Scramble to re-issue permits for area shellfish farms underway following lawsuit -Skagit Valley Herald

The State is working to grant updated operating permits after the fiasco of the Army Corps of Engineers losing a major lawsuit last year under appeal. It will be interesting to see how, since the judge found that the existing permits had not taken long term harm ot the environment into consideration, as to how the state will not get sued again since I don’t understand at this point what they changed about determining long term environmental damage. More to follow on this.

Shellfish farms in the state and the agencies that issue them operating permits are scrambling to complete farm-by-farm paperwork following litigation over whether a former permitting system ensured adequate protections for the marine environment…State Department of Ecology spokesperson Curt Hart said the agency has received 446 applications for shellfish farm permits and has issued public notices for decisions on about 150 of them under Clean Water Act requirements. A public notice was issued this week for one of 16 applications for shellfish growers in Skagit County. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Scramble to re-issue permits for area shellfish farms underway following lawsuit 

Winding down Puget Sound’s 2020 targets, as approved shellfish acreage keeps going up – PSI

A good look at the state of shellfish bed recovery over the last 10 years, as measured by the Puget Sound Partnership. This is one indicator that seems to be going in a positive direction. Of course, the goal of this is to promote the conversion of public beaches into industrial aquaculture, so it’s a mixed bag. Some day we’ll see a real discussion in the public sphere about how many acres we are going to convert to industrial aquaculture before they are all turned into off limit farms for the profit of a few large aquaculture organizations. Good reporting from the Puget Sound Institute. Worth reading.

North Pacific fishing crews on edge about what they’ll find this month, after a tough 2020 of small fish and COVID-19 – Seattle Times

This is a very good roundup of what happened to the Pollack fishing last year in the Bering Sea, and what the fishermen and scientists are doing to try and predict this year. Short story: Global warming is appearing to significantly affect the stocks of one of the basic fish we North Pacific fishing crews on edge about what they’ll find this month, after a tough 2020 of small fish and COVID-19eat in large quantities.

Though the weather often is rough, these winter harvests typically offer prime fishing as the pollock come together in the southern Bering Sea before spawning. But the disappointing fishing in the last half of 2020 has put Ganley on edge about what he and his four crew members will find when they drop their nets.


https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/skinny-small-fish-and-covid-19-made-2020-a-difficult-year-for-north-pacific-pollock-fleet/

Quinault Tribe recall 29 tons of Dungeness crab – AP

If you bought crab between Dec. 23-28th, you must read this. I would suggest not eating it.


Nearly 29 tons of Dungeness crab is being voluntarily recalled by the Quinault Tribe. The recall affects live and uneviscerated Dungeness crab.  The crabs are being recalled due to possible elevated marine toxin levels. The toxin is called domoic acid, which can be harmful to people if the contaminated shellfish are consumed. The crab was caught by the tribe from Dec. 23-28 and sold to food processors in Washington. (Associated Press)

Quinault Tribe recall 29 tons of Dungeness crab due to toxin

Lawsuit launched over stalled habitat protection for endangered west coast orcas

It’s about time, the Trump administration has been stalling long enough.


The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government today [12/16] for its failure to finalize expanded habitat protections for critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales, whose population has dipped to just 74 orcas. The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed designating 15,627 square miles of new critical habitat in September 2019. The rule would expand current protections in Washington’s Salish Sea south along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California to Point Sur. The proposed rule followed an April 2019 court-ordered agreement after the Center sued the Trump administration in 2018 for failing to issue habitat protections required by the Endangered Species Act. The Act requires agencies to finalize proposed rules within one year. Today’s notice letter gives the Fisheries Service 60 days to comply. (Center for Biological Diversity News Release)

Lawsuit Launched Over Stalled Habitat Protection for Endangered West Coast Orcas

Millions have been spent on orca recovery: Is it working? – Everett Herald


And a follow up to the previous story, this is a good layman’s overview of the issue of salmon and orca recovery. It focus’ on Snohomish County but also discusses Sound wide issues. Notice, no mention of hatcheries here. It’s about habitat recovery. This article appears to have come out from under the paywall at this point.

Restoring destroyed salmon habitat is the key to regaining Southern Resident killer whale numbers. Julia-Grace Sanders reports. (Everett Herald)

Everett Herald

Millions have been spent on orca recovery: Is it working?

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries -PSI

This is a never ending story, because neither the Tribes, the sports & commercial fisheries, nor the politicians of any stripe are willing to entertain what is needed, which is an elimination of most hatcheries. Why? Because science has proven they don’t work. We have had hatcheries since at least the 1940s and they have not helped produce more wild salmon, nor added significantly to anything but sports fishing and farmed at a huge cost to taxpayers. (The exception to this is to protect almost extinct runs for tribal subsistence which is a valid concern for cultural survival of our Tribes. )We once had monstrous runs of wild (and free) fish for anyone to eat that would simply go out and catch them. They provided for lower income people in times of need. We have squandered that resource for many reasons, and have infected many of them with virus’ transmitted through farmed fish. We have spent vast resources trying to produce significant runs in hatcheries. None of this has worked. The science says to end hatcheries, but the political football of this issue just won’t let it go away. The future looks like we will lose our wild salmon in favor of robo-fish, farmed and produced simply for human and animal consumption. We do this at our peril. Just look at what one virus, picine reovirus (https://raincoastresearch.org/salmon-farm-impacts/viruses/piscine-reovirus/) has done to farmed fish stocks around the world.

So with that preamble, here’s today’s story>

A state policy revision that could boost salmon production at fish hatcheries in Washington state has raised red flags among scientists and environmental groups worried about potential damage to wild salmon runs.


The proposed hatchery policy, under review by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, could derail a 20-year effort to implement critical hatchery reforms, opponents argue. Major concerns revolve around threats to the future of wild salmon populations — including declines in genetic diversity and increasing competition from large numbers of hatchery fish. At the same time, a variety of sport and commercial fishing groups have thrown their support to increased hatchery production, saying that policies to protect wild salmon have reduced fishing opportunities while doing little to save wild salmon. Christopher Dunagan writes. (Puget Sound Institute)

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries

Minor bridge modifications could help young steelhead escape from Hood Canal – PSI

As this blog has reported for many years, the Hood Canal Floating bridge is a barrier likely the primary issue responsible for the massive decline in salmon in the Canal. An unintended consequence of our putting a floating bridge in rather than one that would be a suspension bridge. Chris Dunagan brings us up to speed on the latest work by engineers to address this mistake.


Help could be on the way for migrating steelhead and salmon in Hood Canal, where many young fish are killed each year by seals and other predators that lie in wait at the Hood Canal floating bridge. As many as 50 percent of the steelhead migrants perish as they arrive at the bridge, where predators pick them off one by one. The bridge is supported by floating concrete pontoons, forming a nearly solid barrier across the waterway. Young steelhead generally swim near the surface, making them especially vulnerable to predation, although some fish will dive under the bridge to get to the other side. Engineers are currently designing minor modifications to a few bridge pontoons to help the fish find their way through existing gaps in the structure. Chris Dunagan reports. (Puget Sound Institute)

Minor bridge modifications could help young steelhead escape from Hood Canal

The Elwha dams are gone and chinook are surging back, but why are so few reaching the upper river? – Seattle Times

Good update on the return of the river.


They were the king of kings in Puget Sound, the biggest chinook of them all, strong enough to muscle up the falls at the Goblin Gates and power on all the way through nearly 4 miles of chutes and falls in the Grand Canyon of the Elwha….Scientists have been tracking nature’s response. Some of what they are finding is surprising, even to them. Summer steelhead, nearly extinct in the Elwha, have come booming back to the river, all on their own. Once locked up behind the dams, rainbow trout are re-expressing their ability to go to sea as steelhead. Adult chinook returns to the river since dam removal are the highest since the late 1980s, with more than 7,600 estimated in the 2019 count. While that’s still a modest number, the Elwha represents one of the only watersheds in Puget Sound with such an uptick in population, said Sam Brenkman, chief fisheries biologist for the Olympic National Park, in an email. Colonization of the lower and middle river has been steady. But fewer chinook are reaching the deliciously cold, uppermost reaches of the watershed. Why? It’s a puzzle scientists are working on. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

The Elwha dams are gone and chinook are surging back, but why are so few reaching the upper river?

What the pandemic has done to WA’s flagship shellfish industry – Crosscut

A very good article on the state of the shellfish industry in our state. Quotes from people here in the area working in the industry.

The pandemic tanked the shellfish industry, but growers are “tentatively optimistic” that things are looking up.

By Hannah Weinberger
Crosscut Article

Do we know enough to do anything about the sea lions of Puget Sound? -PSI


Chris Dunagan writes: “Scientists have known for years that Chinook salmon are important to southern resident orcas, but Chinook are not the only fish the whales eat. At the moment, chum salmon are returning to Puget Sound, and recent orca sightings suggest that the whales may now be feeding on chum. Harbor seals also eat Chinook salmon, but also chum, coho and other fish. They seem fond of smaller fish like herring and juvenile salmon. Oh, what a tangled food web we weave… Southern resident orcas are considered endangered. Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead are threatened. Harbor seals seem to be everywhere, hardly struggling to find food, at least as far as anyone can tell. So is it time to bring the powerful influence of humans into the equation by forcefully reducing the harbor seal population in Puget Sound? It’s a question that people have been pondering for years, but I’m not sure we’re much closer to an answer…” (Puget Sound Institute)

Do we know enough to do anything about all the seals and sea lions in Puget Sound?

Endangered Species Act protections sought for a Northwest freshwater mussel -OPB

Another species needing urgent protection here in our State. While this is specific to Central Oregon I assume that these are found in our waters as well.

A 2017 analysis that looked at historic versus recent distributing areas of the species and found that the populations have declined by almost 50% of its historic range and it has been accelerating in recent years.

A nonprofit conservation group has filed a petition for Endangered Species Act protections for a unique species of mussel that is vanishing from rivers and streams in the Pacific Northwest.

https://www.opb.org/article/2020/08/20/endangered-species-act-protections-sought-for-a-northwest-freshwater-mussel/

‘The smell will knock you off your feet’: mass mussel die-offs baffle scientists | Environment | The Guardian

The Chehalis River is one of the locations mentioned in this article.

Mussels, the backbone of the river ecosystem because they control silt levels and filter water, are facing a mysterious affliction
— Read on www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/14/the-smell-will-knock-you-off-your-feet-mass-mussel-die-offs-baffle-scientists

Blueback closure latest in Quinault climate change impacts – North Coast News

And as if to put a fine point on the previous article, commercial fishing is being closed on the Quinault River for sockeye.  If I’m not mistaken, while the Quinault is not dammed, it has been greatly affected by widespread logging of the hills all around it. A look at the satellite images of the river from Google Earth https://earth.app.goo.gl/uDneeP shows that between currently logged areas and second and third growth areas the habitat for salmon has been seriously compromised over the last 100 years. The buffers along the river, likely clear cut long ago, have been allowed to grow back and gain some modicum of protection for the river, but appear to be very small, compared the vast logging operations allowed all around it. Take a look and explore the overview of the area. Likely the increased temperatures from global warming, overharvest at sea, sea water warming and the increasing upflows of cold water known as the “Blob” have all added to the problems.  Have a different opinion on what’s causing all this? Feel free to add them to the comments below. I don’t claim to know it all, just cursory looks and 40 years seeing the endless logging of the west end proceed with virtually no stopping nor real effort to protect the watersheds which are the habitat of the salmon that spawn there.

The decision to close commercial fishing for Quinault River blueback (sockeye) salmon for conservation purposes this year is part of the ongoing effort by the Quinault Indian Nation to deal with the very tangible costs of climate change. After announcing the blueback closure on the river last week for 2019, Quinault President Fawn Sharp traveled to Washington, D.C. with a message for Congress about how the entire Quinault ecosystem from the glacier to the ocean is being harmed by climate conditions that have major impacts, economically as well as environmentally. Angelo Bruscas reports. (North Coast News)

Blueback closure latest in Quinault climate change impacts

BC Led international expedition to probe ailing Pacific Salmon stocks- Vancouver Sun

Finally we are seeing some joint scientific effort around wild salmon. Time is certainly running out to take dramatic steps to save what is left of the salmon runs. Glad to see this happening now, no matter how late in the day it seems.

An unprecedented international collaboration could revolutionize salmon science and fisheries management, return forecasting and even hatchery output. Nineteen scientists from Russia, Canada, the United States, Japan and South Korea are set to probe the secret lives of five Pacific salmon species with a four-week grid search and test fishery across the Gulf of Alaska. The expedition begins next week aboard the Russian research ship MV Professor Kaganovsky. “We know virtually nothing about what happens to salmon once they leave near-shore waters in the Salish Sea,” said expedition organizer Dick Beamish. The project was developed as a research element of the 2019 International Year of the Salmon celebration, organized by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and its partners. Randy Shore reports. (Vancouver Sun)

BC-led international expedition to probe ailing Pacific salmon stocks

Pinto Abalone Seeking State Endangered Species Listing

This is a very good idea who’s time has come, however late. Pinto Abalone stocks have collapsed in the Salish Sea and WDFW has been working hard for twenty years to try and reverse this.  Help out by supporting this effort and sending in letters of support to the email or mailing address below.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking your input on a status review of the pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana), a Candidate for State Endangered Species.  Populations of these iconic marine snails have not recovered from historic harvests and may merit additional protection.  We recognize that Washington based state and federal natural resource agencies have an important perspective on the status of our state’s marine species and habitats. We would appreciate your participation in the following way:
 Directly submit your opinions and/or questions regarding the status review to:
 
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
c/o Michael Ulrich, Fish Program
P.O. Box 43200
Olympia, WA 98504-3200
 
 
(360) 902-2737
 
What is the current status of pinto abalone in Washington?  Some receiving this notice may recall an era in Washington when legal take of abalone was allowed and healthy populations existed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Archipelago.  Recognizing a declining trend in populations during dive surveys, the department closed the recreational fishery in 1994.  Since that time, the department has continued regular monitoring and results indicate that surveyed populations continue to decline or are entirely absent from areas once well established.  Additionally, the increasing average size of remnant abalone, and absence of juveniles, indicates an aging population with little natural reproduction.  Finding abalone anywhere in Washington waters is becoming more and more difficult.
 
           What has the department been doing about these observed declines?  By the early 2000’s it had become apparent that pinto abalone populations were unlikely to recover to sustainable levels without human intervention.  A species restoration partnership was initiated with local non-profit organizations, as well as, tribes, universities, government agencies and commercial aquaculture.  A captive breeding program was developed to produce hatchery juveniles for distribution into the wild. The resulting restoration program uses local, wild broodstock to rear disease-free juvenile abalone and, since 2009, has placed over 16,000 juveniles to sites in the San Juan Islands.  Sites have been regularly monitored to assess growth and survival of the hatchery-origin abalone and the results have been encouraging.  Many sites have matured into groups of adults at reproductive densities, although, a significant scale-up of the program will be necessary to achieve meaningful results on a state-wide basis. 
 
What happens now?  We are communicating to interested parties around the state to solicit data, opinions, and questions regarding the listing proposal.  Following this period of public comment and a peer review of a draft status report (available on our website in December), the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider the status of the species.  Please lend your voice to the discussion by submitting your opinions or attending a public meeting.  (the meetings were advertised and held in early December in PT)
The period of public comment will conclude on March 31st, 2019.  We hope to hear from you about the status of this integral species to Washington’s nearshore marine environment.
 
For more information, please visit    https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/pinto_abalone/
 
Thank you in advance for your help.
 
Sincerely,                                                                                               
 
 
Michael Ulrich, Shellfish Biologist
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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 

Congress OKs bill to allow killing sea lions to help salmon – Seattle Times

The knee jerk reaction to killing sea lions to theoretically ease the amount of endangered salmon that are being eaten by them passed Congress two days ago. While not based in science, this has been done at the behest of a variety of groups that see the sea lions as the problem. White sports fishermen, some tribes. The likelihood of this succeeding in any meaningful way has not been proven. But killing something always seems like a good solution to many.

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/congress-oks-bill-to-allow-killing-sea-lions-to-help-salmon/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=Referral&utm_campaign=RSS_nation-world

 

 

State Fish & Wildlife propose endangered listing for Pinto Abalone

Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife have proposed listing the Pinto Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) as endangered locally. Though attempts at cultivation have been tried, they have not been  considered successful at levels capable of sustaining the population.

Pinto Abalone have been in significant decline since the late 1980s. While there never was a commercial fishery for them, recreational divers harvested untold amounts, as the catch was never monitored. Habitat destruction also is understood to have played a role.

According to the WDFW web site (https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/pinto_abalone/):

The overall goal of the abalone recovery team is to halt the declines of abalone populations in the Pacific Northwest and to return populations to self-sustainable levels.  Such a long term goal requires a suite of interim goals and the development of numerous methodologies.  To date, such interim goals have enabled the abalone recovery team to successfully:

  • Develop hatchery and nursery programs for captive propagation and rearing of abalone.

  • Develop protocols to maintain genetically diverse and disease-free families in restoration hatchery facilities.

  • Conduct experimental outplants of juvenile hatchery reared abalone to assess the efficacy of outplants as a restoration strategy.

  • Aggregate adult abalone in the wild to enhance reproductive potential and to assess this method as a restoration strategy.

  • Outplant abalone post-larvae at experimental locations to assess this method as a restoration strategy.

  • Draft a collaborative  Pinto Abalone Recovery Plan for Washington.

  • Launch a public outreach campaign targeting divers, schools, boaters, fishers and the general public.

This body of work represents nearly two decades of basic and applied science and has laid the foundation for increasing the scale of the abalone recovery effort.   Such an effort will require a broad coalition of scientists, advocates, policymakers, and volunteers. For more information on this process please contact WDFW lead abalone biologist Michael Ulrich (hyperlink to : Michael.Ulrich@dfw.wa.gov).

WHAT YOU CAN DO: WDFW is soliciting any available data on the species, and seeks public comment on a proposal to list the pinto abalone as a State Endangered Species.  Please consider attending one of the following public meetings:

December 4, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
Northwest Maritime Center
431 Water Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Or, submit comments and questions to:

WDFW, Fish Program, attention: Michael Ulrich
P.O. Box 43200
Olympia, WA 98504-3200
(360) 902-2737
Michael.Ulrich@dfw.wa.gov

 

West’s rivers are hot enough to cook salmon to death. Will this court ruling keep them cool? – Bellingham Herald

With global warming comes the heating of our rivers. That has devastating impacts on salmon, which need a river to remain under 56 degrees or young salmon will die. This might bring a change of heart to the issue of Snake River dam removal or breaching.

A federal judge in Seattle has directed the Environmental Protection Agency, in a ruling with implications for California and the Pacific Northwest, to find a way to keep river waters cool.

Read more here: https://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/state/washington/article220466120.html#storylink=cpy

 

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