Tag Archives: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

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.

Earth’s Geomagnetic Field Doesn’t Just Aid Salmon Migration-Getting Out Of The Gravel Too

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Researchers who confirmed in recent years that salmon use the Earth’s geomagnetic field to guide their long-distance migrations have found that the fish also use the field for a much simpler and smaller-scale migration: When the young emerge from gravel nests to reach surface waters.

FRESHLY HATCHED SALMON. (RICHARD BELL, TOM QUINN, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

The study is published in the journal Biology Letters. The findings have important implications for understanding how salmon navigate across the wide range of habitats they encounter.

“From very early on in the life cycle, salmon have the ability to detect and respond to geomagnetic information,” said David Noakes, director of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center and senior author on the study. “This matters because we need to know how rearing conditions might impact the fish, particularly in the case of hatcheries – where we already have some evidence that exposure to unnatural magnetic fields can disrupt the ability of steelhead trout to orient appropriately.”

The Oregon Hatchery Research Center is a collaborative research project of Oregon State University, where Noakes is a professor and senior scientist in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Michelle Scanlan, faculty research assistant at OSU and co-lead author on the study, said, “We show that the magnetic sense in salmon can be used for three-dimensional orientation – as a map, a compass and an indication of which way is up.”

When salmon spawn, the mothers bury their fertilized eggs in gravel “redds” where they incubate for weeks or months. Upon hatching, the young salmon remain in the gravel until they deplete residual yolk stores, after which they emerge from the gravel and live above the substrate in the open water of the stream or river.

The newly-hatched fish appear to use the direction of magnetic field lines to help determine which way is up. This finding indicates that magnetic cues are used for three-dimensional orientation across a wide range of spatial scales and habitats.

“Getting out of the gravel is not as easy as it might seem, but it is of critical importance,” said Noakes, who in previous studies examined the role of temperature, light, and water current on salmon emergence.

“All could be used by the fish, but none was essential,” he said. “In the absence of these cues, fish still moved out of the gravel. Now we have the answer to that.”

The research team constructed a system of copper-wire coils through which a very low electric current could be run to precisely control the magnetic field surrounding fish. Experiments were carried out under complete darkness and in still water.

Within the coil system, fish that were developmentally ready to move into surface waters were placed at the bottom of plastic tubes that had been filled with clear glass marbles, to mimic gravel. The researchers measured the height fish moved up in the tubes over a 30-minute period.

One group of salmon were exposed to the normal magnetic field in Oregon and another group of salmon to an inverted magnetic field. Fish in the normal magnetic field moved significantly further up the tubes than did those that experienced the inverted magnetic field. The team ruled out the possibility that fish were simply startled by the sudden change in electromagnetic conditions by running the same amount of electric current required to invert the magnetic field in the opposite direction.

“Given that only inverting the magnetic field influenced fish movement, it seems salmon use the direction of field lines to orient vertically during their emergence from gravel – our findings are difficult to interpret in any other way,” said Nathan Putman, senior scientist at LGL Ecological Research Associates in Bryan, Texas, and co-lead author on the study.

Study collaborators included researchers in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; the University of Washington and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The study was funded by Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Hatchery Research Center and OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Cookie Cutters? Maybe Not Entirely, OSU Research On Hatchery Chinook Suggests

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Hatchery-raised chinook salmon sort themselves into surface- and bottom-oriented groups in their rearing tanks. This behavior might be due in part to the fish’s genes, according to an Oregon State University study.

YOUNG HATCHERY CHINOOK STRATIFY INTO SOME FISH THAT HANG OUT ON THE SURFACE AND SOME THAT LIKE THE BOTTOM. THAT GENETIC BEHAVIOR IS SIMILAR TO THE DIFFERENCE IN WHERE YOUNG WILD WILLAMETTE AND MCKENZIE RIVER CHINOOK OCCUR, ACCORDING TO OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY. (OSU)

The finding, published in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, could change a commonly held view that hatchery-raised fish are generally expected to behave in the same manner, said Julia Unrein, who led the study as a master’s degree student in the Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“What we found is hatchery juvenile chinook salmon are not made from the same mold,” Unrein said. “Perhaps by trying to force them to fit our model of what a ‘hatchery fish’ is and constrain them to specific release times, we may be overlooking the variation among individuals that we know is important for the survival of their wild counterparts.”

Carl Schreck, professor in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, said, “The implications relative to Endangered Species Act-listed fish may be profound if they serve to allow the creation of test fish for researchers to use when studying how to successfully get juvenile chinook to safely migrate through Willamette system reservoirs and dams. There are fish culture and habitat restoration implications, as well.”

The researchers first recognized this vertical self-sorting behavior, just as the young fish have used up their yolk and are feeding for the first time, at OSU’s Fish Performance and Genetics Laboratory. They observed that some chinook orient themselves near the surface and the remainder swam along the bottom of the tank.

When the researchers separated the surface- and bottom-fish into different tanks, the fish maintained their preferred vertical distribution for at least a year, Unrein said. The fish that fed at the surface continued to stay near the top and the ones that preferred the bottom remained deeper in the tank, even with the surface fish no longer competing for food that was provided at the surface.

They compared body size between the two groups two months after the first feeding began and then six months later. While initially the same size, by the end of the experiment the surface fish were significantly larger than the bottom fish, Unrein said.

“There were also consistent body shape differences, detected after two months of rearing and again six months later,” she said. “The surface fish had a deeper, shorter head and deeper body than the bottom fish, which was more streamlined. For the next four brood years, we looked at these variations and found they were consistent from year to year. For the fourth brood year, we held families separate to determine if the proportion of the two types of fish varied among families and they did, which suggests genetics plays a role.”

Unrein compared the body types of the surface and bottom fish to wild chinook juveniles collected in the Willamette River Basin by Eric Billman, when he was part of OSU’s research team. She found that surface fish are similar to the wild juveniles that rear in the Willamette River and leave their first fall, while the bottom fish resemble those rearing in the McKenzie River, an upper tributary of the Willamette, that leave as yearling spring smolts.

Unrein’s research was directed by Schreck and David Noakes, professor and senior scientist in the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

“It is surprising that such behavioral sorting hadn’t been noticed before given that we’ve seen it at two different facilities, in different stocks of chinook salmon, and over numerous years,” Schreck said. “It is also present, although not as obvious, in steelhead trout.”

The study resulted from observations made during research funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District; the U.S. Geological Survey, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Hatchery Research Center.

Oregon Ocean Acidification-Hypoxia Council To Hold First Meeting

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

Oregon’s new Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) will host its first meeting on Thursday, Jan. 25 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in Newport at the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Guin Library, 2030 Marine Science Drive. A full agenda for the meeting is available online, along with supporting materials.

BEACHGOERS NEAR NEWPORT IN LATE 2017. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Oregon lawmakers created the OAH Council through the passage of Senate Bill 1039 last year to look for ways to better understand, adapt to and mitigate the effects of changing ocean conditions. The state has already seen the effects of ocean acidification on its prized shellfish industry after annual die-offs of juvenile oysters at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery started in 2007.  Oregon has also seen the effects of intensifying hypoxia events, which have been implicated in die-offs of crabs and other marine life over the past two decades.

“Ocean acidification already has affected Oregon’s shellfish mariculture industry, and we know it is worsening,” says Senator Arnie Roblan. “It’s time to start finding ways to adapt to these new conditions and mitigate them, while we still have time. Our children and businesses depend on it.”

The meeting agenda includes opening remarks from Governor Brown’s Representative and carbon policy advisor Dr. Kristen Sheeran, an analysis of SB 1039, and presentations on recent science and policy developments from Council members including Co-Chairs Dr. Caren Braby (ODFW) and Dr. Jack Barth (Executive Director of Oregon State University’s Marine Studies Initiative). Following the meeting, from 3:30-4:30, the Hatfield Marine Science Center is hosting a seminar with brief presentations by Council members and discussion with the audience.

The public is welcome at the meeting. Attend in person, or by WebEx (use phone number 415-655-0002).

Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean and fuels ocean acidification. “Ocean acidification is a global problem that is having a disproportionate impact on productive West Coast ecosystems,” says Dr. Francis Chan, Oregon State University. “These changing ocean conditions threaten Oregon’s productive wild ocean fisheries, rich coastal traditions and renowned healthy ecosystem.”

Oregon has been an international leader in policy development related to ocean acidification by promoting and facilitating regional and global coalition-building to develop solutions and mitigate carbon dioxide through international climate agreements. Governor Kate Brown has asked the new OAH Council to build Oregon’s Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Action Plan, as part of Oregon’s ongoing demonstration of leadership.

In addition to the Co-Chairs from ODFW and Oregon State University, the Council includes representatives from the Governor’s office, Oregon Tribes, Oregon DEQOregon Department of Agriculture, Department of Land Conservation and Development, Ocean Science Trust, Oregon Sea Grant and representatives from the fishing, shellfish and research communities. The OAH Council will make its first report to the Legislature by September 2018.

Competition For Chinook By Seals, Sea Lions Limiting Salish Sea Orca Recovery, Study Says

Despite decreasing Chinook catches over recent decades, runs haven’t increased overall and more new research is pointing the finger at the bellies of growing West Coast marine mammal populations, a hunger that may be “masking” salmon recovery efforts.

A study out today says that between 1975 and 2015, sea lion, harbor seal and killer whale appetites for the nutrient-rich salmon more than doubled, growing from 6,100 metric tons annually to 15,200 metric tons, or 33,510,264 pounds.

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

That’s the equivalent of 31.5 million kings, up from 5 million 40 years ago.

 

The study was published by researchers from Oregon State University, NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center and WDFW and tribal biologists, among others, in the journal Physical Reports under the headline “Competing tradeoffs between increasing marine mammal predation and fisheries harvest of Chinook salmon.”

The rub is that the fish and finned mammals are both protected by federal laws.

While killer whales account for the lion’s share of Chinook poundage consumed — especially those packs that haunt the waters from the west coast of Vancouver Island north to the Gulf of Alaska — the study suggests that the increasing numbers of pinnipeds are impacting the ability of Puget Sound’s orcas to recover more so than our fishing seasons targeting kings.

“Our results suggest that at least in recent years competition with other marine mammals is a more important factor limiting the growth of this endangered population than competition with human fisheries,” researchers state.

Pinnipeds are infamous for stealing Chinook off anglers’ lines, but much of what they eat are actually juvenile fish — harbor seals in particular.

Those in the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia, consume 86.4 percent of all those smolts eaten by marine mammals, “due to large increases in the harbor seal abundance in this region between 1975 and 2015 (8,600 to 77,800).”

“For Salish Sea Chinook salmon, strong increases in predation greatly exceed harvest; this is driven largely by local increases in pinniped abundance in the Salish Sea,” researchers write.

Overall, West Coast recreational and commercial catches have declined from 3.6 million to 2.1 million kings, while marine mammal consumption of adult salmon has risen from 1.3 million to 3.1 million.

Hatchery production peaked around 1985 at 350 million but has since declined to around 225 million a year. Overall hatchery and wild production is running between 400 million and 475 million in recent years, according to the study.

“… (L)ong term reductions in the salmon available for commercial and recreational fisheries may not reflect lower abundance of salmon, but rather a reallocation from human harvest to marine mammal consumption,” the authors write. “Because many populations of Chinook salmon in the Northeast Pacific are of conservation concern, substantial resources have been invested to improve salmon passage through hydropower dams, restore salmon habitat, reduce fishing, and otherwise improve conditions in rivers and streams to improve productivity. Collectively, these recovery efforts may have increased Chinook salmon survival or recovery, but these increases in salmon populations may be offset by salmon consumption by more-rapidly increasing populations of marine mammals and other predators.”

Columbia Basin fishery managers and others are pushing to increase lethal removals of sea lions, including most recently at Willamette Falls.

The new study, which looks at ocean impacts, found that for Chinook stocks from the Columbia south, “predation impacts have increased strongly over time and exceeded harvest in recent years.”

OSU Studying Bighorns To Learn More About Risk From ‘Killer’ Bacteria

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

With their ability to climb steep rocky mountain areas, California bighorn sheep live in some of the most rugged environments Oregon has to offer.

No matter how high they go, the wild sheep can’t elude Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae – the bacteria now widely thought to be primarily responsible for fatal infectious pneumonia in bighorns. Respiratory disease has killed numerous wild sheep in Oregon and other Western states over the past few decades and is considered the largest risk to wild sheep populations, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A SOUTHEAST OREGON BIGHORN EWE GUARDS HER LAMB. THE WILD SHEEP ARE EXTREMELY SUSCEPTIBLE TO A BACTERIA FOUND IN DOMESTIC HERDS, AND OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY IS TRYING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW BEHAVIORS OF CALIFORNIA BIGHORNS AFFECT THEIR RISK OF CATCHING THE DISEASE AND DYING. (ROBERT SPAAN)

Once a herd is infected, an all-age die-off can occur, and the disease remains chronic in the population.

Now, Oregon State University researchers are studying several aspects of the California bighorn sheep herd in the state – including movement, habitat use and survival – to gain insight into the animal’s risk for contracting the killer strain known as M. ovi (pronounced m-ovee). The disease spreads through contact between domestic sheep flocks and bighorn sheep, or from bighorn to bighorn.

Oregon is home to about 3,700 California bighorn sheep in 32 different herds in central and southeast Oregon. ODFW traditionally captures and relocates California bighorn sheep around the state each year to improve genetic diversity and restore this rare species to its historic range in Oregon. But these relocation efforts are on hold this year while wildlife managers learn more about M. ovi, partly through the work being done at OSU.

Often, the first contact with a particular strain of pneumonia kills bighorn of all ages, according to OSU wildlife biologist Clint Epps. Some adults survive, but then as the infection persists their lambs die every year. A bighorn herd might not recover for decades.

Wildlife managers strive to keep wild and domestic sheep and goats separate to avoid transmission of the disease.

“There is a high-stakes need to understand where the pathogen is likely to enter a bighorn population and where it’s likely move after that,” Epps said. “In the past few years, wildlife agencies in the West have made decisions to remove certain individual animals, or all individuals in the herd, to prevent the spread of disease.”

A die-off of the bighorn sheep herd in the Lower Owhyee River Canyon in 2015-16 raised concerns about how M. ovi is impacting Oregon’s wild sheep populations. Also, that year the Nevada Department of Wildlife made the difficult choice to euthanize an entire herd of sick bighorn sheep just south of Oregon’s border to stop the spread of M. ovi to neighboring populations.

In 2011, ODFW had to kill five of the 20 bighorn sheep reintroduced to the John Day Fossil Beds after they wandered into an area where they could have been exposed to a domestic sheep farm.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of effort to increase these bighorn populations, and our goal is to provide better information when they make those decisions,” Epps said.

ODFW wildlife biologists and veterinarians have sampled and collared more than 120 California bighorn sheep in the past two years. Recent samples from those captured bighorn sheep, some of which were tested at OSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, will provide extensive information on diseases and animal health, including determining whether the strain that eliminated the Nevada herd has spread to Oregon’s bighorn sheep.

Robert Spaan, an OSU doctoral student, travels to southeastern Oregon from April to August to study the California bighorn sheep herds, which each typically number between 30 and 150 individuals. He tracks the bighorn sheep that have been fitted with GPS collars by ODFW and records birth and death data.

“We’re able to respond to mortalities, and we are able to determine cause of death in most cases,” Spaan said. “We managed to detect a die-off of lambs in one population last year, the only one where we saw active M. ovi infection.”

Disease was one of the factors when bighorn sheep died off in Oregon in 1940s, along with unregulated hunting. But sport hunters have since been instrumental in restoring bighorn sheep in Oregon. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual auction and raffle of special bighorn sheep tags have generated thousands of dollars for their management and for research.

Among the funders of the study are the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.