How we tested Columbia River salmon for contaminants – OPB & ProPublica

Sobering story today on the issue of pollution in Columbia River salmon. OPB and ProPublica collected 50 salmon caught by tribal fishermen and followed standard methods for fish tissue testing.

Ultimately, this led to the finding that, based on the levels of dioxins in our samples, anything above four 8-ounce servings of these tested fish each month would create an excess cancer risk beyond the EPA’s benchmark of 1 in 100,000. That means of 100,000 people exposed to these levels of contaminants, one of them would develop cancer as a result of the exposure.

How we tested Columbia River salmon for contaminants – OPB

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

Can kelp farming help save our marine environment? -Salish Sea Current

This is an echo of both the race to open the Sound up to salmon farms in the late 70s (a failure both financially and environmentally) and the race to open beaches across the Sound to commercial aquaculture, including geoducks (a financial boon but an environmental disgrace). Our tendency to ignore the possible downsides of new aquaculture plays into a narrative that all aquaculture is “good” and “sustainable”. Part of the issue here is that NOAA is looking to continue to support the conversion of our waters and beaches into commercial companies, which end up making it impossible to access more and more of our public beaches. Part of NOAAs efforts is to put a “stacked” farming plan into effect, looking at each depth as a possible source of revenue for businesses. Shellfish on the bottom, kelp in the middle with hopefully some fish along the way. Where recreational users fit into this is ignored. Proof? try kayaking in many of the bays in the South Sound, where geoduck nets straddle much of the waters. Is there any real debate going on about kelp farming at the state level or will we simply open the waters to another industry that we can never again reign in. There rarely is any ability to stop or better regulate it once it’s in place.

To be clear, I am not against the idea of this industry taking hold, I’m against the blind race to simply permit this without really debating the long term consequences of our actions.

Thirteen Washington counties ring the Salish Sea; a kelp farm would have to meet the requirements of each county’s shoreline master plans, which regulate shoreline uses. Tribal governments would likely want to review applications to ensure a kelp farm wouldn’t interfere with tribal fishing in their usual and accustomed areas.

Can kelp farming help save our marine environment? – Salish Current (salish-current.org)

New Research Shows Innovative Commercial Fishing Technique Can Aid Wild Salmon Recovery & Support Sustainable Fisheries – Wild Fish Conservancy

Very good news.

OCTOBER 6, 2022— A new study evaluating alternative commercial fishing techniques further demonstrates the critical role commercial fish traps can play in recovering wild salmon and steelhead, improving fisheries management, and providing new sustainable fishing opportunities for coastal fishing communities. The publication confirms the ability of fish traps (or pound nets) to nearly eliminate unintended mortality of threatened salmon and steelhead encountered in commercial salmon fisheries of the Columbia River.

Researchers at Wild Fish Conservancy, alongside Dr. John Skalski of the University of Washington Columbia Basin Research Lab, published a new open access paper in the international journal of Fisheries Research evaluating survival of wild adult salmon after being released from two commercial fish trap sites in the lower Columbia River. The results demonstrated post-release survival at or near 100% for spring and summer-run Chinook salmon and coho salmon released from passively operated fish traps between 2019 and 2021.

“The new publication provides the most clear-cut and irrefutable evidence to date that fish traps can nearly eliminate unintended mortality of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead during harvest, allowing for sustainable and resilient commercial fisheries that can enjoyed for generations to come,” says Emma Helverson, Executive Director of the Wild Fish Conservancy. “It is rare to find a win-win solution with such widespread benefits for wild fish, orcas, resource managers, and coastal fishing communities.”

In conventional fisheries, a major barrier impeding recovery is the accidental harvest and mortality of threatened and endangered populations by fishers targeting other wild or hatchery fish. Using ancient fish traps as a basic model, Wild Fish Conservancy biologists began evaluating contemporary fish traps in 2016 in efforts to develop a sustainable, alternative fishing practice to conventional gillnetting. The goal was to safely release wild salmon and steelhead in need of recovery, while allowing fishers to selectively harvest those healthier, abundant runs, such as the Columbia River’s hatchery fish. Passively operated traps are engineered to allow fish to remain free-swimming at all times and to eliminate mortality effects commonly associated with conventional fishing methods, including injury from nets, overcrowding, human-handling, and air exposure.

The new publication builds on and validates the results of previous studies evaluating passively operated fish traps on the Columbia River that have consistently shown survival near 100% for adult fall-run Chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, and summer-run steelhead released as bycatch. No other commercial fishing method studied on the Columbia River has demonstrated survival results as encouraging for wild salmon recovery and fish traps are the only gear to be rigorously evaluated through the scientific peer-review process.

The results of this new study also corroborate growing scientific consensus demonstrating that the most sustainable commercial salmon fisheries are those that occur in or near rivers where wild salmon return and use selective fishing techniques like fish traps that are proven to limit or eliminate harm to threatened and endangered bycatch.

“Our research team was completely blown away. When we analyzed the genetic and tag datasets for upriver populations of Chinook salmon heading to spawning grounds or hatcheries above Bonneville Dam, literally every adult Chinook passively captured and released from the fish trap survived the 167 km, 7-day journey to the dam,” said Wild Fish Conservancy biologist Adrian Tuohy. “The study was straightforward and the findings are irrefutable.” 

In comparison to results for the fish trap, the commercial gillnet—the primary tool for harvest on the Columbia River—is known to cause ~49% mortality of threatened wild Chinook salmon encountered in the fishery. The lethal effects of the gillnet are also known to be severe for other fish species that become entangled as fishers target hatchery Chinook salmon, however the true impact of the gillnet to these other threatened salmonid stocks in the Columbia River remains unknown as no post-release mortality data have been collected by state or federal management agencies.

“Few data, if any, have been collected for the gillnet and other alternative salmon fishing methods to understand post-release mortality of bycatch… and hardly any of this work has undergone scientific peer-review,” says Tuohy. “Given the information that is available, it is clear that no other salmon fishing gear has come remotely close to achieving the peer-reviewed results we’ve seen for fish traps when it comes to releasing wild salmon unharmed and allowing for selective harvest of hatchery fish in Columbia River fisheries.”

Findings from this new publication are expected to help guide the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as the agency establishes rules for the alternative gear commercial fishery that will legalize fish traps at a localized scale on the lower Columbia River. In 2021, both the Governors of Washington and Oregon made policy and funding commitments to advance selective harvest practices like fish traps as alternatives to nontribal gill nets in the Columbia River. Washington state is currently implementing a voluntary gillnet license buyback program with the objective of redirecting those allocation impacts to alternative gears like fish traps or wild fish escapement.

Beyond the Columbia River, this research is also serving as an important working model to inspire other Pacific Northwest communities seeking sustainable harvest solutions. Wild Fish Cosnervancy is currently partnering with First Nations in British Columbia where the Canadian government has implemented unprecedented fishery closures in 2021 and 2022 out of conservation concerns.

“The situation facing the Columbia River is not unique. Throughout the Pacific Northwest coastal communities and resource managers are facing difficult decisions whether to close or further limit commercial fishing opportunities in order to protect our region’s most imperiled wild salmon,” says Helverson. “These new results could not have come at a better time and we are proud to play a role in advancing much needed solutions that we hope will benefit communities and recovery efforts coastwide.”

More at

The Hatchery Crutch: How We Got Here – Hakai Magazine

Hakai Magazine has published an excellent overview of the issue of hatchery salmon. Author Jude Isabella has dove deep into the history of hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. This is part of a larger project called The Paradox of Salmon Hatcheries. The work is also available in audio format. I highly recommend this to anyone that thinks they know that hatcheries are a “good thing” The history just doesn’t support it.

From their beginnings in the late 19th century, salmon hatcheries have gone from cure to band-aid to crutch. Now, we can’t live without manufactured fish.

Choosing Winners and Losers in Alaska’s Crab Fishery -Hakai Magazine

Great article on the Alaska crab season.

A quota system implemented in 2005 has meant economic and social trade-offs.

https://hakaimagazine.com/news/choosing-winners-and-losers-in-alaskas-crab-fishery/

New data could help scientists worldwide studying fish passage through dams – NW News Network

More good research being done.


Tiny devices, smaller than a couple grains of rice, help provide reams of data as researchers track salmon around Northwest dams. Scientists hope this data from juvenile Chinook salmon could help broaden the understanding of fish behavior and survival in an inexpensive and effective way at other dams around the world. Courtney Flatt reports. (NW News Network)

 https://www.opb.org/article/2022/03/15/data-fish-tracking-salmon-dams/

FDA Sued Over Failure to Release Documents Regarding Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon, Planned Ohio Production Facility 

While this is not local news, it does show that the aquaculture industry seems to be untrustworthy when it comes to honesty to the public. We have seen this many times locally. As mentioned before, the only way to protect our environment seems to be in the courts. We have seen many times recently that we cannot trust the FDA, NOAA, State & Federal EPA, local officials nor the Army Corps of Engineers to actually do their jobs in following the law to protect our environment. The only thing that seems to stop them is lawsuits.

“After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 


SAN FRANCISCO—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for unlawfully withholding records regarding FDA’s environmental assessment of genetically engineered (GE) salmon and a planned Ohio-based production facility—a major expansion from current capacity. The FOIA lawsuit comes on the heels of CFS and allies’ successful lawsuit holding FDA’s approval of GE salmon unlawful. FDA’s approval marked the first time any government in the world had approved a GE animal as food. 

“Despite the 2020 court decision holding FDA’s first-ever approval of a genetically engineered food animal unlawful, FDA claims it needs nearly two years to produce records,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “But our request is narrow and straightforward: it’s time for FDA to tell the public about the possible environmental and ecological effects of genetically engineered salmon, including any effects to endangered wild salmon species.”  

AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage GE salmon is produced with DNA from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic Ocean eelpout. In 2016, CFS and Earthjustice—representing a broad client coalition of environmental, consumer, commercial and recreational fishing organizations and the Quinault Indian Nation—sued FDA over the agency’s approval of GE salmon, citing inadequate environmental assessments and broad risks to ecosystems. 

In 2020, in a victory for CFS and allies, a California district court ruled the FDA violated core federal environmental laws in approving GE salmon, including failing to fully assess the serious environmental consequences of approving a GE salmon and the full extent of plans to grow and commercialize the salmon in the U.S. and around the world. The court sent the approval back to FDA to undertake more thorough environmental analyses to inform the public about the potential risks. 

After that ruling, AquaBounty announced plans to build a $200 million facility, expanding its production of GE salmon by 10,000 metric tons. This operation will be eight times larger than its existing Indiana facility. With action in play to produce GE salmon on an even larger scale, it is even more important to understand the environmental and ecological risks of producing and marketing GE salmon for human consumption.  

In October 2021, CFS submitted a FOIA request to FDA, seeking all documents related to FDA’s environmental assessments of AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon and the planned Ohio facility, pursuant to the district court’s ruling. FDA is yet to produce the records, prompting CFS to now sue FDA under FOIA.  

“We are concerned that FDA is not paying careful attention to AquaBounty’s planned expansion in Ohio,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at Center for Food Safety. “After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 

CFS is committed to ensuring the public has access to information concerning government regulation of food production and labeling. CFS’s FOIA program is committed to upholding the principles embodied in FOIA, such as maintaining an open and transparent government. 

# # # 

Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than one million members across the country at www.centerforfoodsafety.org. Twitter: @CFSTrueFood 

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/

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.

New Support for Game Wardens on Washington’s Coastal Rivers

Good news: The Wild Steelhead Coalition just helped out WDFW do a better job of going after poachers.


FISHERY CONSERVATION GROUPS JOIN FORCES TO PROVIDE CRUCIAL TOOLS TO WDFW LAW ENFORCEMENT

In 2019, the Wild Steelhead Coalition donated a collection of trail cameras, spotting scopes, and a new raft and oars to the Washington Department of Fish and Game (WDFW) Law Enforcement Detachment responsible for safeguarding the rivers, coastal waters, and forests of the Olympic Peninsula and Hood Canal. These game wardens are responsible for vast amounts of territory and the equipment was immediately, and effectively, put to use by the team.

This summer the new rafts were used to great effect, providing the means to effectively patrol smaller rivers. On a day when a number of citations for violations were written, Officer Patrick Murray holds up a wild chinook an angler had kept after cutting off the adipose fin. Photo courtesy WDFW Police

Over the following two years, the cameras and raft allowed law enforcement officers to greatly expand their reach and led to increased enforcement against illegal fishing, hunting, logging, and other wildlife violations and numerous poaching arrests. Encouraged by this success, the Wild Steelhead Coalition reached out to our colleagues at the Wild Salmon Center and Wild Steelheaders United of Trout Unlimited and our friends at Simms, Outcast Boats, and Sawyer Paddles & Oars to expand the impact of the original donation with a larger, additional gift in 2021.

After working with WDFW Law Enforcement staff to ensure we provided helpful tools to enforce regulations and find poachers, our group of conservation organizations and business partners have donated a new collection of equipment that includes a pair of small one-person rafts, multiple sets of waders and boots for game wardens, new oars for an existing drift boat, almost forty trail and security cameras, and a drone. Combined, the equipment has a retail value over $20,000 and gives WDFW Law Enforcement – especially with the drone – the ability to survey a much wider geographical area, and many more miles of river, than might otherwise be possible.

This larger inventory of gear also means the cameras can be spread further afield. The new cameras will be utilized on the Olympic Peninsula, Hood Canal, and throughout the Chehalis River Basin. A few will also go to North Puget Sound where they may be deployed on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers, and other watersheds depending on the need, as well.

As fishery groups, we are particularly interested in this new equipment’s ability to provide important, necessary protections for Washington’s struggling populations of wild steelhead and salmon, but in the off-season it will all also assist WDFW Law Enforcement in their work to protect big and small game animals and non-game wildlife, prevent illegal timber harvest, and discover and document unpermitted hydraulic projects that damage watershed and shoreline habitat.

Read the rest of the story and see additional photos at:

Tribe: Court of Appeals Ruling Won’t Stop Fish Farm Attempt – PDN


The Tribe has been expanding shellfish and fin fish aquaculture in the last few years. This latest push, is an interesting issue. While the Tribe supported shutting non-native salmon fish farming, they never said they supported shutting down native salmon fish farming. This farm is for black cod, also known as Sablefish or Butterfish. It is native to the Pacific Northwest, but farming it by feeding it pellets, as they do with salmon, makes it not that appealing. Wild caught black cod is delicious, widely served in the Pacific NW. But I certainly will be asking if my black cod is wild caught or not. Not interested in eating fish raised in the backwater of Port Angeles harbor, near the pulp and paper mill.

It will be interesting to see how Ron Allen gets around the ruling. They likely would have to end the relationship with Cooke, which is a financial boon to the Tribe. We’ll continue to follow this as it unfolds.


Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Ron Allen vowed Tuesday to move forward with plans to establish a fish farm in Port Angeles Harbor despite a recent state Court of Appeals decision upholding the termination of its business partner’s lease. The three-judge panel Dec. 14 affirmed a Thurston County Superior Court decision that struck a blow to the joint plans of the tribe and Canadian aquaculture company Cooke Pacific LLC. Paul Gottlieb reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

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

Pat Neal’s Alternative Universe of Salmon Restoration

An Alternative Universe (NASA)

The following letter (edited to 250 words) was sent to the PDN this morning.

It was dismaying to see the PDN give column space today to the opinions of Pat Neal and his alternative universe of salmon restoration. If I read it right, he offers nothing but criticism of what he calls “The Salmon Restoration Industry” and no actual concrete proposals other than “build and fund more hatcheries” as if this will somehow fix the slow extinction of salmon in our region. It’s so easy to ignore the decades of science, funding and citizen involvement that has brought us to this point of restoration, as well as ignoring the habitat destruction that all of us contributed to over the last 100 years. I guess it’s easy to stand on the river and pretend hatcheries will fix everything.

Virtually all scientists agree on an “All H” method of salmon restoration. This means addressing Habitat, Hydro (dams, rivers, lakes),Hatcheries and Harvest. Increase and restore habitat. Monitor and manage river flows, well densities, fix hydropower issues, or perhaps tear down dams. Increase hatchery size and type. And manage harvest to save runs. The current “salmon restoration industry” as Neal so derisively puts it, has been established *because* of the need to address all four of these issues. If it’s failing, maybe it’s from something other than ongoing support. Like needing even more funding which is substantial but nowhere near enough. Perhaps more enforcement of the regulations on the books. Well, the list of what could be done goes on and on. Easy to pick your favorite solution and say “if only”.

Hatcheries have been given far more importance in budgets over the last 10 years, including large increases proposed by the Governor in his 2019 and 2021 budgets at the behest of sports fishermen and tribes (2020/21 had cuts to everything due to the Pandemic). This despite mounting scientific evidence that hatcheries produce fish that compete for food with wild stock and reduce genetic diversity. Salmon for fishermen and not for whales or the ecosystem at large. Neal uses hatchery numbers from 1961 to supposedly show that these hatchery fish were the reasons we had such a huge amount of salmon in our waters. Given the survival rate of hatchery fish it seems absurd to draw a conclusion like that. It ignores that we had dramatically fewer people, a climate under some semblance of stability, and had yet to finish destroying virtually all old growth forests between here and Juneau. But the signs of impending doom were clear to those that wanted to look.

Neal’s use of the Dungeness River as an example is perfect. It is a perfect example of not understanding history. For my 2010 movie “Voices of the Strait” I interviewed fishermen who were on the Dungeness in the 40s, 50s and 60s and their stories all were the same: they understood but had no way to stop the unrestrained destruction of habitat that they witnessed, including the cutting of irrigation channels into the Dungeness during peak salmon return seasons, leaving millions of fish to die without spawning. They had no environmental vocabulary to describe it,as we do now. They just all said, “what a waste”.The diking of the Dungeness only helped to kill the river by accelerating the river flow and wiping out locations where the fish spawned. It was done for the benefit of farmers and homeowners, not salmon. The late Port Angeles angler Dick Goin actually documented the losses in his unpublished “Roll Call of the Lost” counts of the loss of fish on all our rivers. I have a copy if anyone is interested. He saw it in real time. The hatcheries Neal describes were created to *fix* that problem, and yet the science shows it’s not nearly enough and they are failing to produce significant results. For instance, we now know by scat analysis what Orcas actually eat and it’s not hatchery salmon but fish from the Fraser and Columbia.

Additionally, charter fishermen who I interviewed described to me in vivid detail that there were no limits on sports fishing up until the 1960s, despite their pleas to Fish & Wildlife to not waste the fish. The sports fishermen from Seattle would come out, catch 30 to 40 fish in a day and leave with a few in their coolers. The charter fishermen couldn’t hire enough kids to clean the fish so they would just throw them back in the Strait when the guys from the east side of the Sound left. They knew this was wrong but had no power to stop it and no storage for the fish. Limits on salmon were finally put in, too little too late. Now we are at place where shutting down the season appears as the only way to protect the runs from complete destruction.

Habitat restoration has been funded due to the efforts of the Tribes, the Counties, the Cities, the State, the Feds, sports and commercial fishermen and hundreds of other people who have *volunteered* their time to work on this. They sit in interminably long, boring meetings trying to come to consensus. They debate long lists of priorities. There is not the money for all of the priorities. The results of their work may take decades to show up in any significant numbers. It is like a giant puzzle with the pieces fitting together and finally, near the end, painting a bigger picture.

Pat ignores the history of international fishing fleets with gear so good they could laugh about who would catch the last fish, as one old timer who fished with them told me. Pat ignores our own logging for raw logs right here on the Peninsula to ship to Japan in the 70s & 80s, wiping out entire ecosystems of salmon runs for the quick profit of the few. He ignores that we clearcut over 90% of old growth forests until the Feds put an end to it due to documented losses of species, like salmon and birds. He ignores the enormous build out of suburbs & exurbs around Puget Sound most with little or no efforts back then to protect fish. I watched that happen myself, seeing subdivisions on the East side of Lake Washington build right down to the banks of streams and small lakes. Or ignoring 100 years of culverts put into roads for our benefit that cut off salmon from returning to spawn. And the armoring of shorelines around Puget Sound that is still going on. And of course ignoring a warming climate that could make all these efforts go for naught. All of it nibbling away at the habitat and the fish until there wasn’t enough left. And of course, there was the Boldt Decision, used for propaganda purposes to demonize the very people who have done the most to attempt the restoration. Love them or hate them, they haven’t sat idly by while the fish vanish. They are at the table, working to save them using the best available science today.

Will the efforts to restore runs succeed? We don’t know yet, but some runs on the Elwha are returning, just not yet the chinook in any numbers. As are some runs on Jimmy Come Lately Creek and others. It costs a lot of time, people and money to fix 100 years of destruction.

No one I’ve talked to or read in the last 20 years who is seriously working on this issue, other than Pat Neal, thinks simply making more hatchery fish is some kind of solution. Pat, you have a lot of passion, how about working to help solve the problems rather than ignore the scientists and anglers who have been in the trenches fighting to reverse this ? Your passion might be useful if you are willing to listen and learn.

West Coast Dungeness crab season to open Dec. 1 for first time in years – AP

Very good news for both the crab and those of us that eat them.

For the first time in years, commercial Dungeness crab fisheries in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California will begin on the traditional Dec. 1 opener after recent preseason testing showed high meat yield in crabs across the region.

Seattle Times
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Read the whole story here.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/west-coast-dungeness-crab-season-to-open-dec-1-for-first-time-in-years/

https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/marine-area-10-seattlebremerton-reopens-nov-22-late-season-crab-fishing

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. 

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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.

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