Tag Archives: Washington

Washington Lawmakers Tour Wolf, Wildfire Country In Search Of Solutions

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON STATE HOUSE REPUBLICANS

In the past decade, perhaps no two issues have affected local communities, ranchers and families in Northeast Washington more than wolves and wildfires.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers joined with legislative staffers, agency officials, local ranchers and federal foresters to discuss the problems, frustrations and potential solutions to these two critical issues.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: REP. TOM DENT, R-MOSES LAKE; REP. MIKE CHAPMAN, D-PORT ANGELES; REP. LARRY SPRINGER, D-KIRKLAND; REP. BRIAN BLAKE, D-ABERDEEN; REP. DEBRA LEKANOFF, D-BOW; SEN. SHELLY SHORT, R-ADDY; REP. JOEL KRETZ, R-WAUCONDA; REP. ED ORCUTT, R-KALAMA; REP. JOE SCHMICK, R-COLFAX. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

Members of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee began their day at the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area Headquarters.  They were welcomed by local legislators, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda and Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, as well as Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  They then listened to WDFW officials describe their animal capture plans, techniques, and equipment.

Afterwards, the legislators drove through scarred and burnt federal forestland on their way to the Deer Creek Summit Campground at the top of Boulder.  There, the lawmakers heard from Republic District Ranger Travis Fletcher.  The group saw the damage done to the forest and then discussed the forest management techniques now being utilized on state land to help prevent massive wildfires.

The tour ended with a stop at a local ranch near Danville to hear from fifth-generation cattle producers about the struggles they are having with wolves.

The ranchers described how the threat of wolves continues to force cattle off the higher elevation grazing areas, leading to an overabundance of dry grasses, which serves as potential fuel for wildfires.  This also places more stress on lowland grazing areas needed for later in the year as well as using up water at lower elevations.

The cattlemen also described their encounters with wolves, their interactions with WDFW officials when going through the “confirmed wolf kill” process, as well as the effects the wolves have on the pregnancy rates and weights of their cows.

“As a state, we’ve got to do better by these communities,” said Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen and chair of the committee.  “We need to be thinking out-of-the box in order to keep our producers whole and ensure these multigenerational ranchers have a chance at staying in business.”

Blake’s committee was invited to tour the region and interact with local community members by Kretz, an outspoken critic of recent forest and wolf management practices.

“It seems we are making some headway with our forest management so that we might have a fighting chance when the next major wildfire strikes our region,” said Kretz.  “But we’re not seeing a lot of progress on the wolf side of things.  My four northern counties have enough wolves to delist in the entire state, but because of political boundaries, it’s not been possible.  My district continues to be held hostage by statewide wolf repopulation expectations.  There are folks here that are barely hanging on.  They can’t wait another three or four years for a solution.  They needed one yesterday.  I’m glad some of our Westside lawmakers traveled across the state to see firsthand the problems we face.”

Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, said that some of her fondest childhood memories include time spent in Northeast Washington and that committee members acknowledge the urgency of the situation.

“Is there another way, by using increased management methods in the wolf management plan, to address the problems ranchers and cattlemen are facing?” asked Lekanoff.  “What can the Legislature do to better manage the resources or provide the policy, laws, regulations, science, data and funding to help this rural community sustain its way of life with the predators, prey and livestock that all call this place home?  Let us start by changing our terminology and stop calling this the wolf conflict, but rather the Washington State Wolf Management Plan.  We take our commitment of continued economic viability to this rural community seriously and commit to address these issues with urgency.  We are not turning our backs on rural Washington.”

The visit to Northeast Washington by members of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was the first to the region in nearly a decade.

“This is a committee that deals with rural issues.  It’s vitally important that committee members get out of Olympia whenever possible in order to see the real-world problems our folks in rural Washington are up against,” said Kretz.  “I’m very grateful for the legislators who made the trip up here.  I’m hopeful that come next legislative session, we can work in a bipartisan fashion to provide relief to my communities.”

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Wolf Depredation Reported On Asotin Co. Wildlife Area

Washington wildlife managers are confirming another wolf depredation this week, this one in the southeastern Blue Mountains.

They say the Grouse Flats Pack of southern Asotin County killed a 400-plus-pound calf in a fenced 160-acre pasture of the 4-O Ranch Unit of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area.

THE DEPREDATION OCCURRED ON THE 10,000-PLUS-ACRE 4-0 UNIT OF THE CHIEF JOSEPH WILDLIFE AREA ALONG AND ABOVE THE GRANDE RONDE.  (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Its carcass was found Monday by state staffers working on the site. An investigation found classic hallmarks of a wolf kill, and telemetry from a radio-collared member of the pack put it in the area when it’s believed the calf was taken down.

“The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock monitors the herd by range riding at least every other day, maintains regular human presence in the area, removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, and avoids known wolf high activity areas,” WDFW reported. “Since the depredation occurred, the producer deployed Fox lights in the grazing area and will increase the frequency of range riding until cattle can be moved to a different pasture.”

The Grouse Flats Pack struck three times in 2018, injuring one calf in August, killing another in early September and injuring a cow in late October.

The three head all belonged to different ranchers grazing cattle on private lands and federal grazing allotments.

Meanwhile, far to the north in Ferry County, WDFW had no update to its announced incremental removal of wolves from the Old Profanity Territory Pack, according to spokeswoman Sam Mongomery.

Director Kelly Susewind greenlighted that operation on July 10.

Outside environmental groups reportedly did not want to challenge it in court during an eight-hour window.

The OPT Pack is blamed for 20 depredations, including 15 in a rolling 10-month window. Under WDFW’s protocols, lethal removals are considered for three depredations in a 30-day window or four in 10 months.

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Section Of The Upper Columbia, Entiat, Chelan Rivers To Open For Kings

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Areas of the upper Columbia River and select tributaries to open for Chinook salmon retention

Action: Opens salmon seasons.

Effective date: July 16, 2019

Species affected: Chinook salmon.

Salmon rules by dates and location:

THE COLUMBIA BETWEEN WELLS DAM, WHERE SCOTT FLETCHER CAUGHT THIS SUMMER KING, AND ROCKY REACH DAM WILL OPEN FOR CHINOOK RETENTION. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)


1. Columbia River: From the upstream line of Rocky Reach Dam to the boundary markers 400 feet below the spawning channel discharges (on Chelan County side) and the fish ladder (on Douglas County side) at Wells Dam:

· Effective July 16 through Oct. 15, 2019.

· Daily limit 6 Chinook. Minimum size 12 inches. No more than 2 hatchery adult Chinook may be retained in daily limit. Release wild adult Chinook, sockeye, and coho.

· Use of barbless hooks is voluntary. Anglers may fish with two poles with a valid Two-Pole Endorsement.

2. Entiat River: From the mouth (railroad bridge) to the boundary markers located approximately 1,500 feet upstream of the upper Roaring Creek Road Bridge (immediately downstream of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery):

· Effective one hour before official sunrise on July 16 to one hour after official sunset on Sept. 30, 2019.

· Daily limit 6 Chinook. Minimum size 12 inches. Release sockeye and coho.

· Night closure in effect. Use of barbless hooks is voluntary.

AN EXAMPLE OF THE CALIBER OF SUMMER KING RETURNING TO THE ENTIAT NATIONAL FISH HATCHERY. (USFWS)

3. Chelan River: From the mouth (railroad bridge) to the Chelan PUD safety barrier below the powerhouse:

· Effective one hour before official sunrise on July 16 to one hour after official sunset on Oct. 15.

· Daily limit 6 Chinook. Minimum size 12 inches. No more than 2 hatchery adult Chinook may be retained in daily limit. Release wild adult Chinook, sockeye, and coho.

· Night closure in effect. Anti-snagging rule in effect. Use of barbless hooks is voluntary.

Reason for action: Forecasts of hatchery summer Chinook to Entiat and Chelan Falls hatchery programs indicate broodstock needs will be met and surplus hatchery Chinook are available for harvest. Removal of summer Chinook in the Entiat River will also help achieve conservation objectives for spring Chinook on the spawning grounds.

Additional information: WDFW will be monitoring harvest closely and may close one or more areas in-season by emergency rule if necessary. For emergency rule updates, please visit https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

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Catch And Fun Both Up At Kids Steelhead Days II On The Sky

A trout pond added to the fun as young anglers also hooked and fought more summer-runs at the second Kids Steelhead Days on the Skykomish this past weekend.

Saturday’s event on the Reiter Ponds side of the famed North Sound river saw just under three dozen girls and boys attend, with Ava Kinder once again landing a chromer, just as she did during the inaugural event on June 1, the only one then.

AVA KINDER, DYILEN KENNEDY AND WESLEY CANNON SHOW OFF THEIR SUMMER-RUNS, CAUGHT AT JULY 6’S KID STEELHEAD DAY AT REITER PONDS ON THE SKYKOMISH. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

“We finished the day with about 10 fish hooked, three landed and a few of the lost fish were lost right at the bank just moments from the net,” reported Matthew Kennedy of Sky Valley Anglers.

Dyilen Kennedy and Wesley Cannon were the other two lucky steelheaders, while the trout pond proved to be a hit the whole way around.

“Nothing but happy kids and parents and lots of smiles and good memories for the kids,” Kennedy said.

ADDING A TROUT POND AT THE EVENT MADE FOR LOTS OF SMILES, ORGANIZERS REPORTED. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

His group along with the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club organized the series of events, with the final one for the summer set for the morning of Saturday, Aug. 3.

This second one combined angling with a fishing seminar for parents in hopes of inspiring the next generation of anglers.

“One the coolest parts of the day, besides the kids catching a few more and the hookups, was that with a little bit smaller of a crowd we were able to work more one on one with the kids and actually spend time teaching them and engaging in conversation with them while teaching,” said Kennedy.

MATTHEW KENNEDY (SECOND FROM LEFT) AND OTHER STEELHEAD SHARPIES VOLUNTEERED THEIR TIME AND SKILLS TO TEACH THE NEXT GENERATION. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

He said he’s looking forward to making next month’s finale the biggest and best yet.

“So far we are extremely happy with the way the event is going and our missions have been successful,” Kennedy stated.

For more, contact him at (206) 876-0224 or Elementmasonry@gmail.com.

AT A TIME WHEN THE FISH RUNS AREN’T AS BIG AS WE’D LIKE, IT’S GREAT TO SEE EVENTS LIKE THIS. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

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Fishing Access, Salmon Habitat Among Projects Receiving $126 Million In State Grants

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board today announced the award of more than $126 million in grants to a suite of 333 projects that build and maintain outdoor recreation facilities and conserve wildlife habitat and working farms and forests around the state.

WDFW WILL RECEIVE A $1 MILLION GRANT FROM THE STATE TO BUY MASON’S RESORT AT SEKIU, PREVIOUSLY KNOWN AS OLSON’S, PROVIDING CONTINUED ACCESS TO PRIME FISHING WATERS IN THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA. (RCO)

“Not only do these grants support our state’s parks, forests and farms, but they also fuel a powerful outdoor recreation economy that puts about 200,000 people to work and generates more than $26 billion in spending every year,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “At a time when public lands are more and more at risk of being developed or lost altogether, these grants prioritize our outdoor spaces so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy and protect them.”

“The funding creates more places to play, expands habitat for fish and other wildlife, supports clean air and water, and upholds healthy communities across Washington state and improves our quality of life,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director at the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants.

ANOTHER GRANT WILL ALLOW WDFW TO UPGRADE ACCESS AT ROSES LAKE NEAR CHELAN. (RCO)

“As one of the state’s biggest investors in the outdoors, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board has had a part in thousands of projects across Washington state, from the park down the street to backcountry campsites and other destinations,” said Ted Willhite, chair of the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board. “It’s part of what makes Washington such a great place to live and play.”

With the Legislature’s recent approval of the capital budget, grants are being distributed to cities, counties, state and federal agencies, tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations for projects in 37 of the state’s 39 counties.

FUNDING IS ALSO INCLUDED TO RENOVATE A PAIR OF GRANDE RONDE RIVER ACCESSES. (RCO)

The grants were awarded through seven different grant programs. Revenue comes from a mix of federal grants, the sale of state bonds, gas taxes and user fees.

Click below to see descriptions of each grant.

Asotin County……………………….. $260,000

Adams County………………………. $347,000

Benton County……………………… $867,024

Chelan County………………….. $4,685,565

Clallam County………………….. $5,179,179

Clark County……………………… $5,484,836

Columbia County……………………. $74,950

Cowlitz County…………………… $1,475,739

Douglas County……………………. $554,390

Ferry County………………………. $1,801,550

Franklin County…………………. $1,010,839

Garfield County…………………….. $108,000

Grant County……………………… $2,764,649

Grays Harbor County…………. $1,890,500

Island County…………………….. $1,069,325

Jefferson County……………….. $3,730,191

King County…………………….. $13,460,721

Kitsap County…………………….. $7,231,220

Kittitas County……………………. $1,544,297

Klickitat County…………………….. $197,600

Lewis County………………………… $850,000

Mason County……………………. $3,391,517

Okanogan County……………… $3,038,579

Pacific County……………………. $1,818,625

Pend Oreille County……………….. $62,930

Pierce County……………………. $9,986,502

San Juan County………………. $3,987,448

Skagit County…………………….. $1,952,942

Snohomish County……………. $8,552,692

Spokane County………………… $6,248,960

Stevens County……………………. $183,450

Thurston County……………… $12,354,329

Walla Walla County………………. $434,500

Whatcom County……………….. $3,568,100

Whitman County………………… $3,994,323

Yakima County………………….. $7,925,769

Multiple Counties………………. $3,994,298

All of the funded projects were evaluated and ranked through a competitive process in which citizen committees with expertise in recreation and conservation issues evaluated the grant proposals and created ranked lists for the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board to consider for funding.

“Because we have funding for only about half of the applications that come in, we have to be strategic with our investments, selecting only the best projects,” Cottingham said.

The office accepted applications for 562 projects, requesting nearly $232 million. Most of the grant programs require grant applicants to contribute matching resources. This year, the matching resources totaled nearly $142 million, more than doubling the state’s investment in Washington’s outdoor recreation and conservation efforts.

Of the more than $126 million in grants, more than $47 million goes to build or improve parks, more than $16 million goes each to improve facilities for boaters, $20 million to maintain trails, more than $5 million goes to conserve working farms and another
$36 million goes to protect important wildlife habitat.

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NWIFC’s Loomis Pans Patagonia’s Anti-Hatchery Movie

A major voice in Western Washington’s salmon fishery management world says that Patagonia’s new Artifishal movie is a “misguided documentary full of misinformation about the role hatcheries play in salmon recovery.”

Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, adds that it doesn’t use “accurate science” to back up its claims that Chinook, coho and other stocks reared at state, tribal and federal facilities are the reason why wild stocks are declining, and because of that production at them must end.

LORRAINE LOOMIS, CHAIR OF THE NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION. (NWIFC)

“What we know for certain is that eliminating hatcheries would be the end of salmon fishing for generations. More than half of all the salmon harvested in western Washington come from hatcheries,” writes Loomis in her monthly “Being Frank” column distributed around the region.

It comes as backers of the 75-minute movie screen it across the Northwest and elsewhere, and it appeared in early June at the recent Seattle International Film Festival.

I didn’t go see it, but an article in The Guardian describes it as not just about salmon production but also is “a swerve into the metaphyscial (sic), framing the salmon emergency as a question about the human soul, about what it needs – about what we need – to survive.”

But even as the movie “explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature,” Loomis writes that hatcheries not only produce fish for harvest, including tribes’ reserved by federal treaties, but help reduce pressure on weak stocks and serve as gene banks for imperiled ones, and that all facilities are operated with management plans to protect unclipped salmon.

The release of the movie comes as efforts ramp up to save Puget Sound’s orcas, which are suffering in part because there’s no longer enough Chinook for them to eat.

That’s in part due to massive habitat degradation, from the mountaintops all the way down to the estuaries, that has reduced waters’ capacity for adults to spawn and young fish to rear, but possibly also the longterm decline of releases of fin-clipped Chinook at particularly state facilities due to hatchery reforms and budget issues.

While hundreds of millions dollars’ worth of work is going on to bolster rivers and the inland sea for salmon, it will take decades if not centuries to really boost numbers of wild fish, time that the southern resident killer whales may not have and which means they’ll be dependent on robust, well-executed hatchery production for the foreseeable future.

A PUGET SOUND ADULT CHINOOK SALMON SWIMS THROUGH THE BALLARD LOCKS. (NMFS)

To that end, a Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioner has called for the release of 50 million additional Chinook smolts.

Meanwhile, even as Loomis does find common ground over farming Atlantic salmon with the outdoor apparel company that’s made environmental issues a core concern, she disagrees that hatcheries are just like the floating sea pens.

“Patagonia could be doing a real service to the resource and all of us by advocating for habitat protection and restoration so that we are no longer dependent on hatcheries,” she states.

Instead, they appear to want to pick a fight on a bridge, burning it in the process.

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Washington Fall Bear Hunt Will Now Start Aug. 1 Statewide; 2 Bruins Can Be Taken On Eastside

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

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved changes to the fall bear-hunting rules during their conference call on June 28.

WASHINGTON BLACK BEAR HUNTERS LIKE ANDY BYRD WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE TWO BRUINS STATEWIDE IN A HUNT THAT WILL NOW BEGIN AUG. 1, THANKS TO RECENT RULE CHANGES FROM THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. BYRD BAGGED THIS ONE IN CHELAN COUNTY DURING A SEPTEMBER BUCK HUNT SEVERAL SEASONS AGO. (JASON BROOKS)

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), asked department staff to review and provide a recommendation for black bear season rule changes at a meeting earlier this year.

At the June meeting in Port Angeles, department staff presented two recommendations to simplify bear regulations and make them consistent statewide.

The first recommended change standardized the statewide season start date to Aug. 1. The new season start date provides more hunting days in six of the 11 hunting areas. The second change standardized a two-bear bag limit statewide. The previous rule allowed for harvest of two bears during the season, but only one could be from the east side of the state.

“Our field biologists are currently conducting new hair snare monitoring in two districts to learn more about our current black bear populations,” said Eric Gardner, WDFW wildlife program director. “We chose to bring these two changes forward because they will simplify the regulations and have little impact on our goal of maintaining sustainable black bear populations in Washington.”

The commission approved the rule changes with a 6-1 vote. The changes will take effect Aug. 1, 2019.

WDFW staff will continue hair snare monitoring for several years. This monitoring will inform WDFW’s black bear management and provide better information to assess Washington’s black bear populations.

“We’d like to remind hunters that they are required to report on their black bear season through the WILD System by Jan. 31, 2020,” said Gardner. “Also, we’d like to remind hunters to submit the bear tooth samples on or before the January date as well. Submitting these reports and samples improves our harvest data quality, which informs our black bear management decisions.”

WDFW will seek additional public comment when they consider changes to all hunting related rules during the three-year season setting process in summer 2020.

Editor’s note: According to the office of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, voting in favor of the two changes to the bear hunting rules were Chair Larry Carpenter and members Dave Graybill, Bob Kehoe, Don McIsaac, Brad Smith and Kim Thorburn, with Vice Chair Barbara Baker voting no, and Commissioner Jay Holzmiller not on the conference call.

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Sea Lions, Other Marine Mammals Discovering South Sound Anchovy Boom

A large suite of marine mammals has discovered Deep South Sound’s new bounty of anchovies, schools of which are now so numerous they’re routinely observed during regular aerial surveys.

For three months this past winter, WDFW biologist Steve Jeffries observed hundreds of California sea lions, as well as harbor seals, harbor porpoises and long-beaked common dolphins feeding on a massive pod of the skinny, silvery baitfish in Case Inlet north of Olympia.

IN THIS SCREEN SHOT OF AN IMAGE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S JUNE EYES OVER PUGET SOUND REPORT, MARINE MAMMALS INCLUDE CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS SWIM IN A SOUTH PUGET SOUND INLET WHERE THEY FEED ON HUGE SCHOOLS OF ANCHOVIES. (COURTESY D.O.E.)

Anchovy populations have boomed in these waters since 2015 and the Blob’s warm waters.

What’s more, the pinnipeds and cetaceans appeared to be teaming up on them.

Jeffries says he would watch them forage in a 3/4-mile-wide by 3-mile-long oval from Herron Island up to Hartstine Point south to McMicken Island.

From his boat he could only guess at what was going on under the glass-calm surface, but it’s possible that as the sea lions and dolphins slashed through the anchovies, the other marine mammals waited close by to pick off stunned fish, he says.

“You wouldn’t even know they were there for four to six minutes. Everybody would be down,” Jeffries recalls.

As the sea lions swim along on top, the surface boils with them, a video taken by a Department of Ecology aerial photographer shows.

To double check what they were feeding on, Jeffries says biologists “scooped poop” and jigged the depths, reconfirming anchovies were on the menu.

Sea lions have another tactic as well.

“It looked to us like they pushed the bait into the cove; basically, they cornered them,” he said of another instance in Carr Inlet.

That can also lead to die-offs as the sheer volume of fish can “create a localized, low-oxygen event,” which may have been to blame when a bunch turned up dead in May 2018 in Liberty Bay near Poulsbo.

In one South Sound beach seine net set, scientists caught a staggering 250,000 anchovies in 2017.

ANCHOVIES CAUGHT IN A BEACH SEINE IN OCTOBER 2017. (PHILLIP DIONNE, WDFW)

High tidal fluctuations can also strand the fish as the water recedes.

The feast on the salty fish ended in March when another marine mammal discovered the sated sea lions — 25 transient orcas that sailed through the Tacoma Narrows to Case Inlet.

Transients are the ones that nosh on sea lions and seals; weaker-jawed southern resident killer whales only eat softer salmon and steelhead primarily.

SO WHAT DOES THIS EXPLOSION of anchovies mean?

“I think it bodes well for salmon in the future,” says Jeffries. “Marine mammals are not the only ones that eat anchovies.”

He suggests that anglers also might switch to lures that look like the skinny, 3-inch-long baitfish.

“Put an anchovy-mimic fly on,” Jeffries says.

ANCHOVY HAVE OCCURRED INTERMITTENTLY IN PUGET SOUND OVER THE DECADES AND ARE NOW IN THE BOOM PART OF THEIR POPULATION CYCLE. (PHILLIP DIONNE, WDFW)

Pinnipeds are drawing the ire of fishermen as studies show that they’re intercepting outmigrating smolts, which has been highlighted in part by spring’s Survive the Sound online challenge, not to mention returning adult salmon and steelhead.

As WDFW’s point man on sea lions Jeffries finds himself in the thick of that debate, so I asked him if this all might lead to “prey switching.”

“If you were a sea lion, would you chase one (salmon or steelhead) smolt or a school?” he asked me in return.

Based on Jeffries’ counts of 150 to 250 sea lions in Case Inlet over a three-month period and the needs of the 350- to 700-pound animals to eat 5 to 7 percent of their body weight each day to sustain themselves, WDFW forage fish researcher Phillip Dionne came up with a back-of-the-envelope estimate that they consumed between 118 tons to 551 tons, with a midpoint of 283 tons, more than half a million pounds.

“… Assuming they were only eating anchovy, the sea lions may have eaten more biomass of anchovy in three months than our estimate of spawning biomass of herring (south of the Tacoma Narrows bridge) was for 2018 spawning season,” says Dionne.

Jeffries says anchovies represent “an alternate prey source” that’s in high abundance.

A paper published in the journal Deep Sea Research Part II in January notes that survival rates on acoustically tagged winter steelhead smolts leaving the nearby Nisqually River jumped from 6 to 38 percent between 2014 and 2016.

“Predation buffering by abundant anchovy is one hypothesis to explain this change,” it states.

THE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S LATEST EYES OVER PUGET SOUND REPORT SHOWS NUMEROUS SCHOOLS OF FISH IN MARINE AREA 13, LIKELY ANCHOVIES. (COURTESY D.O.E.)

ANCHOVIES HAVE BEEN INTERMITTENTLY ABUNDANT over the past century and a half, according to the paper, which looked at their historical fluctuations.

They apparently appeared in big numbers in the late 1890s — “they could be dipped up with a common water bucket” in a Port Townsend bay and were recorded as such in the late 1920s, late 1960s, mid-1980s, 2005, and again since 2015.

In the deeper past, “anchovy were the third most abundant fish in First Nations archaeological sites up to 3000 years old” in Burrard Inlet, on which Vancouver, B.C., sits.

It’s hard to say how long this latest anchovy boom will continue or how fast it may fade away and bust like in the past.

Though salmon and steelhead prefer cooler water, WDFW’s Dionne says that if warmer water sticks around, it could last longer than past ones.

While we yearn for clear-cut answers, that’s not the nature of Mother Nature.

“It’s difficult to say if this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing,” Dionne says. “California sea lions certainly love it.”

Northwest States, Tribes Apply To Feds For OK To Kill More Columbia Sea Lions

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), along with a consortium of state and tribal partners, today submitted an expanded application to lethally remove California and Steller sea lions preying on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

SEA LIONS GATHER INSIDE THE MOUTH OF THE COWEEMAN RIVER AT KELSO, MOST LIKELY FOLLOWING THE 2016 RUN OF ESA-LISTED EULACHON, OR SMELT, UP THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (SKYLAR MASTERS)

California sea lions — and increasingly, Steller sea lions — have been observed in growing numbers in the Columbia River basin, especially in the last decade. These sea lions prey heavily on salmon and steelhead runs listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including thousands of fish at Bonneville Dam each year.

The impacts come at a time when many Chinook salmon runs are already at historic lows.

The recovery of sea lions since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972 is a success story, said Kessina Lee, Region 5 director with WDFW. But that recovery has also brought challenges.

“The vast majority of these animals remain in coastal and offshore waters, but several hundred have established themselves in upriver locations,” Lee said. “Where salmon and steelhead numbers are low, any unmanaged increase in predation can cause serious problems.”

Predator management is a key part of a multi-faceted effort to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest.

“For decades, we’ve made strides in habitat restoration, hydropower policy, hatchery production, and fishery management, and we continue to work with our partners to further those initiatives,” Lee said. “Predator management remains an essential part of the equation.”

The application submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) by WDFW and its partners is the first since Congress passed an amendment to the MMPA in December 2018. That amendment, spearheaded by the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation, passed with strong bipartisan support and offers greater flexibility to wildlife managers when determining if a sea lion should be lethally removed in waters that host ESA-listed runs of salmon or steelhead.

“Based on years of experience working within the bounds of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Columbia River fishing tribes contend that predator management is necessary to restore balance to the Columbia River system,” said Ryan Smith, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “Strong partnerships and collaboration with the states, northwest congressional delegation, federal authorities, and nongovernment organizations resulted in this amendment, which applies robust tools to manage sea lions in the lower Columbia River and recognizes tribal sovereignty in that management.”

WDFW and its partners have taken steps to deter California sea lions in the Columbia River basin for more than a decade, but non-lethal measures have proven largely ineffective, driving animals away for only short periods. These hazing measures appear similarly ineffective against Steller sea lions. Non-lethal measures continue to be used as a short-term deterrent when appropriate.

Wildlife managers have conducted lethal removal operations of California sea lions in the Columbia River basin since 2008, when NMFS first issued a letter of authorization under section 120 of the MMPA. From 2008-2019, wildlife managers removed a total of 219 California sea lions that met the federal criteria for removal below Bonneville Dam.

Steller sea lions have not previously been subject to lethal removal.

“Prior to this legislation, wildlife managers were severely limited in their ability to effectively manage sea lions in these areas,” Lee said. “Additional action is required to protect these troubled fish stocks before they are completely eliminated. This is an unfortunate, but necessary step in the salmon recovery process.”

If approved, WDFW expects to begin humanely removing animals under the terms of the expanded application beginning in 2020. The application is subject to a public comment period and review by NMFS. Members of the public can review the application at https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/MMPA-120f-application.pdf.

Other entities submitting the application with WDFW include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (CTWSR), The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the 3.6.D Committee, which includes ODFW, CTUIR, CTWSR, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians of Oregon.

Washington’s Ocean Salmon Season Opens June 22; ‘Great Ops’ For Coho

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

Sport anglers will have the opportunity to reel in salmon off the Washington coast starting Saturday, June 22.

That’s when all four marine areas open daily to fishing for Chinook and coho salmon, said Wendy Beeghley, a fishery manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

GARY LUNDQUIST AND GRANDDAUGHTER MARIAH SHOW OFF A PAIR OF HATCHERY COHO CAUGHT OFF WESTPORT LAST SUMMER ABOARD LUNDQUIST’S BOAT, THE “SKYHOOK.” (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Anglers can expect some great opportunities to fish for coho this summer,” Beeghley said. “With increased numbers of coho projected to return, we have a much higher catch quota for coho this year in comparison with the last few years.”

The coho quota for 2019 is 159,600 fish, up 117,600 over last year. Meanwhile, the Chinook catch quota is 26,250 fish, which is 1,250 fewer fish than 2018’s quota.

In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.

Anglers should be aware the daily limit for the section of Marine Area 4 east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line is listed incorrectly for June 22-July 31 in 2019-2020 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. The daily limit for the area during that timeframe is two salmon.

Although all four marine areas are scheduled to close Sept. 30, Beeghley reminds anglers that areas could close earlier if the quota is met. A section of Marine Area 3 also will re-open Oct. 1 through Oct. 13, or until a quota of 100 Chinook or 100 coho is met.

Throughout the summer, anglers can check WDFW’s webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/creel/ocean for updates.

More information about the fisheries can be found in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available at license vendors and sporting goods stores and online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.