Lawsuit Adds New Protections and Increased Foraging Opportunity for Starving Southern Resident Killer Whales – Wild Fish Conservancy

Wild Fish Conservancy put out this update on their work last week. It is interesting to note the details of what we are told about the government desire to protect and restore wild salmon versus the actual regulations that they are creating. I’ll reproduce the whole email here. But first, why is this information important to us here? 

Our Governor and fisheries management people publicly state that they are fighting to protect wild salmon stocks. Wild Fish Conservancy spends the time to be in the meetings and review the actual laws that are being passed, both state and federal to bring these goals to a reality. 

It appears that even with the best of intentions, the goals are washed out in the process, eventually continuing the practices that have led us here, with what seems like ‘greenwashing’ the work. Why? 

That a 10 year agreement between the U.S. and Canada of over 100 pages of work governing our joint salmon stocks would not include any reference to Southern Resident killer whales or their forage needs seems more than an oversight. 

We cannot rely on government to take a strong stance in their efforts to save the wild stocks. The pressures (in terms of real dollars) on them are too great to expect them to have the backbone to accomplish them. While so many organizations talk about actually taking the steps to restore salmon Wild Fish Conservancy is willing to sue to make sure the science is implemented in law. I dislike lawsuits, but at times, they are the only tool left, before all the salmon are gone forever.

As Kurt says at the end of this email: Despite NOAA’s acknowledgement that the current harvest rates are harming both ESA-listed Chinook and orcas, they continue to authorize the fishery to operate business as usual, citing speculative and unproven plans to mitigate this harm. To date, this hypothetical mitigation has yet to be implemented, yet the fishery continues to harvest at the expense of both protected species.

I applaud their efforts in an era when too little is being done to stand up to industry and government inaction and hope you will support their work as you can.

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NEW PROTECTIONS
This week, as the result of a lawsuit by Wild Fish Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity, federal fisheries managers announced a proposal to increase protections and foraging opportunity for the starving Southern Resident killer whale population.

The action comes in the form of a newly proposed amendment to the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan, which guides the management of all salmon fisheries in Federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Once adopted, the newly proposed ‘Amendment 21’ will finally acknowledge and address the complex prey needs of the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whale population by limiting non-tribal commercial Chinook salmon fishing in years of low Chinook salmon abundance to protect foraging opportunities for the orcas. Killer whale scientists have identified lack of available prey as the primary cause of the Southern Resident’s decline.

These new protections are the result of a 2019 lawsuit challenging NOAA Fisheries for failing to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that the current management plan governing these West Coast fisheries is harvesting prey critical to the survival of the Southern Residents, especially in years of low Chinook abundance.

The fisheries’ impacts on the protected orca population had not been formally analyzed since 2009. Our lawsuit called for the agency to conduct a new analysis, as required by the Endangered Species Act, that considered over a decade of new scientific information about the reason for the population’s decline, their relationship to salmon, and the impacts of prey depletion on their survival and recovery. NOAA Fisheries finally agreed to conduct a new analysis which confirmed current management was not sufficient to meet the needs of the endangered Southern Residents and that actions would need to be taken to improve foraging opportunities for the starving whales, leading to the proposed new amendment.

SETTING A NEW PRECEDENT
As an action alone, the new amendment is a small step forward when considering the scope of the crisis facing the Southern Resident killer whales. At the same time, this action represents the beginning of a fundamental shift in how federal agencies should be managing commercial salmon fisheries. 

Amendment 21 sets a new precedent that says it is no longer acceptable to fundamentally ignore the prey needs of federally-protected killer whales when managing commercial salmon fisheries.

 

Below we’ve shared information about another lawsuit filed by Wild Fish Conservancy in 2020 over harvest practices in Southeast Alaska that are contributing to the decline of both Southern Resident killer whales and Puget Sound Chinook. Amendment 21, and the underlying litigation, have set in motion important momentum critical to the outcome of this second ongoing lawsuit.

A COASTWIDE THREAT
The Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan is not unique. For decades, commercial salmon harvest plans authorized by federal and state officials throughout the coast have ignored or failed to adequately address the prey needs of the Southern Residents. When fishery managers come to the table to make critical salmon harvest and allocation decisions, the whales are often not considered as a “stakeholder”, despite the population’s continued decline toward extinction and federal protected status.

A primary example is the Pacific Salmon Treaty, an international agreement between the United States and Canada that governs the management of all Pacific salmon stocks of mutual concern and is the most consequential and far-reaching management plan governing commercial salmon fisheries in Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. In 2018, the public had the opportunity to review the Pacific Salmon Treaty’s new 10-year agreement, which will be in affect through the year 2028. In the over 100 page document, there is not a single mention of the Southern Resident killer whales, let alone their foraging needs.

Last month, Wild Fish Conservancy submitted our summary judgement motion in another lawsuit against NOAA Fisheries launched in 2020 over the authorization of harvest in the Southeast Alaska Chinook troll fishery that is pushing both Southern Residents and wild Chinook populations in the northwest closer to extinction, a conclusion NOAA acknowledges in their own 2019 analysis of the fishery.

The Chinook troll fishery operates 10-months of the year outside of Southeast Alaska and is considered a mixed-stock fishery, meaning a fishery where Chinook are indiscriminately harvested regardless of their protected status, age, hatchery or wild origin, and what river they originated from.

Nearly all of the fish harvested in this fishery will go on to be marketed as sustainably-certified, wild-caught Alaskan Chinook. However, data confirms 97% of the Chinook harvested in the fishery originate from rivers in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. If given the opportunity, these Chinook would migrate back down the coast serving as the primary prey for the Southern Resident killer whales as the Chinook pass through the whale’s key forage areas. Instead, these fish are being harvested outside of the range of the whales and at levels that federal fishery managers acknowledge are unsustainable for the long-term survival and reproductive success of the Southern Resident population.

At the same time, wild Chinook are being harvested regardless of their origin and status under the Endangered Species Act, which further impedes the recovery of critical Chinook populations throughout the Pacific Northwest the whale’s depend on. 

Despite NOAA’s acknowledgement that the current harvest rates are harming both ESA-listed Chinook and orcas, they continue to authorize the fishery to operate business as usual, citing speculative and unproven plans to mitigate this harm. To date, this hypothetical mitigation has yet to be implemented, yet the fishery continues to harvest at the expense of both protected species. The insufficiency and hypothetical nature of the mitigation is at the heart of Wild Fish Conservancy’s arguments in this case. We will be sure to continue to update you as this extremely consequential lawsuit moves forward over the coming months.

Less overfishing, more overfished: NOAA report reveals environmental impacts to stocks

The toll to the fisheries of the Northwest is included in this report. While fisheries in general seem to be harvested at “sustainable” levels, a number are not, and some it is, as usual, the result of international fleets not adhering to sustainable harvests. A caveat to all this is that given the current administration and it’s habit of misrepresenting facts to fit their goals, suspicion of these findings might be normal. Research shows that the an in charge of this report has been a long time NOAA sustainable fisheries expert, and was originally put in a leadership role after a scandal of his managers from the Bush Administration. It appears he and his data are trustworthy. If you have any issue with this data, please let me know and some facts to support your position.

The 2018 NOAA report on the status of U.S. fisheries has been released, and reveals that environmental factors are having the most impact on stocks that are overfished.

The report, which NOAA puts together every year, indicates that less species were subject to overfishing in 2018 than in 2017 – 28 versus 30 – a year that saw all-time low numbers of overfishing and overfished stocks. That means more than 90 percent of stocks are being fished at a sustainable level.

 

https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/environment-sustainability/less-overfishing-more-overfished-noaa-report-reveals-environmental-impacts-to-stocks?utm_source=marketo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=newsletter&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTkdWbVpERXdOakprTVdGaSIsInQiOiJXZ1dvRHJrZUI3MXNnNnhJXC9ET2VXS2did3dZeDZhbTQ0M2pyZ241RVhtcGtcLytGcllidlArYUNncTNXM0NINFo0cGNQdkJDZExmQ1VsbnJTT1ZxeFJQd0JhV2x1Q3VMUVlTS0xXUk1XMjBtbE1DU0RKQXROQ2J1MDVtVVQzUmtpIn0%3D

 

Norwegian company to build large, land-based salmon farm in Belfast Maine – Republican Journal

News from Maine, shows that fish farming corporations have finally come to grips with the fact that it’s net pen aquaculture doesn’t work, and are moving to build upland facilities that are financially viable. We hope that the Tribes here in Puget Sound, who are holding off support for banning net pens, can use this information to press State Senators Ranker and Van de Wege to add funding for a couple of experimental sites to prove the viability here in Puget Sound. The use of our waters for ‘feed lot’ kind of fish farming, pouring vast arrays of chemicals and fish food must end. We know that the Tribes ‘do the right thing’ as it comes to aquaculture and we hope that they can exert pressure to help them get from this dying technology of net pens, to a new way forward with upland containment.

A Norwegian company plans to build one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms in Belfast, a project that would create 60 jobs within two years and up to 140 once it is completed, according to the company’s chief executive officer.

https://www.pressherald.com/2018/01/30/norwegian-company-to-build-large-land-based-salmon-farm-in-belfast/

Sport fishing ban in place over parts of South Coast due to drought – CBC

Bringing global warming home to B.C…

The province is suspending sport fishing in streams and rivers throughout most of the South Coast of B.C. due to warming water temperatures and low river and stream levels. The move follows a similar ban on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands where recreational angling was suspended earlier this month. The ban on South Coast fishing takes effect July 22 to September 30. Fishing is banned in most rivers and streams in regions south of Toba Inlet in the north to the U.S. border in the south. (CBC)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/sport-fishing-ban-in-place-over-parts-of-south-coast-due-to-drought-1.3160846

New study highlights the value of local knowledge in recovering endangered species – Pyys.org

As we move into the era of “Big Data”, one of the positive aspects to it is that we can start seriously incorporating a lot more of local up-to-date  knowledge into planning, and better understand trends and issues based on large data sets collected by the people on the ground themselves. This is good news folks. Here’s a concrete example of how it can work.

A new study (http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/publications/home_page_story_publications/marine_policy_article.pdf) highlights the value of local knowledge in recovering endangered species. The collaborative research, co-authored by NOAA Fisheries, the University of Washington, and researchers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, is specifically designed to incorporate the knowledge of recreational anglers into recovery planning for three rockfish species in Puget Sound—bocaccio, canary rockfish, and yelloweye rockfish, each of which was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2010. The study explores how recreational anglers’ understanding of the ecosystem and fishing practices influence their views of conserving Puget Sound rockfish. Through surveys of 443 recreational boat-based anglers, which included scoping questions related to their knowledge of rockfish biology, fishing practices, perceptions of threats to rockfish, and preferences for rockfish recovery measures, several key findings arose. (Pyys.org)

http://phys.org/news/2015-04-highlights-local-knowledge-recovering-endangered.html

Higher catch limits for halibut recommended – Seattle Times

Well, it seems good news that the numbers of halibut are healthy enough to increase catch limits. But the more interesting backstory is covered in the comments on this story. If you are into fishing, commercial or sport, you might want to read up on the math discussion and who is stonewalling the change to the by-catch.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has recommended 2015 catch limits of 29.2 million pounds for the prized flat fish in U.S. and Canadian waters, a 6 percent increase from last year’s limits. Hal Bernton reports. (Seattle Times)

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025593811_halibutquotasxml.html

Canada- DFO ‘fudging the numbers,’ court finds; bars commercial fishery off Vancouver Island – Globe & Mail

If you were thinking of getting your fishing boat together to get up and take part in the herring fisheries off Vancouver Island, think again. The Canadian Federal Government continues it’s amazing lack of even rudimentary fact finding on whether to allow commercial fishing. It looks like the First Nations and the courts are standing up to these people. None too soon. Is the tide finally starting to turn?  Allowing Canada to wipe out their herring stocks does not help our fishing fleets either. As we all know, salmon live on the herring and we catch their fish, just like they catch ours.

An unprecedented court injunction has barred the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from opening a commercial fishery off Vancouver Island after a judge concluded DFO was “fudging the numbers” and that the federal minister declared it open against her own bureaucrats’ advice. The Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, whose herring-roe fishery has been closed since 2006, went to court last month seeking the injunction. The ruling has prompted the Haida First Nation to threaten similar court action. And the central coast First Nations say they’ll do whatever it takes to protect their fisheries. The First Nations say the fisheries should not be opened because they have not recovered enough to allow harvesting safely. In the Nuu-chah-nulth case, court documents showed that DFO experts agreed that all three areas should remain closed, but federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea chose to open the fisheries anyway. Zoe Tennant reports. (Globe and Mail)

 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/dfo-fudging-the-numbers-court-finds-bars-commercial-fishery-off-vancouver-island/article17391117/

Judge overrules minister’s decision to open herring fishery – Vancouver Sun

B.C.’s First Nations declare victory over Department of Fisheries in fight to conserve fish.

B.C. First Nations won a major victory Friday when a Federal Court judge granted an injunction blocking the opening this year of a herring fishery on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The decision came after an internal memo revealed Fisheries Minister Gail Shea overruled recommendations of scientists in her own department.

Read the whole story at the Vancouver Sun

http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Judge+overrules+minister+decision+open+herring+fishery/9541803/story.html

Report from the Climate Change Front – Will Stelle’s (NOAA) talk at the NW Straits Conference

Continuing our coverage of the NW Straits Annual Conference: For the “Big Picture” of what is happening on the West Coast, Will Stelle was asked to share his thoughts. Will is the Western Regional Administrator for NOAA fisheries. He handles fisheries management and is also involved in land management issues surrounding the Endangered Species Act. This is really critical listening for anyone wanting to better understand how the Federal Government interacts with the State and local jurisdictions. Will discusses the latest issues with flood insurance, FEMA, habitat loss, flood plain functions, herbicides in the environment and their impact on salmonids, water quality standards, road culverts, watershed management, along with climate change and it’s effects on electricity generation.

Will brought humor and deep understanding of the issues that the West Coast is facing. He takes us from California to our local Washington issues. Sometimes NOAA seems like a friend of the environment, and sometimes it’s a big bureaucracy that that appears to be manipulated by political and business forces. After hearing Will, I think you will agree it’s a bit of both. At least he was funny and left us in an upbeat mood. Very unusual and refreshing in a bureaucratic administrator!

You can either listen to this from this web page or download the file and play it locally. It’s about 45 minutes long. A good idea if you want to take this along for a walk or exercise routine.

If you wish to attend any of the monthly MRC meetings in your area, check their local web sites. All meetings are open to the public and are advertised in advance. You can also support the work of the NW Straits Initiative, by donating to the NW Straits Foundation. Their web site is http://www.nwstraits.org and http://www.nwstraits.org/Foundation/About.aspx.

2013 NW Straits Conference Overview

Just got back from a great two days at the NW Straits conference, held in Bellingham. The good folks that steer our Marine Resource Committees always put together a  conference worth attending, and the only unfortunate thing is that they can’t invite the world at large.

Pictured below, Caroline Gibson and Sasha Horst from the NW Straits Commission greet attendees, while Jefferson County Commissioner and ex-fisherman, Phil Johnson discusses net pens.

2013 NW Straits Collage

This year, Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker and Dr. Terrie Klinger started off by giving an update to the state of the science and legislative activity around  Ocean Acidification.  Washington State is at the forefront of global science on this emerging issue, and the Governor has taken the step to create a commission to look into it and get some actions going on this.

Funding for research and data collection is underway, and we were told that funding for educational activities is not,and pressure needs to be exerted to get this to the schools as new curriculum.

Hugh Shipman of the Washington State Department of Ecology spoke on Sea Level Rise in the Puget Sound basin, and Tina Whitman of Friends of the San Juans along with Andrea MacLennon of the Coastal Geographic Services brought people up to speed on how the scientists and policy makers are measuring and planning for sea level rise in San Juan County.

Kathleen Herrmann of the Snohomish County MRC gave a very interesting talk on a new method for gaining public acceptance of MRC goals, using Collective Impact, which is a model framework applied here for marine conservation. Kathleen has done a great job of researching this and applying it to their issues.

Will Stelle, who is the west coast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, closed out day one, with a really entertaining overview of the issues facing the west coast. I would have to say that this overview should be mandatory for all of us trying to get a good overview of the state of affairs right now. It’s a huge span of work. Will presents it with humor and passion.

Conservation biologist Thor Hanson was the after dinner speaker, giving an overview on his new book, Feathers. Thor’s enthusiasm for his work is quite funny and, yes, I bought the book.

On day two: there was tracks on Tools for Promoting Ocean Acidification (O.A.) Literacy, and in another room, an overview of Nearshore Habitat Restoration: From Idea to Reality, Advice from Local Experts. In the O.A.literacy program, Alexis Valauri-Orton, the Thomas J. Watson Fellow presented a really interesting look at her recent research work in talking to various cultures around the world being affected by O.A. Paul Williams of the Suquamish Tribe updated us on their efforts to teach the issue, and Meg Chadsey of Washington Sea Grant also presented.

After lunch, in addition to an overview of evaluating metrics and outreach projects, Dan Tonnes and Helen Berry gave great insight into Rockfish recovery efforts and Kelp monitoring and management in Puget Sound.

Will Stelle – NOAA West Coast Fisheries Administrator on Fisheries and Furloughs – 45 minutes long. Download the audio file and listen.  http://sdrv.ms/17Z2Kzi

All these presentations will be put up in both audio and video formats for download within the next week.  Check back for the links to them. 

DNA Evidence Shows That Marine Reserves Help to Sustain Fisheries – Science Daily

This has ramifications for the debate locally over creating Marine Protected Areas. Supporters of MPAs, including the NW Straits Foundation (whom support the work of local Marine Resource Committees (MRCs) in counties on the north Sound and Coast, which have, over a fifteen year period, been unable to get such areas created to protect Rock Fish populations.

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Researchers reporting online on May 24 in the Cell Press journal Current Biology present the first evidence that areas closed to all fishing are helping to sustain valuable Australian fisheries. The international team of scientists applied a forensic DNA profiling approach to track the dispersal pathways of fish larvae throughout a network of marine reserves on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Read the whole story at:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524123019.htm

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