Tag Archives: Fish

Managers to review how fishing affects ecosystem

The Pacific Fishery Management Council decided yesterday that it was time to consider, within its management plans, how large-scale fishing at certain times and places can create ripple effects in the food web.

Plan

The council adopted a new Fishery Ecosystem Plan to help manage West Coast fisheries, broadening the view of how fishing can shape the entire ocean community.

“It’s the beginning of a paradigm shift in fisheries management,” Paul Shively of Pew Charitable Trusts told Jeff Barnard, environmental reporter for the Associated Press.

In the past, managers have tried to figure out what level of fishing can be sustainable. Now, in theory, they will also consider how a reduction in the numbers of certain fish can affect marine creatures that might want to eat them or be eaten by them.

“We’ve always managed our oceans on a species-by-species level,” Shively noted. “By developing an ecosystem plan we begin to look at how everything is connected in the ocean.”

Dan Wolford, chairman of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, offered this observation in a news release (PDF 119 kb) from PFMC:

“We now enter into a new era of more sophisticated fishery management. We heard strong public testimony calling for more protection for unmanaged forage fish, and the council’s adoption of this motion today formalizes the council taking this up this as a fishery management action.”

Jane Lubchenco, former director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the agency has been talking about the ecosystem-based approach since the 2006 renewal of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

“Taking an ecosystem approach to fisheries management is widely viewed as an enlightened approach to fishery management, because it recognizes that the target species of interest exists within a broader ecosystem,” she said in Barnard’s piece. She is now a visiting professor at Stanford University,

The Fishery Ecosystem Plan does not replace existing management plans, including those for salmon, groundfish, highly migratory species or coastal pelagic species. But it does call for the consideration of more factors before making management decisions, and it mandates an annual “State of the Ecosystem” report.

One initiative connected to the plan calls for the prohibition of targeted fishing for unmanaged forage fish until the impacts are better known. Eight other initiatives will discuss how harvest affects stocks, bycatch, habitat, fisheries safety, fisheries jobs, response to climate change, socioeconomics, and other factors.

For extra reading: I found the discussions about managing krill in the Antarctic to be revealing. See “License to Krill: A Story About Ecosystem-Based Management” on NOAA’s website. It includes this tidbit:

“When fishing reduces the population of one species, there are ripple effects throughout the marine food chain. For instance, if the human species takes more krill out of the ecosystem, the populations of other animals that prey on krill might decline.

“But it’s not just a question of how much krill we take. Where and when we take it are also important. Penguin chicks need to find food when they fledge at the end of their first summer. For certain species of seals, which carry their pregnancies through winter, wintertime forage is critical. By identifying where and when these critical periods occur, scientists can advise fishery managers on how best to reduce the impacts of fishing on the other species we care about.”

I discussed the ecosystem plan briefly in the latest installment of a series of stories dealing with Puget Sound’s ecosystem and indicators chosen by the Puget Sound Partnership. We call it “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound.”

Amusing Monday: Animal friends and foes

Parental instincts are on stark display in this video, below, showing a pair of fish protecting their eggs against an aggressive turtle, who no doubt wants to make a meal of their unhatched offspring.

The conflict takes place in Africa’s Lake Tanganyika. At first glance, you have to wonder how these fish, known as emperor cichlids, could possibly hold off the larger terrapin. But they do.

Another kind of fish-vs-turtle contest is the classic tug-of-war involving a worm. I found two videos in which a goldfish in an aquarium tries to steal a worm from a turtle. In each, the fish is at least partially successful. The longer (2.5-minute) video on Benjenings Channel plays up the drama; the shorter (22-second) video on Stonemanjosh Channel gets right to the moment of truth.

Can a turtle and goldfish be friends? They can, according to this sweet little video by Chibikana70.

But if you want to understand the more common scenario between turtle and goldfish, just search in YouTube for “turtle eating goldfish” and choose from the long list. You’ll find out more about the dark side of life than you wish to know.

I used to include some epic battles in this “Amusing Monday” feature. (Remember the octopus-vs-shark video taken at the Seattle Aquarium?) But some readers objected to violent battles ending in death, so I’ve kind of steered away from them. But I’m still fascinated by closely matched conflicts, such as the alligator against the python. Check out this video from “Nature,” originally broadcast on PBS.

As the narrator of the alligator-python battle explains:

“Alligators were once the undisputed reptile kings of the Everglades. But when push comes to shove, who would win in a battle now, alligator or python? It all depends on which one is bigger.”

Who wins in a battle of bats versus crows? I’m not sure there is an answer, but this well-produced video on BillsChannel is amusing to watch.

Chum salmon are arriving, and you can watch them

Well, we got it done, at least for now. I’m talking about a project that included a total of 27 new videos and an interactive map, all to help people observe the annual migration of chum salmon on the Kitsap Peninsula.

This project is one reason I have not written as many stories or blog entries as I normally would have over the past few weeks.

This is the fourth remake of the salmon map, going back to the first map published in the newspaper in 1995. This year, reporter Amy Phan produced the videos, adding many more location shots. We’ve also added an overview video describing the project and how to use the map (below).

Because most of the filming was done before the rains arrived, streamflows in the videos are lower than what you will see if you go out now. If I had it to do again, I would have shot more video of salmon last fall. We’ll probably substitute some new shots of salmon in the streams.

You’ll find my story about the beginning of salmon season in today’s Kitsap Sun. The web address for the salmon map is easy to remember: www.kitsapsun.com/salmon.
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Salmon harmed by copper fail to avoid predators

I guess it’s common knowledge among fish biologists that fish can smell death.

It’s a survival mechanism. When the skin of a fish is damaged, a substance is released into the water. Other fish smell the substance and instinctively take evasive action.

When juvenile coho salmon smell death, they tend to stop moving and become more wary of predators, according to a new study by Jenifer McIntyre and colleagues at the University of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But the most important finding is that the coho exposed to minute levels of copper lose their sense of smell. Their brains don’t register the smell of death, and they get eaten at a much higher rate than coho not exposed to copper. For details, check out the story published today in the Kitsap Sun.

The video shows the response of coho salmon when ground-up fish skin is released into the water. Coho not exposed to copper freeze, as you can see in the upper tank. Coho exposed to copper keep on moving, as if unaware of the danger, making them prime targets for predation.

These are interesting findings, but more research is needed to determine what levels of toxic copper may actually be found in urban streams, where copper typically comes from brake pads and pesticides, and rural streams affected by mining operations.

For further reading, check out the slideshow called “Impacts of copper on the sensory biology and behavior of salmon” (PDF 9.2 mb), which reports on findings by the research group of which McIntyre is a member

Other reports:

“An Overview of Sensory Effects on Juvenile Salmonids Exposed to Dissolved Copper: Applying a Benchmark Concentration Approach to Evaluate Sublethal Neurobehavioral Toxicity”

“Effects of Copper on Aquatic Species: A review of the literature” by Phyllis Weber Scannell.

“Control of Toxic Chemicals in Puget Sound: Assessment of Selected Toxic Chemicals in the Puget Sound Basin, 2007-2011″

Some previous blog entries in “Watching Our Water Ways”:

Nov. 4, 2011: “More results, more questions found in toxic studies”

May 18, 2011: “New study refines Puget Sound pollution issues”

March 10, 2010: “Washington is first to tackle toxic copper in brakes”

June 7, 2009: “Barnacle-free hulls would be a dream come true”

Salmon managers will try to eke out fishing options

Forecasts for Puget Sound salmon runs call for lower returns this year compared to last year, but officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are emphasizing “promising” chinook fishing off Washington’s coast and Columbia River.

Each year, sport fishers line the banks of the Skokomish River as they try to catch the prized chinook salmon. / Kitsap Sun file photo

Preseason forecasts were released yesterday, launching the North of Falcon Process, which involves state and tribal salmon managers working together to set sport, commercial and tribal fisheries. Federal biologists and regulators keep watch over the negotiations to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

For a complete schedule of meetings leading up to final decisions the first week of April, go to the WDFW’s North of Falcon page.

With regard to fishing opportunities, Doug Milward, ocean salmon fishery manager for the agency, had this to say in yesterday’s news release:

“It’s still early in the process, but we will likely have an ocean salmon fishery similar to what we have seen the last two years, when we had an abundance of chinook in the ocean but low numbers of hatchery coho.”

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Predicting salmon runs — and reporting the issues

Before salmon managers begin to focus on harvest quotas and seasons for salmon fishing, they must work out predictions about the number of salmon coming back to each management area throughout the Northwest.

Those are the numbers released this week during the annual kickoff meeting for the North of Falcon process held in Olympia. Check out my story in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun.

So how do the managers go about predicting this year’s salmon runs? It gets pretty technical, but it is basically a combination of counting the number of salmon smolts that leave selected streams and then calculating a rate of survival to determine the number of adults that will come back.

Mara Zimmerman
WDFW photo

Numerous conditions affect whether eggs and fry will survive to smolt stage and make it out of a stream, just as many factors can cause the death of the young fish after they leave freshwater. I’m tempted to describe these factors here, but instead will defer to Mara Zimmerman, who heads the Wild Salmonid Production Evaluation Unit. Her well-written report on the “2011 Wild Coho Forecasts…” (PDF 376 kb) provides an excellent education into how coho are estimated. Check it out.

I was one of three newspaper reporters who attended Tuesday’s meeting in Olympia. It was easy to tell the difference between my handling of this story and the approaches by Jeffrey P. Mayor, who writes for the Olympian and the News Tribune in South Puget Sound, and Allen Thomas, who writes for the Columbian in Vancouver (Clark County).

The biggest difference is that those guys are sports or outdoor reporters, mainly interesting in telling their readers what fishing will be like this year. As an environmental reporter, my primary focus is to describe how the salmon are doing ecologically — although I do recognize that many readers of my stories are anglers who also want to know about fishing.

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The PSP Interviews: Dave Herrera

When I wrote my recent progress report on the Puget Sound Partnership, my story included little more than brief quotes and snippits of information from a variety of informed people. It is somewhat rewarding to have a blog where I can bring you more complete impressions of the people I interviewed. Here is the second in a series of expanded reports from those interviews.

Dave Herrera, one of two vice chairmen of the Ecosystem Coordination Board, is one of three tribal representatives on the 27-member board. The other tribal reps are David Trout of the Nisqually Tribe and Randy Kinley of the Lummi Nation.

Herrera currently serves as “fisheries policy representative” for the Skokomish Tribe. His career started with the tribe as a hatcheries technician in 1975 following the landmark Boldt Decision. He was 18. He worked as fisheries manager from 1979 to 1982 before leaving tribal employment. Dave later worked for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Point No Point Treaty Council before returning to the tribe in 1996, where he has remained one of the tribe’s top fisheries managers.

Dave is a member of the Skokomish Tribe. His mother grew up on the Skokomish Reservation. His father was in the military, so Dave moved around with his family at a young age. He spent many of his early years in Tacoma.

Herrera has been an excellent spokesman for the Skokomish Tribe and tribes in general. For the Puget Sound Partnership story, I interviewed him by phone while he was in Washington, D.C., working to advance salmon restoration. Unfortunately, I could not fit his comments into my final story, but I’m now pleased to report his views on the partnership.

“It is fair to say,” Dave told me, “that the tribal representatives would like to see things moving faster than they are.”
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Salmon-watching should be our Northwest sport

Take me out to the salmon stream,
Take me away from the crowd.
Buy me nothing, not even a snack;
I don’t care if I never get back.


Forgive me for twisting around baseball’s sacred song, but it just popped into my head as I prepared to write about salmon. Specifically, I was thinking about how much I enjoy taking my kids — and now my grandkids — out to watch salmon spawning in our local streams.

Of course, fishing with a fly or even bait brings a different level of excitement. But there’s something special about standing quietly at the edge of a stream to avoid spooking the migrating salmon. If you are able to get the kids to calm down, you might even see a female chum salmon scooping out a depression in the gravel while one or more males circle around and try to get close.

Year after year, I write a story about the annual chum migration, encouraging people to go out to their local streams to watch the magnificent fish unique to our part of the world. This year’s story was published in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.

In Kitsap County, Chico Creek is always a pretty good bet to see fish. This year, Kitsap County officials opened access to a new fish-viewing park just south of Golf Club Road. A couple of new trails provide both a high- and low-viewpoint to the creek.

If you wait until late in the year, you may still see chum salmon in Gorst Creek at Otto Jarstad Park just outside of Belfair. I like to remind people that if visitors come into town at Christmas, it’s a good time to expose them to the wild side of Washington state.

The interactive salmon map on the Kitsap Sun’s website also includes a few streams in Mason County, but I’d like to compile a list of good salmon-viewing streams throughout Puget Sound.

For one, there’s Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail south of Shelton, which will open to the public on Saturday, Nov. 6. The trail will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends in November, as well as Veterans Day and the day after Thanksgiving. Trained docents will be on hand to answer questions. Check out the website by the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group.

In Thurston County, there’s McLane Creek Nature Trail.

For King County streams, check out locations listed on the county’s Spawning Salmon Viewing website.

Likewise for Pierce County salmon viewing (PDF 1.0 mb).

If you know of other good salmon-viewing streams in the region or would like to talk about your favorite spot, feel free to add comments in the section below.

Fraser sockeye coming home like gangbusters

UPDATE; Tuesday, Sept. 14

This will be my last update on this year’s Fraser River sockeye run, as the run has begun to tail off and increases in the estimates have been slight the past two weeks.

Latest numbers from the Fraser River Panel (PDF 28 kb): Early-summer-run sockeye, 3.8 million; summer-run, 5.2 million; and late-run 25.4 million. The late-run is now more than three times higher than the preseason prediction, and the total runsize estimate now stands at 34.5 million.

Please read the rest of this blog entry for how this situation developed.
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UPDATE; Wednesday, Sept. 1

Latest numbers from the Fraser River Panel (PDF 37 kb): Early-summer-run sockeye, unchanged at 3.7 million; summer-run, unchanged at 4.8 million; and late-run Shuswap/Weaver, 24 million, up from 20 million.

The entire Fraser River run is now estimated at 34 million, the highest run size since 1913, when experts estimated the run to total about 39 million. The late-run Shuswap/Weaver sockeye, which are in their dominant year, are now three times the preseason estimate.
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UPDATE; Friday, Aug. 27

Latest numbers from the Fraser River Panel (PDF 198 kb): Early-summer-run sockeye, 3.7 million, up from 3.2 million; summer-run, 4.8 million, up from 4.5 million; and late-run, 21.4 million, up from 17.2 million.

The entire Fraser River run is now estimated at 30 million, the highest run size since 1913, when experts estimated the run to total about 39 million.
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UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 26

Latest numbers from the Fraser River Panel (PDF 198 kb): Early-summer-run sockeye, 3.2 million, up from 2.9 million; summer-run, 4.5 million, up from 4.0 million; and late-run, 17.2 million, up from 12.1 million.

The total run of Fraser River sockeye is now predicted to be 25 million fish, which compares to 1.9 million total for last year. This year’s run is the largest since 1913, according to the news release.

By the way, Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton does a nice job reporting on the personal and economic effects of the big sockeye run.
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UPDATE: Friday, Aug. 20

The Fraser River Panel today released new runsize estimates for sockeye. See news release (PDF 198 kb). The latest numbers have increased from 2.6 million to 2.9 million for early-summer-run sockeye; from 3.3 million to 4.0 million for summer-run; and from 8 million to 12.1 million for late-run. We are now seeing predictions that far exceed preseason estimates.
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When it comes to Fraser River sockeye, a single year can make all the difference in the world.

Lummi tribal fishermen use a purse seine to catch Fraser River sockeye salmon in the San Juan Islands.
Photo courtesy of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Last year at this time, I commented in Water Ways about the mystery of the missing Fraser River sockeye and the economic disaster wrought by the abysmally poor runs. Preseason forecasts of 10 million sockeye washed out with a return around 1.9 million.

This year, all kinds of fishermen seem overwhelmed with excitement as large sockeye runs return to the Fraser, the longest river in British Columbia.

Kelly Sinoski, a reporter for the Vancouver Sun, described how fishermen were laughing with joy. She quoted Julius Boudreau, a commercial fisherman in Port McNeill:

“It’s out of the ordinary. The catches have been way more than the quota. It’s crazy. We’re seeing thousands and thousands of fish.”

I placed a call to Tim Tynan of the National Marine Fisheries Service, who works with the Pacific Salmon Commission as the U.S. representative on the Fraser Panel. He reminded me that we are seeing the Adams-dominant cycle this year, a typically strong return that comes around every four years and is associated with Adams River and Lake Shuswap, which is located in the middle of the Fraser River watershed near Kamloops.
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Industry dollars will operate McKernan Hatchery

Last week, I reported that the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association has come forward with $158,000 a year to maintain the operation of the McKernan Hatchery near Shelton.

The hatchery, which produces 40 percent of the chum salmon in Hood Canal, was scheduled to close July 1 unless a private entity stepped up to run it. Three groups offered proposals, and the arrangement will allow state hatchery workers to keep doing their regular jobs. See my story in Friday’s Kitsap Sun for details.

Two questions came up in comments at the bottom of the story: Why doesn’t the state rear coho, chinook or other more valuable fish at McKernan? And why does the state continue to allow these kinds of production hatcheries to continue, considering impacts on wild salmon?
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