?
  • Tribal Hatchery story
  • European Green Crab update
  • How beach restoration benefits Salmon and the Public
  • And the article on Climate Change Threatens Salmon Recovery

Check it out and sign up to get it yourself! Or keep reading here on the Olympic Peninsula Environmental News and we’ll give you the short story.

Canadian Federal government announces closure of most Pacific herring fisheries | CBC News

Perhaps good news for the herring stocks in B.C. as the Canadian government closes the fisheries. Herring stocks in B.C. have been in trouble for years, following mismanagement by the Federal Government, habitat destruction and over-fishing. As the article states, Indigenous Tribes on the west coast seem to be supporting this, as they have been warning about the collapse for years.

Pacific Herring (Photo by NOAA)

Most commercial fisheries for Pacific herring on the West Coast have been closed with the exception of harvests by First Nations for food and ceremonial purposes. Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray says in a statement that this “cautious” approach to Pacific herring management is based on recently intensified risks to wild salmon. Pacific herring are an important food source for salmon, sea birds, marine mammals and other fish. (Canadian Press)

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/pacific-herring-fisheries-closure-1.6289030

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

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