The “salmon cannon,” a pneumatic-tube device destined to replace
some fish ladders, got plenty of serious attention this fall from
various news organizations.
You may have seen demonstrations by the inventor, Whoosh Innovations of Bellevue, that
showed adult salmon shooting unharmed through flexible tubes. For
dramatic effect, some videos showed the salmon flying out the end
of the tube and splashing into water. Among those who found the
device amusing were commentators for
“CBS This Morning” and “Red Eye” on
For a laugh, comedian John Oliver recently took the idea in a
different direction, aiming his personal salmon cannon at
celebrities including Jon Stuart, Jimmy Fallon and… Well, if you
haven’t seen the video (above), I won’t spoil it for you.
All this attention has been a surprise for Vince Bryan, CEO for
Whooshh, who told Vancouver
Columbian reporter Eric Florip that he has spoken with hundreds
of news organizations and potential customers from throughout the
“It was a nice boost because it says one thing, that people care
a lot about the fish, and two, that there really is a need,” Bryan
was quoted as saying.
A good description of the potential applications for the “salmon
cannon” was written by reporter Laura Geggel of
Live Science. Meanwhile,
Reuters produced a nice animation showing how the tube works.
And a video on the Whooshh
Innovations YouTube channel, shown below, provides a clear
demonstration how the transport system can work for both humans and
National Marine Fisheries Service has designated more than 1,000
square miles of Puget Sound as “critical habitat” for rockfish — a
colorful, long-lived fish decimated by over-fishing and
In Hood Canal, we know that thousands of rockfish have been
killed by low-oxygen conditions, and their populations have been
slow to recover because of low reproductive rates. Elsewhere,
rockfish are coming back with mixed success, helped in some
locations by marine protected areas.
The final designation of critical habitat was announced today in
Federal Register for yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish,
both listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and
bocaccio, listed as “endangered.”
The critical habitat listing includes 590 square miles of
nearshore habitat for canary rockfish and bocaccio, and 414 square
miles of deepwater habitat for all three species. Nearshore areas
include kelp forests important for the growth and survival of
juvenile rockfish. Deeper waters are used for shelter, food and
reproduction by adults.
Potential critical habitat was reduced by 15 percent for canary
rockfish and bocaccio and by 28 percent for yelloweye rockfish.
Most of the excluded area was deemed already protected, either by
tribes near their reservations or by the military near Navy and
Army bases and their operational areas.
The designated habitat overlaps in large part with existing
critical habitat for salmon, killer whales and bull trout. The only
new areas added without overlap are some deep-water areas in Hood
Under the law, federal actions within designated habitat must
undergo consultations with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Such actions — which include funding or issuing permits for private
development — cannot be approved if they are found to be
detrimental to the continuing survival of the species.
“Saving rockfish from extinction requires protecting some of the
most important places they live, and that’s exactly what’s
happening now in the Puget Sound. These habitat protections will
not only give rockfish a fighting chance at survival but will help
all of the animals that live in these waters.”
The three species of rockfish were placed on the Endangered
Species List in 2010, following a series of petitions by biologist
Sam Wright. Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity notified
the National Marine Fisheries Service of its
intent to file a lawsuit over the agency’s delay in designating
Federal and state biologists are now working on a recovery plan.
I have not heard whether they still hope to get the plan completed
Rockfish are unusual among bony fishes in that fertilization and
embryo development are internal. Female rockfish give birth to live
young. After birth, the larval rockfish may drift in shallow waters
for several months, feeding on plankton. Among the listed
Canary rockfish can reach up to 2.5 feet in length. Adults have
bright yellow to orange mottling over gray, three orange stripes
across the head and orange fins. They can live to be 75 years
Bocaccio can reach up to 3 feet in length. They have a
distinctively long jaw extending to the eye socket. Adult colors
range from olive to burnt orange or brown. Their age is difficult
to determine, but they may live as long as 50 years.
Yelloweye rockfish can reach up to 3.5 feet in length and 39
pounds in weight. They are orange-red to orange-yellow in color and
may have black on their fin tips. Their eyes are bright yellow.
They are among the longest lived of rockfishes, living up to 118
“These declines have largely been caused by historical fishing
practices, although several other stress factors play a part in
their decline. Rockfish in urban areas are exposed to high levels
of chemical contamination, which may be affecting their
reproductive success. Poor water quality in Hood Canal has resulted
in massive periodic kills of rockfish as well as other species.
Lost or abandoned fishing nets trap and kill large numbers of
The plan identifies these objectives to restore the
Place the highest priority on protecting and restoring the
natural production of indicator rockfishes to healthy levels,
Promote natural production through the appropriate use of
hatcheries and artificial habitats,
Protect and restore all marine habitat types for all rockfish
Manage all Puget Sound fisheries to ensure the health and
productivity of all rockfish stocks,
Protect and restore existing functions of rockfish in the
complex ecosystem and food web in Puget Sound,
Conduct monitoring of indicator stocks to evaluate stock status
and management actions,
Implement new research to understand the diversity, biology and
productivity of indicator rockfish, and
Conduct a strategic outreach and education program to inform
Washington citizens of the value of rockfish stocks and to promote
The recent rains have done the job; the streams have risen; and
chum salmon are moving swiftly into Chico Creek — and probably
other streams on the Kitsap Peninsula.
I stopped by Chico Salmon Viewing Park today and observed chum
in all portions of the stream and moving upstream at the bridge on
Chico Way. The park, where volunteers have made significant
improvements, is adjacent to Kitsap Golf and Country Club. Park
officials say it is OK to walk around the chain-link fence and
enter the park, but please stay on the trails once you are
I also noticed a large number of salmon at the mouth of Chico
Creek, milling around the culvert under Highway 3. The old culvert
on Kittyhawk Drive has been torn out, so it is no longer an
obstacle. The stream channel has been reconfigured to look and
function like a natural stream. See
Kitsap Sun, Aug. 26.
At least a dozen anglers were fishing out beyond the mouth of
the stream, where they should be. Fishers and other observers are
asked to stay on the trail, be careful not to trample recent
plantings, and stay out of the stream channel. No fishing is
allowed upstream of the high-tide mark down on the beach.
I recently wrote about how killer whales of the Salish Sea have
begun to follow the chum salmon into Central and South Puget Sound.
Chum are a primary prey species for the orcas, after chinook runs
Kitsap Sun, Oct. 20.
I have to admit that I still get excited when I see energetic
salmon finding their way upstream, swimming around rocks and logs,
rushing through shallow riffles and hanging out in deep pools. If
you visit the major salmon streams, such as Chico Creek, over the
next week or two, you’ll avoid the smell of rotting salmon that
generally comes later. As for me, I like to watch the salmon during
all portions of the run.
For a map of accessible salmon-viewing locations with videos
that describe each spot, go to Kitsap
Peninsula Salmon Watching. While there, check out the tips for
If anyone gets a decent photo of salmon in the streams, please
send it to my email
address and I’ll post it on this blog. I tried to get photos
today, but I didn’t have enough light.
If you’d like to learn about salmon from fisheries biologists,
consider attending this year’s Kitsap Salmon Tours on Saturday,
Nov. 8, at four locations:
Cowling Creek Center, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 20345 Miller Bay
Poulsbo Fish Park, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Lindvig Way in Poulsbo,
www.city of poulsbo.com/parks/parks_events.htm.
Chico Salmon Viewing Park, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., adjacent to
Kitsap Golf and Country Club, www.ext100.wsu.edu/kitsap.
Mountaineers Rhododendron Preserve, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with
walking tours at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.,
A seven-week-old baby orca born to our Southern Resident pods
was reported missing and presumed dead today. This was the newborn
orca who brought so much hope and excitement to our area, being the
first reported birth in more than two years.
When I called Ken Balcomb this morning, he was in a “subjective”
state of mind, as he put it. Ken, of the Center for Whale Research,
has been keeping track of the three Southern Resident pods since
1976, and he’s clearly worried that these whales may be headed for
As we talked on the phone, Ken was peering through the large
windows of his home on San Juan Island and watching a large purse
seine vessel scooping up chum salmon and possibly other species as
“I look at this every day, and I’ve seen this for almost 40
years,” Ken said. “There is no letup on the human part. Virtually
no fish are getting past the outlet. We know the Fraser River runs
are in poor shape, and our management doesn’t seem to take any kind
of ecosystem approach.”
Salmon biologists set the sport and commercial fishing seasons
based on an estimate of the number of fish returning. They update
that estimate during the season based on harvest numbers caught in
“Whatever they are doing, it obviously has not worked, since
we’ve seen run after run not doing well,” Ken said. “I get
subjective about it and wonder when our society is going to do
something to get more prey (for the whales).”
Ken said there was much hope for the seven-week-old orca,
designated L-120, the third known offspring of the 23-year-old
mother designated L-86.
“I was optimistic,” he told me. “When we first saw the baby, it
had a squished-looking head, but even human babies can be born with
a flattened head.
“Within a week, it was filling out well and was energetic,” he
continued, and there was no reason to believe the calf would
The Southern Residents are known to bear a heavy burden of toxic
chemicals, but transient killer whales are even more contaminated.
The difference may be that transients, which eat marine mammals,
may be getting enough food. Was the orca mom unable to nurse her
baby? Did the toxic chemicals cause an immune deficiency? Or was
there another problem? We’ll probably never know.
All three orca pods were probably out in the ocean when the
youngster disappeared. The mom was seen with other whales on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday without the calf — something that would
not happen if the baby were alive.
L-120 was the third calf born to L-86. Her second calf, L-112,
washed up dead at Long Beach in February 2010. After much
investigation, researchers concluded that L-112 had died of blunt
force trauma, but what caused the injury was never determined. Ken
suspects some kind of explosive detonation, although that cause was
discounted by investigators.
Howard Garrett of Orca Network said the orcas have faced a
shortage of food, toxic chemicals, routine shooting with guns and a
series of captures that depleted the population.
“We haven’t treated these magnificent orcas well at all,” Howie
said in a news release. “As a society we are not successfully
restoring this orca community, despite the many warnings and legal
“Our challenge is clear: Bountiful salmon runs must be restored
and protected or we won’t see resident orcas in the Salish Sea in
coming years,” he added.
The latest population count places the total number at 78, the
lowest number since 1986, according to records by the Center of
Unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, are taking over the
world. At least it seems that way. If you don’t believe me, search
for “drone” on YouTube. You’ll find amateur aviation specialists —
and a variety of professionals — demonstrating what drones can do.
Some of the things are pretty amusing.
I’ll mention some water-related drone stories below, but the
first video on this page shows a hawk attacking a drone owned and
operated by Christopher Schmidt, a 30-year-old software developer.
I think Chris did a nice job of protecting the bird by throttling
down the props on his Phantom FC40 quadcopter. The final result is
a great up-close view of an angry bird, well deserving of a place
in “Amusing Monday.”
Chris was using the drone to get images of changing leaves in
Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, Mass., last Wednesday, when he
saw a bird circling a good distance away. The circling continued as
the bird moved closer to the drone.
“Overall,” he told me in an email, “I was surprised by how
quickly he moved from 400 feet away to on top of the quad. When he
was very nearby, my initial thought was, ‘Okay, stay still, so he
can avoid it’ — which obviously didn’t work out for me.”
He said he saw no evidence beforehand that the bird was upset or
likely to attack. Over the six months he owned the drone, nothing
like that had happened, except for a few crows squawking at the
aircraft. After he posted the video, he learned from bird experts
that immature red tail hawks have not yet learned to hunt
efficiently, so they may attack anything that moves.
As the hawk attacked, Chris cut power to the props, which caused
the quad to drop. The bird hit the chopper and it flipped. Chris
was unable to recover the flight, still worried about the bird,
though he powered back up at the end.
“If I had done nothing,” he wrote, “I expect the quadcopter
would have done the flip (which it did) and immediately recover —
possibly losing about
10 feet of altitude. My fear in that case was that the hawk would
see it as a threat and come back a second time. Well, really, it
about a half second, so I was not really thinking that much through
“I still would do the same thing if I had to do it all over,
even if it might have put the quadcopter at less risk.”
As it turns out, the quad sustained almost no damage from
falling out of the sky and hitting the ground, except for a
slightly bent landing gear. And the hawk was no worse for wear.
Lots of media have been using the footage that Chris took. Based
on a suggestion from a coworker, he is donating any money raised
from YouTube ads to the American Audubon Society. Thanks to Gene
Bullock of Kitsap Audobon for alerting me to this video.
OK, so what are some other odd things that drones can do? How
about helping out with an ALS ice bucket challenge? In the second
video, Austin Hill of Spark Aerial uses a massive DJI S1000
Octocopter to lift a bucket of ice water and pour it rather slowly
on his head.
It was only a matter of time before someone got the idea to use
a drone for fishing — no matter how inefficient that might be.
Check out this 7-minute video by
NightFlyer (the action starts about 5 minutes in) or this
shorter 1.5-minute video by
RYOT. Both these guys now have fish stories to tell. But, after
all that work, even they would admit that the fish they caught are
On a more serious note, there are many legal issues related to
drones, which are not yet approved by the Federal Aviation
Administration for commercial use, and there are many concerns
related to privacy. People also are raising questions about whether
drones should ever be used for hunting or fishing. Michael R. Shea
tackles the subject for
“Field and Stream” magazine.
If sportsmen are thinking about using drones, game wardens are
not far behind, as they consider how drones might be used to catch
“National Geographic” looks at the use of drones in high-seas
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington vetoed a bill that
would have limited the use of drones by law enforcement. He then
set up a task force to look at the entire subject. A representative
of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said in one task
force meeting that there could be applications for enforcement and
research by the agency. The
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force is expected to make
recommendations before next year’s legislative session.
The fish below is known as a fangtooth, a tropical fish found in
the ocean up to 16,000 feet deep. Upon second glance, you will see
a human eye and a chin and realize that you are looking at a very
nice painting on a human head.
The artist is Helena Jordana Skuhrovcov of the Czech Republic.
She is one of several body painters who have joined the protest
against deep-sea bottom trawling in Europe, a campaign sponsored by
LUSH cosmetics and Bloom Association, a marine conservation
Each of the artists involved in the project has painted a
different deep-sea creature to raise awareness about life in the
deep ocean and to call upon European governments to ban deep-sea
“The deep ocean is the largest habitat on the planet – teeming
with all kinds of unique marine life including corals and sponges
that live for hundreds to thousands of years. But deep-sea bottom
trawlers are destroying them, dragging giant weighted nets, cables
and steel plates more than 2 tonnes each across the ocean floor to
catch a small number of low value fish…
“A successful ban would represent a momentous historical
milestone in the fight to protect our deep ocean from unnecessary
destruction. Deep-sea bottom trawling is a capital-intensive,
fuel-greedy, subsidy-dependent fishing method that fails to yield
positive economic results while destroying the natural habitat of
The video below shows some of the artists painting their models
during a tour of Europe earlier this month. It drives home the
theme of the anti-trawling campaign, which has been joined by
numerous celebrities, as shown in a “gallery of
Thanks to Fred Felleman for calling my attention to this
interesting artwork. And, no, I’m not confused about the day of the
week; I just had too much going on yesterday to focus on “Amusing
I’m on vacation this week, but I wanted to revisit a video I
first presented in June of last year. We see fishermen playing a
fish while a killer whale plays the fishermen. I interviewed the
excited man in this video soon after the fishing trip to explain
some of his comments. The video has now been viewed more than 1.2
Frank Sanders is an experienced hunting and fishing guide, yet
he screamed with excitement when he reeled in his fishing line to
find a killer whale at the other end.
The video, posted two weeks ago by Frank’s deckhand Charlie
Barberini, has been viewed more than 800,000 times on YouTube. That
doesn’t count the number of times people watched the original
post and videos copied from the original.
The video has raised numerous questions, such as why Frank is
showing his ring to the camera and looking for someone named Jason.
I was able to reach Frank in Hawaii, where he was on a fishing
trip, and he filled in some of the blanks.
Frank, Charlie and others were fishing for halibut near
Ninilchik in Cook Inlet in Southern Alaska. They had seen a couple
killer whales go by a few times but not close to the boat. I think
Frank told me the orcas were eating sockeye salmon that were in the
area. Suddenly, out of the depths, a killer whale appeared
following the fish on his line.
You need only to see and hear the video to know how much
excitement that generated.
Frank told me the orca did not appear to want the fish. It was
playing with the fishermen in the boat, grabbing the fish, pulling
the line out about 200 yards, then bringing it back. The whale
circled the boat a few times, he said, tangling fishing lines
played out from other poles. This went on for at least 10 minutes
before the whale went on his way.
The whale, of course, had the strength to bite the fish through
and take it away or snap the line any time he chose, Frank said.
But it didn’t.
About his ring, Frank explained that he travels a lot for his
business, Alaska Trophy Hunters. In fact, he is away from his wife
about as much as he is with her, so he sends her hunting and
fishing pictures from all over Alaska and displays his ring for
As for Jason, I didn’t get the full story, but I heard enough to
understand that this, too, was an inside message. Jason is Frank’s
best friend and the best man at his wedding. Jason was in a
four-wheeler accident and suffered a severe brain injury. He was in
a coma for a month but then was getting better. Jason set up a
personal website on “Caring Bridge” to share information back and
forth with his friends and family. Frank wanted Jason to understand
that he was thinking about him during this adventure and was
showing him a special bracelet they shared. Unfortunately, Jason
suffered a stroke and may not pull through. (Update, June 24,
11 a.m.: I just received word from Frank this morning that Jason
passed away yesterday.)
After the video was posted, Frank reportedly told reporter Lydia
Warren of London’s
“Fishing gets kind of repetitive after 18 years, but this is one
of the most exciting things that has happened to me.”
A highly informative map, just released by state shellfish
officials, can show you at a glance where it is safe to harvest
shellfish in Western Washington.
Besides pointing out the locations of public beaches where
recreational harvesters may safely gather clams and oysters, the
map provides links to information about the approved
seasons and limits, with photographs of each beach. One can choose
“map” or “satellite” views, as well as enhanced images to simplify
If you wish, you can track down locations by searching for the
name of a beach, nearby landmarks or the address. You can obtain
the latest information about entire shorelines as well as specific
The map was created by the Office of Shellfish and Water
Protection, a division within the Washington State Department of
Jim Zimny, recreational shellfish specialist at Kitsap Public
Health District, said he expects the map to be updated immediately
when new health advisories are issued.
“It’s a great resource, very easy to use,” Jim said.
Jim works with state shellfish officials to collect shellfish
samples and report results, including findings of paralytic
shellfish poison, a biotoxin. Closures are announced when high
levels of PSP or dangerous bacteria are found. Hood Canal, for
example, is covered with the letter “V,” meaning one should cook
shellfish thoroughly to kill Vibrio bacteria, which can lead to
Since I generally write the geographic descriptions of shellfish
closure areas, I can assure you that looking at a map will be a
better way to see what is going on.
A news release about the new map points out that
the risk of eating shellfish increases in summer. That’s why it
especially important in summer to follow the three C’s of shellfish
safety: “check, chill and cook.”
Those three C’s refer to checking the map for health closures
and looking on the beach for warning signs; chilling the shellfish
to avoid a buildup of bacteria; and cooking to 145 degrees to kill
pathogens. (Cooking does not destroy PSP and other biotoxins, so
it’s important to avoid closed areas.)
This week’s report about Puget Sound’s endangered killer whales
contained little new information, but the intent was not to
surprise people with important new findings.
The report (PDF 14.3 mb), published by the Northwest Fisheries
Science Center, was a nice summary of 10 years of research and
ongoing efforts to unlock the secrets of the mysterious Southern
NOAA also released the video, at right, which sums up the report
with great visuals. Make sure you go full-screen.
On Wednesday, I participated in a telephone conference call to
link reporters with killer whale experts in our region. On the line
were Lynne Barre, Mike Ford and Brad Hanson, all with NOAA
Fisheries out of Seattle. I’ve been wrapped up with other reporting
assignments, so the Kitsap Sun’s editors chose to run a solid story
by Associated Press reporter Phuong Le. See
Kitsap Sun, June 25.
Let me make a few quick observations:
Lynne Barre said one of the greatest mysteries,
to her, is why killer whales suddenly go missing. It’s a vexing
problem, and I always get a little nervous when the whales return
in the spring. One year, six of the Southern Residents failed to
show up. It was a real blow to the close-knit orca community and to
the struggling population, and I’ve never forgotten the dismay of
everyone who cared about these animals.
Healthy killer whales seem to go missing as often as elderly or
sick ones. Only a few bodies ever wash up on the beach. Even when
one is found, the cause of death often remains uncertain, as in the
case of L-112, found to have died of “blunt-force trauma” from some
Much more needs to be learned about disease in the animals,
Lynne said. Future research could involve more tissue biopsies and
breath samples in an effort to identify early signs of disease.
For Brad Hanson, another mystery is the whales’
seemingly unpredictable behavior and their “fundamental
relationship with prey.” We all assume that their primary goal in
life is to find fish to eat, but how good are they at this
essential task? Pretty good, I would guess. Often before we learn
that chinook are abundant off the Washington Coast, we find out
that the killer whales are already there.
Maybe the reason the whales have been spending so much time away
from Puget Sound the last couple years lies in the lower returns of
Fraser River chinook, which pass through the San Juan Islands in
the summer. Scale and fecal samples have shown that Fraser River
chinook are the most consistent prey of the resident orcas.
In previous conversations, Brad has told me that he would love
to communicate with the whales, to find out who is in charge and
why a group of animals may suddenly turn around and go in the
opposite direction. Howard Garrett of Orca Network recalls a time
when all three Southern Resident pods were in the Strait of Juan de
Fuca heading into Puget Sound. Suddenly K and L pod turned back,
while J pod continued on. Howie says it was as if they knew there
were not enough fish for the entire population, so J pod went on
alone, saying, “See ya later.”
Mike Ford wants to know why the population has
not increased more than it has. Could it be some limitation in the
ecosystem, such as the fact that other marine mammals — such as
seals and sea lions — have been increasing and taking a sizable
bite out of the available salmon population? We know that Northern
Residents, who also eat fish, don’t overlap territories much with
the Southern Residents. Living up north, the Northern Residents
have better access to some salmon stocks — including those that
originate in Puget Sound. If the Northern Residents get to them
first, the fish are not available for the Southern Residents — or
so goes one hypotheses. The Northern Resident population has
tripled in size, while the Southern Residents have stayed about the
Oddly enough, this potential competition for chinook salmon
reminds me of exactly what is taking place with regard to
commercial fishing enterprises. Washington fishermen complain that
the Canadians are taking salmon that should get back to Washington.
Canadian fishermen complain that Alaskans are taking salmon bound
for Canada. Only Alaskan fishermen — and those who go to Alaska to
fish — can catch a portion of the salmon going into Alaskan rivers
as well as some destined to travel south.
One of the new things that did come up in
Wednesday’s conference call was a renewed effort for U.S. killer
whale biologists and managers to work with their counterparts in
Canada. “We will be partnering with them on issues of salmon
fisheries and how that may affect the whales,” Lynn said, adding
that other cross-border efforts could involve vessel regulations
and targeted research efforts.
During Wednesday’s conference call, nobody talked about the
potential effects of military activities and the possible injury
from Navy sonar until a reporter brought up the issue. The question
was referred to NOAA Fisheries headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.,
where officials review the Navy’s operations and issue incidental
take permits. That was the end of that discussion.
I know the Navy is conducting research in an effort to reduce
harm to killer whales and other marine mammals. I get the sense,
however, that more could be done immediately if connections were
made between knowledgeable killer whale researchers in our region
and those making decisions on the opposite side of the country.
This amazing photo of a humpback whale chasing a massive school
of herring was taken in Prince William Sound by Rich Brenner of the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Rich took the picture in April during an aerial survey of
herring. He says he has observed many humpbacks feeding on herring
during the spring survey, but this whale was not having much luck,
probably because the water was so clear. As the whale approached,
the herring kept moving away, creating odd patterns in the
“As I was watching the scene, I couldn’t help but think that the
whale was expending a lot of energy and not receiving much in
return,” Rich wrote me in an email. “But the shallow depth and
clear water probably did not favor it.”
In the weeks prior to the flight, a large algae bloom covered
this area near the village of Tatitlek. If the bloom had continued,
the whale and much of the herring might have been difficult to see,
“Thus, we were very pleased to get such a clear view of the
situation and observe the movement of the herring along with the
whale. The herring school undulated away from the whale, and they
were able to keep a gap between them. Only once did we observe the
whale lunging forward and getting under the school.”
The second photo, below, shows the whale lunging upward and
possibly getting a mouthful of herring. The platform in the top
photo is part of a frame for a net pen used to hold hatchery salmon
before their release.
The spring herring survey measures the extent of the spawn along
the shoreline, which is used to estimate the overall biomass in
Prince William Sound.
Rich said he estimated that herring in this massive school would
amount to several hundred tons. GIS experts will map the school to
help construct a formal estimate of the biomass.
The state has not approved a commercial herring fishery in
Prince William Sound since 1999. During the 1980s and early 90s,
large numbers of herring were caught commercially, Rich said.
Sometime around 1993, the population crashed and has never fully
“The reason for the depleted biomass, relative to the years when
we had a commercial fishery, is a subject that has been hotly
debated by scientists and others for the past 20 years,” he
“Preliminary spawn estimates (from 2013) are 20.7 mile-days
(south of Knowles Head) and 5.5 mile-days (north of Knowles Head),
and 3.2 mile-days (Montague Island) for a total of 29.3 mile-days
of spawn. This is fewer mile-days of spawn in PWS than in any year
in which commercial fishing occurred since 1973.”