New Puget Sound herring research – Puget Sound Institute

A good article to help you with understanding the role of forage fish in our Puget Sound environment. While I have your interest in this, as the Board President of Sound Action, I would be remiss in not mentioning that our little non-profit exists to monitor the granting of Hydraulic permits (HPA) by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. (WDFW). We challenge them if necessary. Each year we review more than 500 permits and file dozens of appeals, with most having a positive resolution. You can find more on our work at http://www.soundaction.org. But now for the rest of the story.

Herring may not be the most charismatic species in Puget Sound. They don’t breach dramatically out of the water. Fish mongers don’t throw them through the air at Pike Place Market. They find their strength in numbers, schooling around by the thousands and serving as food for other creatures like seabirds, salmon and seals. But if it weren’t for these small, unsung fish, the Salish Sea might be a very different place. Herring and other so-called forage fish — named for their role as important food (forage) for other species — are foundational to the Salish Sea food web. They are so critical that the Puget Sound Partnership has identified them as a ‘Vital Sign’ for the health of the ecosystem. And that is why many scientists are worried. Some populations of Puget Sound herring are in dangerous decline. There are also major gaps in our knowledge of their ecology and life history. (Puget Sound Institute)

https://www.pugetsoundinstitute.org/2018/02/new-puget-sound-herring-research/

Populated Puget Sound sees stark shifts in marine fish species – Phys. Org

Those of us who have been working on protecting and restoring Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea, have known for years that human population growth is the biggest root cause of the decline in the waters. More science now arrives to point to that as well. It’s the underlying concern that we are not going to rehabilitate our waters to the levels we expect, without some pretty profound changes in land use, and our incessant demand to pour all our waste waters into the Sound as our toilet. And don’t get me started on Canadian lack of interest in protecting their waters. They are going backwards far faster than we are going forward on this issue.

The most populated areas of Puget Sound have experienced striking shifts in marine species, with declines in herring and smelt that have long provided food for other marine life and big increases in the catch of jellyfish, which contribute far less to the food chain, according to new research that tracks species over the last 40 years. The parallel trends of rising human population and declining forage fish such as herring and smelt indicate that human influences such as pollution and development may be eroding species that long dominated Puget Sound. In particular, the rise of jellyfish blooms may divert energy away from highly-productive forage species that provide food for larger fish and predators such as salmon, seabirds and marine mammals. The research by scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the University of Washington and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was published in April in Marine Ecology Progress Series. (Phys.Org)

http://phys.org/news/2015-05-populated-puget-stark-shifts-marine.html

Once-common marine birds disappearing from our coast – Seattle Times

For many years I’ve been commenting to friends that I felt I’ve seen a substantial drop in shorebirds around Port Townsend, and on the coast in general. It appears I unfortunately may be correct.

“Scoters down 75% from the 1970’s. Murres have dropped even more. Western Grebes have mostly vanished…”

Craig Welch reports for the Seattle Times.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024155783_birddeclinesxml.html

Report from the Front: Herring Country Safari – UW Blogs

Herring Country Safari

Puget Sound Institute lead ecosystem ecologist Tessa Francis writes: “Hood Canal never disappoints me. We’re in year 2 of our herring habitat study, asking whether Puget Sound herring populations are limited by the availability of spawning habitat…. Substrate type doesn’t matter. What does matter, we found, is where that substrate occurs. We found greater differences in egg mortality among spawning sites — Elliott Bay versus, say, Hood Canal — than among spawning habitat within sites. This year, we’re looking closely at why herring egg survival varies among spawning sites….”

It all goes to show that more research into the Salish Sea is needed to better understand the processes and root causes of their success or failures.

http://blogs.uw.edu/tessa/2014/03/15/herring-country-safari/

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

Disease killing Pacific herring threatens salmon, scientist warns – Globe and Mail

Independent fisheries scientist Alexandra Morton is raising concerns about a disease she says is spreading through Pacific herring causing fish to hemorrhage. Ms. Morton has called on the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to investigate, saying it could cause large-scale herring kills and infect wild salmon, which feed heavily on herring…. Ms. Morton, a researcher and environmental advocate who campaigns against fish farms, said she caught some herring with similar symptoms in beach seine nets in 2011, but was unable to get DFO to investigate.
Mark Hume reports.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/disease-killing-pacific-herring-threatens-salmon-scientist-warns/article13722113/

A New Phenomenon: Diving for Spawning Herring in Elliot Bay – Greenacre Radio

Once one of the most abundant fishes in coastal waters, many populations of Pacific herring, a cornerstone of the marine food web, have been on a downward spiral. A new population spawning in Elliot Bay may show the tide is turning. Marine ecologists are diving into near shore waters to determine their genetic identity. It’s not yet clear if the population will take up permanent residence. Martha Baskin reports.

http://greenacreradio.blogspot.com/2013/05/may-24-2013-new-phenomenon-diving-for.html

Cavier day on Hood Canal

Apparently Researcher Tessa Francis got to witness a herring spawn, a good reminder why this basic food of much of our larger predators like salmon, is critical to protection efforts.

A caviar day on Hood Canal
Submitted by jeffrice on Mon, 2013-03-18 17:16
Puget Sound Institute research scientist Tessa Francis reports a “lion country safari” on Hood Canal today. Thousands of spawning herring churned the otherwise calm waters of the canal, and brought the wildlife out in force.

http://www.eopugetsound.org/blogs/caviar-day-hood-canal

Canadian fisheries continue to decimate herring fisheries

The Canadian government retreat on all things environmental continues. While the quotas continue to get higher, the amount of fish in the water shrinks. Outcome is likely a total collapse of the herring fishery, sooner than later. They allowed it in Newfoundland, and now here.

Judith Lavoie reports. Quota rises as herring count falls http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/quota-rises-as-herring-count-falls-1.88502

Nice short video showing forage fish in action in the Strait

When you see the fish diving at the herring balls, this is likely what’s happening under the water.
http://www.coastalwatershedinstitute.org/video.htm

Field report on Japanese Eelgrass being used by herring

The backstory here is that the shellfish industry is pushing for the ability to spray herbicides on Z. Japonica. I felt it would be worth having you read direct reports on what scientists on the ground are finding, rather than take the words of what could be viewed as biased industry spokesmen, or perhaps you don’t trust environmentalists. I think that a moratorium on this issue until serious research can be done, or reviewed in depth, is worth a consideration.
_____________________________________________________

Kathy Hamel, WDOE:

SUBJECT: Zostera japonica as documented herring spawning habitat in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay

I wish to comment from my personal observations of the usage of “japanese eelgrass” as herring spawning substrate in Washington’s coastal estuaries. I am a recently retired WDFW forage fish biologist, having spent 39 years involved in investigations of herring, surf smelt, and Pacific sand lance biology, spawning ecology and critical spawning habitat mapping throughout the state of Washington. By way of record of my professional knowledge and experience, see: Penttila, D.E., 2007. The marine forage fishes of Puget Sound. PSNERP Tech Report 2007-03, at http://www.pugetsoundnearshore.org .

I have personally observed the usage of middle intertidal beds of Zostera japonica as egg-deposition substrate by Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay stocks of Pacific herring during their February-March spawning seasons. These records of my observations would be housed within the files and photo notebooks of the WDFW Marine Resources Division at their LaConner, WA office, if more specific details were needed. These records are considered public information, and I presume I would still have personal access to them, if requested. The degee to which extensive beds of Zostera japonica also serve as herring spawning habitat in the Salish Sea region, where herring spawning on adjacent beds of Z. marina overlaps with extensive aquaculture operations, such as Drayton Harbor (Whatcom Co.) and Samish Bay (Skagit Co.), should also be investigated before any industrial-scale applications of herbicides are allowed.

In southern Grays Harbor, I photographed as well as sampled herring eggs on Zostera japonica beds in the vicinity of the Bay City bridge over the Elk River estuary. In Willapa Bay, I recall herring eggs being found on Zostera japonica beds just inshore of the native Z. marina beds in the area north of Oysterville. In both areas, the herring spawning sites in question were within short distances of active shellfish aquaculture plots, and thus would be damaged or destroyed by the application of pest-control herbicides.

In my opinion, the herring spawning habitats of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay already suffer enough damage from uncontrolled (ie. “voluntary codes of practice”) aquaculture activities annually, through the dredging of ground-cultured oysters during the spawning season, stomping and shading. They should not be further impacted by yet another ill-considered act for the benefit of the commercial aquaculture industry’s bottom line.

In these coastal estuaries, any attempted chemical control of Z. japonica beds immediately inshore and possibly intermingled with the inshore portions of Z.. marina beds would cause damage to the native Z. marina beds and their herring spawning habitat function. It is a poorly kept secret that the aquaculture industry has for generations considered eelgrass to be a “pest” and has routinely pursued measures to eradicate the species from their culture plots, despite the species’ clear ecological value.* Such damage to herring spawning habitats should be considered a violation of the WA State GMA, WA State SMA, the WAC Hydraulic Code Rules and federal Essential Fish Habitat rules for the conservation of ESA-listed salmonids in this region, all of which advocate no-net-loss protections for documented herring spawning grounds.

* Simenstad, C.A., and K.I. Fresh, 1995. Influence of intertidal aquaculture on benthic communities in Pacific Northwest estuaries: scales of disturbance. Estuaries, Vol 18, No. 1A, p. 43-70.

Thank you for this opportunity for input.

Dan Penttila
Salish Sea Biological (consulting on forage fish matters)
5108 Kingsway
Anacortes, WA 98221
tel: (360) 293-8110
e-mail: depenttila@fidalgo.net

Winter Herring Quota in Canada could be ‘catastrophic’

Winter herring quota could be ‘catastrophic’

This year’s Strait of Georgia herring fishery opened on November 7 with a quota of 6,000 tons, a massive increase on last year’s 283 tons. Raincoast Conservation Foundation is asking for a moratorium on the herring fishery until stocks have recovered, especially in light of the recent announcement of the proposed National Marine Conservation Area.

http://islandtides.com/

Read Island Tides online | Page 1, also single article ‘Reprint’ in Fisheries archive (Back Issues & Reprints)

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