Tag Archives: COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION

Bipartisan Salmon Predation Prevention Act Passed By US Senate Committee

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM U.S. SENATORS MARIA CANTWELL (WA-D) AND JIM RISCH (ID-R)

Today, bipartisan legislation to build upon existing laws to manage the sea lion population passed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The legislation, proposed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jim Risch (R-ID), will give state and tribal fishery managers more flexibility to address predatory sea lions in the Columbia River system.

A CALIFORNIA SEA LION HOLDS A SALMONID — EITHER A SPRING CHINOOK OR STEELHEAD — BELOW WILLAMETTE FALLS. (ODFW, FLICKR)

The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, which helps protect endangered salmon and steelhead populations, passed without objection and will be considered next on the Senate floor. The bipartisan bill would allow wildlife agencies to better protect vulnerable fish populations through science-based management of these invasive, non-ESA listed sea lion populations, while also maintaining a strong Marine Mammal Protection Act that supports research, science-based management, and public process.

“Wild salmon are central to the culture, economy, and tribal treaty rights of the Pacific Northwest and protecting these fish is crucial to the health of Southern resident orcas,” said Senator Cantwell. “This science-based, bipartisan bill enhances existing tools that state and tribal wildlife managers need to address salmon predation, protect the health of sea lion stocks, and ensure that we are managing wildlife based on the best science available. Pacific salmon should be protected for generations to come.”

“Threatened and endangered species of salmon are being damaged by sea lions in the Columbia River, severely impacting Idaho’s efforts to restore the populations” said Senator Risch. “I’m grateful to Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for making this a committee priority and for quickly advancing our bill.”

Support for this legislation is bipartisan and crosses multiple Pacific Northwest states. The governors of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon wrote to the Northwest Senate delegation in support of the bill, and the four chairs of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission have all voiced their support. The National Congress of American Indians has called the legislation “essential” to protect salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon.

“Congressional action is critical to reducing the numbers of sea lions that prey on salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Botka. “We welcome the Senate’s progress and look forward to final passage of legislation that will enable the Northwest states and our tribal partners to better protect endangered fish.”

“We applaud the bi-partisan leadership of Senators Cantwell and Risch to get unanimous support today from the Senate Commerce Committee for S. 3119. The bill will expand the ongoing efforts of tribal and state co-managers who have collaborated both on the river and in Congress to address sea lion predation. This legislation reconciles two important conservation laws while it also recognizes the four treaty tribes expertise and role as caretakers of ancestral resources in the lower Columbia River basin,” said Jaime Pinkham, Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

“This bill provides a thoughtful and practical approach to addressing sea lion predation in critical areas of the Columbia River,” said Guido Rahr, President of the Wild Salmon Center. “It also for the first time enables managers to respond before the number and habits of sea lions become an insurmountable problem for returning wild salmon and steelhead populations. Salmon recovery requires a multi-faceted response. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Cantwell on this issue.”

“Senator Cantwell has stepped up during a crisis and delivered a solution to prevent extinction of fragile Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead stocks. The businesses of NSIA are appreciative of the Senator’s leadership in resolving this very tough issue. All who care about salmon recovery, food for Southern Resident Killer Whales, and have jobs that depend on healthy fish stocks owe Senator Cantwell our deepest gratitude,” said Liz Hamilton, Executive Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

“Sea lions are killing as many as 43 percent of the spring-migrating Chinook salmon in the Columbia River, including threatened and endangered species. This is an immediate problem that needs an immediate solution, a more streamlined and effective process for removing the most problematic sea lions,”said Guy Norman, a Washington member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. “The bill enables states and tribes to deal with a major bottleneck to salmon survival. It’s a big win for the fish and for the people of the Northwest who are deeply invested in salmon recovery.

Federal, state, and tribal governments and other organizations have made significant conservation and restoration investments throughout the Pacific Northwest. Sea lion populations have increased significantly along the West Coast over the past 40 years; today, there are roughly 300,000. These sea lions have entered into habitat where they had never been before, including areas around the Bonneville Dam and Willamette Falls.

recent study by Oregon State University found that increasing predation from sea lions has decreased the fishery harvest of adult Chinook salmon in the Pacific Northwest. According to the study, if sea lions continue their current salmon consumption habits, there is an 89 percent chance that a population of wild steelhead could go extinct. The study also noted that future long-term salmon management plans will need to address the increased salmon predation throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Companion legislation has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today passed a legislative proposal by U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would give state and tribal managers more flexibility in addressing predatory sea lions in the Columbia River system that are threatening both ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. S. 3119, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, passed without objection and will be considered next on the Senate floor. Companion legislation has already passed the House.

“Threatened and endangered species of salmon are being damaged by sea lions in the Columbia River, severely impacting Idaho’s efforts to restore the populations,” said Senator Risch. “I’m grateful to Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for making this a committee priority and for quickly advancing our bill.”

“Wild salmon are central to the culture, economy, and tribal treaty rights of the Pacific Northwest and protecting these fish is crucial to the health of Southern resident orcas,” said Senator Cantwell. “This science-based, bipartisan bill enhances existing tools that state and tribal wildlife managers need to address salmon predation, protect the health of sea lion stocks, and ensure that we are managing wildlife based on the best science available. Pacific salmon should be protected for generations to come.”

There are ESA threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead being significantly harmed by the increasing sea lion population. This predation of ESA-listed fish is negating the large investments being spent on salmon recovery associated with habitat, harvest, and hatcheries. If enacted, this bill would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to provide for better management of these invasive, non-listed sea lions.

Reconditioned Kelts Released, Boosting Wild Snake B-run By 20 Percent

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION

This year’s low number of steelhead returning to spawn are getting a helping hand from the Nez Perce Tribe and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission this week when fisheries biologists are releasing approximately 100 wild, B-run steelhead into the Snake River. Funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, the steelhead restoration project increases adult steelhead returns to the Snake River basin by maximizing the species’ ability to repeat spawn.

WILD STEELHEAD CAPTURED AS KELTS AND RECONDITIONED THROUGH A NEZ PERCE TRIBE PROGRAM ARE RELEASED INTO THE SNAKE RIVER, INCREASING THIS YEAR’S RETURN BY A FIFTH. (CRITFC)

The steelhead released today just below Lower Granite Dam were all “kelts”—steelhead that have spawned at least once. They were collected at the dam on their out-migration during spring 2016 and 2017 and transported to the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery in Idaho where they were nursed back to health. After their 6- to 18-month re-maturation process, the females that were ready to spawn again were transported back to the river and released into the wild.

“With an expected natural return of around 500 female B-Run steelhead, this year’s kelt release will boost the number of spawners in the Snake River 20 percent,” said Doug Hatch, senior fisheries scientist and kelt project leader for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “This work is beneficial every year, but absolutely critical in low-return years like this one.”

Nearly all steelhead survive after spawning, but challenges such as river conditions and the Columbia/Snake hydrosystem impact their survival. Only about half of each year’s steelhead run makes it back to Lower Granite Dam, the first dam they encounter on their migration back to the ocean. Only a tiny fraction (about 0.4% of the Snake River run are kelts) survive to repeat another spawning cycle.

“Kelts have always been a part of the ecosystem. Through the tribal reconditioning program we are merely nurturing an existing process to increase natural reproduction and significantly increases a kelt’s chances of spawning again,” explained Jaime A. Pinkham, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “Holding them in hatchery pools shields them from migration-related mortalities and providing them a nutritious and varied diet in low-stress conditions allows them to recover and re-mature.”

The Snake River kelt reconditioning program is an adaptation of a similar program operated on the Yakima River by the Yakama Nation and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. For the past 18 years, these tribal kelt reconditioning programs have significantly increased the number of repeat steelhead spawners throughout the region.

“Programs like these that take an innovative approach to recovery are how we, as a region, can make real progress in salmon and steelhead recovery,” said Pinkham.

More information on the tribes’ steelhead kelt reconditioning program can be found online at: http://www.critfc.org/fish-and-watersheds/fish-and-habitat-restoration/restoration-successes/steelhead-kelt-reconditioning/

Columbia Tribes’ Chair Testifies For Sea Lion Management Bill

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION

The Pacific Northwest needs more efficient and effective management tools to address the growing issue of sea lion predation on the Columbia River’s at-risk salmon populations. That was the message delivered earlier today by Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) Chairman Leland Bill when he testified in support of H.R. 2083, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act. Invited to testify by committee Chairman Lamborn, today’s hearing was before the Water, Power and Oceans, a subcommittee to the House Natural Resource Committee.

 

THE BACK OF A COLUMBIA SYSTEM SPRING CHINOOK BEARS SCARS FROM AN ATTACK BY A SEA LION. (CRITFC)

Introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-WA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), H.R. 2083 would extend pinniped removal authority to CRITFC and the four sovereign tribes that they represent  (the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama and Warm Springs tribes) who have co-management authority on the Columbia River. In addition to removal authority, the legislation implements area-based management rather than individual sea lion management and allows fishery management agencies to remove California sea lions upstream of river mile 120 or in any Columbia River tributary. This streamlined process would allow the region to effectively manage sea lion predation on endangered salmon populations.

Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit, the four tribes’ comprehensive anadromous fish management plan, addresses the challenges facing Columbia River salmon throughout their entire life cycle including marine mammal predation.  The effects of land and water management, harvest, hydroelectric passage, hatcheries and predation must be considered in a holistic manner. As explained by the Commission’s Chairman, “the Creator placed an obligation on the Indian people to speak for the salmon. Our testimony and management actions help fulfill this commitment.”

Over the past 15 years, sea lion populations throughout the 145 river miles between the estuary and Bonneville Dam have significantly increased. The subsequent spike in predation on endangered salmon has resulted in a significant loss of adult salmon. NOAA Fisheries found that 45 percent of the 2014 spring chinook run was potentially lost to sea lions. Last year, approximately 190 sea lions killed over 9,500 adult spring chinook within a quarter mile of Bonneville Dam – a 5.8 percent loss of the 2016 spring chinook return.

A limited sea lion removal program has been in effect at Bonneville Dam since 2011. However, a cumbersome process and litigation has hampered the program’s success and the current program has not reduced sea lion predation below Bonneville Dam.

Sea lion populations have seen resurgence under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In 1972 when the Act was passed, the California sea lion population hovered around 30,000 animals. Today, there are over 325,000 animals along the West Coast and the species has fully recovered.

“The actions proposed under H.R. 2083 are guided by 10 years of data,” explained Chairman Bill. “This data shows a growing predation problem and our on-the-river experience implementing Section 120 removal permits has taught us that the current approach is not enough. I’m here to tell you that more needs to be done.”

CRITFC Releases Name Of Tech Who Died On Columbia, More On Accident

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION

On Friday, April 7, 2017 a Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) four-member crew was conducting sea lion abundance counts in the lower Columbia River aboard the research vessel CRITFC 3 when it capsized near Multnomah Falls. Crewmember Greg George (56) was transported via Life Flight to Portland where he later died. A member of the Yakama Nation, Greg came from a well-known fishing family and had decades of experience on the river as both a fisher and research technician. He worked on a number of fisheries projects over the past 20 years for CRITFC, USGS, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. His work at CRITFC included measuring gas bubble trauma in juvenile salmon, removing northern pike minnow, and evaluating sea lion predation on returning salmon in the lower Columbia River.

The other three crewmembers received care for mild hypothermia in area hospitals and were released later that day. The surviving crewmembers are Bobby Begay and Maria Jim, both Yakama Nation tribal members, and Tyler Simmons, a Umatilla tribal member.

THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION REPORTS THAT ON THE DAY ITS TECH GREG GEORGE DIED, THE CREW REPORTED THAT THE RIVER IN THE WESTERN GORGE WAS “CALM” AT THE START OF THEIR SEA LION SURVEY AT PHOCA ROCKS, NEAR WHERE THIS IMAGE WAS TAKEN, BUT WINDS CAME UP AND CONDITIONS DETERIORATED, SENDING A WAVE OVER THE BOW OF THEIR BOAT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Davis Washines, Yakama Nation General Council Chairman and retired Chief of CRITFC Enforcement met with CRITFC staff on Monday morning to reflect on the accident and honor Greg. “We are taught to always treat one another in a good way, because we never know when the Creator will call our name. One day, we can be talking and visiting with someone, and the next day they can be gone. Greg grew up as a Columbia River fisherman and worked over the past 20 years helping to restore and protect the salmon runs, which he was doing when this tragic accident happened. He loved the river and saw the importance of his job protecting salmon. We can now say that he truly dedicated his life to this effort. He worked for something important and this work goes on. We can pay tribute to his sacrifice and his honor by continuing to restore and protect our first food, salmon.”

The day started at 8:30am when the crew checked in with the Portland office and reported that the Columbia River just below Bonneville Dam was calm and that they were heading to Phoca Rock for their morning sea lion count. Phoca Rock is an outcrop across from Bridle Veil Falls 13 miles downstream from Bonneville Dam. On their return, river conditions worsened and a large wave broke over the bow of the boat, capsizing it. The crewmembers were able to exit the cabin and held on to the capsized vessel until it sank. All were wearing flotation devices and were retrieved from the water by the Gresham Fire and Rescue team who were dispatched after receiving 911 calls.

The CRITFC 3 was a three-year-old, 26-foot research vessel that was equipped with twin-engines, a self-bailing deck, and the latest navigation and safety equipment.

“CRITFC and it’s member tribes mourn the loss of our colleague and our friend who was lost in this accident and give thanks for the safe return of the other three crew members,” said Leland Bill, Chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “The crew captain showed true bravery and his actions prevented an even larger tragedy. The Columbia River offers many gifts but its power makes it dangerous, even for the most experienced.”

“We are overwhelmed by the community support and well-wishes from our state and federal partners as well as members of the public,” Chairman Bill continued. “We will be forever grateful to the first responders who were involved in the rescue effort and provided care to our crew.”