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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.

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.

It’s Official: Two-rod Rule Back In Effect On Lower Willamette, Clack As Of March 1

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

Effective March 1 through Aug. 15, 2018, anglers who have a two-rod validation will be able to use two rods while fishing for all species except sturgeon in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls and in the Clackamas River. 

ON A SHAKEDOWN PADDLE ONE RECENT MARCH, JEFF ANDERSON NAILED THIS WILLAMETTE SPRING CHINOOK. HE WAS TROLLING HERRING BEHIND A FLASHER IN THE SELLWOOD AREA. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

The use of two rods provides additional opportunity for anglers pursuing hatchery salmon and hatchery steelhead, but may also be used for trout and warmwater species, including shad.  Anglers fishing for sturgeon will still be limited to only one rod.

The new rule applies only to waters already open to fishing and all other Willamette Zone rules and regulations remain in effect. After Aug. 15, rules will revert to those published in the 2018 Sport Fishing Regulations, and use of two rods will no longer be allowed.  

Anglers remain limited to one rod in areas upstream of Willamette Falls, though allowance of two rods for later in the spring season is under consideration. No decisions have been made on potential use of two rods in Oregon coastal streams at this time. As a reminder, anglers remain limited to one rod at all times when fishing in the Columbia River.

Two-rod validations have been available to Oregon anglers for several years. For $24.50, licensed anglers can purchase a validation that allows them to use a second rod in certain locations of the state, primarily ponds and lakes. If you have already purchased a two-rod validation in 2018, it is valid for any waters open to the use of two rods. Kids under the age of 12 do not need a validation to use a second rod in these locations.

Because the Willamette spring Chinook fishery is managed under a strict quota and Endangered Species Act limits, ODFW will closely monitor the effect of this rule change and may make adjustments if necessary.

‘Long Past Time’ To Act On Sea Lion Predation In Columbia System, NSIA Tells Congress

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association is lending its support to a bipartisan sea lion management bill that had a hearing in Washington DC this week.

“It’s long past time for an amendment to the (Marine Mammal Protection Act) to prevent an outcome whereby the protection of one species precipitates the extinction of another,” wrote Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Portland-based organization in a letter to the Water, Power and Ocean Subcommittee of the House Natural Resource Committee.

A SEA LION PREPARES TO EAT A FISH BELOW WILLAMETTE FALLS IN THIS 2011 ODFW IMAGE. (ODFW)

Members were hearing about HR 2083, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, introduced by Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R) with cosponsorship from Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D), among others.

The bill would in part provide four Columbia River tribes with the authority to remove problem California sea lions from more of the lower river, as well its tributaries.

Hamilton addressed pinniped predation in the Willamette in her letter, noting that the area below the falls is not unlike the fish death trap at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia.

“Unable to escape or go elsewhere, they are trapped like sitting ducks for the growing numbers of sea lions congregating below the falls in Oregon City. I fished in this area with my family for over 30 years and watched firsthand the arrival, then growth in numbers of marine mammals and the growing consumption of steelhead, salmon and sturgeon,” she wrote.

IN THIS SCREEN GRAB FROM A TWITTER VIDEO, REP. JAIME HERRERA BEUTLER SHOWS A HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SUBCOMMITTEE PHOTOS OF SOME OF THE “OFFENDERS” PICKING OFF ESA-LISTED SALMON AND STEELHEAD AND OTHER COLUMBIA WATERSHED STOCKS. HERRERA BEUTLER INTRODUCED A BILL TO EXPAND MANAGEMENT OF CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS.  (TWITTER)

Hamilton says that they’re affecting the near-recovery of ESA-listed Willamette winter steelhead, and that a draft estimate of sea lion consumption rates on this season’s run is 25 percent, up from 2015 and 2016’s 15 percent.

“This 25 percent consumption rate is especially disturbing as the winter steelhead run has collapsed to one-tenth of the 10-year average, down to less than 1,000 fish,” she writes. “We fear the sea lions will consume this race of fish to extinction, much as they did to the steelhead in the mid 1990’s at Ballard Locks, near Seattle Washington, due to ineffective actions that occurred too late to prevent the catastrophe.”

Hamilton’s letter adds to testimony before the Water, Power and Ocean Subcommittee by Leland Bill, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribe Fish Commission. He told members that “data shows a growing predation problem” but “that the current approach is not enough. I’m here to tell you that more needs to be done.”

In another letter of support, Coastal Conservation Association’s Oregon and Washington chapters called the situation “critical.”

“We simply must act before it’s too late,” wrote Chris Cone and Nello Picinich, executive directors of the two chapters.

Added Hamilton:

“Northwest sportfishing for salmon and steelhead is more than an economic engine and a cultural birthright, it is a funding source for conservation. License fees, collected primarily through NSIA retailers, fund much of the conservation mission at the fish and wild life agencies. In addition, our industry pays a federal excise tax on manufactured goods that is returned to the states through the Sport Fish Restoration fund. Even for those who do not fish, salmon are an ever-present icon — seen on our license plates, on buildings and artwork everywhere. For the Native American Tribes in the Northwest, salmon are a sacred part of their culture.”

She said that while industries such as forestry, agriculture and power production are regulated to minimize fish impacts, “the consumption of salmon and steelhead by marine mammals grows, nearly unchecked, at an alarming rate.”