Governor Inslee Signs Slew of Orca Protection Bills – Seattle Times and others

This week saw the signing of a variety of bills that came out of the Orca Task Force, put together by Governor Inslee to identify issues that could theoretically help save the resident Orca pod from extinction. While these bills are not the radical (yet realistic) idea of breaching the Snake River dams as many (including this blog) would like to see, they do address a group of problems that are facing recovery and protection of the Salish Sea.

Senate Bill 5135 was written to allow Department of Ecology to ban certain PCBs and PFAs which cause cancer and are found in high amounts in Orca bodies. They may be hampering the ability for them to have healthy  offspring and also may impact their health. Toxic-Free Future was a champion of this bill. Congratulations to them and their supporters. This has been a long hard fight for many years.

Senate Bill 5577 pushes boats farther away from whales, mandating 300 yard exclusion zones. This is not as far as many in the Orca task force wanted, but is at least better than it is currently. There is huge pressure from whale scientists to push back even further, but the whale watch industry is too powerful for Inslee to override.

The bills digest is as follows:

Finds a person guilty of a natural resource infraction if the person causes a vessel or other object to: (1) Approach within four hundred yards of a southern resident orca whale; or(2) Exceed a speed greater than seven knots over ground at any point located within one-half nautical mile of the whales.

Prohibits commercial whale watching operators from approaching or intercepting within six hundred fifty yards in the direction of the whales.

Requires a commercial whale watching license for businesses engaged in commercial whale watching activities.Requires the department of fish and wildlife to implement a limited-entry whale watching license program for the inland waters of the state for all whale species.

What you don’t see is an implementation of even greater enforcement in this bill. It is understood though that Fish and Wildlife may be getting a bigger budget do that.

House Bill 1578 – This bill strengthens our oil-spill prevention portfolio. As some may remember, this author and many dozens of other environmentalists helped push through the rescue tug at Neah Bay in the last decade, with the help of then Representative Van de Wege. This time, Representative Tharinger was part of the sponsors of the new bill. It’s digest reads:

Creates new requirements designed to reduce the current, acute risk from existing infrastructure and activities of an oil spill that could: (1) Eradicate our southern resident killer whales;(2) Violate the treaty fishing rights of federally recognized Indian tribes;(3) Damage commercial fishing prospects;(4) Undercut many aspects of the economy that depend on the Salish Sea; and(5) Harm the health and well-being of residents.

Declares an intent to spur international discussions among federal, state, provincial, and industry leaders in the United States and Canada to develop an agreement for the shared funding of an emergency rescue tug available to vessels in distress in the narrow Straits of the San Juan Islands and other boundary waters.

Currently tankers bigger than 125k dead weight tons are forbidden inside the Strait, past Dungeness Lighthouse. Tankers from 40 to125K tons dead weight are allowed to operate with tug escort. Currently a huge threat is to tugs towing bunker and other fuels. Some have sunk, such as the barge that spilled out on the coast near Neah Bay some years back.

The new law forces these tankers and tug towing barges to have escort tugs starting in 2020. If the tug or tanker is empty,  they do not need an escort tug.

The bill also strengthens the existing work being done on oil spill preparedness and establishes a new oil spill emergency response system with coordination between the State, U.S. Federal, Tribal and Canadian agencies. While there has been coordination before, this system is new.

There is a new reporting regime for oil processing facilities receiving crude oil shipments by rail, which will require them to report to the state these shipments and their routes. This may end up getting taken into court by the oil industry, as it’s unclear to this author whether the State has authority to require this under current Federal law.

Bill 1579 – While part of this bill allows greater catch limits on predator fish:

The commission shall adopt rules to liberalize bag limits for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all anadromous waters of the14state in order to reduce the predation risk to salmon smolts.

The real teeth in this bill is the work done by Sound Action and other environmental and tribal lobbyists, along with the Department of Natural Resources to implement much stronger rules and penalties for implementing bulk heads along the nearshore of the Sound.  (full disclosure: this author is Board President of Sound Action as of this writing).

The conversion of shoreline to bulkheads  has been going on with little scientific understanding of the scope of damage to the spawning habitat of forage fish. Forage fish are food for salmon and other larger fish. Sound Action has existed specifically to challenge improper or incomplete Hydraulic Permit Applications (HPAs) from DNR that affect this habitat.

UPDATE BASED ON GOVERNOR’S VETO OF ONE SECTION: While The bill was also helped through by a section on a series of three ‘demonstration’ projects inserted by Senator Van de Wege on behalf of farmers coping with flood plain issues in Watcom, Snohomish and Gray’s Harbor County. Governor Inslee decided that these projects did not come out of the Orca Task force recommendations and were not in alignment with the needs of protecting fish habitat, but rather protecting farm land and exploiting river gravel. His veto of that section was in alignment with the opposition  by environmentalists and Tribes because of the stated intention of the backers of the language to ‘extract gravel’ from these rivers. What is needed in the future to address these problems should involve something similar to  a version of the highly successful Dungeness River Management Team, which brought together all the stakeholders on that river for the last 20 years to identify and then come up with appropriate solutions rather than leap to conclusions not based on science.

Anyone wanting to understand the work that the Dungeness River Management Team has done can view the short video I did for them a few years ago, on their 20th Anniversary.

 

The language that the proponents of Senator Van de Wege’s bill wanted, was to simply move to solution, based on assumptions and not science. They need, as the governor pointed out in his veto to at least have to go through the process to create a team of stakeholders, not just from the farm community, but from individuals and state scientists to come up with appropriate solutions.

So all in all, congratulations to the organizations that spent hundreds of hours in the Orca Task Force, and thanks to Governor Inslee for getting this done and helping drive these key bills into law! We still have a long way to go to save the resident pod, and there is no guarantee any of these bills will actually turn the tide to restore them to health.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/gov-inslee-signs-range-of-bills-aimed-at-helping-endangered-orcas/

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

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

 

 

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

 

Salmon at Salmon Cascades, Sol Duc River

From the great camera artistry of John Gussman, who gave us “Return of the River”

silver salmon

 

New Genetic Research Shows the Legacy of Fish Farm – Hakai Magazine

The fish farming industry has been saying for the last number of years that this couldn’t happen. Well, it apparently has. While this could not happen here because of the distinct species, it does add fuel to the fire that these farmed fish are just not a good idea. We have no idea what additional information the industry, along with certain departments in WDFW and NOAA who seem to be simply mouthpieces for the industry, are not investigating, or actually hiding from the public.

Newfoundland’s great fish jailbreak took place on September 18, 2013, when a damaged sea pen, roiled by currents and tides, discharged 20,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into the frigid freedom of Hermitage Bay. Cooke Aquaculture, which owned the failed pen, swiftly set about controlling the damage in the media, if not the ocean. Seals and other predators would scarf up the rogue salmon, the company assured the CBC. The fish, it added, “pose[d] no threat to the environment.” A new genetic analysis, however, refutes that dubious claim. Researchers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have shown that the fish fled Hermitage Bay, fanning out and infiltrating many of southern Newfoundland’s rivers. There, the escapees interbred with their wild cousins—potentially weakening the gene pools of imperiled populations. Ben Goldfarb reports. (Hakai Magazine)

New Genetic Research Shows the Legacy of Fish Farm

 

 

 

Columbia River salmon fishing closed.

OLYMPIA – Starting Thursday (Sept. 13), fishing for salmon will be closed on the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 upstream to Hwy 395 in Pasco under new rules approved today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon

Deep River in Washington and other tributaries in Oregon (Youngs Bay, Tongue Point/South Channel, Blind Slough and Knappa Slough) are also closed to salmon and steelhead angling.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) already prohibited steelhead retention in much of the same area of the Columbia River several weeks ago, and the new emergency rule closes angling for both salmon and steelhead in those waters as well.

Bill Tweit, Columbia River fishery coordinator for WDFW, said the counts of fall chinook at Bonneville Dam are 29 percent below preseason forecasts, and on-going fisheries are approaching the allowable catch limits under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

“We recognize that this closure is difficult for anglers, but we have an obligation to meet our ESA goals so that fisheries can continue in the future,” he said.

Tweit said the upriver fall chinook run provides the bulk of the harvest opportunity for fall fisheries, but that returns in recent years has been declining due to unfavorable ocean conditions. The preseason forecast for this year is 47 percent of the 10-year average return of upriver bright fall chinook.

The new emergency fishing rule is posted on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

PCC Community Markets Ends Sale of Pacific Northwest Chinook Salmon

From the PCC news site

(September 10, 2018) – Seattle-based PCC Community Markets (PCC), the nation’s largest community-owned food market, announced it has stopped selling all chinook (king) salmon products — fresh, frozen and smoked — caught in the waters of Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. PCC is responding to the needs of the critically endangered Salish Sea southern resident killer whales (SRKW) that feed predominantly on area king salmon during the summer.

SRKWs have historically thrived on chinook from the Columbia River, but with the salmon runs at just 10 percent of their original population, the orcas are relying more on salmon from the Fraser River in British Columbia for sustenance. Chinook runs on the Fraser, as well as the Columbia and Sacramento River in northern California, have declined. In sum: SRKWs lack the food they need to survive.

“Last month, the heartbreaking ordeal of the mother orca, Tahlequah, and her baby touched many of our members and staff,” said Brenna Davis, VP of Social and Environmental Responsibility. “In the midst of it, the PCC leadership team began discussing how and if we could make an impact on this issue. By committing to no longer sell Pacific Northwest chinook salmon, we realize that we will not solve the complex set of issues facing our resident orcas. We are simply doing our part as a co-op to ensure, as we have for decades, that our supply chain protects our region’s vital ecosystems.”

Dedicated to protecting local food systems, PCC has long put into place comprehensive efforts to protect the Salish Sea including:

  • Partnerships with Salmon-Safe certified farms, like Wilcox Family Farms. Salmon Safe is a nonprofit devoted to restoring agricultural and urban watersheds so salmon can spawn and thrive;
  • Donating proceeds of sales of Chinook Wines to “Long Live the Kings,” a local non-profit organization that works to protect chinook salmon;
  • Financial support to organizations working to protect marine ecosystems, such as the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and Stewardship Partners’ Salmon-Safe certification; and
  • Other efforts including advancing the organic supply chain to keep pesticides and other toxins out of streams, and advocating an end to net-pen fish farms, especially for non-native Atlantic salmon.

In place of Pacific Northwest chinook, PCC will sell Alaskan chinook, which is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. PCC also will continue to support local fishers by selling other species of Pacific Northwest salmon. To learn more, please visit: https://www.pccmarkets.com/statements/pcc-ends-the-sale-of-pacific-northwest-chinook-salmon/

About PCC Community Markets Founded in Seattle in 1953, PCC Community Markets (PCC) is the nation’s largest community-owned food market with an unmatched enthusiasm for making food from scratch. Celebrating its 65th anniversary in 2018, PCC is a haven for those who share a dedication to fresh, organic seasonal food that is sustainably sourced from local producers, farmers, ranchers and fishers. With an active membership of more than 60,000 households, PCC operates 11 stores in the Puget Sound area, including the cities of Bothell, Burien, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Seattle. Seattle stores are in the neighborhoods of Columbia City, Fremont, Green Lake, View Ridge and West Seattle, which will reopen in 2019. The co-op also plans to open new stores in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in 2019 and Bellevue, Madison Valley and Downtown Seattle in 2020.

In 2017, PCC returned 57 percent of its profit to members and contributed an additional 11 percent to the communities it serves, including schools and nonprofits around the Puget Sound area, such as the PCC Farmland Trust and FareStart.


This website called for a ban on eating locally caught wild chinook over on August 18th.   See “One Orca Two Stories. A way forward?”

In it I stated:

One thought is that if the Chinook fishing is still allowed out off LaPush, and the Orcas have gone there, it must be after the fish. So I’m left wondering, if we really wanted to save starving orcas, why on earth are we allowing recreational fishers to catch 3023 fish? As to the ocean limits, according to state F&W, the ocean recreational limits were:

27,500 fish, which is 17,500 fewer fish than 2017’s quota of 45,000.

So this is approximately 30,000 chinook we are catching when the story of the day is that the Orcas can’t find these fish in the Salish Sea. And this is in addition to whatever the seals and sea lions  have been taking, The studies on seals and sea lions show that they eat primarily juvenile salmon, not as much the older ones! However the study concludes that the seals and sea lions are a problem.

Seattle Chefs Tom Douglas, Thierry Rautureau, Renee Erickson and other major chefs in Seattle have also called for and are implementing a boycott on eating local chinook. This one decision will not immediately put a lot of fish back in the water, but it is clear we are competing with the orcas for their food, and it *will* immediately add to the small amount of Chinook available for them. It will not impact Alaskan Chinook. And  you can also order any of the other salmon that are on the menus or in the stores. So support your local fishermen and eat locally caught salmon other than Chinook. It is OK to dry up demand for local Chinook as a gesture to showing that we need action from our government officials. No more talk!

 

WDFW authorizes transfer of Atlantic salmon into net pens

Note the new location to get future alerts on farmed salmon issues at the bottom of the story.

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has authorized Cooke Aquaculture to transport about 800,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon from the company’s hatchery in Rochester, Wash., to existing net-pen facilities in Puget Sound.

WDFW issued the fish transport permit this week after working to ensure Cooke had met all of the state’s requirements for fish health.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed legislation to phase out Atlantic salmon net pen operations in Puget Sound as soon as 2022. Cooke is continuing its operations in the meantime.

On Aug. 2, Cooke submitted applications to move a total of 800,000 1-year-old Atlantic salmon from its Scatter Creek facility in Rochester to two different net pen locations in Puget Sound.

Both WDFW and Cooke tested samples of the fish, which met the state’s health requirements, including testing negative for all forms of the fish virus PRV (piscine orthoreovirus), said Ken Warheit, WDFW’s fish health manager.

Cooke typically transports fish eggs from an Iceland facility to Scatter Creek, where the eggs grow into smolts before being moved to net pens. In May, an exotic strain of PRV that shows up in north Atlantic waters was detected in a different batch of smolts at Cooke’s Scatter Creek facility. WDFW denied the company’s request to transfer those fish into net pens.

The state also requires that Cooke leave its net pens empty (or “fallow”) for at least 30 days before transferring fish there. Warheit noted that Cooke will also meet this requirement as it transfers fish in October and November.

Cooke will move about 400,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon to its Cooke’s Hope Island facility in Skagit Bay and another 400,000 fish to its Orchard Rocks facility (Kitsap County) in Rich Passage.

All future notifications about Atlantic salmon transfer permits will be posted online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/salmo_salar/ where people will be able to sign up for email notifications in the near future.

See related story: https://olyopen.com/2018/08/27/alexandra-morton-and-sea-shepherd-take-water-samples-in-pa-harbor/

 

In WSU Stormwater Runoff Research, Coho Salmon Die Quickly,Chum Survive

More data that shows how complicated the salmon recovery effort is.

On April 20, 2018, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife News Bulletin reported that Washington State University (WSU) scientists discovered that different species of salmon have varying reactions to polluted stormwater runoff.

In a recent paper published in the journal Environmental Pollution, scientists found that coho salmon became mortally ill within just a few hours of exposure to polluted stormwater. But chum salmon showed no signs of ill- effects after prolonged exposure to the same water.

The study can be found at

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S026974911734527X?via%3Dihub

“It really surprised us,” said Jen McIntyre, an assistant professor in WSU’s School of the Environment. “Not that the coho were affected so quickly, but how resistant the chum were. We saw no impact at all in the chum’s post-exposure blood work.”

Stormwater is toxic to fish because it can include carcinogenic hydrocarbons, metals, and other organic compounds, most of which have yet to be identified.

McIntyre and her team collected stormwater runoff in large tanks from a highway in western Washington. Then they placed salmon in that water for four hours or until the fish showed signs of illness. Blood samples were then taken from all of the fish.

Only a few coho lasted four hours before having to be removed. In blood tests, the team found a significant increase in lactic acid concentrations and their blood was much thicker. Their blood pH was thrown off and the amount of salt in their plasma decreased significantly.

The chum test results showed none of those changes, all these fish lasting the full four hours without showing any signs of distress or sickness.

 

“These fish are very closely related,” said McIntyre, who works at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. “They’re the same genus, but obviously something is significantly different physiologically. We just don’t know what that difference is yet.”

The study was done at the Suquamish Tribe Grovers Creek Salmon Hatchery, with fish donated by the Suquamish Tribe.

McIntyre worked on the project with fellow WSU scientists, along with colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

McIntyre and her team noticed a few clues for where to start their next round of investigations: studying what makes the chum nearly impervious to toxic runoff. One is that the coho appeared hypoxic, meaning they weren’t getting enough oxygen. But the water had plenty of oxygen, so they’ll look at blood circulation issues, how the fish metabolize oxygen in their muscles, and a few other areas.

“We don’t know if the thicker blood is a symptom of the problem, or if that’s the initiating event that then causes the oxygen deprivation,” McIntyre said. “There’s a lot of work still to come, but this really narrows down where we need to look.”

They’re also hoping that looking further into chum will turn up clues about how they resist the effects of toxic runoff.

In a later study, not included in this paper, McIntyre and her team conducted a prolonged exposure test on chum. Those fish swam in the stormwater runoff for four days and none of them got sick.

“We’re still trying to understand how they’re unaffected,” she said. “It’s actually really impressive.”

Another problem for the coho is that scientists don’t know what particular contaminants in the runoff are causing the problems.

“There’s a whole variety of heavy metals and hydrocarbons in that water,” McIntyre said. “And a whole bunch of chemicals we are working with scientists at the University of Washington in Tacoma to identify so that we can protect more delicate species like coho salmon from the effects of human pollution.”

McIntyre’s research is part of a grant from EPA.

For more information, Jen McIntyre can be reached at jen.mcintyre@wsu.edu.

Source:    http://www.cbbulletin.com/440562.aspx

 

 

Chef Renee Erickson pulls king salmon from menu after learning of starving orcas – KUOW

It seems there is something happening, right now. I called for looking into a moratorium on chinook harvest in the Salish Sea and just off the coast, and now (totally separate from my article) Canadian environmentalists and a restaurant in Seattle are also calling for a  halt for the demand for Salish Sea chinook. I’m reaching out to a Seattle fisheries expert who claims it won’t matter. We’ll see if he has time to help me and you understand why.  More to follow.

A Seattle restaurateur has stopped offering chinook salmon at her restaurants. Renee Erickson, chef and owner of a group of restaurants, including The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard, said she made the decision after learning about the plight of J50, the young, ailing orca whale.

http://kuow.org/stories/chef-renee-erickson-pulls-king-salmon-from-menu-after-learning-of-starving-orcas

and

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-chef-renee-erickson-takes-chinook-salmon-off-menus-to-help-ailing-puget-sound-orcas/

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian environmental groups call for closure of chinook fisheries and removal of whale watching boats.

Well, I guess my editorial of the other day was just an example of great minds thinking alike (small joke). Here’s our friends north  of the border asking for a closure on chinook. They have also asked for a ban on whale watching boats. More on that in a future post.

The growing realization that southern resident orcas are starving to death has led green groups to urge stronger measures to save them. The David Suzuki Foundation and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation have called for an immediate closure of fishing for chinook salmon on B.C.’s coast. Orcas rely on chinook to survive and it’s their preferred prey…. Under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, up to two million chinook are caught each year on both sides of the border. According to the environmental groups, the southern resident orca population requires about 1,400 chinook each day to remain alive. Charlie Smith reports. (Georgia Straight)

Environmental groups call for closure of chinook fisheries to preserve endangered southern resident orcas

From the David Suzuki Foundation:

We’re asking the minister to close all chinook fishing and expand foraging refuges to cover critical habitat, and to prohibit fisheries until the end of October. Recovery plans are needed for the orcas’ food source, chinook salmon. Whale-watching operations and private vessels must also be prevented from targeting these critically endangered whales.

 

 

One Orca, two stories. A way forward?

Over the last few days, I saw two stories that really drove the message home to me that we are very likely to fail at saving the Southern Resident Killer Whales without new thinking, outside the box. And it’s really not a box, but about outside the silos. It’s not some dire story of good and bad guys. Just a reflection of what is our lack of being able to look at the big picture instead of silos of interests. One silo is the scientists along with the Tribes, the other is the sports fishing community and it’s state of Washington Fish and Wildlife people. My intent is not be critical of either side but to point out a gap that is likely going to doom efforts to support the Orca.

Over the last week, the Seattle Times and many other news outlets, covered the story of J50. J50 is the SRKW that is in poor health. Scientists and members of the Lummi Nation, are trailing around with the whales with live hatchery Chinook (King) salmon, the Orcas most favored food (though it prefers them wild from either the Frasier or Columbia river. This  is likely because, over thousands of years, these two river systems deposited the strongest and largest population of wild Chinook, every year like clockwork until white Europeans  arrived about 200 years ago, give or take 50 years. We all know what happened next. ) They are doing this because it is, to the best of our knowledge, that there is not enough Chinook salmon for the Orcas to survive. So they are bringing the salmon to the Orcas in order to see if they can nurse J50 back to health. A  noble and worthy effort.

So while the scientists and tribal members were doing their best to feed this wild animal,  another story caught my eye. The closing of salmon fishing for the summer by the State of Washington.

The Peninsula Daily News reported “Chinook Season Wraps Up”. The article stated:

SALTWATER CHINOOK FISHING has closed for the season for the bulk of the North Olympic Peninsula — while remaining open to hatchery Chinook retention off of La Push and south of Ayock Point in Hood Canal. The state estimated … chinook guideline estimates show that anglers caught 61.7 percent of the 4,900 kings allotted (3,023).

One thought is that if the Chinook fishing is still allowed out off LaPush, and the Orcas have gone there, it must be after the fish. So I’m left wondering, if we really wanted to save starving orcas, why on earth are we allowing recreational fishers to catch 3023 fish? As to the ocean limits, according to state F&W, the ocean recreational limits were:

 27,500 fish, which is 17,500 fewer fish than 2017’s quota of 45,000.

So this is approximately 30,000 chinook we are catching when the story of the day is that the Orcas can’t find these fish in the Salish Sea. And this is in addition to whatever the seals and sea lions  have been taking, The studies on seals and sea lions show that they eat primarily juvenile salmon, not as much the older ones! However the study concludes that the seals and sea lions are a problem.

See https://www.earthfix.info/news/article/puget-sound-orcas-salmon-sea-lions-seals-food-study/

and

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-14984-8

 

I have not seen the numbers of the commercial and tribal catch of chinook, but I’m sure it’s higher than 3023 fish.  The State F&W web site stated this spring:

In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are limiting fisheries in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in areas critical to the declining whales, said WDFW.

This seems to say that they state only wants to restrict fishing in the areas where we know the Orca feed. Well, according to what I’ve read, they travel all over the Sound to feed, which is why we see them off Seattle, Tacoma and many other locations. To restrict fishing to some area that they spend more time in seems to be an arbitrary idea of humans as so as to allow fishing to continue.

The facts on the ground (or sea) remain. Some orcas are starving. Many scientists believe we are on the edge of the end of these whales, because the breeding pairs are just too small a number to survive. Calves are dying at birth or shortly after. The Governor has stated that it is unacceptable to lose them and radical ideas need to be implemented. He has dozens of people working on a plan. In the meantime, thousands of chinook are being caught and eaten by us, who have other sources of protein! 

Do we really want to save the resident orcas? Then instead of chasing them with a boat with a few live fish on it, maybe we should consider not competing with them for their food source. Just for a few years, maybe a decade. we may also have to cull sea lions and seals for a few decades to see if it also helps put more fish in the sea, more to placate the fishing interests that routinely claim that they are one of the main competing mammals out there.  The sea lions and seals seem to have rebounded and if the scientists say that a cull of some size is warranted, then let’s do it. Then scientifically see  if things improve. We have alternatives for salmon from Alaska. We don’t need to stop eating the fish. Consider putting a moratorium on catching them in the inland waters and the coast  for five to ten years.This is not a new idea It’s been done all over the world to recover decimated fish stocks. They are called Marine Reserves . It’s a controversial topic to be sure, but it seems to map to our current needs to save the Orcas by giving them more food. And it’s been an idea that many old time fishermen I’ve personally talked to say is needed.

I say this as someone who has done salmon fishing in the Sound in the past, who ate salmon twice in the last three days (and likely will have leftovers of it tomorrow), and who’s son is an avid sports-fisherman with a small boat.

A moratorium is  the fastest way to give more fish to the whales. All other means, whether radical protection of the shorelines, tearing down dams or whatever, will take decades.   But it will take a lot willingness by various groups to put the long range health of salmon ahead of their own short term financial gain and personal pleasure fishing.  Anyone willing to give it a try? If not, why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Chinook return to the Skokomish River to start a new salmon run – Watching our Waterways

Good early results from a new hatchery on the Skokomish river. The survival rates of hatchery raised fish have been questioned by groups like Long Live the Kings, in long running surveys comparing the success of wild fish in the Rogue River in Oregon vs. the Skagit River hatchery raised fish. But it’s still one of the only options left as we destroy our climate with fossil fuel use and the long term effects of a variety of human caused problems. We certainly wish them luck!

For the first time in decades, an early run of Chinook salmon has returned to the Skokomish River in southern Hood Canal.

Read the whole story here;

https://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2018/07/27/spring-chinook-return-to-the-skokomish-river-to-start-a-new-salmon-run/

 

Dismal Copper River salmon run prompts ‘unprecedented’ shutdown of dip-netting at Chitina – Anchorage Daily News

Not good news coming in from the Copper River. Salmon numbers are so bad they’ve close the fishery.

The state is taking the historic action of shutting down Copper River dipnetting at the popular, physically demanding sites around Chitina.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order Wednesday closing the personal-use fishery until further notice as of Monday.

 

https://www.adn.com/outdoors-adventure/fishing/2018/06/13/dismal-copper-river-salmon-run-prompts-unprecedented-shutdown-of-dipnetting-at-chitina/

 

New ways of fishing could better protect endangered salmon – Watching Our Waterways

Another good idea to explore for saving salmon.  Could be used in some trial scenarios. From many non-native fishermen I’ve talked to, the issue for them will likely be management of the native part of the take. There is a wide spread perception that the tribal take is not well managed and that they get to take more with less oversight, while the non-native fisherman is overburdened with regulations and enforcement. It’s been expressed to me that all many fishermen want is equal balance to the catch. While I’ve done a lot of looking into this issue and do not feel that the non-native perspective is accurate, the state and tribes might want to do a better job of PR to the non native community to help explain how it’s done.

Higher standards of “sustainability” for salmon — recently developed by the Wild Fish Conservancy — are designed to put salmon on people’s tables with virtually no impact on depleted salmon runs. The new standards, which could become part of a certification program, are built upon the concept that fishing should take place closer to streams with abundant runs of salmon. The standards call for fishing methods that can take a portion of the fish from the abundant runs while allowing fish from depleted runs to pass on by and spawn naturally. Chris Dunagan reports. (Watching Our Water Ways

 https://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2018/03/22/new-ways-of-fishing-could-better-protect-endangered-salmon/

Sea lions feast on fragile fish in US Northwest survival war – AP

This is a major problem, and one that pits one creature against the other as we watch the stocks of salmon continue to decline. Sea lions aren’t the *only* issue facing salmon, (which include habitat destruction, over fishing and more) but given the low numbers of fish, they have become a major problem for their survival. The question it raises is do we kill off sea lions to save the salmon? If so, how many?

It’s a frustrating dance between California sea lions and wildlife managers that’s become all too familiar in recent months. The bizarre survival war has intensified recently as the sea lion population rebounds and fish populations decline in the Pacific Northwest Gillian Flaccus reports.(Associated Press)

 https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/sea-lions-gobbling-fragile-fish-in-us-northwest-survival-war/

What’s killing the salmon? Long Live the Kings investigates decline in iconic fish – KCPQ

Good overview of what Long Live The Kings and Microsoft are doing to help us understand root causes of the decline of the salmon.

Salmon are a big part of life in the Pacific Northwest. But over the past couple of decades, they’ve declined to critical levels and researchers don’t know why. Solving the mystery is what nonprofit Long Live the Kings is working on, and thanks to a grant from Microsoft, technology is helping the nonprofit develop a comprehensive model to find clues to solve it. Long Live the Kings is looking into Puget Sound and the waterways the flow into it, more broadly known as the Salish Sea. This Salish Sea Marine Survival Project is tracking migration of fish through our marine environment to understand what’s affecting salmons’ mortality.  Simply, why do salmon keep dying? Tatevik Aprikyan reports. (KCPQ)

http://q13fox.com/2018/01/30/whats-killing-the-salmon-long-live-the-kings-investigates-decline-in-iconic-fish/

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