State discusses killing seals and sea lions in Puget Sound

Perhaps the most controversial idea out of the Orca task force has been the notion of killing sea lions and seals to help salmon survive. Like many ideas, this one is simplistic and has the greatest appeal to people who don’t want to spend much time thinking about whether something works or just makes you feel like you are doing something. Fish and Wildlife are holding meetings to gather information on whether or not this really is an idea with merit. Biologists who study the food chain aren’t so sure. If you think you already know the answer, then you should read this article. “There is no guarantee of a response by the salmon in terms of returning adults.” And you know what an assumption is, it’s a word made up of and makes an “ass of u and me”. Let’s put the science of this in it’s rightful place, which is at the head of the train and not tow it along in our ill informed wake.

State wildlife commissioners heard testimony Friday about whether a seal and sea lion cull could help save salmon, and thereby restore food to the starving Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW)…. “It’s important to set the stage that this occurs in a very complex ecosystem and it is a very complex food web,” said WDFW Research Scientist Scott Pearson…. “If you want a 25 percent reduction in the total juvenile Chinook consumption by seals, we have to reduce this number of 19,000 seals down to 14,300. If you subtract this number from this number, that’s how many we have to remove 4,700 seals, and we have to annually remove 530 seals per year to keep it at that level,” Pearson said. But the problem is, salmon also face a slew of other challenges, including hydropower, hatcheries, habitat, disease, and contaminants. Scientists told commissioners they don’t know whether killing seals and sea lions will do anything at all…. “In my opinion, even if the seal consumption were somehow reduced or eliminated, there is no guarantee of a response by the salmon in terms of returning adults,” said WDFW Research Scientist Joe Anderson. Alison Morrow reports. (KING) See also: Puget Sound resident orcas limited by social behavior  Alison Morrow reports. (KING)

State discusses killing seals and sea lions in Puget Sound 

Surfrider Report: Many states hit hardest by extreme weather and climate change impacts are the least prepared

Analysis from the Surfrider Foundation outlines coastal states’ responsiveness to shoreline erosion, rising tides and extreme weather events

San Clemente, Calif., December 13, 2018 – The Surfrider Foundation today announced the release of its annual State of the Beach Report Card, which grades 30 U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states, in addition to the territory of Puerto Rico, on policies to address climate change impacts, shoreline erosion and extreme weather. The results indicate that the majority of state policies assessed are providing mediocre to poor levels of coastal protection, with some of the lowest-scoring states located in regions that are heavily impacted by extreme weather events. In addition, the trends reveal that while significant improvements are critical, states also need continued federal support for the Coastal Zone Management Act and funding for agencies such as NOAA.

Washington earned a ‘B’ grade, which is high compared to other coastal states. This strong score can be directly correlated to the state’s Shoreline Master Program, in which local municipalities are required to create shoreline plans to ensure sustainable management of the coast. In addition, Pacific County adopted a robust plan in 2018 that protects critical ecosystems and also improves shoreline resiliency and human access. Increasing resiliency planning will be imperative as a new study predicts that by 2060, nearly 10,000 Washington homes that are valued at over $2.7 billion, will be threatened by sea level rise and chronic flooding.

“Poor coastal management and climate change impacts, such as extreme weather and sea level rise, are significantly shrinking our nations’ beaches,” said Surfrider’s Coastal Preservation Manager, Stefanie Sekich-Quinn. “The Surfrider Foundation’s State of the Beach Report Card aims to raise awareness about coastal threats, empower citizens to work with decision-makers, and provide recommendations to improve local responses to coastal erosion and sea level rise. As the report reveals, many states hit hardest by extreme weather and climate change are the least prepared and it is vital that states take action now to protect our nation’s coastal resources for the future.”

 

About 40 percent of the U.S. population lives along America’s coastlines and the ocean economy contributes more than $352 billion to U.S. GDP annually. However, coastal erosion already causes approximately $500 million in coastal property loss annually in the U.S. In addition, scientists predict that sea levels could potentially increase up to six feet by 2100, which would severely impact coastal economies, public access, recreation and healthy ecosystems.

 

Surfrider’s State of the Beach Report Card evaluates the performance of U.S. states and the territory of Puerto Rico against criteria across four major categories, including sediment management, development, coastal armoring and sea level rise. Each state is assessed on policies, regulations, planning and implementation based on existing literature, online resources, communication with coastal zone management agencies and local monitoring by the Surfrider Foundation network. Since Surfrider released its inaugural report card in 2017, five states have made improvements to coastal policies, with advancements in sea level rise planning and coastal resiliency in light of climate change.

 

 

The Surfrider Foundation has been compiling a comprehensive State of the Beach report to assess the health of our nation’s beaches since 2000. For more information, visit Surfrider’s State of the Beach Report Card or find out more at Surfrider.org.

 

 

Concerns raised over Dungeness Spit oyster farm application

New concerns over the possible permitting of an oyster aquaculture farm within the Dungeness Spit Wildlife Refuge have been raised by the Department of the Interior, which manages the refuge. In a letter written to Steve Gray, the Clallam County Deputy Director and Planning Manager, Jennifer Brown-Scott, the Project Leader for the Department of the Interior,has raised significant questions about issues concerning the application.

Of concern to the Department are a number of issues relating to wildlife in the refuge.The applicants have asked for permission to place approx. 150,000 of “on bottom” oysters bags on the central west side of the bay, in approximately 34 acres of the tide flats 1141 acres of the the inner spit. This appears to be approx. 3.35% the inner bay area.  The applicants propose to raise non-native oysters. To be clear, a significant amount of cultivated oysters in the Salish Sea are non-native, so this is not a surprise.

The area in question was farmed prior to the 1950s, by a series of private owners. In 1953 the first lease was granted and non-native species were introduced. The Jamestown S’Klallam bought the oyster operations in 1990, and continued harvesting oysters until the State closed down the waters due to deteriorating water quality in the bay.  The Jamestown have continued leasing the site, 50 acres in size, where this current proposal is located. Since the middle of the last decade,efforts at improving the water quality of the bay continued, with the Jamestown in a lead role, helping to get scientific studies of the water flow and quality done on behalf of themselves and the county. Now the State has upgraded 688 acres to Approved status, allowing the Jamestown to apply for reopening the site to aquaculture. The presence of eelgrass beds in the location reduce it to 34 usable acres.

The Dungeness Bay Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson. The order directs the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe -Dungeness Bay Bathymetry, Circulation and Fecal Coliform Studies 2003)). The front page of the Refuge web site states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.”

Within the area of the Dungeness Spit Wildlife Refuge are federally listed species that are protected or have environmental listings of concern. They include but aren’t limited to: Bull Trout, Marbled Murrelet, Puget Sound Chinook and Hood Canal Summer Chum. Also within the area is significant state listed wildlife habitat. Of somewhat lesser concern is the impact on the public to the scenic beauty of the wildlife preserve, which is one of the main reasons most visitors go to the area in the first place.

As stated by the Department of Interior letter, “The shores and tidelands in this area provide some of the most important wildlife habitat and supports the highest density of waterfowl and shorebirds within the refuge….These shorelines also support one of the largest Brandt haul out sites in the state of Washington….Shorebird densities are highest within the action area and the adjacent lagoon on Graveyard Spit.”

“Human-caused wildlife disturbance and habitat loss are two of the most pervasive threats to shorebird and waterfowl use of the Salish Sea….very little information is available on entrapment resulting from aquaculture structures.”

The letter also referenced that, “In 2016, a die-off of approximately 1000 Rhinoceros Auklets on Protection Island coincided with a significant reduction in the abundance of sand lance in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.” This reporter, who has been covering the Straits since 2007, was unaware of the scope of the die off in 2016 at Protection Island though a well publicized die off due to starvation was happening from Alaska to California. The extent of the local impact was not widely known and even a search of Google cannot find a specific reference to those numbers referenced in the letter.

While the specific habitat of the Dungeness Spit was not identified as the sole source of the lack of sand lance, the implication that this area is sand lance breeding habitat means that converting its use to aquaculture could continue the downward spiral of shorebirds and their food sources.

Herring also spawn at the west end of Dungeness Harbor and the Department of Interior raised questions about protecting Strait of Juan de Fuca herring, which have been designated  “critical” (as in critically low).  Sand Lance and Surf Smelt spawning grounds are also found in the area of the application. These species have been identified as “Washington Species of Greatest Conservation Need within the State Wildlife Action Plan (WDFW 2015). A worry related to this is that these spawning fish will be competing with the oysters for plankton. A failure to find enough food could lead to a significant reduction in the survival rates. There is no know mitigation for this, other than limiting the size and scope of the project.

Additionally, Interior pointed out that a 1996 scientific study found that some shorebirds significantly avoided areas used for aquaculture in a California bay.

The area just to the east of the proposed site is the location of the highest infestation of European Green Crabs in the Salish Sea. Another concern is that the proposed oyster bags may provide habitat for green crabs, allowing them to be moved to other areas outside the Spit the bags are transported. The State still does not have a Green Crab management plan.

This shoreline has been designated “Natural” in the Critical Areas Ordinance, as far back as 1976. That designation limits activities to those that preserve the national features unchanged. One would assume that the tidelands are also part of that designation.

An issue not addressed in the application was whether or not mechanized methods such as mechanical leveling and harrowing would be used. The letter said that this was of  great concern to the Dept of Interior and it could damage or kill benthic layer animals and vegetation. Placement of these 150,000 oyster bags may also change water flow and nearshore transport of sediment, with unknown consequences. It does not appear that the applicant is going to use these methods.

A further issue that has been the reason for the inner bay to be closed to aquaculture for over a decade is that of fecal coliform (FC) bacteria. While the applicants and the State have worked for decades to identify and remove sources of FC, and current counts allow for shellfish harvest to be done, it is important to note that the applicants themselves have noted in a 2003 report that “wild birds are the second most important source of FC on a year round basis. It is especially important in winter, when their load approaches 1/2 of the measured marine water input.” It would seem to the average person that putting aquaculture into a bird reserve is by it’s very nature going to create a tension between the animals that are present and creating the problem and the desire to harvest.

Studies done by the applicants in 2003 show also that tidal turnover is not ideal in the inner bay. Their finding that states that approximately 45% of the water that leaves the inner harbor returns to the inner harbor. The study states that this “slows the effective flushing of water from the Inner Bay and leads to water quality properties that differ greatly from those observed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is unclear as to whether there has been a more recent study to understand if the effects of 15 years of work have improved on the findings of this earlier study.

The Salish Sea has been used for commercial aquaculture since the founding of the State, but in the last twenty years, with China becoming more middle class, along with a more sophisticated palate here in States, the demands for geoduck and other shellfish have exploded. Much of the lower reaches of the Sound have been converted into aquaculture.  The shoreline public has been upset with much of this conversion, with lawsuits against aquaculture being rather routine.  The State has never really asked the question of “how much is too much? When do we decide we have leased out enough shoreline to aquaculture?”

There is precedent for this question, in the permitting of bulkheads. At one point the State saw no problem with turning vast amounts of shoreline into concrete. As our understanding of the use of the shore for forage fish and beach creation, among other natural processes, we decided to limit bulkhead conversion and opt to look at natural ways to protect the shoreline from erosion. Some, such as a conversion to natural shoreline was done about 15 years ago just east of the mouth of the Dungeness River, in a subdivision along the shore.

NOAA and other government agencies have studied just enough of the issue to deem aquaculture ‘safe’ yet hold out no significant long term studies of the possible ill effects of the conversion to single species farming.  The NOAA science and subsequent scientific studies by Sea Grant, were of limited time frame and called for further study, which does not appear to have been done.  In fact, this very location offers a good example of the need to look at what the substrate is like, both at the site, which once was extensively farmed, and the surrounding bottom layers. It should be able to tell us how much recovery could be anticipated if the farm does go in and eventually is removed. It is interesting to note that eel grass is present around the site, but apparently not in the very location of the previous aquaculture operation.

It is certainly reasonable for the applicants to want to return to aquaculture in the Bay, however the scale is being significantly increased. Science has learned a lot about the environment since the time when the State allowed the use in this location. In many other locations we have decided that the trade off of commercial activity is outweighed by a newer appreciation of the value of the natural landscape for a variety of species.  It is up to all of us to question our elected officials and bureaucrats, not the applicants, as to why they believe that this is in all our best interests, when we so clearly have set this aside this location for wildlife protection and enhancement.

  • If you want to comment on this application, you have until April 27.
  • Responses to those comments must be in by May 18.
  • The last public hearing will be held June 7 at 1 PM.

Send comments to gballard@co.clallam.wa.us and be sure to ask for an email confirmation of having received your comment. If you don’t get one within 24 hours, call Greg Ballard at 360.565.2616 to ask if he received it.

A final note to consider is from the web site of the Dungeness National Refuge:

Recognizing the importance of the fertile habitats, President Woodrow Wilson established the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on January 20, 1915 as a refuge, preserve, and breeding ground for native birds. Today the graceful arch of Dungeness Spit continues to protect nutrient-rich tide-flats for migrating shorebirds in spring and fall; a quiet bay with calm waters for wintering waterfowl; an isolated beach for harbor seals and their pups; and abundant eelgrass beds for young salmon and steelhead nurseries.

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public year-round. Hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography are popular activities on the Refuge. Some portions are closed seasonally or permanently to protect sensitive species. To ensure that wildlife continue to have a peaceful place to rest and feed, certain recreational activities such as swimming, jogging, and other beach activities are allowed only in selected areas during certain times of the year. Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.

 

 

 

 

A Fight Over Salmon-Killing Roads Is Now A Supreme Court Case About Native Rights – KUOW

Well, it’s coming down to a Supreme Court showdown over how fast we have to replace the culverts, which have been proven to be keeping returning salmon from getting to spawning streams. This is part of 100 years or more of destruction of salmon habitat and the Tribes are pretty hard core about us getting this done sooner than later, given returning salmon numbers.

Seventeen years ago, 21 tribes sued the state of Washington to fix those culverts. On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to take on the case. The question is whether or not state taxpayers should have to dish out billions to dig up roads so salmon can get through. And the court’s decision will have repercussions for tribes all over the West and Midwest. Eilis O’Neill reports. (KUOW)

http://kuow.org/post/fight-over-salmon-killing-roads-now-supreme-court-case-about-native-rights

Puget Sound waters reach record warm temperatures  – Skagit Valley Herald

So, here’s another outcome of our global inability to do anything meaningful for global warming. Thanks though to Governor Inslee who also announced yesterday he would take unilateral action to impose cap and trade. Folks, there is no time to lose. With this years lack of unprecedented lack of snow pack, catastrophic salmon die off, we have to see leadership come to the table and get things done now.

Puget Sound has reached the highest temperatures on record based on 25 years of data, the state Department of Ecology announced Tuesday. Scientists are seeing unusual conditions in the sound as a result of the statewide drought and the pool of unusually warm water in the northern Pacific Ocean some are calling “the blob.” (Skagit Valley Herald)

http://www.goskagit.com/all_access/puget-sound-waters-reach-record-warm-temperatures/article_44fe292f-ed45-562f-815b-9c2c9596a07a.html

Stealing Fish To Study Seabirds- Earthfix

As anyone who has bird watched around these parts in the last 20 years can tell, it’s pretty clear we have lost seabird populations. Now some new scientific data has come out on the problem.

Seabird populations in Puget Sound have declined since the 1970s and scientists believe pollution is partially to blame. But how do you prove that? Study what the seabirds are eating. A new paper [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14004226] published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin found that seabirds in Puget Sound are eating fish that are two to four times more contaminated than fish on Washington’s outer coast. Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

http://earthfix.kcts9.org/flora-and-fauna/article/stealing-fish-to-study-seabirds/

Checkout Sound IQ–Great new site, need more like it!

From the Island County MRC group. This is really a great mapping application! Congratulations to the team that helped put this together.

Play around with the check boxes on the left side.

Sound IQ Map site

sound iq site snip

Fraser River system revived by biggest sockeye salmon run in nearly 100 years

It’s a great thing to see at least a one time run of sockeye come back in such great shape. It’s worth understanding that this is only one of the species of salmon, and that other runs are decimated and some species almost extinct.  So we can cheer this, but be cautious of the inevitable backlash of people who don’t believe in environmental protections (and their political supporters) using this to tell the general public that there is ‘nothing wrong’.  This is one victory for Canada, and we need to step up efforts so that we can see this kind of returns for all species of salmon. Some folks I’ve talked to who are knowledgeable seem to think that the sockeye experienced a particularly favorable year of ocean climate for them. Maybe less predators?  More food? Whatever it was, we are glad.

10/18 Globe and Mail
MARK HUME

At the mouth of what may be the world’s richest salmon river, Greg Schuler is wading slowly through a massive school of dead fish, doing fisheries research the hard way.

A senior technician with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, he is counting fish by hand, lifting each on a forked spear, then lopping off its tail with a razor-sharp machete to make sure it isn’t tallied twice.

“It’s all in the wrist,” he says as he cuts a salmon in half with a flick of his blade, a movement he can repeat up to 3,000 times a day.

Some of the fish have spawned in the river and washed downstream, but others have died in Shuswap Lake, before laying their eggs.

More at
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/fraser-river-system-revived-by-biggest-sockeye-salmon-run-in-nearly-100-years/article1760086/

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Puget Sound Chemistry Transformed by Climate Change and Runoff – Scientific American

Puget Sound is becoming more acidic thanks to a combination of agricultural runoff and rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere

A combination of carbon dioxide emitted by human activities and nutrient runoff is transforming the chemistry of Washington state’s Puget Sound, according to a new study.

Read the whole story at Scientific American:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=puget-sound-chemistry-transformed-by-climate-change-abd-runoff

-This threatens our entire shellfish industry, as well as other possible life forms. Runoff is one of the major causes, a reason that we value better shoreline management to slow or stop shoreline runoff. Also, stormwater runoff is another cause, which comes from roads with improperly created storm sewers.  Getting funding at the state level to correct these as quickly as possible is key.

While I have your attention: It may be a good time to review the map, commissioned by People For Puget Sound, done by the UW GIS group. It shows the exact locations of every one of the 4500 manmade storm sewers that empty to the Sound, along with 2123 natural drainages, and 297 DOT created drainages, including bridges.

http://pugetsound.org/pressroom/press-releases/042309stormdrains/?searchterm=storm%20water%20map

Dept of Ecology Sends Oil Spill Equipment to Gulf – NW oil spill safety net frayed

A fallout of the Gulf fiasco is now that our state is sending both Navy oil skimming vessels, temporarily lowered our oil spill preparedness standards,  and sent essentially our  entire stock of boom and dispersants to the Gulf as well as barges that could be used in the event of a spill here.  This seems like a very bad idea. While personnel can be rapidly deployed, the notion of emptying our supplies and lowering standards is exactly the wrong idea. Accidents and mechanical failure are what this is all about. You have to be prepared for accidents. By emptying our stocks for this futile effort in cleaning up the Gulf, it leaves us more vulnerable to it happening here. We have this beautiful environment here because we didn’t lower our standards or enforcement, we raised them! The Gulf is in this predicament because they have allowed themselves to be controlled by the oil industry and it’s cheerful, “can’t ever happen here” lobbyists and spokespeople, and regulators who lowered the standards!.  We need to not let our guard down. The tragedy in the Gulf is not going to be changed one bit by our sending all our supplies there, but it could be a fiasco for us.

Update – 7 July: It appears that DOE is also considering  sending our rescue tug to the Gulf. I am checking today with DOE on this and other issues.  It appears that neither the Port of Port Townsend, nor county officials were alerted in advance, nor asked if this was a concern to them locally. Discussions appear to be under way with the State, the Feds, our elected federal officials, the Navy, the Tribes and others. There should be clarification on this coming later today, or tomorrow.

——————————————————————————————

OLYMPIA – Navy Region Northwest will soon send five oil-skimming vessels to help with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico, pending receipt of Washington Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) official notification on Tuesday, July 6.

Oil-skimming vessels collect oil spilled on water. The Navy earlier sent two of its nine skimmers as well as several smaller work boats from Washington to the Gulf.

Ecology regulates two Navy oil-transfer facilities in Puget Sound. The Navy will keep its two remaining Puget Sound skimmers at their regular stations.

Ecology and the Navy have agreed that the Navy will maintain standing measures, and add interim measures, to help prevent and be sufficiently prepared for any spills that might occur in Washington while the skimmers are helping the Gulf response. These standing or interim measures include:

  • Continuing the requirement for all Navy vessels to be pre-boomed while in port, even if the vessel is not being fueled.
  • Restricting fuel transfers over water to daylight hours – unless there is a documented necessity to support an operational mission. Non-daylight transfers must be approved by a Navy on-scene spill coordinator.
  • Following established Navy directives, orders and other measures that already apply to fuel transfers while in port. These include enhanced staffing levels during all fuel transfers, to include having supervisory personnel on deck and watching from topside to prevent spills. It also means ensuring fueling crews are fully qualified in the Navy’s spill prevention and response procedures.
  • If an oil or hazardous material spill occurs, the Navy must ask the U.S. Coast Guard to activate the services of the Marine Spill Response Corp., National Response Corp. or other private spill-response contractors in Washington to assist with response equipment and personnel. The Coast Guard has confirmed this action will be taken, if requested. Both Ecology and the Coast Guard have agreed to adopt an aggressive, enhanced response posture until the Navy equipment returns from the Gulf.
  • Updating the Navy’s state oil-spill contingency plan that outlines the response actions it will take to minimize environmental impacts from a spill.

“We believe these spill prevention and preparedness measures will help ensure Navy is ready and capable of mounting a rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated response to any spill that might occur while their skimmers are out helping with the Gulf spill response,” said Ecology Spills Program Manager Dale Jensen.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency announced they had lowered federal oil-spill preparedness standards, including cleanup equipment, to get more resources – especially skimming vessels and other skimming systems – to the Gulf.

The new temporary measures require industry and entities like the Navy to maintain enough equipment to respond to a much more modest but more likely spill of 2,100 gallons.

Washington state law, however, requires the oil industry and other entities that transfer large amounts of fuel over state waters, to be able to respond to a worst-case spill scenario. In some instances, that means oil-handling facilities must be prepared to respond to spills involving millions of gallons of oil and other petroleum products.

Jensen said Ecology has received numerous requests by private spill contractors to send equipment to the Gulf. Ecology quickly established a process to track and evaluate each request from the regulated community. The state agency also is tracking what its federal response partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have sent.

Ecology has let experienced response personnel, the state’s entire stock of about 15,000 gallons of chemical dispersants and 1,400 feet of fireproof oil boom, several shallow water barge systems, and more than 50,000 feet of oil containment boom go to the Gulf so far. See how Washington is helping the Gulf spill response.

Jensen said, “We are doing all we can to help our neighbors in the Gulf while preserving a core level of spill response readiness in Washington. It also means, however, that everyone must be extra vigilant about keeping oil out of Washington’s waters. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the helm of an oil tanker or if you’re a weekend boater. We need your help in preventing all oil spills, regardless of size.”

A 2004 draft study commissioned by Ecology estimates that if a major spill were to occur in Washington waters, the state could suffer nearly $11 billion in economic losses, and more than 165,000 jobs across the state would be adversely affected, along with the environmental damage.

On May 10, Ecology and the Marine Spill Response Corp. held unannounced oil-spill response drills in five critical locations in Puget Sound to test the company’s agreement with Global Diving & Salvage Inc. to temporary backfill for more than 25 experienced responders as well equipment MSRC had sent to the Gulf. The call-out test was successful.

Oil Spill Activism: A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

*6/28/10 Huffington Post
Brenda Peterson
What can we do, besides sit paralyzed before Gulf oil spill images of BP burning sea turtles alive, desperate fishermen waiting for clean-up jobs, and a toxic gusher hours away from the threat of gale-force winds? For those of us who also live by water, we can get involved in protecting our own shores from increased offshore drilling and future oil spills.
That’s why I joined my Seattle neighbors here on the serpentine Salish Sea (Puget Sound) for the "Hands Across the Sand" <http://http://www.handsacrossthesand.com/>&#160; event. On Alki Beach, 168 of us joined hands at low tide. It was high noon and we stood, mostly barefoot in the cool, sinking sand, chanting "No More Offshore Drilling!" and "We Need Clean, Alternative Energies!"
…"Talk to each other," one of the organizers advised. And we did. A Sierra Club <http://http://www.sierraclub.org/welcome/>&#160; volunteer handed out bumper stickers: "Chill the Drills in the Arctic." People for Puget Sound <http://pugetsound.org/>  handed out postcards to our governor and legislature, "No Oil Spills in Puget Sound: Fully Fund Washington State’s Oil Spill Program." Though we have no offshore drilling here, 15 billion gallons of oil travel through our waters. We have four huge refineries to receive and process them.
More at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brenda-peterson/oil-spill-activism-a-hole_b_627076.html

Whatcom County program helps farmers pay for projects to protect creeks

In stark contrast to the somewhat incoherent rant of a county farmer  in the Leader last week who has opposed many of the efforts to restore creeks here in Jefferson County, is this positive article from Bellingham (Whatcom county), about the efforts there to pay farmers to protect streams. This is what we likely will see more of as the efforts to fix a century of damage both from bad and good intentions continue. Canary grass, as an example, was promoted by state and county officials in the 40s, if I have my decade right. A nice piece of positive news for a change!  Click through to read the whole article and help protect local journalism…

6/24 Bellingham Herald

JOHN STARK /     THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
The tall shrubbery along the bank of Four Mile Creek probably doesn’t attract much notice from the motorists who whiz past it on Hannegan Road, but it’s a piece of a broad effort to help Whatcom County farmers improve water quality in the streams that cross their land.
The willows and other vegetation along the banks almost completely conceal the creek below. That’s part of the idea, said George Boggs, executive director of the Whatcom Conservation District.
"It shades out the canary grass," Boggs said. "The canary grass slows down the water, which makes drainage more difficult for the farmer."
More at
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2010/06/25/1496775/whatcom-county-program-helps-farmers.html

Dungeness Crab Mortality Due to Derelict Pots

From the NW Straits June Newsletter

People at the Crab Mortality PresentationJeff June, Natural Resources Consultants, is the derelict fishing gear removal field manager for the Northwest Straits Foundation. Jeff presented results from the recent study of Dungeness crab mortality from derelict pots supported by the Stillaguamish Tribe and Northwest Straits Foundation.

Jeff reported that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that 12,193 crab pots are lost each year in Puget Sound. Each lost crab pot without escape cord kills approximately 30 crabs each year until deterioration. Jeff provided several ways to prevent crab pot loss:

· Don’t fish in marine transit zones

· Weight your pots so they don’t move in high currents

· Make sure line is long enough for the depth you are fishing

· Use multiple floats in high current areas

· Don’t set pots too close together

· Always use escape cord – 120 thread count is regulation but a better rule of thumb is to use 1/8 inch diameter cord.

· Report lost pots

A recent change in regulations allows enforcement agents to ticket crabbers for transporting illegal pots on marine waters, instead of only ticketing for actively fishing illegal pots. Jeff explained that there are some areas of concentrated accumulation of crab pots that will be targeted for this enforcement.

Click here for a pdf copy of the presentation.

Crab Management in Washington State

From the NW Straits June Newsletter

Rich Childers, Shellfish Manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, recently gave a presentation on the management of Puget Sound’s Dungeness crab fishery. This is one of the most complex fisheries in the world to manage, involving 17 tribes and three natural resource agencies. This year the state will assess a $10.00 penalty for failure to report crab catch, in an effort to more accurately estimate the recreational harvest. Rich reported that the crab fishery is sustainable, and currently all marine areas except for South Hood Canal have the highest catches on record.

Click here for a pdf of Rich’s presentation.

If you are interested in crabbing at all,you should read Rich’s great presentation.

Special Showing of “Poisoned Waters” Puget Sound version on PBS tonight

A special airing this Sunday, December 20th. at 9PM on KCTS.

A special version of the PBS show “Frontline: Puget Sound’s Poisoned Waters” program will air this Sunday, 12/20, at 6:30 pm on KCTS, channel
9 in Seattle. This re-edited version features new material specific to Puget Sound.

The airing will include a special 15 minute segment on the battle by native American tribes for salmon habitat restoration that was not
included in the national Frontline broadcast as well as a studio dialogue with Bill Ruckelshaus and Hedrick Smith with Enrique Cerna, the KCTS
anchor.

Fighting to save the Rockfish – Your input needed!

Want to take action to help save our dwindling population of rockfish? Send in your comments on the EIS to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. They have extended the comment period to January 17th, 2010. My thanks to Norm Baker for forwarding this along. People For Puget Sound, Sierra Club, and many others will be taking a stand on this issue. Here’s the facts…

Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan (PSRCP).

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fish Program.

Natural Resources Building, 6th floor, 1111 Washington St. SE. Olympia, WA98501-1091

 

Date Issued. The DEIS is available for review and download beginning October 19, 2009 at http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm.

Mail comments. Theresa A. Eturaspe; SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, 600 capital way north, Olympia WA 98501-1091. E-mail comments to SEPA desk2@dfw.wa.gov or through the WDFW SEPA website comment link at http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm or fax to (360)902-2946. Make sure the title to your comments includes “Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan DEIS”.  The comment period has been extended from Nov. 19th through to Jan 4th, 2010.

Date of Final Action Plan. The final environmental impact statement will be released in 2010.

Future phase: Agency actions are anticipated as detailed regulations are developed for specific water basins. The plan applies to the entire Salish Sea (i.e. Puget Sound, Straits of Juan De Fuca, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal) north to the US-Canadian border and west to the mouth of the Sekiu River. Due to oceanographic, biological, bathymetric and geographical differences, the area of the plan is broadly divided into North Puget Sound and the South Puget Sound.

Plan Support. Environmental groups need to show strong support for the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan and the creation of a network of marine reserves. No actual marine reserves are proposed in the PSRCP plan. The Coastal Conservation Association, representing recreational fishermen, is aware of the benefits of marine reserves but is taking a cautious but positive proactive approach. Due to the enormity of the problem, many environmental organizations are starting to partner as PACs for legislative reform of our fisheries management. Implementing marine reserves, amongst other issues, is believed by fisheries scientists to be absolutely essential to fisheries management reform and ecosystem restoration.

Purpose of the PSRCP. Restore and protect Puget Sound Rockfish populations, ecosystem and provide opportunities for sustainable fishing. Four alternatives are being considered. Alternative 1 will provide the greatest in-depth benefits to all rockfish species. However, the WDFW PSRCP prefers a mix of the four alternatives based on the professional judgment of the fisheries biologists. Of the 15 elements reviewed for potential impact on the environment, the most significant is that recreational fishing opportunities could be reduced or severely modified apparently on a case by case implementation of each marine reserve. There is no mention of any impact or curtailment of commercial or tribal fishing and this is a significant and serious criticism. Thirty two endangered or threatened species endemic to Puget Sound are listed with known food web interactions with rockfish species. Sixteen of the endangered or threatened species are Rockfish species (Sebastes spp.). Currently, 47 species are listed as endangered or threatened for the Salish Sea. Currently, Washington has 62 endangered or threatened species state-wide.

 

Governing Environment. Implementing this plan will be difficult because of the number of governing agencies – ten in all. Each marine reserve proposed in the future will be accomplished on a case by case basis asking for public input and support.

 

Rockfish Biology. In Puget Sound, there are 28 species with very diverse biology’s, habitat requirements, depth requirements and life spans – as short as 5 years but commonly 50 years and up to 200 years.  Some are not sexually mature until they are 20 years old. All rockfish species have live-birth of young and exhibit low reproductive potential and erratic infrequent successful yearly reproduction. Rockfish have swim bladders and suffer extremely high mortality when released after being caught by fishermen. Most are associated with rocky habitats which are relatively few and easily disturbed. These factors make effective management and protection difficult and complex. Artificial reefs made from deconstruction materials have proven very useful for reestablishing rockfish.

 

Management. Traditional fisheries management tools have not helped restore rockfish. Commercial overharvest between 1970 the early 1990’s led to declines in rockfish populations, which have been further impacted by recreational fishing since the early 1990’s. Several forms of commercial fishing are no longer allowed. Currently, ghost nets and derelict gear are killing numbers estimated to be almost twice the recreational harvest. Incidental recreational catch while fishing for other species (salmon, halibut and lingcod) is also a problem. Juvenile rockfish in particular are significantly affected by disruption of aquatic vegetation and armoring shorelines. Due to the large number of rockfish species, the current conservation plan utilizes a “Key Species” concept to simplify management and restoration. Seven representative “key” species are identified in the plan.

Management decisions that impact recreational fishing could be negative and substantial. Season and area closures and gear limits are anticipated. In particular, marine reserves will be a particularly contentious point. Marine reserves are generally defined by the scientific community has “no take” areas of suitable habitat. A common attitude amongst commercial fishermen, recreational fisherman and the tribes is that fish stocks are already depressed and that marine reserves means that they will be losing extremely desirable fishing spots. Consequently, they oppose all marine reserves since livelihoods can be affected. This will be a very difficult problem to circumvent and will quickly become the most polarizing issue that modern fisheries management must face.

Points to be Made Supporting this Plan:

  • Over all, this draft of the EIS for the restoration of rockfish and the Salish Sea is quite sound and is clearly based in solid science. It continues the Washington Department of Fish and wildlife’s tradition of excellence in fisheries management and the implementation of marine reserves. In fact, Sobel and Dahlquist (1) compliment the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on a particularly incisive application of marine reserve science.
  • The EIS is also a significant positive science based step toward resolving a difficult and complicated problem of multi-species fish management in an effort to reestablish sustainable population levels for all species.
  • A review and consensus policy statement by the American Fisheries Society found several species of Salish Sea Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) to be particularly vulnerable.
  • Over harvest, especially commercial over harvest, is the principal cause for decline of rockfish. Current recreational harvest and incidental by-catch of commercial operations has kept populations suppressed.
  • Puget Sound has the distinction of being the second most threatened complement of fish stocks in North America. Only Chesapeake Bay is worse.
  • Current academic treatises on marine reserves (1) and marine conservation biology (2) recommend scientifically designed marine reserves and advocate 20% of the management area be established and regulated as “no take” fishing zones. Washington State currently has 0.02% of its fisheries management area designated as marine and aquatic reserves and those reserves only qualify as small research projects.
  • Total marine reserves on the West Coast currently contain less than 1.5% of ocean waters in protected habitat. Also, only 0.04% of the west coast Exclusive Economic Zone is protected. In contrast, 13% of global land areas are protected as parks, reserves and refugia.
  • Recreational, commercial and tribal fishermen are currently harvesting all fish species and populations endemic to the Salish Sea at less than 1% of historic levels. Hatchery production alleviates that production problem. Marine reserves will restore and help make our fisheries sustainable. Unfortunately, fisheries scientists have also shown that hatcheries contribute to genetic drift and harm wild fish populations. They have also shown that net pen farming harms wild fish populations by acting as centers for parasite dispersal to smolts.
    • Around the world 23 nations have established marine reserves to protect biodiversity, ecosystems, manage important fisheries and restore depleted populations of marine plants and animals. Restoration results are generally outstanding if the reserves are large enough and old enough. In a global review of marine reserves, biomass increased 413%, density increased 200%, fish size increased 82% and species diversity increased 71%. Additionally, the global average increase in fish biomass for many different reserves showed a range of 20% to 800% (1,2).
    • Of all the states with significant marine fisheries, Washington has the smallest and least effective system of marine reserves. Coincidentally, it also has the most severely degraded fish stocks and one of the largest lists of endangered and threatened species.
    • Marine reserves have been shown to be the best, most cost effective, fisheries management technique to combat genetic drift due to overfishing and combat ecosystem degradation.
    • Marine reserves, if well designed, large enough and given sufficient time, nearly always reestablish the natural biodiversity and functioning ecosystems within five to eight years.
    • Many environmental organizations, (for example – Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Wild Fish Conservancy, Coastal Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, People For Puget Sound, American Fisheries Society, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, National Research Council and many others) all have policy and position statements dedicated to marine fisheries reform and the establishment of marine reserves.  Additionally, President Obama established the Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force “…in order to meet our nation’s stewardship responsibilities…..”
    • The Ocean Conservancy has published A Scientific Consensus Statement Supporting Marine Reserves where 1900 leading marine scientists and experts advocate more marine reserves and more research.
    • Marine reserves have been shown to be the key to establishing protected areas that allow large old fish to produce more offspring and higher-quality offspring than exist in fishing zones. Those larvae and juveniles have been shown to be the principal source of fish outside the marine reserves.  For example, a 50-pound female halibut can produce about 500,000 eggs, while a female over 250 pounds can produce four million eggs – an increase of 800%. Halibut can grow to nine feet long and weigh from 500 to 700 pounds and the oldest on record was 55 years old. World record is 459 pounds. Clearly, marine reserves create successful trophy fisheries for recreational fishermen.
    • Acceptance of the Marine Reserve concept and the restrictions on recreational, commercial and tribal fishing will require a truly exceptional education and outreach program. The one outlined in the Rockfish Conservation Plan is wholly inadequate. We suggest the Department of Fish and Wildlife, especially the Fish Program, develop a special contact form on their website to secure in-house WDFW speakers for fishing clubs, environmental organizations, and sport shows. Every major sport show should have a speaker discussing marine reserves. That seminar should be preceded by considerable advertising and marketing to marinas, boat dealers, fishing tackle manufacturers, marine trade shows, etc. The speaker should come armed with an amazing amount of information and many successful examples of marine reserves and the benefits to all forms of fishing and fisheries management. This is the only way to effectively inform the public at large about the benefits of marine reserves as a necessary step toward sustainable fisheries.
    • The plan makes no mention of curtailing commercial or tribal harvest of any fish species that incidentally takes rockfish. To gain acceptance of this plan amongst the fishing community and have a positive impact on Puget Sound rockfish, curtailment of commercial and the tribal catch must be discussed in the revised plan. We suggest that strong provisions be added to the conservation plan that discuss selective harvest measures for tribal and commercial fishermen. Selective harvest should be aimed at hatchery fish while catch and release is applied to wild fish. Recreational fishermen would be far more receptive to the idea of marine reserves if they knew closures and restrictions impacted all fishermen more or less equally.
    • Marine reserves have a revolutionary potential that is becoming a mainstream fisheries management tool. Sustainable fishing cannot be accomplished without the ecosystem based management that marine reserves offer. Consequently, the goals of fisheries management and environmental conservation have become one and the same.

 

 

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