Tag Archives: noaa

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)

With 4 Orcas In Sensitive Condition, NOAA Asking Boaters To Give ‘Extra’ Space

With another killer whale losing weight but at least three others recently discovered to be pregnant, federal officials are asking boaters to give the pods an even wider berth.

NOAA reports that a late-20s male appears thinner since losing its mother last year, which could be making foraging more difficult.

IMAGES FROM NOAA SHOW A “NOTICEABLY THINNER” ORCA KNOWN AS J25. (NOAA)

“While the decline in K25’s body condition is not as severe as we saw with J50 this summer, it is a warning signal,” said Lynn Barre, the recovery coordinator for resident orcas.

J50 was a three-year-old southern resident that is now believed to have died.

The agency says it will track the animal’s condition, collect poop samples if it can and otherwise try to minimize disturbing it.

The average life span of a bull orca is 30 years.

Meanwhile, NOAA says that at least one female in J, K and L Pods is pregnant, “vital news.”

(NOAA)

“We ask that vessels minimize disturbance of these pregnant whales, in addition to K25, to maximize the chances of successful pregnancies,” said Scott Rumsey, the deputy West Coast region administrator.

The news comes as salmon fishing is just about wrapped up in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juans, where this coming Sunday, Sept. 30, is the final day of coho season.  That’s also when crabbing closes in the islands.

And it follows yesterday’s release for public comment of potential recommendations on what to do to increase prey availability, operate vessels and clean up contaminants that could be affecting killer whale survival in Puget Sound.

Federal regs require boaters to stay 200 yards from whales, and earlier this year WDFW created a voluntary no-go zone on the west side of San Juan Island, and

Coho Anglers Get Two More Days Of Fishing On Central Oregon Coast

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

Ocean waters from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will be open for more coho salmon fishing this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 14-15). This is the second open period for the 2018 non selective coho season.  During the first two-day period anglers averaged more than one fish for every two anglers with a total estimated catch of 2,700 coho.

LORELEI PENNINGTON SHOWS OFF A WILD COHO CAUGHT DURING LAST SEPTEMBER’S SEASON. OREGON OFFICIALS, IN CONJUNCTION WITH FEDERAL FISHERY OVERSEERS, WERE ABLE TO PUT BEAVER STATE FISHERMEN BACK ON THE WATER FOR UNCLIPPED AND CLIPPED COHO ALIKE THIS WEEKEND. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

With an initial quota of 3,500 coho, that left only 800 coho available for harvest – not enough for another opener, according Eric Schindler, ODFW ocean salmon manager.

“However, with coordination and cooperation from NOAA Fisheries and flexibility in salmon management we were able to “roll-over” quota from the summer hatchery coho season to September,” Schindler said. “That bumped the quota up to 7,600 coho, and will give everyone at least two more days of fishing.”

Managers will review catches next week and decide on Wednesday if there is enough quota left for any additional fishing days.

Fishing for Chinook salmon remains open seven days a week through October, but Chinook catches have been slow most of the season. Anglers are reminded that when fishing for salmon in the ocean no more than two single point barbless hooks are allowed.  The hook rules also apply when fishing for any other species if a salmon has been retained.

Study Shows Importance Of Puget Sound Chinook Production To Starving Orcas

A new analysis is showing the importance of Puget Sound Chinook for the inland sea’s orcas.

Fall kings from the Nooksack to the Deschutes to the Elwha were ranked as the most important current feedstocks for the starving southern residents, followed by Lower Columbia and Strait of Georgia tribs.

A JOINT STATE-FEDERAL ANALYSIS IDENTIFIED THE SNOHOMISH RIVER BASIN AS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PRODUCERS OF CHINOOK FOR LOCAL ORCAS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

For the analysis, NOAA and WDFW sampled orca doots to “assist in prioritizing actions to increase critical prey for the whales.”

Nutritional stress has been identified as among the chief causes of their declining numbers, and the news comes as officials report a newborn calf died off Victoria yesterday. Just half of the 28 reproductive-age “blackfish” have produced calves in the last 10 years, another report said.

“Ramp up the hatchery production. Do it now. It’s the only way,” says Tom Nelson, co-host of Seattle outdoors radio show The Outdoor Line on 710 ESPN.

He was reacting this morning while fishing for coho at Possession Bar to a Seattle Times scoop on the findings.

Reporter Lynda V. Mapes writes that from the standpoint of federal overseers, “In some instances, it might make more sense to focus on habitat restoration rather than increasing hatchery releases, [NOAA’s Lynn] Barre said. “It has to be evaluated on a watershed level … It’s not just ‘let’s make more fish to feed the whales,’ hold on, there are a few things to consider.’”

A MATRIX FROM THE NOAA-WDFW RANKS THE MOST IMPORTANT CHINOOK STOCKS FOR SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES BY BASIN.

Nelson, who has a degree in fisheries biology, acknowledges that the problems salmon and orcas face are highly complex, with few if any single-faceted answers, but with J, K and L pods down to just 75 animals, action is needed right now, and not just restricting already restricted salmon seasons.

“A significant increase in hatchery releases has to happen. Anything else is a long-term fix. The killer whales don’t have time,” Nelson says.

With nine out of every 10 adult Puget Sound Chinook born at, reared in and released from hatcheries, the state is planning on bolstering prroduction, with the Fish and Wildlife Commission making moves towards that, along with adding  protections for orcas from vessels, another key factor in their struggles. Pollutants also play a role.

Both the salmon stock and marine mammals are listed under the Endangered Species Act, which NOAA is charged with enforcing.

But to achieve a meaningful increase in wild Chinook numbers, you have to have better habitat, Nelson says, and that’s unlikely to occur any time soon in our densely populated region.

“If you think you’re going to get everyone to move out of the Central Sound and get it back to presettlement days, you’re dreaming,” Nelson says.

A lot of habitat work is occurring in estuaries, side channels and elsewhere, but results are painfully slow, and that pace could impact the region’s interest in continuing with the much-needed work.

Meanwhile, 89 percent of this year’s forecast of 255,219 fall kings expected to return to Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Hood Canal rivers are hatchery fish.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT PEERS INTO AN UNUSED RACEWAY AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR. THE FACILITY REARS SUMMER KINGS. CHINOOK PRODUCTION IN WESTERN WASHINGTON IS HALF OF WHAT IT WAS IN 1989 AS HATCHERY PRACTICES HAVE BEEN REFORMED TO HELP WILD STOCKS RECOVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The importance of Puget Sound Chinook — both wild and adipose-fin-clipped hatchery ones — to SRKWs is otherwise obvious because of where they hang out, off the Washington Coast, in the Straits and in the San Juans, where those salmon stocks return through on the way to their home rivers.

Upper and Middle Columbia and Snake upriver brights, and Fraser, Lower Columbia trib and Fraser springers were also highly important stocks, the analysis found.

But they also fed to a degree on Chinook from as far away as the Sacramento and Southeast Alaska.

“We can use this information as a guide, based on the best science, to help inform decisions about how we spend recovery dollars for both salmon and Southern Resident killer whales,” said Chris Yates, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, in a NOAA news story on the analysis. “We remain committed to recovery of all West Coast salmon stocks, and this helps us understand where we can maximize our resources and partnerships to help killer whales too.”

In the words of one close observer of the salmon world, the whales don’t care if kings have an extra fin or not, yet hatchery production has and probably will face more legal challenges.

With harbor seals and sea lions identified as eating large numbers of Puget Sound Chinook before they can mature into orca fodder, Nelson also called for reducing pinniped numbers, which he says could show results in as few as three years in terms of salmon prey availability for killer whales.

A HARBOR SEAL STEALS A SAN JUANS CHINOOK LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

That and hatchery production would also yield more fish for anglers and help WDFW sell more licenses, easing its budget issues.

NOAA Testing How Well Drone Sailboats Can Gather West Coast Fish Data

THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS RELEASE FROM NOAA FISHERIES

NOAA Fisheries’ two West Coast Science laboratories are joining forces with the Alameda, Calif., company Saildrone Inc. to test the first use of autonomous, wind and solar-powered vehicles to gather essential data on West Coast fish populations, including commercially valuable species such as hake, sardine, and anchovy.

A SAILDRONE OPERATES IN THE BERING SEA. (SAILDRONE)

Two saildrones will launch from Neah Bay, Wash., and three will launch from Saildrone’s home base in Alameda in late June. The drones will undertake different missions, all related to improving the efficiency and accuracy of fisheries stock assessments off the West Coast. Stock assessments make estimates of fish populations, which the Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries use in setting fishing rules and limits for the commercial fishing industry.

Four of the saildrones will duplicate the path of the NOAA Fisheries ship Reuben Lasker as it collects data on populations of sardine, anchovy and other small fishes, to also survey hake, a deep-water species that is one of the West Coast’s most valuable commercial fisheries. Two of these drones will launch from Neah Bay and two from Alameda. Scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will work with Saildrone to manage the research. Scientists can adjust the drones’ assignments in real time.

A PAIR OF SAILDRONES OFF CALIFORNIA. (SAILDRONE)

“This a real opportunity for us to test new and likely better ways of collecting data that informs some of our most important decisions on fisheries management,” said Larry Hufnagle, a NWFSC research scientist who will help direct the mission.

A fifth saildrone will explore different approaches to improving the accuracies and efficiencies of future stock assessments. Scientists from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in La Jolla, Calif., will help manage the mission with Saildrone. These experiments have four objectives.

• Collect data closer to shore than NOAA ships can safely navigate, to estimate fish in shallow water.
• Survey ahead of the ship, to enable the ship focus on the most productive waters.
• Study the same area on multiple days, to study the vertical-migration and schooling behaviors of various fish species.
• Survey fish stocks as they migrate past a repeated saildrone transect, to improve the efficiency of ecosystem assessments.

The SWFSC conducts stock assessments of small pelagic fishes such as sardines, mackerels, and anchovies.

The saildrones can transmit some data each day, but full details will be downloaded from the vehicles at the end of the mission. The saildrones are designed to remain independently in the field for up to a year, although the four-saildrone mission will run up to 100 days, and the fifth saildrone may be deployed for up to six months. A saildrone typically travels at less than two knots, or a couple miles per hour, while the ship travels at 10 knots, leading to the use of multiple autonomous vehicles to cover the ship’s survey course.

THREE SAILDRONES AWAIT DEPLOYMENT IN ALASKA. (SAILDRONE)

The efforts will answer questions of whether autonomous data collection can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of fisheries management on the West Coast. If the saildrones can add more complete data or make better use of the data collected by ships, they have potential to increase the precision and accuracy of NOAA Fisheries and DFO stock estimates.

Scientists noted, however, that there are tradeoffs between the use of ships and autonomous vehicles in terms of time, and the suite of data that can be collected by each platform.

“We’re fortunate that Saildrone has been flexible enough to figure out ways to test these different ideas about how they might add value to what we do,” said Toby Garfield, Acting Deputy Director of the SWFSC, who is helping direct the mission of the fifth saildrone. “We’re responsible for managing and conserving marine resources, and this all adds to the long-term data that helps us do that effectively.”

NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center has been testing Saildrone technology, along with NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Alaska for the past three years to gather oceanographic data, acoustic data on endangered North Pacific right whales, information on walleye pollock, and for prey surveys within the foraging range of a declining population of northern fur seals. This year, the focus in Alaska will be on studying abundance and distribution of Arctic cod in the Chukchi Sea.

The launch of Saildrones along the West Coast demonstrates NOAA Fisheries’ continued commitment to embrace new technologies to maximize efficiencies and advance its mission.

Survey Finds Good Krill Numbers Again Off Oregon, But Even More Pyrosomes

An annual spring survey off the Northwest Coast came up with some good and bad news for key stocks.

Krill — hugely important near the base of the ocean food web — and young Dungeness crab numbers were as high as they’ve been in some time, but there are even more pyrosomes off Oregon’s Central Coast and to the south than last year.

RESEARCHERS CALLED THE RETURN OF KRILL TO THEIR SAMPLING NETS “A WELCOME SIGHT SINCE THESE IMPORTANT FORAGE HAVE LARGELY BEEN ABSENT OVER THE PAST COUPLE YEARS SINCE THE ANOMALOUS WARMING” FROM THE BLOB. (NWFSC)

Jennifer Fisher, fresh off a 10-day survey between San Francisco Bay and Newport, reported the findings on the Northwest Fisheries Science Center blog.

“These are the most Dungeness larvae and juveniles we’ve collected in a long time, and we have not seen krill numbers like this since before 2015,” Fisher followed up via email.

That year, 2015, was the height of The Blob — the huge pool of warmer than usual water in the Northeast Pacific that messed things up at sea and on land — and it was also a year after pyrosomes first began to be found in our coastal waters.

By last year, the tropical gelatinous, sea-pickle thingies that are actually colonies of organisms were clogging fishing gear off our coast and even turned up as far north as the rim of the Gulf of Alaska, also a first.

While rockfish were observed feeding on pyrosomes, it’s not clear how their numbers will affect the food web. Another NOAA blog from last October states, “At this point, there are more questions than answers.”

But the May survey answered the question whether they’re still out there.

“The pyrosome catches appear slightly larger and the colonies are larger compared to last year,” reports Fisher.

They can be found starting about 10 miles off the coast, living on the bottom during the day and rising to the surface at night.

PYROSOMES FILL A COOLER ABOARD THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION’S VESSEL, THE BELL M. SHIMADA. (NWFSC)

The Science Center will soon conduct another closely watched spring survey, collecting information on young Chinook and coho off Oregon.

Last year’s produced very low catches while one a couple years ago found very small fish. But the resurgence of krill is a hopeful sign that the food web could be rebuilding coming out of the hangover from the Blob.

Fisher also reported on Science Center’s blog that copepods are in a state of flux between winter warm-water communities and summer, cold-water ones that come with the upwelling.

So what does it all mean?

“The krill is a good sign, but the pyrosomes are not, since they are indicative of warm water,” she says. “And the transitional copepod community is also not a great sign for salmon. But it’s still early in the summer upwelling season, so things can certainly change.”

Expanding North Pacific Orca Pods Could Be Driving Down Chinook Size

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

The largest and oldest Chinook salmon — fish also known as “kings” and prized for their exceptional size — have mostly disappeared along the West Coast.

That’s the main finding of a new University of Washington-led study published today in Fish and Fisheries. The researchers analyzed nearly 40 years of data from hatchery and wild Chinook populations from California to Alaska, looking broadly at patterns that emerged over the course of four decades and across thousands of miles of coastline. In general, Chinook salmon populations from Alaska showed the biggest reductions in age and size, with Washington salmon a close second.

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT, ANGLERS AND COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN LIKE TO CATCH BIG CHINOOK — JOEL NYMEYER CAUGHT THIS 40-POUNDER IN THE SAN JUANS A COUPLE SEASONS AGO — BUT HARVEST PRESSURE IS HARDLY THE ONLY REASON THE SALMON SPECIES APPEARS TO BE GETTING SMALLER OVER TIME. A NEW UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON STUDY SAYS IT’S DUE TO COMPLEX INTERACTING FACTORS, AND RESEARCHERS HYPOTHESIZE THAT EXPANDING KILLER WHALE POPULATIONS IN THE NORTH PACIFIC ARE TARGETING BIG CHINOOK TO MEET THEIR DIETARY NEEDS. NYMEYER HOOKED HIS KING NEAR POINT ROBERTS WHILE TROLLING A HERRING BEHIND A FLASHER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Chinook are known for being the largest Pacific salmon and they are highly valued because they are so large,” said lead author Jan Ohlberger, a research scientist in the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “The largest fish are disappearing, and that affects subsistence and recreational fisheries that target these individuals.”

Chinook salmon are born in freshwater rivers and streams, then migrate to the ocean where they spend most of their lives feeding and growing to their spectacular body size. Each population’s life history in the ocean varies, mainly depending on where they can find food. California Chinook salmon tend to stay in the marine waters off the coast, while Oregon and Washington fish often migrate thousands of miles northward along the west coast to the Gulf of Alaska where they feed. Western Alaska populations tend to travel to the Bering Sea.

After one to five years in the ocean, the fish return to their home streams, where they spawn and then die.

Despite these differences in life history, most populations analyzed saw a clear reduction in the average size of the returning fish over the last four decades — up to 10 percent shorter in length, in the most extreme cases.

These broad similarities point to a cause that transcends regional fishing practices, ecosystems, or animal behaviors, the authors said.

“This suggests that there is something about the larger ocean environment that is driving these patterns,” Ohlberger said. “I think fishing is part of the story, but it’s definitely not sufficient to explain all of the patterns we see. Many populations are exploited at lower rates than they were 20 to 30 years ago.”

It used to be common to find Chinook salmon 40 inches or more in length, particularly in the Columbia River or Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and Copper River regions. The reductions in size could have a long-term impact on the abundance of Chinook salmon, because smaller females carry fewer eggs, so over time the number of fish that hatch and survive to adulthood may decrease.

There are likely many reasons for the changes in size and age, and the researchers say there is no “smoking gun.” Their analysis, however, points to fishing pressure and marine mammal predation as two of the bigger drivers.

Commercial and sport fishing have for years targeted larger Chinook. But fishing pressure has relaxed in the last 30 years due to regulations to promote sustainable fishing rates, while the reductions in Chinook size have been most rapid over the past 15 years. Resident killer whales, which are known Chinook salmon specialists, as well as other marine mammals that feed on salmon are probably contributing to the overall changes, the researchers found.

“We know that resident killer whales have a very strong preference for eating the largest fish, and this selectivity is far greater than fisheries ever were,” said senior author Daniel Schindler, a UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

While southern resident killer whales that inhabit Puget Sound are in apparent decline, populations of northern resident killer whales, and those that reside in the Gulf of Alaska and along the Aleutian Islands, appear to be growing at extremely fast rates. The paper’s authors propose that these burgeoning northern populations are possibly a critical, but poorly understood, cause of the observed declines in Chinook salmon sizes.

Scientists are still trying to understand the impacts of orcas and other marine mammals on Chinook salmon, and the ways in which their relationships may have ebbed and flowed in the past. It may not be possible, for example, for marine mammals and Chinook salmon populations to be robust at the same time, given their predator-prey relationship.

“When you have predators and prey interacting in a real ecosystem, everything can’t flourish all the time,” Schindler said. “These observations challenge our thinking about what we expect the structure and composition of our ecosystems to be.”

Co-authors are Eric Ward of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Bert Lewis of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

This study was funded by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Feds Issue Early Warning About 2018-19 Columbia Salmon Runs

As if I wasn’t depressed enough about what feels like an even worse return of Puget Sound pinks than forecast, federal fishery managers pushed out an early warning we could see diminished Columbia River salmon runs in coming years.

NOAA says that this year’s annual longterm ocean surveys off the Northwest Coast turned up some of the lowest numbers of juvenile Chinook and coho seen in the past two decades, which could translate into “lean times” in 2018 and 2019.

(NOAA)

The “highly anomalous conditions” observed off Oregon and Washington also included low catches of baitfish, which may mean predators higher up the food chain focused more on salmon smolts — a result seen with murres outside San Francisco Bay and possible but unproven here.

They say that though the ocean has cooled from the Blob, “the biological responses to these warm waters are likely to be evident for a longer period.”

Indeed, high numbers of southern visitors are still being seen.

Surveys showed Pacific pompano catches peaked in 2016 and declined this year but are still well above where they were between 1998 and 2013, while 2017’s jack mackerel catches were the highest ever. Pyrosomes also invaded this spring and researchers report a “complete shift” in the predominate jellyfish species off the coast.

The Daily Astorian has been working the ocean beat hard this summer, and broke this news earlier this week. In a report yesterday, the paper said the tuna season has been “abysmal” so far, with boats having to go 125 miles or further out to find fish, though the albies have been nice and fat.

The caveat in my case is that, while I’ve been fishing two spots — my local beach and the Duwamish in Tukwila –without success, that doesn’t mean the salmon are necessarily not there, though the lack of jumpers certainly is suggestive.

Similarly, scientists need to take a deeper dive with what they’ve initially collected and compare it to other data before they issue 2018 Columbia salmon forecasts.

“Our results are still in the preliminary stage, with several next steps,” reads a mid-August memo to Michael Tehan, NOAA’s Assistant Regional Administrator at the Interior Columbia Basin Office in Portland. “Zooplankton and salmon samples that we collected at sea still need to be processed to estimate important biological metrics, such as copepod biomass, salmon condition and stomach contents, and salmon growth hormone levels. All results will be placed into a broader context by integrating them with oceanographic data derived from satellites and ocean buoys. We will also corroborate our results with other coastal ecosystem surveys (e.g., Gulf of Alaska) that regularly catch Columbia River salmon. Finally, each year we synthesize results of this work, including an estimate of adult salmon returns to the Columbia River.”