Category Archives: Headlines

Fall’s First Razor Clam Dig Set For Oct. 11-13

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The first razor clam dig of the fall season will get underway Oct. 11-13 at various ocean beaches.

RAZOR CLAMMERS WORK THE BEACH DURING AN EARLY 2010 SEASON. (JASON BAUER)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has approved the dig on evening tides at Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks after marine toxin tests showed that clams on those beaches are safe to eat. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.

The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates, and evening low tides:

•       Oct. 11, Thursday, 8:58 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

•       Oct. 12, Friday, 9:41 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

•       Oct. 13, Saturday, 10:26 p.m.; +0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, recommends that diggers hit the beach about an hour or two before low tide for the best results.

Diggers want to be sure to come prepared with good lighting devices and always keep an eye on the surf, particularly in the fall when the best low tides come after dark, he added.

“Digging after dark brings with it the spectacle of thousands of small lights representing individual razor clam diggers working their way up and down the beach,” said Ayres.

WDFW has tentatively scheduled another dig for Oct. 25-28, pending results of future toxin tests. More information on planned digs can be found on WDFW’s razor clam webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2018-19 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Oregon Fish And Wildlife Commission Set To Adopt Road-kill Salvage Rules

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Friday, Oct. 12 in Klamath Falls at the Running Y Ranch Ponderosa Room, 500 Running Y Road.

The meeting starts at 8 a.m. and follows this agenda, https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/18/10_oct/index.asp

The Commission will be asked to adopt administrative rules to allow the salvage of roadkilled deer and elk beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The new rules are due to the passage of SB 372 by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature. Highlights include:

·        Deer and elk accidentally stuck by a vehicle may be salvaged for consumption only. Intentionally hitting a deer or elk in order to salvage it remains unlawful.

(ERIC BELL)

·        Anyone who salvages a roadkilled deer or elk must complete a free online permit within 24 hours of salvaging the animal and provide information including their name, contact info, where and when salvage occurred, species and gender of animal salvaged, and if they were driver that struck animal.

·        Antlers and head of all salvaged animals will need to be surrendered to an ODFW office within 5 business days of taking possession of the carcass. This rule will meet the requirements of SB 372 and will contribute to ODFW’s surveillance program for Chronic Wasting Disease.

·        The entire carcass of the animal including gut piles must be removed from the road and road right of way during the salvage.

·        In cases where a deer or elk is struck, injured and then put down to alleviate suffering, only the driver of the vehicle that struck the animal may salvage the carcass and law enforcement must be immediately notified. (This is a requirement per Oregon Revised Statute 498.016 and SB 372.)

·        Any person who salvages a deer or elk will consume the meat at their own risk. ODFW/OSP will not perform game meat inspections for any deer or elk salvaged under these rules.

·        Sale of any part of the salvaged animal is prohibited, but transfer to another person will be allowed with a written record similar to transferring game meat. 

·        The state of Oregon is not liable for any loss or damage arising from the recovery, possession, use, transport or consumption of deer or elk salvaged.

 The Commission will consider the purchase of 214 acres of property adjacent to the Klamath Wildlife Area and the 560-acre Edmunds Well property near the Summer Lake wildlife Area.

The Commission’s agenda for Oct. 12 originally included plans to adopt rules related to the destruction of forfeited firearms from wildlife law violations, but that agenda item has been delayed until a future meeting.

On Thursday, Oct. 11, The Commission will also tour several projects in the Klamath Falls Area including the Green Diamond Travel Management Area and Klamath Fish Hatchery. Members of the public can join the tour but must provide their own transportation and lunch. Meet at the Running Y Resort front lobby at 8 a.m. to join the tour. See the tour agenda at https://bit.ly/2yf9ZJ7

A public forum will be held on Friday morning at the start of the meeting. Anyone seeking to testify on issues not on the formal agenda may do so by making arrangements with the ODFW Director’s Office, at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting, by calling 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044.

6th Annual King Of The Reach Derby Coming Up Oct. 26-28

With 10 million-plus fertilized fall Chinook eggs to their credit so far, salmon anglers, state fishery managers and a public utility district will build on their success later this month when the 6th Annual King of the Reach kicks off.

THE OSTROMS — THOR, KARL AND JACOB — WON THE SECOND ANNUAL KINGS OF THE REACH DERBY IN 2013 WITH THIS AND 51 OTHER FALL CHINOOK CAUGHT IN THE HANFORD REACH. (THOR OSTROM)

The Oct. 26-28 live-capture fishing derby collects wild upriver brights for the Grant County Public Utility District’s Priest Rapids Hatchery, improving the stock’s fitness and ensuring that hatchery fish remain genetically similar to the natives in the Hanford Reach.

Coastal Conservation Association Washington’s Tri-Cities Chapter coordinates participation, and compared to regular fishing opportunities, the event has some interesting regulations to be aware of.

It’s held after the Hanford Reach closes for the season — likely to occur sometime next week — no fishing license is required and two-poling’s OK without the endorsement. Barbless hooks must be used, though.

Participants are encouraged to preregister with CCA or on-site, and all anglers are required to register with WDFW as volunteers each day before they fish.

Boat captains need fish transporting permits plus a way to haul the salmon to the Vernita Bridge or White Bluffs launches, either in a livewell or a big cooler with a pump. After all, the goal is to get them to the hatchery alive. According to CCA, there was less than 2 percent mortality among the 511 kings brought in in 2017.

WDFW’s Paul Hoffarth, who is the brains behind the event, says that anglers have brought in a total of 2,111 fall kings, including 1,034 bucks and 1,077 hens, since the first King of the Reach was held in 2012.

Fishing effort has increased annually, from 598 angler hours that first year to 2,722 in 2017, his data shows.

While some numbers from last year have yet to be crunched, derby fish have resulted in 25 percent of the hatchery’s production having at least one natural-origin parent.

Hoffarth says that even with this year’s lower return — 38,357 based on a Sept. 30 estimate — escapement (the number of spawners) should exceeded the goal of 31,100 natural-origin adult kings.

Entry in the derby is $25 for the day or the weekend (youths age 17 or under are $15). Refreshments will be provided and prizes will be awarded to participants for the most live salmon turned in per boat per day, and for the entire event.

Last year Justin Sprengel turned in the most kings, 37.

Random prizes will be awarded as well.

Derby entries are available online at ccawashington.org/KingoftheReach and Grigg’s in Pasco, and Ranch and Home and Sportsman’s Warehouse in Kennewick.

Chance To Serve On WDFW’s Puget Sound Fisheries Enhancement Oversight Panel

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking members of the sport fishing community to serve on a committee that oversees the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement program.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

People interested in serving on the 10-member Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Oversight Committee have through Friday, Nov. 16 to apply.

The committee was created in 2003 by the Legislature to advise WDFW’s Director on all aspects of the fisheries enhancement program. Key responsibilities of the program are to restore and enhance recreational fisheries in Puget Sound, ensure the productivity of sustainable populations of salmon and marine bottomfish, and promote recreational fishing opportunities.

Ten volunteers will be appointed to the oversight committee. Members serve two-year terms and may be re-appointed. The next term begins in January 2019 and expires in December 2020.

The committee, which is a broad representation of the sport fishing community, meets several times a year to review projects and provide guidance on funding activities related to the enhancement program.

To qualify, applicants should be closely linked and maintain strong communication with the recreational fishing community, have an understanding of salmon and bottomfish fisheries in Puget Sound and be able to attend the meetings.

Committee members do not receive direct compensation for their work.

Interested individuals do not have to be affiliated with an organized group. Individuals must submit a letter of interest and a resume with the following information:

  • Name, address, telephone number and email address.
  • Relevant experience and reasons for wanting to serve as a member of the enhancement group.
  • Effectiveness in communication, including outreach and promotion.

Interested individuals should submit their application electronically to David Stormer at david.stormer@dfw.wa.gov or mail to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Attn: David Stormer, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia WA, 98501-1091.

For more information on the enhancement program and oversight committee, please visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/psrfef/ or contact David Stormer at (360) 902-0058.

Low Salmon Returns Lead To Restrictions On Parts Of Grays, Toutle Systems

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICES FROM WDFW

WDFW FISHING RULE CHANGE   
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
http://wdfw.wa.gov

October 3, 2018

Chinook salmon retention to close on Toutle, North Fork Toutle rivers

Action: Chinook salmon retention closes on the Toutle River and the North Fork Toutle.

\ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Effective dates: October 6, 2018 until further notice. 

Species affected: Chinook salmon.

Locations: The Toutle River from the mouth to the forks; the North Fork Toutle River from the mouth to the posted markers downstream of the fish collection facility.

Reason for action: Fall chinook salmon returning to the North Toutle Hatchery, located on the Green River, are tracking well below the pre-season forecast and are not currently projected to meet the hatchery broodstock goal. These fish must first migrate through the Toutle and North Fork Toutle rivers. Closing the Toutle River and North Fork Toutle River to chinook salmon retention will increase the number of hatchery fish available for broodstock and help ensure fishing opportunities in future years.

Additional information: The Green River is also currently closed to chinook retention. Retention of hatchery coho remains open on the Toutle, North Fork Toutle and Green rivers. All other permanent rules remain in effect. Please refer to the Sport Fishing Pamphlet for complete rule information.

Information contact: Tom Wadsworth, District Fish Biologist, (360) 906-6709.

Grays and West Fork Grays rivers to close for hatchery coho retention

Action: Closes the Grays and West Fork Grays rivers to retention of coho.

Effective date: October 6, 2018 until further notice.

Species affected: Coho salmon.

Location: The Grays River to the mouth of the South Fork Grays River and West Fork Grays River from the mouth upstream.

Reason for action: The Grays River Hatchery coho return to date is below what is needed for hatchery broodstock. The 2018 return has been influenced by poor ocean conditions and reduced juvenile releases in previous years. Closing coho retention in the Grays River and West Fork Grays River will increase the number of hatchery fish available for broodstock and help ensure fishing opportunities in future years.

 Additional information: Fishing remains open on the mainstem Grays River upstream of the mouth of the South Fork as well as the South and East Fork Grays Rivers under permanent rule as described in the 2018/2019 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

 Information contact: Region 5 Office, 360-696-6211 *1010

Strait, San Juans, North Sound To Reopen For Dungeness

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Some areas of Puget Sound will reopen for recreational crab fishing on Oct. 6, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

A POT FULL OF SAN JUANS CRABS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The late-season crab openings were approved by fishery managers after summer catch assessments by WDFW indicated additional crab are available for harvest, said Don Velasquez, shellfish manager for the department.

Areas opening to sport crabbing on Oct. 6 include marine areas 4 (Neah Bay, east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardiner), and 9 (Admiralty Inlet), except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

In each of these areas, crabbing will be allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31.

Sport crabbing will be closed in marine areas 10 (Seattle Bremerton), 11 (Vashon Island), 12 (Hood Canal), 13 (South Puget Sound), and in the remainder of Marine Area 9.

Maps and descriptions of the two sections of Marine Area 9 are on the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/area.php?id=16.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

All Dungeness crab caught in the late-season fishery must be recorded immediately on winter catch cards, which are valid through Dec. 31. Winter cards are free to those with crab endorsements and are available at license vendors across the state.

Winter crab catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2019. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html.

Fight Against Bucket Biologists Going High Tech

Potential good news from the fight against bucket biologists.

Montana fishery biologists using something called “forensic geochemistry” have figured out the source and timeframe that walleye were moved into Swan Lake, in the state’s northwestern corner.

OTOLITHS, A BONE IN THE EAR OF FISH, CONTAINS CHEMICAL SIGNATURES THAT PROVIDES CLUES ABOUT WHERE THE ANIMAL CAME FROM. (OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, FLICKR)

And genetic material from northern pike in Northeast Washington is pointing to a different source than the widely assumed one.

Whether or not the new tools help lead to arrests is a good question, but they will at least serve as a warning shot across the bow of those who would illicitly move fish around.

IN THE CASE OF THE WALLEYE, managers have concluded that at least two fish were driven over the continental divide on a 200-mile journey that occurred in the spring of 2015, according to a report in the Columbia Basin Bulletin last month.

“Our findings now allow investigators to look at fishing license sales, webcams, and boat registrations around the Lake Helena area for the time period when the walleye were illegally introduced,” Samuel Bourett, an FWP researcher, told the emailed newsletter.

The species is native to the Mississippi River and lower Missouri River basins, but as was common earlier last century walleye were moved westward for fishing opportunities.

Nowadays, the tide has turned against moving nonnative fish — or at least nonsterile ones — into new locations, though decades of population growth provide a ready reservoir for those who want to continue the practice.

But fishery officials are fighting back with increasingly sophisticated means.

In early 2016, several months after two walleye were gillnetted at Swan, Bourett’s agency and conservation groups offered a $30,000 reward for information on the illicit stocking of the lake, which provides critical habitat for Endangered Species Act-listed bull and cutthroat trout.

They also began examining the otoliths of the fish, looking for chemical signatures that could pinpoint where they came from.

In 2017 they built a database with fish from 13 popular Montana walleye waters.

Out of that they determined the origin of the Swan Lake release.

“Core to edge geochemical profiles of [two types of strontium] and (strontium/calcium) ratios in the walleye otoliths revealed that these fish had been introduced to Swan Lake within the past growing season, and their geochemical signature matched that of walleye sampled from Lake Helena, Montana, located 309 road kilometres away,” write Bourett and Niall Clancy in a paper recently published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Illegally stocking fish in Montana is punishable with fines running from $2,000 to $10,000, the loss of all license privileges and cleanup costs.

WDFW BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT SCOWLS WHILE HOLDING THE 13.5-POUND GRAVID HEN WALLEYE HE NETTED OUT OF LAKE WASHINGTON IN 2015. (DANNY GARRETT, WDFW)

Well to the west, in 2012 the otoliths of walleye from Lakes Roosevelt and Moses and Potholes and Scooteny Reservoirs were compared with those from Lake Washington fish for a common chemical signature but no match was found, according to state fisheries biologist Danny Garrett, who himself netted half a dozen more in 2015.

“I think there is merit in doing more of this work,” he notes.

THEY’RE NOT THE ONLY ONES TRACING where invasive fish are coming from. Dr. Kellie Carim works for the U.S. Forest Service’s National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation out of Missoula, and she’s looking into pike.

Another Upper Midwest transplant, northerns are also popular with fishermen but present a nightmare threat for Northwest salmon and steelhead managers as the species has crept its way down the Pend Oreille River and into Lake Roosevelt and is now at the mouth of the Spokane River, according to a recent story. Anecdotal reports from anglers put them further down, in Lake Rufus Woods.

With funding from a USDA Tribal College Initiative Grant, Carim has come to a rather interesting conclusion about where many of those pike actually originated.

“The history we’ve told ourselves, the simplest explanation, is that the fish are flowing downstream from Western Montana,” she says.

That is, from Noxon Reservoir, down the Clark Fork River into Idaho and through Lake Pend Oreille before arriving in Washington.

“However, what the genetic analysis says is that those in Lake Roosevelt and the Pend Oreille River are closely related to those in the Couer d’Alene drainage,” Carim says.

Rather than taking an aquatic highway, they most likely took a paved one, in a livewell up US 95 to I-90 to either Idaho 41 or US 2 to Washington 20 and the river.

From there, their population built and the theory has been that in high water years they were entrained out of the Pend Oreille into the Columbia River in British Columbia and then Lake Roosevelt.

DAVEY McKERN HOLDS ONE OF THE FIRST NORTHERN PIKE CAUGHT IN LAKE ROOSEVELT. THE SPECIES HAS BEEN LARGELY CONCENTRATED OFF THE MOUTHS OF THE KETTLE AND COLVILLE RIVERS, BUT SOME HAVE BEEN FOUND DOWNSTREAM AT THE MOUTH OF THE SPOKANE RIVER, ACCORDING TO A NORTHWEST POWER AND CONSERVATION COUNCIL REPORT. (DAVEY MCKERN)

Carim, whose work aims to identify where the pike are coming from to stop the flow into Eastern Washington, adds that DNA from other Upper Columbia and Pend Oreille fish aren’t in the database, meaning there are more potential sources out there too.

“We definitely need to collect more samples. Some fish are aren’t ‘assigning’ very well,” she says.

Next week, she will be presenting before the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on pike.

Meanwhile, state and tribal managers have been teaming up to take a hammer to the species.

According to a recent NWPCC article by John Harrison, 18,000 have been scooped out of the Pend Oreille River by the Kalispel Tribe and another 1,800 have been removed from Lake Roosevelt by the Colville and Spokane Tribes and WDFW. Anglers have also turned in more than 1,000 heads for cash through a Colville Tribes program. And hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to protect the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars put into salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin.

While bucket biologists will likely continue their illegal pike and walleye stockings, the odds are now increasing that someone will get caught.

Unexpectedly, Cathlamet The Top Station In 2018 Pikeminnow Reward Fishery

Updated 1:41 p.m., Oct. 3, 2018

Turns out, it was a good year for Cathlamet’s M.D. Johnson and his granddaughter to dabble in pikeminnow fishing.

They tried their hand catching the Columbia River species for cash, making $85 in fairly short order.

THE PIKEMINNOW SPORT REWARD PROGRAM AIMS TO REDUCE PREDATION BY THE NATIVE SPECIES ON SALMON AND STEELHEAD SMOLTS MIGRATING THROUGH THE HYDROPOWER SYSTEM. IT PAYS ANGLERS FROM $5 TO $8 PER QUALIFYING FISH, WITH SPECIAL REWARDS FOR TAGGED ONES. (PIKEMINNOW.ORG)

“A little off pace for the coveted $100 large,” the Northwest Sportsman writer emailed me in July, “but who knows. I might hit a hot streak.”

True, that’s a far cry from how good the top rods did on the Lower Columbia, but as it turns out, the waters down here were 2018’s unexpected hot spot.

“It is the first time in the Pikeminnow Program’s 28-year history that the Cathlamet station has been the number one location,” noted Eric Winther, who heads up the state-federal effort aimed at reducing predation on salmonid smolts. “Just when I thought I had it all figured out.”

The season wrapped up this past Sunday for the year with 25,135 pikeminnow turned in at the Wahkiakum County seat — a whopping 8,000 more than any previous year back through at least 2000, and nearly as many as 2017 and 2016 combined.

The Snake River’s Boyer Park station produced the second most, 22,950, a bit of a dip over the previous season, but notably, catch at the third-place station, The Dalles, was less than half of 2017’s, with just 22,461.

Cathlamet accounted for 14 percent of the overall catch of 180,309 pikeminnow this year, a bit above average over the average since the program began in 1990.

Winther says that pikeminnow anglers do best in low-water years, but this season began with high flows. The Dalles got off to a very slow start after the program opened in May due to spring runoff that tamped down catch rates at traditionally the best station and led to its regulars fishing elsewhere.

“Despite less favorable river conditions, fishing success was slightly better this year — 7.5 catch per unit effort vs. 7.4 in 2017), although overall effort was down about 2,000 angler days,” he says. “Basically, even though there were some challenging river conditions early in the season, there were also some opportunities, especially in the lower river below Ridgefield and near the Cathlamet station.  All in all, a good solid year, slightly above average.”

So what the heck did make the Lower Columbia so good for anglers?

“My theory on the increased Cathlamet pikeminnow catch is this:  We had a long, hot, dry summer, as you know,” Winther says. “Tributaries in the Lower Columbia were lower and warmer than usual and oxygen levels were also likely lower than normal. This made many of the tribs somewhat inhospitable for both northern pikeminnow and for the many critters that they eat (crayfish, etc.).  Since a lot of our catch from that location was smaller northern pikeminnow, I think that maybe there were a bunch of those tributary pikeminnow that dropped down into the mainstem.”

He notes that August and September are usually the best months on the lower river and that top anglers typically target specific hot spots during peak months.

“We also had a lot of effort at Cathlamet in 2018 and many of our regular anglers had their best ever harvest totals this year. In the end, I think that maybe 2018 river conditions just brought a lot of our top 20 anglers to the lower river at the same time of year as when a lot more of these tributary pikeminnow had dropped into the Columbia. Then high catch rates begot more effort which resulted in even higher catch rates and more effort,” Winther theorizes.

Changes at Boyer Park also pushed its regulars to fish elsewhere and that probably helped too, he thinks.

Average daily catch for registered anglers across all stations was 7.5, with Ridgefield leading with 15.9, followed by Lyons Ferry, 10.9, Rainier and Boyer Park tied at 10.1, Beacon Rock, 9.6, and Cathlamet, 9.0.

The Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program pays anglers from $5 to $8 per qualifying fish, with $500 for tagged ones.

The season’s top moneymaker earned $70,949 by turning in 8,686 pikeminnows. The second highest tally was $49,529 for a fisherman who brought in 5,898.

Program managers remind registered anglers that they should turn in their vouchers by Nov. 15 to receive payment for their catches.

Records also show that fishermen incidentally caught 15,094 smallmouth, 10,527 yellow perch, 5,510 catfish and bullheads, and 1,297 walleye. The upper Snake pools were best for bass, the Lower Columbia was tops for yellowbellies, the Richland area was best for whiskerfish and John Day area was best for ‘eyes.

New Website Will Help Track Where Coho Are Dying Early In Puget Sound Streams

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

Salmon exposed to toxic stormwater runoff can die in a matter of hours, and scientists are asking for Puget Sound area residents’ help in identifying affected streams to study the phenomenon.

COHO EXPOSED TO STREET RUNOFF ARE DYING AND RESEARCHERS ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHY. (K. KING, USFWS)

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) and Washington State University (WSU), collectively called the Puget Sound Stormwater Science Team (PSSST), have been studying the effects of stormwater runoff on Pacific salmon species for almost two decades. Working to narrow down the toxic chemicals that are likely responsible, the team is unveiling a new interactive website that lets citizen volunteers help map salmon deaths.

As urban growth and development continues in the Puget Sound region, scientists anticipate that the coho mortality syndrome will expand, and will have significant impacts on wild coho populations. This is where area residents come in- helping scientists identify the extent of the phenomenon, and continue to refine scientists’ understanding at the toxic chemicals at play in affected areas.

“Media coverage of our work last year inspired some members of the public to report observations of coho suffering from the syndrome,” said Jay Davis, environmental toxicologist with the USFWS. “We realized that residents of the Puget Sound region can provide important data to help us document affected watersheds. There are potentially thousands of toxic chemicals in stormwater runoff, and refining our understanding of where and when this phenomenon is occurring can help us narrow our focus and provide an important part to this puzzle.”

The PSSST-developed website includes interactive tools that allow users to view the Puget Sound basin and affected watersheds, and train them to identify coho salmon and report suspected coho mortality as citizen scientists. Although studies with other species are ongoing, initial evidence suggests that coho are particularly vulnerable to the syndrome.

A MAP SHOWS PREDICTIONS FOR WATERSHEDS WHERE COHO WILL LIKELY FAIR BEST AND WORST AS THEY MAKE THEIR FALL SPAWNING RUNS. (USFWS)

Clearer picture of mortality

Coho returning to Puget Sound every autumn are an important food source for many animals, including endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

In a recently released draft report, the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force created by Washington Governor Inslee recognized the importance of stormwater as a source of pollution in Puget Sound, as well as the need to better understand the impacts of toxics on orcas and their salmon prey.

WSU researchers, led by Jen McIntyre, assistant professor at the WSU-run Washington Stormwater Center in Puyallup, have found that coho get sick and die within just a few hours of exposure to polluted stormwater.

AS FALL’S RAINS RETURN, RUNOFF FROM OUR STREETS AND HIGHWAYS OFTEN GETS FUNNELED INTO WATERS COHO ARE MIGRATING THROUGH, LEADING TO THEIR EARLY DEMISE IN SOME CASES. (K. KING, USFWS)

“Urban runoff contains a soup of heavy metals and hydrocarbons that are highly toxic to fish,” said McIntyre. “Every coho that dies in our polluted urban watersheds before it gets a chance to spawn means less eggs, fewer fry, and fewer returning fish to feed hungry orcas.”

“With this new, interactive story map, citizens along the Puget Sound can help scientists confirm their latest predictions of where coho are in the most trouble,” said Nat Scholz, an ecotoxicologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “This will help us understand where green stormwater infrastructure and similar strategies to promote clean water and healthy habitats are most needed.”

While the new story map is aimed at coho, efforts to reduce toxic runoff to Puget Sound lakes, rivers, and marine waters will benefit other species as well.

Coho salmon are an important part of the culture, history, and economy of the Pacific Northwest. This iconic species is widely distributed in lowland watersheds that are vulnerable to ongoing and future development. The role of water pollution in the continued decline of coho populations remains poorly understood.

To learn more about how you can help, including identifying and reporting coho mortality, visit: https://arcg.is/0SivbL

NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN EDITOR ANDY WALGAMOTT AND HIS FAMILY HAD A RAIN GARDEN INSTALLED TO CATCH STREET RUNOFF THAT OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE GONE INTO LAKE WASHINGTON’S THORNTON CREEK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Forgo Eating Chinook? There Are Much Better Ways To Help Orcas — NWIFC

Last month, when a Seattle public radio station tweeted out a link to a segment entitled “Should I eat Chinook salmon,” @NWTreatyTribes clapped back, “Yes, you should eat chinook salmon.”

Inserting myself into the conversation, I said, “Finally! Something we agree on!! ?.”

CHINOOK ON THE GRILL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It was meant to be a light joke, as tribal and recreational anglers have certainly been at odds over salmon in the past, but these days the fate of our fisheries are linked more closely than ever and there’s increasing recognition on our part that habitat really is key, as the tribes continually note.

So while not eating Chinook might make Emerald City residents feel like they’re doing something noble for struggling orcas, it only makes recovering the key feedstock even more difficult.

That’s the gist of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission chair Lorraine Loomis’s column this month.

In part it’s a response to a Seattle chef’s decision to pull the salmon species off the menu of her restaurants amidst the orca crisis.

“If restricting harvest were the solution to salmon recovery and orca survival, we would have accomplished both long ago,” Loomis writes.

Instead, she says if diners and others want to help, they should get in touch with their lawmakers to ask for increased hatchery production in select watersheds; more habitat restoration; quicker culvert work; and dealing with Puget Sound pinnipeds, which are literally stealing food from the southern residents, among other fixes.

Loomis acknowledges they’re all heavy lifts — many are also part of the governor’s SRKW task force’s potential recommendations out for public comment now — but they need to be implemented to help out the fish and thus the orcas.

Yes, it would benefit fishermen, but find me another part of the population that cares like we do.

“Indian and non-Indian fishermen are the greatest advocates for salmon recovery and the most accountable for their conservation. Contributing to the economic extinction of fishing will only accelerate the salmon’s decline,” Loomis writes, adding, “We need everyone in this fight. If you love salmon, eat it.”