Tag Archives: wdfw

More Details On Minter Hatchery Chinook Loss Emerge At Senate Hearing

State senators learned new details about efforts to overcome the backup generator failure that led to the deaths of an estimated 6 million fall Chinook at a South Sound salmon hatchery during a December windstorm.

ACCORDING TO A WDFW PRESENTATION BEFORE THE STATE SENATE AGRICULTURE, WATER, NATURAL RESOURCES & PARKS COMMITTEE’S THIS IS THE GENERATOR THAT FAILED TO START AT MINTER CREEK HATCHERY DURING A DECEMBER WINDSTORM POWER OUTAGE, LEADING TO THE DEATHS OF OVER 6 MILLION FALL CHINOOK. (WDFW)

During a work session this afternoon before members of Sen. Kevin Van De Wege’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, three high-ranking WDFW officials again called the incident at Minter Creek Hatchery unacceptable and said that two investigations were launched this week into what happened.

They also said that the comanagers had been “wonderful to work with” in trying to backfill the loss with 2.75 million kings from two tribal hatcheries, along with fish from state and a technical college facilities.

The WDFW staffers who went before senators were Director Kelly Susewind, Fish Program Deputy Assistant Director Kelly Cunningham and Hatchery Division Manager Eric Kinne.

THREE HIGH-RANKING WDFW OFFICIALS SPEAK BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE. (TVW)

They described the events and fallout of Friday, Dec. 14 when around 5:30 p.m. the power went out at Minter as high winds raked the area.

According to them, when the 350 kVA generator didn’t immediately fire up, staffers soon figured out that batteries on the large diesel-fired power source weren’t charging.

So they yanked batteries out of vehicles at the hatchery to use instead to try to get water flowing again into the dozens of incubation trays where the young Chinook were rearing.

While salmon eggs can get by for awhile without flowing water, not so for the inch-long fish.

But when that failed too, crews discovered a cable on the generator had burned up.

After alerting WDFW’s “phone tree” and even calling the local fire department for help, a hatchery employee drove to a nearby auto parts store to buy cables and batteries.

Crews ultimately were able to get a small pump running and water again flowing into the trays before the generator was finally started more than two and a half hours after the power went out.

But by then then bulk of the damage was one.

The fish in the trays were poured into ponds at the hatchery and there’s a chance that some actually survived, but WDFW won’t know until they reach the “swim up” stage.

They said that 1.75 million of the replacement fish would be released in the Deschutes River, the other 1 million at Minter Creek.

Meanwhile, contractors began two separate investigations this week, one from an engineering standpoint about why the generator failed, and the other whether adequate emergency procedures were in place and how hatchery workers responded.

The three WDFW officials said they plan to revise statewide protocols and use the results of the investigation “to hold ourselves accountable for the tragic loss of the fish.”

The details on Minter were part of their larger presentation on state hatchery salmon and steelhead production, including how output has decreased since the late 1980s due to reforms, ESA listings and budget cutbacks, and the 24 million-salmon increase for orcas that WDFW hopes lawmakers will fund during this year’s legislative session.

Built into this biennium’s budget proposal from Gov. Inslee is also $75.7 million to upgrade the state’s hatcheries.

After hearing about the disaster at Minter, Sen. Christine Rolfes asked if backup generators had been checked at WDFW’s other facilities.

Cunningham answered that they are all tested monthly, but said that by chance one did fail to start at one in the Columbia Basin during a test the day before Minter’s wouldn’t kick in.

And worryingly, “full load” tests — meaning all power is turned off and everything has to be run on the generator — aren’t done at some because the systems and equipment are so untrusted, senators were told.

Former WDFW Director, NWIFC’s Chair Take Aim At SeaTimes Salmon-Orca Column

You know you’ve done something bad when Phil Anderson has to get involved.

Phil, in case you haven’t heard of him, is the retired director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and currently chairs the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

PHIL ANDERSON. (WDFW)

One day several years ago now when he was still WDFW’s chief head honcho I got an unexpected call from Mr. Anderson about an agency budget blog I’d inadvisedly written. Very shortly thereafter we agreed to a mutually beneficial solution; I’d spike my misinformed post.

This week it’s The Seattle Times that Phil’s reaching out to.

He and Lorraine Loomis, chairwoman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, have published an opinion piece in response to that column earlier this month entitled “In the great debate to save the orcas, the apex predator is missing.”

In it, author Danny Westneat and his primary source Kurt Beardlee of the Wild Fish Conservancy essentially argue that salmon fishing should be shut down to provide as many Chinook salmon to starving southern resident killer whales

“It’s easy to see how cutting the fisheries’ take in half, or eliminating it entirely on a short-term emergency basis, could provide a big boost. Bigger than anything else we could do short term,” Beardslee told Westneat.

Lack of Chinook is a key reason our orcas are struggling, but it’s not as simple as that black-and-white take on how to help the “blackfish.”

Respond Anderson and Loomis: “If recovering chinook salmon were as easy as drastically cutting or eliminating fisheries, we would have achieved our goal a long time ago.”

WDFW’S RON WARREN AND NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS SPEAK DURING A RARE BUT WELL-ATTENDED STATE-TRIBAL PLENARY SESSION LAST APRIL ON WESTERN WASHINGTON SALMON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

They point out that “at great cost,” state and tribal fisheries have already been cut as much as 90 percent and that shutting down fishing would “at best result in a 1 percent increase of chinook salmon available for southern resident killer whales.”

Loomis and Anderson point to a better approach than Beardslee’s kill-the-goose-laying-the-golden-eggs manifesto — cooperation across all sectors via the newly formed “Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition.”

“There are no more easy answers,” they write. “We are left with the hard work of restoring disappearing salmon habitat, enhancement of hatchery production, and addressing out-of-control seal and sea lion populations.”

If you’re a cheapskate like myself, you only get so many views of Fairview Fannie pieces a month, but Anderson and Loomis’s response is worth burning one on.

And then check out what Puget Sound Angler’s Ron Garner posted on his Facebook page about this as well.

They’re both highly educational as we fight to save orcas, Chinook and fishing.

(For extra credit, I also took on that column here.)

Shutdown Affecting Steelhead Season Planning, Sea Lion Management — Even A Clam Dig

Add Northwest steelheading, sea lion management and a three-day razor clam dig at a national park to the list of things being impacted by the partial US government shutdown, now in its record 26th day.

A NOAA technical consultation on Washington’s Skagit-Sauk spring season and the federal agency’s work approving Idaho’s fisheries permit are on pause, while any new pinnipeds showing up at Willamette Falls get a free pass to chow down, and the Jan. 19-21 Kalaloch Beach clam opener has been rescinded.

Let’s break things down by state.

OREGON

While ODFW can still remove previously identified California sea lions that gather at the falls and in the lower Clackamas to eat increasingly imperiled wild steelhead, new ones must first be reported to a federal administrator who has been furloughed since before Christmas due to the shutdown, according to a Courthouse News Service story.

A CALIFORNIA SEA LION THROWS A SALMONID IN SPRING 2016 AT WILLAMETTE FALLS. (ODFW)

And as native returns begin to build, a newly arrived CSL there won’t face the consequences — at least until the shutdown over the border wall is ended.

“If it carries on it will be a bigger impact on the spring Chinook run,” ODFW’s Shaun Clements told Courthouse News. “Relative to the winter steelhead, they’re in a much better place, but extinction risk for spring Chinook is still pretty high.”

So far four CSLs have been taken out since the state agency got the go-ahead in November to remove up to 93 a year. ODFW had anticipated killing 40 in the first four months of 2019.

IDAHO

Over in Idaho, what seemed like plenty of time early last month for NOAA to (finally) review and approve the Gem State’s steelhead fishing plan before mid-March is shrinking.

STEELHEAD ANGLERS FISH IDAHO’S CLEARWATER RIVER AT LEWISTON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“There is about a month of cushion between the expiration of the agreement and when we first expected the permit (to be completed),” IDFG’s Ed Schriever told Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. “We know the longer (the shutdown) goes on, the narrower the window becomes on the cushion that existed prior to the shutdown. We can only hope resolution comes quickly and those folks get back to work on our permit.”

The work was made necessary by environmental groups’ lawsuit threat that resulted in an agreement between the state, a community-angler group and the litigants that provided cover to continue fishing season through either when NOAA finished processing the plan or March 15.

Schriever told Barker that if the shutdown continues, he would probably ask the parties to the agreement for an extension.

WASHINGTON

And in Washington, there’s now an agonizing amount of uncertainty for what seemed like would be a slam-dunk steelhead fishery.

DRIFT BOAT ANGLERS MAKE THEIR WAY DOWN THE SAUK RIVER DURING APRIL 2018’S FIRST-IN-NINE-SPRINGS FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Last month, WDFW along with tribal comanagers sent a plan for a three-month-long catch-and-release season for wild winter-runs on the North Sound’s Skagit and Sauk Rivers under the same constraints as last April’s NOAA-approved 12-day fishery.

Before the shutdown, NOAA had some “relatively minor matters” to clear up, so a meeting was scheduled for last week “to resolve the technical questions,” according to a Doug Huddle column for our February issue.

“We have approval to conduct the fishery. We have a set of conditions we have to fulfill as part of that approval. We think we have provided everything asked,” said district biologist Brett Barkdull.

But with NOAA out of the office it will come down to an upcoming policy call “one way or the other” by higher-ups at WDFW based on a risk assessment.

Out on Washington’s outer coast, WDFW is scrubbing three days of razor clam digging at Kalaloch Beach over the Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend.

With federal techs and park rangers furloughed, WDFW had planned on having its staff on the beach to monitor clammers as well as station game wardens on Highway 101, where they do have enforcement authority, if need be.

“We are closing Kalaloch beach to razor clam digging in response to a request by Olympic National Park,” said Dan Ayres, agency coastal shellfish manager, in a press release. “Olympic National Park staff are not available to help ensure a safe and orderly opening in the area.”

Digs will go on as planned this Thursday-Monday during the various openers at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis Beaches.

Ayres said that WFDW and the park will consider other openers at Kalaloch to make up for the lost harvest opportunity.

Elsewhere, while Pacific Fishery Management Council staffers are in their offices, that’s not the case for federal participants in the 2019 North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process.

US contributions to an international report on commercial West Coast hake fishing as well as other work handled by researchers at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle is on hold.

A meeting on highly migratory species and another with members of a statistical review committee have been cancelled, though at the moment a third reviewing 2018 salmon fisheries and which is part of the annual North of Falcon season-setting process is still a go.

And NOAA survey ships have reportedly also been tied up to the dock.

SW WA, Columbia Fishing Report (1-16-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN AND PAUL HOFFARTH

Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report Jan 16, 2019

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 45 bank anglers released 1 sublegal sturgeon.  36 boats/102 rods kept 8 legal sturgeon and released 1 legal, 151 sublegal and 2 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 17 bank anglers had no catch.  27 boats/56 rods released 5 sublegal sturgeon.

TROY BRODERS PREPARES TO CAST OUT FOR STEELHEAD. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 11 boats/25 rods kept 12 walleye and released 1 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 33 bank anglers kept 6 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.  1 boats/2 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 7 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 12 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  3 bank rods had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered two coho adults, 23 coho jacks and nine winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released five coho jacks into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released two coho adults, 22 coho jacks and eight winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton. They also released two coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,520 cubic feet per second on Monday, Jan. 14. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 34 bank anglers had no catch.  2 boats/4 rods released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 34 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

McNary Steelhead Sport Fishery

This past week WDFW staff interviewed 16 boats with 5 hatchery steelhead harvested and 12 wild steelhead caught and released. Anglers averaged just over 1 steelhead per boat, 6.5 hours per fish including wild. The majority of the steelhead caught were A run but one B run fish was harvested and 6 wild were caught and released. 21 bank anglers were interviewed but no catch was reported.

Steelheaders Now Required To Stop Fishing After First Keeper On SE WA Rivers

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Eastern Washington steelhead fishery change

Action: Change the daily limit on steelhead to one hatchery fish. Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead once they reach the daily limit.

STEELHEADERS ON THE GRANDE RONDE AND OTHER SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON RIVERS WILL HAVE TO QUIT FISHING ONCE THEY RETAIN THEIR FIRST HATCHERY FISH, WDFW HAS ANNOUNCED. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Immediately through April 15, 2019.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Location:

Grande Ronde River: From mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.

Touchet River: From the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks.

Tucannon River: From the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery Road Bridge.

Walla Walla River: From the mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.

Reason for action: The 2018 Columbia River forecasted return for upriver steelhead was 190,350. The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Aug. 26 to review the A/B-Index steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam. TAC downgraded the total expected A/B-Index steelhead run size at Bonneville to 96,500. The run was adjusted again on Sept. 25 to a total of 92,800 A/B Index steelhead with 69,500 clipped and 28,300 unclipped fish. With continued concerns between co-managers for A run steelhead and impacts to wild fish, the department believes it is important to reduce daily limits to protect steelhead within the river network.

Additional information: All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed. In addition, anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead.

Anglers should be sure to identify their catch, as chinook and coho salmon may be present during this fishery and are not open to harvest. Anglers cannot remove any chinook, coho or steelhead from the water if it is not retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits and safety closures. Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for steelhead within the affected area.

Information contact: Jeremy Trump, District 3 Fish Biologist (509) 382-1005

Snake River steelhead fishery change

Action: Changes the daily limit on steelhead to one hatchery fish. Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead once they reach the daily limit

Effective date: Immediately through March 31, 2019.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Location:  Snake River from the mouth (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge at Snake River mile 1.25) to the Oregon State line (approximately seven miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River)

Reason for action: The 2018 Columbia River forecasted return for upriver steelhead was 190,350. The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Aug. 26 to review the A/B-Index steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam. TAC downgraded the total expected A/B-Index steelhead run size at Bonneville to 96,500. The run was adjusted again on Sept. 25 to a total of 92,800 A/B Index steelhead with 69,500 clipped and 28,300 unclipped fish. With continued concerns between co-managers for A run steelhead and impacts to wild fish, the Department believes it is important to reduce limits to protect steelhead within the Snake River.

Additional information:  All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed. In addition, anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead and. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch, as chinook and coho salmon may be present during this fishery and are not open to harvest. Anglers cannot remove any chinook, coho or steelhead from the water if not retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018/2019 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits, safety closures, etc.

Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for steelhead within the affected area.

Information contact: Jeremy Trump, District 3 Fish Biologist (509) 382-1005

Carpenter Elected As Chair Of Washington Fish-Wildlife Commission; Baker Vice Chair

Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission has a new chair and vice chair.

Larry Carpenter was unanimously elected by his fellow members over the weekend to head up the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s citizen oversight panel, while Barbara Baker will be its vice chair.

LARRY CARPENTER. (WDFW)

Carpenter, who hails from Mt. Vernon, owned Master Marine and has been on the board since 2011, takes over from Brad Smith of Bellingham. He is known as a staunch advocate for fishing and hunting.

Smith, the longest serving member of the commission, nominated Carpenter and was seconded by Dave Graybill of Leavenworth.

According to WDFW’s Tami Lininger, Carpenter’s appointment to the commission has also been extended through Oct. 31, 2020.

Baker, of Olympia and the former clerk of the state House of Representatives, was appointed to the commission in January 2017, making her leap into the vice chairmanship relatively fast compared to others in recent years.

The previous two vice chairs — Smith and Carpenter — were on the commission four years before being elected to the seat.

Elections take place every other year.

Baker was nominated by Don McIsaac of Hockinson and seconded by Bob Kehoe of Seattle. She too was elected unanimously.

IN THIS TVW SCREENGRAB, WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONER BARBARA BAKER SPEAKS BEFORE THE SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES AND PARKS COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARING ON HER APPOINTMENT TO THE PANEL, SET TO RUN AT LEAST THROUGH 2022. (TVW)

Other members of the commission include Kim Thorburn of Spokane and Jay Holzmiller of Anatone.

The ninth seat has been vacant since Jay Kehne of Omak resigned last summer to spend more time with his family and afield.

‘Next Steps’ In Columbia Salmon Reforms Subject Of ODFW-WDFW Commissioners Meeting; Open To Public

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE WASHINGTON AND OREGON DEPARTMENTS OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

WDFW

The public is invited to attend a meeting scheduled this month by members of the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions to discuss next steps in reforming salmon management on the Columbia River.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A FALL CHINOOK AT THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA. THE “NEXT STEPS” IN SALMON REFORMS ON THE BIG RIVER WILL BE DISCUSSED BY FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS FROM BOTH STATES IN SALEM. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The meeting is set for Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Room, 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. S.E. in Salem, Ore. The public is welcome to observe the discussion, but will not have an opportunity to comment during the meeting.

The Joint-State Columbia River Salmon Fishery Policy Review Committee, which includes three members of each state’s commission, was formed to renew efforts to achieve management goals for Columbia River fisheries endorsed by both states in 2013.

The three delegates to the workgroup from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission are commissioners David Graybill from Chelan County, Bob Kehoe from King County, and Don McIsaac from Clark County. The commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

WDFW recently finalized its five-year performance review of the 2013 fishery reform policy, which called for reforms ranging from requirements that anglers use barbless hooks to a phase-out of commercial gillnets in the main channel of the Columbia River. While the performance review noted progress on some issues, expectations have not been met in a variety of other key areas, said Ryan Lothrop, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.

“This new effort is designed to find common ground on strategies for improving fishery management in the Columbia River,” Lothrop said. “Having different policies in joint waters of the Columbia River makes it very difficult to manage and implement fisheries.”

Washington’s Comprehensive Evaluation of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02029/.

Lothrop, who will staff Washington’s commissioners, said the workgroup’s first task will be to establish a schedule for future meetings. The panel will then discuss issues addressed in the policy review, focusing initially on strategies that could to be incorporated into fishing regulations for the 2019 season.

To take effect, any new proposals endorsed by the workgroup would require approval by the full fish and wildlife commissions in each state, Lothrop said.

“The group doesn’t have a lot of time to discuss changes for 2019,” Lothrop said. “The season-setting process for this year’s salmon fisheries gets underway in mid-March, so that’s the focus for the near term.”

………………………..

ODFW

A joint workgroup of commissioners from the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions will meet to discuss policies affecting Columbia River salmon fisheries. The workgroup includes three members from each state’s commission.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Commission room at the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. SE, Salem. The meeting is open to attendance by the public, but no public testimony will be taken.

The workgroup meeting follows a November 2018 joint meeting of the two full Commissions to discuss differences between the current policies of each state. The workgroup’s first task will be to establish a schedule and process for future meetings. The workgroup will then begin discussion of issues, initially focusing on finding common ground for 2019 fishing seasons.

The workgroup meetings are not decision-making meetings. The workgroups will report back to their full Commissions, who will ultimately consider any changes to their respective policies.

Kalaloch Among Washington Beaches Open Next Week For Razor Clams

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

The next round of evening razor clam digs will run Jan. 17-21 at various ocean beaches, including the first opening of the season at Kalaloch.

RAZOR CLAM DIGGERS AT KALALOCH BEACH SEVERAL YEARS AGO NOW. THE COMING OPENER WILL OCCUR IN THE LATE AFTERNOON. (NATIONAL PARK SERVICE)

State shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the dig on evening low tides after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.

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

  • Jan. 17, Thursday; 3:39 p.m.; 0.4 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Jan. 18, Friday; 4:30 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Jan. 19, Saturday; 5:18 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Jan. 20, Sunday; 6:05 p.m.; -1.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Kalaloch
  • Jan. 21, Monday; 6:51 p.m.; -1.8 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Kalaloch

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

“Diggers should always keep an eye on the surf and come prepared with good lighting devices for the digs that occur after dark,” Ayres said.

Ayres said the department has also tentatively scheduled a dig in early February, pending the results of another round of marine toxin tests. If those tests are favorable, that dig will run Feb. 1-3.

More information on planned digs can be found on WDFW’s razor clam webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

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

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

Stopping Salmon Fishing Won’t Save Puget Sound’s Orcas

The idea that we can save Puget Sound’s starving orcas by just stopping salmon fishing for a few years once again reared its misinformed head, this time in a big-city newspaper piece.

In a black-or-white summary of a very complex problem, the nut was that we humans were shamefully avoiding looking at our own consumption of the iconic marine mammal’s primary feedstock.

SALMON ANGLERS WORK POSSESSION BAR ON THE OPENING DAY OF THE CENTRAL PUGET SOUND HATCHERY CHINOOK FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Leaving that aspect out of the state of Washington’s recovery plan meant that, “We have decided, collectively though passively, to let the Puget Sound orcas go extinct,” it lamented.

We haven’t really, but nonetheless the prominence of the piece left leaders of the region’s angling community disappointed, as well as worried that it could lead to “knee-jerk” responses as Washington responds to the crisis.

And one has also asked the author to take another look at the issue with more informed sources to balance out the very biased one it primarily quoted.

THE ARTICLE IN QUESTION WAS a column by Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times last weekend in which he quoted Kurt Beardslee at the Wild Fish Conservancy.

“To cut back on fishing is an absolute no brainer, as a way to immediately boost food available for killer whale,” Beardslee told Westneat. “But harvest reductions are essentially not in the governor’s task force recommendations. We have a patient that is starving to death, and we’re ignoring the one thing that could help feed the patient right now. We’re flat out choosing not to do it.”

Columns are columns, meaning they’re not necessarily like a he said-she said straight news story, but what wasn’t mentioned at all was Beardslee’s complicity in the orca crisis.

So I’m going to try to shed a little more light on that and other things here.

A PAIR OF SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES SWIM IN INLAND WATERS LAST SUMMER. (KATY FOSTER/NOAA FISHERIES)

AS IT TURNS OUT, WE HAVE BEEN cutting back on Chinook fishing.

Have been for years.

Ninety percent — 9-0 — alone in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, key foraging areas for the southern residents, over the past 25 years.

And yet so far J, K and L Pods appear to have shown no response.

In fact, they have unfortunately declined from nearly 100 members in the mid-1990s to 74 as of late 2018.

All while West Coast and Salish Chinook available to them actually saw nominal increases as a whole, according to state and federal estimates.

So I’m not sure what Beardlee expects to magically happen when he tells Westneat, “It’s easy to see how cutting the fisheries’ take in half, or eliminating it entirely on a short-term emergency basis, could provide a big boost.”

I mean, how is the 10 percent sliver that’s left going to help if the closure of the other 90 percent coincided with the cumulative loss of 25 percent of the orca population over the same period?

Don’t get me wrong, fishermen want to help too. Some of the most poignant stories I’ve heard in all this are angler-orca interactions.

But it’s not as cut-and-dried as not harvesting the salmon translating into us effectively putting some giant protein shake out in the saltchuck for SRKWs to snarf down.

“Each year the sport, commercial and tribal fishing industries catch about 1.5 million to 2 million chinook in U.S. and Canadian waters, most of which swim through the home waters of the southern resident orcas,” Westneat writes. “The three pods in question … are estimated to need collectively on the order of 350,000 chinook per year.”

Fair enough that 350,000 represents their collective dietary needs.

But not only do the SRKWs already have access to those 1.5 million to 2 million Chinook, the waters where they’re primarily harvested as adults by the bulk of fishermen are essentially beyond the whales’ normal range.

For instance, the Columbia River up to and beyond the Hanford Reach, and in terminal zones of Puget Sound and up in Southeast Alaska.

Pat Patillo is a retired longtime state fisheries manager who is now a sportfishing advocate, and he tells me, “If not caught, those fish would not serve as food for SRKWs — they wouldn’t turn around from the Columbia River, for example, and return to the ocean for SRKW consumption!”

“They already swam through the orcas’ home waters and they didn’t eat them,” he said.

WHILE BEARDSLEE IS TRYING TO COME OFF as some sort of orca angel  — “It’s like if you’re having a heart attack, your doctor doesn’t say: ‘You need to go running to get your heart in better shape.’ Your doctor gives you emergency aid right away,” he tells Westneat — he’s more like an angel of death trying to use SRKWs as  latest avenue to kill fishing.

Type the words “Wild Fish Conservancy” into a Google search and the second result in the dropdown will be “Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit.”

WFC is threatening yet another, this one over National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversight of West Coast salmon fisheries through the lens of the plight of orcas.

It’s not their usual target, which is hatchery production.

Hatchery production, which is the whales’ best short- and medium-term hope.

After WFC sued WDFW over steelhead, a state senator hauled them before his committee in 2015 and pointedly asked their representative at the hearing, “Are there any hatcheries you do support in the state?”

“There are several that have closed over time,” replied WFC’s science advisor Jamie Glasgow. “Those would be ones that we support.”

That sort of thinking is not going to work out for hungry orcas, given one estimate that it will take 90 years for Chinook recovery goals to be met at the current pace of restoration work in estuaries.

And it leaves no place for efforts like those by the Nisqually Tribe to increase the size of those produced by their hatchery to provide fatter fare for SKRWs.

I’m going to offer a few stark figures here.

The first is 275 million. That’s how many salmon of all stocks that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife produced at its hatcheries in 1989, according to The Lens.

The second is 137 million. That’s how many WDFW put out in 2017, the “lowest production year ever,” per the pro-biz online news source.

The third is 56 million. That’s how many Chinook smolts the agency released in 1989, according to figures from the state legislature.

And the fourth is 28 million. That’s how many were in 2016.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that 50 percent decreases in releases are due entirely to Beardslee et al — hatchery salmon reforms and state budget crunches play the strongest roles.

Nor am I going to suggest that they’re the sole reason that our orcas are struggling — pollutants and vessel disturbance have been also identified as affecting their health and ability to forage.

But with SRKWs dying from lack of Chinook to eat and Puget Sound’s wild kings — which are largely required to be released by anglers — comprising just a sixth to a twelfth of the Whulge’s run in recent years, surely the man must now have some qualms about his and similar groups’ anti-hatchery jihad, including against key facilities for SRKWs on the Columbia?

A FAR BIGGER PROBLEM THAN FISHERMEN for SRKWs is pinnipeds eating their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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

Bloated numbers of harbor seals were recently estimated to annually eat an estimated 12.2 million Chinook smolts migrating out of Puget Sound, roughly 25 percent of the basin’s hatchery and wild output, which in the world of fisheries-meets-math science, translates to 100,000 adult kings that aren’t otherwise available to the orcas.

Unfortunately, managing those cute little “water puppies” is realistically way down the pipeline, at least compared to recent lightning-fast moves (relatively speaking) in Washington, DC, that finally gave state and tribal managers the authority to annually remove for five years as many as 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions in portions of the Columbia and its salmon-bearing tributaries.

By the way, guess who fought against lethally removing sea lions gathered to feast on salmon at Bonneville?

Beardslee and Wild Fish Conservancy.

“Given the clamor surrounding sea lions,”they argued in defense of a 2011 federal lawsuit to halt lethal removals at the dam, “you might guess that sea lions are the most significant source of returning salmon mortality that managers can address. Guess again. The percentage of returning upper Columbia River spring Chinook salmon consumed by California sea lions since 2002, when CSL were first documented at Bonneville Dam, averages only 2.1% each year.”

Three years later, sea lions ate 43 percent of the entire ESA-listed run — 104,333 returning springers.

Whoops.

Those fish were recently identified as among the top 15 most important king stocks for SRKWs.

Double whoops.

WHILE LARGE NUMBERS OF SEA LION PUPS ARE STARVING ELSEWHERE ON THE WEST COAST, MANY ADULTS PACKED INTO THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE SMELT RUN LAST MONTH. (STEVE JEFFRIES, WDFW)

So to bring some of the above sections together, as CSL, Steller sea lion, harbor seal and even northern resident killer whale consumption of Chinook in the northeast Pacific has risen from 5 million to 31.5 million fish since 1970 and hatchery production has halved, the all-fleet king catch has decreased from 3.6 million to 2.1 million.

We aren’t the problem.

No wonder that sportfishing rep told me, “We were successful in getting the target off of our backs blaming fishing” for this blog and which Westneat included in his column (I do appreciate the link).

SO INSTEAD OF SHUTTING DOWN FISHING, what could and should we do to help orcas out in the near-term?

I think the governor’s task force came up with a good idea on the no-go/go-slow boating bubble around the pods. That protects them where they’re eating, and it doesn’t needlessly close areas where they’re not foraging for fish that won’t be there when they do eventually show up.

(GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

While I’ll be following the advice Lorraine Loomis at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission gave after similar sentiments came up last fall — “If you love salmon, eat it” — anglers can take voluntary measures themselves. Even if it’s probably already past the gauntlet of orca jaws, if it makes you feel better to do so, go ahead and release that saltwater king you catch this summer, like Seattle angler Web Hutchins emailed me to say he’s vowing to do.

Switch your fishfinder frequency from 50 kHz to the less acoustically disturbing 200 kHz for killer whales if they happen to show up in your trolling lane.

Pay attention to fish counts and if a hatchery is having trouble meeting broodstock goals, maybe fish another river or terminal zone, or species.

Follow Orca Network on Facebook for where the pods are so you can avoid them.

I also think Beardslee and WFC could, say, lay off their low-hanging-fruit lawsuit schtick (lol, fat chance of that) to give (furloughed) federal overseers time to process permits that ensure hatcheries and fisheries are run properly, instead of having to drop their work and put out the latest brushfire they’ve lit.

And I think boosting hatchery Chinook production is huge, and all the more important because of the excruciatingly slow pace that habitat restoration (which I’m always in favor of) produces results.

Yes, it will take a couple years for increased releases to take effect.

But the ugly truth we’re learning here is, we cannot utterly alter and degrade salmon habitat like we have with our megalopolis/industrial farmscape/power generation complex that stretches everywhere from here to Banff to the Snake River Plain to the Willamette Valley and back again and realistically expect to turn this ship by just pressing the Stop Fishing button and have orcas magically respond.

That’s not the answer.

In this great effort to save orcas, we the apex predator have in fact been forced to look at ourselves in the mirror, at what we’ve wrought, and it is ugly.

We have made a monumental mess of this place and hurt a species we never meant to nor deserved to be.

So we’re setting this right.

It is going to take time. We are going to lose more SRKWs. But we will save them, and ourselves.

The Daily Howler: Jan. 9, 2019 Edition — Oregon, NE WA Wolf People, Wolves In News

After environmental groups pulled out of facilitated meetings on sticky issues with Oregon’s wolf management plan last week, state managers say they plan to bring updates to the Fish and Wildlife Commission later this winter anyway.

“We did hear what was important to folks, and where there is some agreement,” ODFW’s Shannon Hurn told the Capital Press in a story out this afternoon.

OREGON WOLF TRACKS IN MUD. (ODFW)

The four in- and out-of-state organizations claimed that the new version would allow depredating wolves to be lethally removed quicker and in a letter to the governor said instead ODFW “must focus on prioritizing meaningful, transparent, enforceable, and effective non-lethal measures and only allow wolves to be killed in active defense of livestock.”

They withdrew before yesterday’s Wolf Plan Stakeholders meeting with RMEF, the Oregon Hunters Association and cattlemen’s and farm groups in Clackamas and got widespread press coverage because of it.

One ranching member of the group initially likened the move to a “bid to try and get attention. Like a little kid throwing a tantrum.”

In Washington, a group with representatives from different instate camps successfully agreed on lethal removal protocols after quick, repeated depredations and stressed nonlethal work as well. They’ve held together despite outside pressure.

Back in Oregon, a member from Oregon’s hunting community, Jim Akenson told the Press he was ready to move ahead with ODFW’s plan revisions, but also called for population caps for wolves in certain parts of the state over fears of impacts to big game herds.

Meanwhile, in the southwest corner of the state, the Rogue Pack was blamed for an eighth livestock death since October. The wolves run in Jackson County, in the still federally listed portion of Oregon.

Elsewhere in the Northwest, Stevens County Commissioners issued an advisory to citizens in different parts of the Northeast Washington county to keep an eye on their pets, livestock and any attractants that might be lying around outside after wolves had reportedly approached “very close” to homes.

Also in this part of the state, the Press reported that a Ferry County rancher who shot and wounded a Togo Pack wolf had been cleared following a state investigation.

WDFW wolf manager Donny Martorello said the man, who had been checking his cattle and heard barks and saw pups, then the charging alpha male, “felt threatened for his personal safety, and was within his rights to protect himself.”

The wolf was later shot and killed during a lethal removal operation.

And WDFW reported in its monthly update that in December field staffers had been surveying the state’s known packs as well as following up on “reports outside of known pack territories in the Methow and areas south of I-90 to try and locate recent wolf sign.”

The agency urged members of the public to continue uploading sightings, images, audio, etc., to its reporting database., calling the information “incredibly helpful” for confirming more packs on the landscape.