After a decade of litigation, NOAA Fisheries and EPA will prepare a biological opinion on harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens

From the Wild Fish Conservancy Press Release this morning. It’s unfortunate that those of us concerned about this issue needed to spend 10 years trying to force them to get to this simple issue. NOAA Fisheries have been one of the biggest boosters of net pen Atlantic salmon, never studying the wider effects of pens beyond a few hundred yards away from them. There has never been a wholistic approach to studying the effects of fish waste, food waste, chemicals added to the water, fish escapement, nor the issue that wild fish are attracted to the pens by food. What we learned from the net pen collapse last fall, was that the claims of the industry, repeated by spokesmen for Taylor Shellfish (who support net pens), that there was no way that Atlantic salmon would survive after escapement, were nothing but wishful thinking. Atlantic salmon from the pens were found far up the Skagit River basin and along the north outer shore of Vancouver Island. The misinformation campaigns of these industries that put profit ahead of environment are stunning in their audacity.


After a decade of litigation, NOAA Fisheries and EPA make the 11th hour decision to prepare a biological opinion on harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens to ESA- listed salmon and steelhead.

The agencies have finally begun formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to evaluate the potential harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound October 11th, 2018

Duvall, WA – On the eve of court proceedings over a legal battle Wild Fish Conservancy initiated in 2015, NOAA Fisheries and EPA have entered into formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act, consultation that will lead to the issuance of a biological opinion.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a biological opinion evaluates the extent of harm a proposed action will have on threatened or endangered species and whether such harm could jeopardize the continued existence of the species. Biological opinions also include conditions for monitoring and reducing harmful impacts to protected species.

Considering the abundant scientific evidence that open-water Atlantic salmon aquaculture may harm threatened and endangered salmonid species, Wild Fish Conservancy first argued that formal consultation and a biological opinion was necessary back in 2008, when we argued against the agencies’ decision that Atlantic salmon net pens were ‘not likely to adversely affect’ threatened and endangered species. We won that case in 2010, with the court ruling that NOAA and EPA had failed to use the best available science when making their decision and must reconsider whether a biological opinion is necessary.

Less than one year later, after a brief consultation, NOAA and EPA again decided that a biological opinion was unnecessary. This decision was shortly followed by a large-scale disease outbreak in Atlantic salmon net pens off the coast in Bainbridge Island in 2012, which killed over 1 million pounds of farmed Atlantic salmon during a time when juvenile wild salmon were out-migrating through Puget Sound.

Wild Fish Conservancy again challenged the agencies’ decision to avoid a biological opinion in 2015, a case that prompted NOAA and EPA last week to announce their intention to re-initiate consultation and finally prepare a biological opinion. That decision came only after the Court soundly rejected the agencies’ efforts to dismiss the case and ruled that the duty under the Endangered Species Act to re-initiate consultation does apply to EPA’s underlying action.

Since the case was filed in 2015, we have learned far more about the potential for harm the Atlantic salmon net pen industry presents to wild salmon and steelhead. In 2017, a collapsed net pen off the coast of Cypress Island released over 260,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, nearly all of which are estimated to have been infected with Piscine Reovorius, a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus that may infect wild salmon. A study in 2018

demonstrated that PRV leads to debilitating disease in Chinook salmon, the primary food source of endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

This case comes at a time when key provisions of the Endangered Species Act are under threat in the United States Congress and underscores the monumental importance of the ESA, an act that has been critical in providing key protections to over one thousand threatened and endangered species across the country.

“While it shouldn’t have taken ten years of litigation for our agencies to realize the necessity of a biological opinion,” said Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy’s Executive Director, “I am glad to hear they have decided to change course, and I am hopeful that a biological opinion will lead to conditions and terms that will limit and monitor the harm caused by net pens to ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.

“Taking the utmost precaution is necessary to avoid the extinction of imperiled Pacific salmon and steelhead species, especially when considering the dire plight of Chinook salmon and the Southern Resident killer whales that are starving due to their struggling population.”

Contact

Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, 425.788.1167/kurt@wildfishconservancy.org

About

Wild Fish Conservancy is a science & research conservation non-profit dedicated to the preservation, protection & restoration of wild fish ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. We are headquartered in Duvall, WA. Learn more at wildfishconservancy.org

Wild Fish Conservancy is represented in this matter by the law firm of Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC, with offices in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

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

 

 

Atlantic salmon, caught in Skagit 8 months after escape from pen, had eaten a fish – Seattle Times

For years, we’ve heard the assumptions from NOAA scientists and the supporters of the Net Pen industry, claiming there was no way an escaped Atlantic salmon could survive and posed “no threat” to native salmon. I have heard the representative from Taylor Shellfish berate me in front of the Marine Resources Committee as well as attack Kurt Bearsley for this just two months ago in front of a room full of people at the Jamestown S’Klallam Red Cedar House in Blyn at a gathering of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Strait LIO meeting, over the “fact” that these Atlantic salmon “couldn’t survive”. Well, once again, their made up stories to support their own industry turned out to be just so much B.S. I’d expect aquaculture P.R. people to make up anything to further their own industry. But shame to the NOAA scientists who seemed to have been bought by the industry over the last three decades. Your names are on the ‘studies’ you claimed were scientific.

Upper Skagit tribal fishermen caught a lively Atlantic salmon more than 40 miles up the Skagit River Tuesday, eight months after Cooke Aquaculture’s Atlantic salmon net pen collapsed at Cypress Island and sent more than 300,000 Atlantics into the home waters of Washington’s Pacific salmon. The Atlantic caught Tuesday had bones in its stomach, indicating it had eaten some kind of fish. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)
Atlantic salmon, caught in Skagit 8 months after escape from pen, had eaten a fish

UW gets NOAA grant to begin testing new forecast for toxic shellfish

Will be reporting on the waters off the Olympic Peninsula.

News and Information

A new NOAA-sponsored University of Washington project brings together academic, federal, state and tribal scientists to develop forecasts for toxic harmful algal blooms in the Pacific Northwest, like the massive bloom that closed Pacific Northwest beaches to shellfish harvesting in summer 2015.

ezgif-com-gif-maker2-149x300

S. Giddings UCSD

 

A UW-developed model simulates how toxic organisms at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (red dots) can travel toward the Washington coast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in August has awarded a five-year, $1.3 million grant to start working on the forecasts. The new early warning system will transition to operation starting in 2017.

Once up and running, the forecasts will help coastal communities from Neah Bay, Washington, to Newport, Oregon, target their shellfish monitoring and fine-tune decisions about closing beaches to shellfish harvesting to have more advance warning and potentially avoid some beach closures.

“This will be a sort of weather forecast for Pacific Northwest harmful algal blooms,” said Parker MacCready, a UW professor of oceanography and member of the UW Coastal Modeling Group.

Forecasts will be produced by the UW’s LiveOcean model, which creates three-day forecasts for Washington and Oregon coastal waters. The model provides results for open-ocean beaches as well as complex protected waterways — including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor — that are home to many of the region’s shellfish beds.

Up-to-date monitoring of offshore conditions will be provided by Vera Trainer, a biologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and members of the Makah Tribe. Starting this spring, they will collect samples by ship every two weeks in an eddy near the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which has been identified as a source of toxin-producing algae that can reach local beaches. The team will then analyze water samples within a day at the Makah Tribal lab in Neah Bay.

Read the rest of the story at:

http://www.washington.edu/news/2016/09/29/uw-gets-noaa-grant-to-begin-testing-new-forecast-for-toxic-shellfish/?menu2=http://www.washington.edu/news/category/science/

 

July 2015 was warmest month ever recorded for the globe – NOAA

The data is in from NOAA, and it’s not good.  In addition, January-July 2015 also had record warm temperatures and globally the oceans heated up. From South America, through Africa, the data points to the highest temperatures recorded since record keeping in 1880.

(graphic from NOAA)
These numbers simply belie the fact that moving to clean energy is crucial to having any success in reversing this trend, or mitigating it. The numbers however, don’t show the facts on the ground, where drought, massive and unprecedented wildfires, and ocean destruction are impacting us now, and into the future. There is no time left to push solutions into the future.

Here in Jefferson County, there appears to be no backup plan if we get another winter without snowpack. I have heard nothing from County or City leaders, on what will be done if the water from the rivers is not present. That situation is happening now, and will not likely break until midwinter. Lots of talk about September through November water rationing, but scientists are predicting a very dry winter.

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/summary-info/global/201507

Toxic algae flourishes in warm water from California to Alaska, closing valuable fisheries – AP

More reasons to demand international work cooperation on climate change. As our fishing and shellfish industry continues to get hammered by the effects of a heating planet, many political leaders continue to stick their heads in the sand and their hands in the pockets of individuals and businesses who are working to stop any progress on this.  While this particular ‘blob’ may eventually dissipate if and when the weather patterns change, the trend is definitively moving towards planetary conditions that could make this a new normal, not an aberration.

A vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago, according to surveyors aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel. This coastal ribbon of microscopic algae, up to 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep in places, is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. It now stretches from at least California to Alaska and has shut down lucrative fisheries. Shellfish managers on Tuesday doubled the area off Washington’s coast that is closed to Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat. Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)

http://registerguard.com/rg/news/33367837-76/toxic-algae-flourishes-in-warm-water-from-california-to-alaska-closing-valuable-fisheries.html.csp

More time to comment on feds’ plan for Puget Sound salmon hatcheries – Skagit Valley Herald

There has been some controversy in the last year over steelhead and the hatcheries. I’ve covered the issue here if you wish to search for background info.

The public will now have until 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, to comment on the draft environmental impact statement for Puget Sound hatcheries. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the public comment period extension Thursday. The agency decided to grant the extension in response to a formal request…. The draft report is available online at http://www.skagit.ws/NOAAsalmon. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

http://www.goskagit.com/all_access/more-time-to-comment-on-feds-plan-for-puget-sound/article_551deb80-70e8-11e4-b050-6737e129fea8.html

%d bloggers like this: