Tag Archives: governor inslee

Orca Task Force Proposed Mission Statement Blasted For Overlooking Seal Predation

“This is going to be the Kill Sport Fishing Task Force.”

That’s Tom Nelson’s no-holds-barred assessment of an initial work product out of Governor Jay Inslee’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force.

TOM NELSON SAYS THAT THE GOVERNOR’S ORCA TASK FORCE IS OVERLOOKING A HUGE PROBLEM, SEAL AND SEA LIONS THAT ARE CONSUMING SIX TIMES AS MANY PUGET SOUND CHINOOK AS RECREATIONAL, COMMERCIAL AND TRIBAL FISHING FLEETS ARE. (THEOUTDOORLINE.COM)

Rather than address the fact harbor seals and other marine mammals are eating up starving local orcas’ breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks, a proposed mission statement from the group says it will instead seek to enact “temporary emergency measures to offset any shortfall in prey availability.”

Nelson, co-host of the Saturday morning fishing and hunting radio show The Outdoor Line on Seattle’s 710 ESPN, interprets that to mean cutting salmon angling seasons, plain and simple.

“We’ve suffered cut after cut after cut after cut,” he bristles.

The statement also calls for reducing vessel traffic in whale feeding areas by 50 percent by the year 2022.

That probably doesn’t mean ferries, tankers and other shipping traffic, at least in Nelson’s eyes.

“It’s all going to be fishing and whale watching and recreational boats,” he says.

It all boggles Nelson, and this afternoon he ripped the apparent low-hanging-fruit approach on KIRO Radio 97.3’s Dori Monson Show.

He told his fellow radio host that officials were “ducking, dodging and diving from doing the right thing.”

A HARBOR SEAL SWIMS BESIDE A BOAT OFF KINGSTON IN MID-JULY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The task force’s “full draft” report for how to recover orcas isn’t due till Oct. 1, but that the mission statement doesn’t mention pinnipeds is highly perplexing.

Nelson points to a 2017 paper that looked at king salmon consumption in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal over the previous 45 years.

“Converting juvenile Chinook salmon into adult equivalents, we found that by 2015, pinnipeds consumed double that of resident killer whales and six times greater than the combined commercial and recreational catches,” the authors’ abstract reads.

Another paper from last year with a wider lens says, “Harbor seals in the Salish Sea (i.e. Puget Sound, Strait of Georgia, and Strait of San Juan de Fuca) accounted for 86.4% of the total coast wide (Chinook) smolt consumption in 2015, due to large increases in the harbor seal abundance in this region between 1975 and 2015 (8,600 to 77,800), as well as a large diet fraction of Chinook salmon smolts relative to other regions.”

FIGURES IN “COMPETING TRADEOFFS BETWEEN INCREASING MARINE MAMMAL PREDATION AND FISHERIES HARVEST OF CHINOOK SALMON,” PUBLISHED IN SCIENTIFIC REPORTS LAST FALL, ILLUSTRATES THE INCREASING CONSUMPTION OF INDIVIDUAL CHINOOK AND CHINOOK BIOMASS BY HARBOR SEALS (BLUE) AND OTHER MARINE MAMMALS. (CHASCO ET AL)

Coastwide, the all-fleet king catch has decreased from 3.6 million to 2.1 million.

As for the paper that the governor’s group appears to be leaning on, it doesn’t mention harbor seals or sea lions once.

It does say that “a 50% noise reduction plus a 15% increase in Chinook would allow the (SRKW) population to reach the 2.3% growth target.”

That 15 percent figure can also be found in the task force’s proposed mission statement: “By 2028: In the near term, our goal is to maintain reductions in vessel disturbance and underwater noise and increase Chinook prey abundance by 15% by 2028.”

Hatchery production increases are being considered and recently state and federal biologists identified the most important Chinook rivers for SRKWs.

Noise, pollutants and prey availability are believed to be the three key factors in why J, K and L pods are struggling, but the task force paper also states, “The whales’ depleted status is due in large part to the legacy of an unsustainable live-capture fishery for display in aquariums.”

It was popular to go to SeaWorld and see orcas eat fish out of trainers’ hands.

Ironically, Nelson was threatened with a $500 fine this week for flipping a finger-sized chunk of a salmon carcass to a harbor seal hanging out in the Everett marina, where he moors his boat.

He was on camera with KING 5 for a story illustrating the abundance of harbor seals in Puget Sound.

As soon as he tossed out that piece of fish to one of the “water puppies” that more and more appear to beg for scraps from fishermen and others, he and the camera crew’s phones started ringing and he eventually found himself on the line with a federal enforcement officer.

It all may go down as a warning, but it’s illegal to feed the Marine Mammal Protection Act species.

The day before a harbor seal ate a wild Chinook right off the end of Nelson’s line as he tried to release it.

HUGH ALLEN SNAPPED THIS HARBOR SEAL STEALING A SAN JUANS SALMON LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

So how would Nelson deal with the overpopulation of harbor seals that are eating Puget Sound Chinook, many of which would otherwise grow into adults and upon their return to the Salish Sea provide nourishment for the orcas?

“If we could cut their numbers in half, it could do something. We could stop this by trapping and releasing them in the ocean,” he proposes.

There, they’d be subject to being preyed on transient killer whales, the pinniped-eating kind.

“We’re going to have to act,” he says. “It ain’t gonna be nice, it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

This week, lawmakers in Washington DC voted to expand state and tribal managers’ authority to remove sea lions from more of the Lower Columbia and its tribs to reduce their predation on ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks.

Hold that thought, Senators.

Agency OKs Moving Atlantic Salmon Smolts Into Bainbridge Netpen

A month and a half after a commercial netpen failed elsewhere in Puget Sound, state regulators have approved a shipment of 1 million young Atlantic salmon into another floating enclosure here.

WDFW says that Cooke Aquaculture’s facilities in the Bremerton area’s Rich Passage — the site of a protest flotilla in mid-September — were inspected by the Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources and “met structural, water quality, and fish health requirements.”

FARMED ATLANTIC SALMON FROM NORWAY OFFERED FOR SALE AT THE SHORELINE COSTCO RECENTLY; IT WAS PUT BACK IN THE COLD CASE IN HOPES THE EDITOR WOULD CATCH A COHO FOR DINNER INSTEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The agency issued a transportation permit to the company late Monday.

While Governor Jay Inslee has banned permitting new netpens during investigations into why the international conglomerate’s Cypress Island operation broke up in mid-August — there are indications of aging equipment due to be replaced — state laws didn’t preclude moving the “healthy” 12- to 16-month-old fish into another enclosure, according to WDFW.

Cooke had applied in late August to transport the Atlantics from its rearing ponds in Rochester south of Olympia to Clam Bay, even as efforts to capture their 160,000 or so 8- to 10-pound adult escapees were ongoing in the San Juans.

A press release from the Governor’s Office said that Inslee is “very concerned” about the transfer, and called it “disappointing and frustrating” in light of August’s events.

He said his office had asked Cooke to withdraw the permit application “for our tribes, for our citizens, for our environment and for the industry’s long-term prospects.”

Around 305,000 of the market fish were being finished in the Cypress netpens this summer, and 140,000 were recovered inside them after the failure.

Through last week tribal fishermen have netted around 50,000, while hook-and-line anglers reported catching nearly 1,950, with another 3,000 or so caught by nontribal commercial fishermen.

This isn’t to say Atlantics don’t pale in comparison — and in more ways than one — to native Pacific salmon, but the breakout led to numerous wild claims about the fish.

A Sept. 11 initial assessment and Sept. 14 update found Cooke’s fish were “healthy” when the incident occurred, weren’t faring well in Puget Sound based on signs of anorexia, the stomachs of tribally sampled fish were “empty” and no signs of fish pathogens had been found in salmon recovered early on.

There was, however, an interesting note in that report: “Necropsy findings indicate an active inflammatory process of unknown origin originating in the gastrointestinal tract in the later September capture group.”

Neither large escapes from netpens in the 1990s nor directed stocking efforts in the 1980s resulted in breeding populations of the nonnative salmon in Puget Sound rivers.

Cooke will move the young Atlantics from the hatchery to netpen through the fall, according to WDFW, and they will be grown there until mid- to late 2019 before they are harvested.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported the age of the Atlantics being moved from rearing ponds to Clam Bay as 2 years old, but subsequent information has come in that they will be a year to 16 months old.

 

Update From Olympia: Elk Hoof, Beaver Bills Signed, Others On Inslee’s Desk

The first of two elk management bills to pass the Washington legislature this session was signed into law Thursday.

With a stroke of Governor Jay Inslee’s pen, Washington State University was given the lead to monitor hoofrot-stricken wapiti in the state’s southwestern corner, as well as look into the causes and possible solutions to the disease that’s leaving the animals limping.

AN ELK’S HOOF AFFECTED BY THE CONDITION. (WDFW)

Second Substitute Senate Bill 5474, which was sponsored by Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe), was unanimously approved by the Senate and House, and also bars moving elk out of areas with hoofrot.

“It is my hope that with the expertise of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, working with agency officials, our Tribal leaders, sportsmen, and landowners that we can begin eradicating this horrible pestilence,” said Pearson, chair of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee, this morning.

WDFW will continue to be heavily involved in the effort the agency began in 2009 with the collection of hooves from diseased animals.

Those were sent to WSU and four other university and federal institutions, and in 2014 preliminary results suggested it was caused by treponeme bacteria, a type of dermatitis found in livestock and unfortunately considered highly infectious among free-roaming elk.

That makes it very difficult to control, though an early version of the bill would have licensed state hunters to shoot limpers on site. That was removed after objections from sportsmen and WDFW.

While the question of funding WSU’s elk work remains unresolved as of this writing, WDFW was happy with the final bill.

“We think more effort on elk hoof disease is needed,” said the agency’s legislative liaison Raquel Crosier.

As for the other elk legislation, SHB 1353 directs WDFW and the Department of Transportation to come up with a project to reduce the number of collisions between the Colockum herd and vehicles on area highways.

It calls for a three-pronged approach: increasing general season hunting ops and depredation permits, barring feeding elk by anyone but WDFW, and using cattle grazing to keep elk away from roads and homes.

The bill was delivered to Inslee’s desk April 21 but has not been signed.

Other fish- and wildlife-related bills that have come through the legislature and have been signed by the governor include:

HB 1257, which allows WDFW to move Western Washington beavers around the Westside, where before the dam builders could only be translocated to the Eastside or had to be put down, and;

SB 5761, which exempts the release of certain information about tribal fishermen and shellfish growers from public records act disclosure requests.

The beaver bill has the potential to really benefit salmon and steelhead habitat, as well as provide other wildlife benefits.

Bills sitting on Inslee’s desk include:

HB 1464, request legislation from WDFW and cosponsored by Rep. Brian Blake and others, it aims to expand recreational access to private lands by modifying immunity laws to protect owners WDFW signs agreements with from liability;

HB 1465, shielding the identities of those involved in nonlethal wolf work or depredation investigations from public disclosure requests, and;

HB 2126, which creates a grant program and account for those grants to help fund nonlethal wolf-livestock management in Northeast Washington.

The regular session of the legislature ended last week without a budget deal, but has since reconvened in a special session.

While WDFW’s fee bills — licenses, aquatic invasive species, Columbia endorsement, hydraulic permit approvals — are still alive, their fate largely may not be known until after legislators agree on an operating budget.

On the license side, Republicans in the Senate favor a General Fund infusion where the House preferred a fee hike because of McCleary funding.

There are two other bills of note out there, though action this session seems unlikely now:

Sen. Maralyn Chase’s Senate Joint Memorial 8009 calls on Congress to fund NOAA’s review of hatchery genetic management plans. While a no-brainer for you and I, some lawmakers may have balked at the downstream cost of those approved HGMPs — increased state monitoring of fisheries, which costs money.

And though it was a bit late for this go-around, Senate Joint Resolution 8206, which would add the right to hunt and fish to Washington’s constitution, is still alive for another push next year.

Westside Beaver Bill Eyes Up Gov. Inslee’s Desk

While Washington’s toothsome aquatic engineers may be hunkered in their lodges this blustery morning, today happens to be International Beaver Day, according to WDFW.

It may one day be known as Evergreen State Beaver Week.

READY FOR WORK. (ODFW)

Yesterday saw HB 1257 clear the Legislature, and the bill which would allow WDFW to begin releasing beavers in Western Washington now heads for Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

Up until now, the agency has had to either translocate Westside beavers to the 509 or, well, permanently revoke their dam-building license.

The bill was consponsored by a bipartisan, west-east mix of state lawmakers (Reps. Blake, Buys, Fitzgibbon, Kretz and Taylor), sailed through both chambers of the legislature with only one nay (we’ll give Sen. Baumgartner of Spokane a pass because his last name translates to tree gardener auf Deutsch), and had strong support from WDFW and Western Washington tribes.

Mike Sevigny of the Tulalip Tribes gave lawmakers a pretty powerful pitch about how beaver habitat is strongly correlated to salmon and steelhead habitat.

But they don’t just help out the fishes.

Earlier today on Facebook, WDFW posted these notes about what they do for other critters:

1. Deer and elk frequent beaver ponds in winter to forage on shrubby plants that grow where beavers cut down trees for food or use to make their dams and lodges.
2. Weasels, raccoons, and herons hunt frogs and other prey along the marshy edges of beaver ponds.
3. Migratory waterbirds use beaver ponds as nesting areas and resting stops during migration.
4. Ducks and geese often nest on top of beaver lodges since they offer warmth and protection, especially when lodges are formed in the middle of a pond.
5. The trees that die as a result of rising water levels attract insects, which in turn feed woodpeckers, whose holes later provide homes for other wildlife.

Yes, beavers can make messes where messes aren’t wanted, but as we’ve reported in the past here, they stand to be a cheap, natural way to improve habitat.