Page 1

THE OSPREY The International Journal of Salmon and Steelhead Conservation Issue No. 100

September 2021

The Osprey’s 100th Issue Three decades of advocating for wild salmon and steelhead

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: • THE REALITY OF BC’S COMMERCIAL SALMON FISHERIES CLOSURES • COLUMBIASNAKE RIVER STEELHEAD COLLAPSE • KLAMATH DAM REMOVAL EDGES TOWARD REALITY • ARCHIE CREEK FIRE

WILD STEELHEAD FACING THE END


Contents Columns & News 3

From the Perch — Editor’s Message

4

Hits and Misses — Chair’s Corner

20

Fish Watch: Wild Fish News, Issues and Initiatives

Features 6

The Osprey’s Greatest Hits By Jim Yuskavitch

10

The History, Myths and Realities of British Columbia’s Commercial Salmon Fisheries Closures By Greg Taylor

14

2021 Columbia Basin Steelhead Populations on Track to be Lowest on Record By Dave Moskowitz

16

Removing the Four Lower Klamath River Dams Edges Toward Reality By Craig Tucker and Joe Curtis

18

THE OSPREY Chair Pete Soverel Editor Jim Yuskavitch Editorial Committee Pete Soverel • Dave Peterson Bruce McNae • Greg Knox Ralf Kroning • Rich Simms Kurt Beardslee Scientific Advisors Rick Williams • Jack Stanford Jim Lichatowich • Bill McMillan Bill Bakke • Michael Price Design & Layout Jim Yuskavitch The Osprey is published by: Wild Salmon Rivers 16430 72nd Avenue, West Edmonds, WA 98026 Letters To The Editor The Osprey welcomes letters to the editor and article queries. The Osprey 69278 Lariat Sisters, OR 97759 jyusk@bendcable.com (541) 549-8914 The Osprey is a joint publication of not-for-profit organizations concerned with the conservation and sustainable management of wild Pacific salmon and steelhead and their habitat throughout their native and introduced ranges. This unique partnership includes The Conservation Angler, Fly Fishers International, Steelhead Society of British Columbia, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Wild Salmon Center, Wild Fish Conservancy, World Salmon Forum, Wild Steelhead Coalition and Trout Unlimited. Financial support is provided by partner organizations, individuals, clubs and corporations. The Osprey is published three times a year in January, May and September. All materials are copyrighted and require permission prior to reprinting or other use.

Field Report: Impacts of 2020 Archie Creek Fire in the North Umpqua Basin By Jim Yuskavitch

19

The Osprey Has a New Website! By Sarah Lonigro

Cover Photo Courtesy NASA 2

The Osprey © 2021 ISSN 2334-4075

The Osprey


FROM THE PERCH — EDITOR’S MESSAGE

The Osprey: 100 Issues of Reporting on Wild Fish Science and Policy by Jim Yuskavitch

Y

von Chouinard, founder of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, legendary mountaineer, conservationist, and steelheader once said “science without activism is dead science.” That could have made a pretty darned good motto for The Osprey. With this edition, we celebrate our 100th issue of bringing vital information about dwindling populations of wild Pacific salmon and steelhead in service of their recovery and conservation. While we cover a broad range of subjects, including wild fish policy and management plan analysis, opinion, news and even legal matters, our core focus has always been to bring the latest, cutting-edge wild fish science forward, to inform our audience of fish researchers and managers, professional conservationists, angler activists, and everyone else who cares about the future of wild salmon and steelhead. Here is a brief sampling of some of our recently published important wild fish-related science stories: critical estuary habitat on the Fraser River, the Kamchatka Steelhead Project; impacts of salmon farms on forage fish that salmon eat; discovering the gene that created spring Chinook and summer steelhead; the resiliency and adaptability of steelhead that allows then to thrive in the Great Lakes region and; investigating indigenous fishing methods to reduce incidental by-catch of wild fish. What makes these science articles in The Osprey special is that they written by the original researchers. Whenever I contact a scientist to invite them to contribute an article on their work, I am often surprised — and gratified — to learn that more often than not they are not only familiar with The Osprey but are among our regular readers, and view my invitation as a great opportunity to reach an important audi-

A fisheries researcher monitors tagged fish for a study of wild spring Chinook salmon on Oregon’s Lostine River. Photo by Jim Yuskavitch ence beyond the scientific community. For the next 100 issues, The Osprey will continue its work to inform wild fish advocates about all things that affect them. But the core of our philosophy will always center on bringing the latest science to bear. While science can’t make decisions for us, good, up-to-date science can help us make the best decision for wild salmon and steelhead and their habitat, not just for the sake of themselves but for the sake of everything and everybody that relies on them — including us.

How The Osprey Helps Wild Fish The Osprey has been bringing the latest science, policy, opinion and news stories to its readers supporting wild Pacific salmon and steelhead conservation and management for more than 34 years. But we are much more than a publication that you subscribe to because of your own interest in wild fish conservation. The funds we receive from our subscribers allows us to send The Osprey to wild fish conservation decision-makers and influencers including scientists, fisheries managers, politicians and wild fish advocates.

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

Sending The Osprey to decision makers is key to our wild fish conservation advocacy. Your support makes that possible.

So when you subscribe/donate to The Osprey, you not only receive a subscription yourself, but you also help us put The Osprey into the hands of the people we need bring to our side to save our wild fish. Please go to the subscription/donation form on page 23 or on-line at www.ospreysteelhead.org/donation and donate whatever you are able. Thank you. Jim Yuskavitch Editor, The Osprey

3


HITS & MISSES — CHAIR’S CORNER

For Wild Salmon and Steelhead, Time is Running Out —For Real By Pete Soverel

I

have fished for steelhead on the West Coast of North America and Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East, for 53 years. When I started fishing for steelhead in 1968, although populations were greatly reduced from historical abundance, hundreds of rivers from California to Alaska provided wonderful angling for hundreds of thousands of anglers. Over those fifty-plus years, I have fished many, maybe most, of the storied steelhead waters from Kamchatka to Alaska to Baja, even including the Santa Cruz River in Argentina. I have also been deeply engaged in steelhead conservation as member and chair of the Steelhead Committee of the Federation of Fly Fishers (1988-2000); Director of the Steelhead Society of British Columbia (1990-2005); Director of the Habitat Conservation Corporation; Founder and past president, The Wild Salmon Center (1992-2003); Founder and director, Wild Fish and Biodiversity Foundation (Russia) (19982010); Member, Russian Salmon Fund (2018-present); and Founder and current president, The Conservation Angler (2004-present). I recite this background simply to affirm I have been around the block, devoted decades to salmon and steelhead conservation and have an extensive history of fly fishing for steelhead. Not to brag, but I doubt that the breadth and depth of my experience and range of field activities is surpassed by anyone else in either the angling or management communities. Based on that half century of experience, I have concluded that absent immediate, radical change in management practices, West Coast North American steelhead are doomed in the near-term. Let’s put things in perspective. When I started, in 1968, steelhead hatcheries were just coming into widespread use. Most fisheries were on wild populations which, while significantly depleted from historical levels, were still suffi-

cient to provide bountiful fisheries in hundreds of rivers, streams, creeks, even rivulets. Hundreds of rivers hosted significant runs of wild steelhead and many having runs numbering in the tens of thousands of fish pursued by hundreds of thousands of anglers annually. From the beginning, along with a few far-sighted conservation partners, The Osprey has advocated for fundamental management changes: eliminate re-

Under management regimes stubbornly pursued despite abundant evidence to the contrary, probably most West Coast steelhead populations are being managed into oblivion. liance on hatchery supplementation, implement more restrictive harvest regimes, shift to outcome-based management. Fifty years on, some soul checking is in order. For the most part, except for simply closing rivers to angling, management regimes are largely unchanged – pump out more hatchery fish, pretend the ocean and habitat deterioration are to blame, tweak commercial harvest regimes or make incremental changes to angling regulations and so on. None of these steps have had any perceptible impact on the rate of decline in wild populations. Indeed, about the only measurable outcome has been a dramatic increase in angler crowding – a predictable conse-

quence of imposing widespread angling closures. Surprise: although the current population of steelhead anglers is about half of what it was 30 years ago, the remaining diminished number of anglers are all concentrated on a few score instead of hundreds of rivers using ever more sophisticated and effective methods. It’s the same old story up and down the coast: based upon behavior, managers, tribal members and media, steelheaders appear to be oblivious to the continuing sharp declines, looming widespread population extirpations in the very near term or any apparent appreciation for how completely ineffective virtually all management regimes have been in sustaining healthy wild populations. Instead, media, managers, and steelheaders praise recent Eel River wild steelhead returns of a couple of thousand fish. Sounds good. The annual HARVEST through the late 1950s of Eel River wild steelhead was 35,000-plus. In other words, the muchheralded current wild steelhead run is one seventeenth of the harvest of 50-60 years ago. When I first fished British Columbia’s Thompson River in the late 1980s, sadly having wasted my Novembers chasing early winter runs on the Hoh, 5,000-6,000 huge, 25-35 pound steelhead were finning the fly water around Spences Bridge. Now the total Thompson run is perhaps 150 fish: 3% of the 1980s and no more than sixtenths of the 1950 population. For many years, I fished Lake Washington tributaries – Cedar and Sammamish rivers. Those populations have been completely extirpated along with many once abundant coastal populations such as Gold, Nimpkish, Englishman, Wakeman, Marble, and other rivers. Under the management regimes stubbornly pursued in spite of abundant contrary evidence, many, probably most, West Coast steelhead populations Continued on next page

4

The Osprey


hatchery managers are promoted; agencies completely ignore the Endanhave been managed either into extinc- gered Species Act strictures; Washingtion or teeter on the edge of oblivion – ton is TRIPLING Chinook salmon British Columbia is closed; most of hatchery releases in blatant violation of Washington is closed; Oregon’s North the ESA; tribal and commercial fishUmpqua, perhaps the most storied eries continue on critically depressed, river in steelheadom, is closed; Idaho: ESA-listed wild Columbia/Snake salmon all populations are listed; most of Cali- and steelhead; fish-killing dams are relicensed; agricultural water withfornia should be. By any set of evaluative criteria, drawals continue; owners of rapacious those responsible have adopted and im- businesses are appointed to fish and plemented management policies which wildlife commissions that continue to can only be characterized by the phrase authorize harmful practices and so on. coined after the Seattle Seahawks loss It makes your head spin. The Osprey has been in the conservation fight since the mid1980s. Over that 35year period, The Osprey has championed wild steelhead, urged reduced reliance on hatcheries, preserving angling opportunity through sensible, easily i m p l e m e n t e d gear/method restrictions and limitedentry angler days; fought against relicensing harmful dams and their removal (Elwha, White Salmon, Sandy, Klamath, etc.), reducing steelhead bycatch in the intense commercial and tribal fisheries. We have scored some notable successes. However, the sad reality stares us in the face: from Alaska to Baja, eastern Pacific steelhead are on the cusp of region-wide extirpaImplementing a conservation-focused management plan tions. For the most has resulted in abundant populations of wild steelhead in part, fish & wildlife commissions refuse to Kamchatka rivers. Photo by Justin Miller implement effective conservation measto the New England Patriots in the 2015 ures, continue to authorize rapacious Super Bowl, “GALACTICALLY STU- mixed stock fisheries, double (actually PID and demonstrably harmful!” The in the case of Washington, triple) down only close parallels are the extirpation on hatcheries. Plainly, the management of passenger pigeons and bison over regimes implemented and pursued resimilarly short time frames. In any gion-wide have failed utterly to sustain other line of work, the managers of this healthy steelhead or salmon populahalf century disaster would, at a mini- tions. Presented with this hundred-year mum have been fired, the management track record, I am pretty sure most any paradigm completely revised, and basic five year old would conclude that this management assumptions challenged. paradigm has failed to sustain salmon Of course, none of this has occurred: and steelhead populations and, cer-

Continued from previous page

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

tainly, contributed to their precipitous declines and wide-spread extirpations wherever applied. Why agencies insist on, and the public tolerates, business as usual is beyond explanation, reason or justification. Case in point: the last steelhead Distinct Population Segment (DPS) not ESA listed (west side, Olympic Peninsula) have been in steady decline for the past two decades. The 2020-2021 winter run was predicted to be the lowest ever. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) left the early season (November through January) open. This component of the wild populations historically contributed at least 50% of the total population and has been reduced to single digit populations. Meanwhile, WDFW proposed banning fishing from boats to reduce angling related mortality in the recreational fisheries and the closing the fisheries in March and April in these world class steelhead waters (Quinault, Queets, Hoh, Quileyute, etc.). Leaving aside the mysterious logic of leaving the season open November through January exposing the MOST endangered component of the populations to continued tribal and recreational fishing mortality, the WDFW proposal ignited a firestorm of protests, predominantly from segments of the guide community. Nevermind that guides, who represent a small fraction of the angling community yet are responsible for about 60% of the OP steelhead encounters, and are themselves commercial fishermen making a living on a public resource that belongs to all of us. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has been under intense pressure from this community to rescind the fishing from boats ban. We’ll see if the Commission hangs tough or caves. It’s mind boggling and says volumes about the prospects for steelhead survival. North American steelhead thrived for tens of thousands of years in the face of dramatic climate change. Over the past century and a half, rapacious Europeans have extirpated about half of all populations with all the rest teetering on the brink of oblivion. The fish know what to do and how to do it. Our job is to ensure the opportunity. So far, in North America, we have failed almost completely. Shameful. Check out the Kamchatka Steelhead Project (KSP) (https://www.theconservationangler.org/kamchatka) for a different model, where we ensure Continued on page 23

5


The Osprey’s Greatest Hits Shedding light on the complex issues that affect wild salmon and steelhead By Jim Yuskavitch

T

he first issue of The Osprey was published in January 1987 — six pages pecked out on a typewriter, photocopied, stapled in the upper left corner, and mailed to a small goup of wild steelhead advocates. It’s cover story introduced the Steelhead Committee, a group of about a dozen avid steelhead anglers, mostly in the Seattle area, who were members of the Northwest Regional Council of what was then the Federation of Fly fishers, now Fly Fishers International. They had formed two years earlier for the purpose of advocating for the conservation of wild steelhead and Pacific salmon. The Osprey’s first editor was Stan Young, and the inaugural issue introduced the Steelhead Committee and role of advocating for wild fish, providing comments to fish management agencies and keeping fellow wild fish supporters informed on the issues. That first issue of The Osprey also reported the current status of steelhead runs in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, concerns over then steep decline of coho salmon, summer steelhead and Dolly Varden trout in the Deer Creek watershed within the Stillaguamish River system, and a discussion of foresty practices at a time when timber companies were still allowed to clearcut right up the edge of fish bearing streams. The Osprey has been publishing three times a year ever since, growing steadily over time in content, influence, usefulness and respect among those who value wild fish and are working to secure their future.

Focus on the Four “Hs” The four Hs — Harvest, Habitat, Hydro and Hatcheries — as every wild fish advocate knows — are the fundamental threats to the survival of wild Pacific salmon and steelhead whose impacts can metastasize in many ways. The Osprey has been reporting, explaining, analyzing and presenting solutions to these threats since its inception. One of the greatest challenges to the survival of wild salmon and steelhead on the West Coast is the federal hydroelectric system on the Columbia and Snake rivers, where they have played a major role in the precipitous decline of runs from historical levels. A major focus of The Osprey in this arena has been ongoing critiques of the numerous Columbia-Snake rivers biological opinions the federal government has produced over the years that they just can’t seem to get right. The Osprey has covered each one of these biops as they have been released to the public, many written by attorneys from Earthjustice who are often the lead in litigating wild fish advocates’ cases in opposition.

Reforming the Columbia-Snake River federal hydro system has been a major objective of The Osprey’s wild fish conservation campaign. Photo by Jim Yuskavitch Continued on next page

6

The Osprey


Continued from previous page

Award Winning Conservation Journal Thanks to the work and dedication of everyone involved in producing The Osprey over the years, we are proud and honored to have received the 2012 Haig-Brown Award for excellence in fisheries conservation journalism and communications.

The Osprey “Dam Project”

Investigations of natural resource management policy is a high priority for The Osprey. Whether it has been blowing the whistle on proposed projects such as mining operations on the US-Canadian border that threaten wild fish or weak government regulations that provide inadequate habitat protections, The Osprey has been publishing investigations to inform readers and motivate conservation action. Harvest has been a special concern of The Osprey, particulary in the offshore and inland waters of British Columbia where commercial overharvest, high bycatch mortality, illegal fishing and lax government oversight of various fisheries an ongoing problem that threatens BC’s wild salmon and steelhead runs. And as for hatcheries, the cover story for the September 2014 issue of The Osprey by fisheries biologist, researcher and longtime wild fish advocate Bill McMillan had a blunt message.

The Osprey has long covered state and federal agencys’ overreliance on hatchery salmon and steelhead and their destructive impacts on wild fish runs. Photo by Jim Yuskavitch

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

While The Osprey analyzes the environmental impacts of existing hydroelectric and other dam projects, it is also an advocate for removing outdated, non-functioning and economically unviable dams as a crucial method for restoring wild salmon and steelhead. But what about after a dam is removed? Was the removal successful? Did the removal process do any environmental damage? How are the river and fish responding? Is habitat improving naturally. What kind of active habitat restoration projects are planned or ongoing? How are the wild fish runs doing? Are they being allowed to repopulate naturally or is hatchery supplementation being used? To keep on top of river habitat and wild fish recovery after a dam has been taken out, The Osprey publishes an ongoing series of articles examining progress, or lack thereof, that has been made years later. We want to know how successful dam removal was, what’s working and what’s not. Some of the post dam removal stories we have published to date have included the Elwha and White Salmon rivers in Washington, the Hood, Sandy and Rogue rivers in Oregon and the Carmel River in California. The Osprey will continue to look at fish recovery from future dam removals and revisit past removals over time.

Continued on next page

7


Continued from previous page

Parsing Fisheries Management Plans In-depth analysis and critiques of state and federal fisheries management plans and policies that affect wild steelhead and Pacific salmon has been an important ongoing focus of The Osprey. Written by fisheries managers, policy analysts and environmental attorneys, some significant analysis have included native fish conservation areas concept (May 2008), Washington’s steelhead management plan (January 2011) and the Oregon coast coho recovery plan (May 2016).

Fish in Hot Water — Climate Change The Osprey has been publishing articles on climate change and its threat to fish for years even as the media at large continued to present it as “controversial” and “undecided science.” Written by scientists and other experts in the field exclusively for The Osprey, these include how Pacific Northwest waters are becoming hotter (May 2007), steelhead adaptations to climate change (May 2015) impacts of melting glaciers (September 2020) and the related problem of ocean acidification (January 2016).

International Wild Fish Coverage Wild Pacific salmon and steelhead aren’t constrained by international boundaries and neither is The Osprey in its coverage of the threats wild fish runs face throughout their worldwide range. That coverage has included BC’s Dean, Skeena and Fraser rivers, (September 2011, May 2013, May 2020), along with wild steelhead management in the Great Lakes region (September 2010).

On Top of the Latest Wild Fish Science Good science is key to good wild fish management. The Osprey has made presenting cutting edge salmon and steelhead research a priority — often written by the original researchers. Salmon and pesticides (January 2015), importance of eelgrass and estuaries (September 2016, May 2021) impacts of salmon farms on forage fish (January 2021) and steelhead kelt rehabilitation (January 2017).

Wild Oregon coastal coho salmon spawn in a Coast Range stream — a sight that is becoming less common. Photo by Jim Yuskavitch.

8

The Osprey


Continued from previous page

Digging Deep, Underreported Stories The Osprey also digs deep into the wide range of issues that affect wild salmon and steelhead throughout their range. That often means ongoing, in-depth coverage of important issues and bringing to light stories that are often underreported or ignored by other media outlets. That has included such subjects as wild steelhead research in the Russian Far East, marijuana growing operations that harm wild fish, how hatchery pink salmon are overwhelming north Pacific ocean habitat for their wild counterparts, and how pesticides and herbicides pollute fish bearing streams. Whether you are working on a research project, wild fish conservation campaign, or simply interested reading about current and past issues affecting wild Pacific salmon and steelhead, all back issue of The Osprey are now available on our new website: www.ospreysteelhead.org Jim Yuskavitch has been editor of The Osprey since 2000.

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

Natural “ocean conditions” are often blamed for the plight of wild fish, but there are many human-related factors including climate change, ocean acidification and poor mixed stock fisheries management that play a significant role. Photo by Jim Yuskavitch

9


The History, Myths and Realities of British Columbia’s Commercial Salmon Fisheries Closures By Greg Taylor

I

first met Bob Hooton in the spring of 1987 at a fractious North Coast Advisory Board meeting atop the Prince Rupert Hotel. Bob was the newly arrived provincial management biologist for British Columbia’s Skeena Region, determined to reduce the interception of steelhead by the commercial gillnet fleet. I was chair of the North Coast Advisory Board. The Board, which represented commercial fishing interests, saw the arrival of Bob, and his commitment to limiting the bycatch of steelhead, as an existential threat. Bob describes the next 13 years of his professional life as ‘trench warfare,’ as he fought to protect these remarkable fish. From 1988 through 1994, a suite of new regulations, along with changes to fishing areas and times, were introduced to reduce the bycatch of Skeena steelhead, as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), salmon processors, unions, and fishermen reluctantly responded to the Province of BC (led by Bob), lodges and anglers’ demands for change. The new regulations included more selective fishing gear and techniques, mandatory release of steelhead, requiring commercial fishermen to use onboard revival tanks, and later, mandatory logbooks and in-season reporting of both catch and discards. DFO, recognizing the success of these measures in terms of preserving mixed stock fisheries, while insulating themselves and industry from criticism these fisheries encountered and killed steelhead, and other non-target salmon populations, expanded the regulations to most other salmon fisheries coast wide. These regulations became the centerpiece of DFO’s management strategy to conserve and restore endangered, threatened, and depressed salmon populations caught as bycatch in salmon fisheries. Those early skirmishes over steelhead on the Skeena in the late 1980s and early 1990s heralded the battles to come as the cumulative impacts of habitat destruction, economic development, fishing pressure, and climate

change began to reduce the productivity of the many salmon and steelhead stocks intercepted in commercial fisheries. DFO’s responses to those early battles laid the groundwork for the failed harvest practices in place today; failed practices that DFO Minister Bernadette Jordan attempted to short circuit with her plan, announced this summer, to close 79 commercial fisheries in BC and the Yukon.

Despite the decline in salmon returns over the past three-and-ahalf decades, DFO has not implemented any of its salmon conservation policies. Non-retention and non-possession regulations meant that salmon or steelhead discarded in commercial fisheries were likely no longer being accurately reported, verified, or evaluated in commercial fisheries. (The same issues exist in many recreational and First Nations fisheries). Stock assessment biologists, researchers, and policy makers recognized the need to monitor and evaluate selective fishing practices and regulations to ensure they were having the desired effect, and to enable managers and industry to modify them if they weren’t. Effective catch reporting and compliance monitoring, as well as understanding how many released fish survive to spawn, are critical to understanding a salmon fishery’s impact on bycatch populations. Recognizing this gap, DFO policy staff introduced a Selective Fishing Policy in 2001, and in 2002, began consultations on a new Regional Fishery Monitoring Framework, finally releasing it in 2012. This was followed by a National Bycatch Policy in 2013. Sci-

ence Guidance to Derive and Update Fishery Related Incidental Mortalities (FRIM) in 2017, and a National Fishery Monitoring Policy in 2019. All the above were embedded in a National Sustainable Fisheries Framework that required biologically based management objectives for both target and non-target populations. The year before Bob and I came to loggerheads at that North Coast Advisory Board meeting in Prince Rupert, over 2.1 million salmon and about 19,000 steelhead were landed in Area 4, on BC’s North Coast alone. Not the en tire North Coast, just those fishing areas adjacent to Prince Rupert. In 2021, 35 years, or about 9 salmon lifespans later, the commercial retained catch of salmon as of October 1, for the whole of B.C., is about 750,000 salmon. And recreational steelhead fishing, for the first time ever, is being closed on the Skeena River due to the poor return of steelhead. Despite the steep decline in salmon returns over the last three and a half decades, DFO managers have not implemented any of the above policies: not the Selective Fishing Policy; not the Regional Monitoring Policy; not the National Bycatch Policy; not the Guidance to Derive Fishery Incidental Mortality Rates for Salmon; nor the National Monitoring Policy. This failure is a key reason the commercial industry lost the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification of sustainability for B.C. salmon. These policies are core components of Canada’s ‘Sustainable Fisheries Framework.’ DFO managers reference the policies in their Integrated Fishery Management Plans (IFMPs), but they have refused to implement them. An example is the Regional Fisheries Monitoring and Catch Reporting Framework, released in 2012. It requires that every fishery, as a first step, go through a transparent risk assessment to determine the level of compliance monitoring and catch reporting a fishery requires: low, generic, or high. A fishery significantly impacting a stock or species of concern would likely Continued on next page

10

The Osprey


Continued from previous page

require a high level of monitoring, meaning third party monitoring would likely be necessary to ensure compliance and to understand the effectiveness of regulations. These risk assessments have never been undertaken for salmon, although DFO has done so for several other species. Therefore, appropriate levels of monitoring have never been determined and introduced for commercial salmon fisheries The selective fishing regulations, introduced from the late 1980s through the 1990s, remain in place today. But DFO has made little, or no, attempt to monitor or assess their effectiveness in terms of a fisheries impact upon stocks of concern. Without this information, DFO managers can tell the public that measures are in place to protect nontarget populations, even though they have no idea whether the measures are working, or how well. This lack of information meant that once funding to support the selective fishing policy ended in the early 2000s all innovation in how the commercial fishery might adapt its operations to sustainably harvest salmon ended as well. For if there is no way to measure a fisheries performance, there is little incentive to adapt a fishery to changing circumstances. The commercial fishing industry and DFO have collaborated to introduce independent monitoring in select salmon fisheries. But unlike what is in place for groundfish or halibut, it is limited in scope, when it is employed at all. And because DFO requires industry to pay for it, industry considers the data collected on public fisheries proprietary, and it is not included in DFO public reports. All of the above is why Minister Jordan’s June 29th 2021 announcement that DFO would close 79 commercial fisheries for an extended period to transform harvest practices was so meaningful. It would force the changes in harvest practices her managers and industry had been unwilling to undertake. She had previously said ‘Harvest Transformation’ would be one of the four pillars in the Pacific Salmon Strategic Initiative (PSSI), funded by $647 million in new money, that she had announced less than a month earlier. The closures were intended to initiate the proposed transformation. In her press release the Minister said the closures were required because

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has announced the closure of nearly 80 commercial salmon fisheries — but the reality is different. Photo by nophun201. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. ‘While selective fishing measures to avoid stocks of concern are required in all commercial fisheries, additional commercial closures were considered where stocks of conservation concern could not easily be avoided. This also addresses mortalities from fish that have been released from fishing gear.’ And ‘Based on the 2021 Outlook that provides information regarding anticipated returns of salmon stocks, the 79 individual closures will make the greatest impact on the most fragile stocks of concern.’ And the closures are: ‘an initial step towards longer term reductions in fishing pressure on stocks of conservation concern with significant, long term commercial salmon closures for the 2021 season. These closures will further reduce pressure on stocks of conservation concern and will be included in the 2021-22 Pacific Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan. These conservation-driven management decisions provide strong protections for the most fragile stocks of concern across the Pacific region.’ The fisheries minister, and her Ottawa staff, recognized that salmon managers, after years of inaction and refusal to implement national policy, were unlikely to ever introduce any serious harvest transformation. And that, because DFO exerted little pressure on industry to transform their operations,

they couldn’t expect industry to take the lead either. Therefore, a dramatic Ottawa led intervention was necessary if any change was to be expected. It took courage on the part of her staff to develop and promote such a plan. Not surprisingly, managers told stakeholders in subsequent meetings that they were caught unawares by the announcement and were less than supportive of its contents. In meetings with the minister’s staff, it was made clear that Ottawa saw the 79 closures as an opportunity to ‘reset’ commercial fisheries by introducing incentives for change. The closures were the ‘stick’. The ‘carrot’ was the promise of fisheries possibly reopening if new gear, techniques, or monitoring, consistent with the protection and recovery of both target, and non-target populations, were introduced. Because some fisheries would need to be permanently closed, or substantially reduced, meaning an overall smaller commercial fishery, compensation in the form of a licence buyback was promised. There has been criticism in the media that many of the fisheries that were to be closed had not been open for years, if not decades. There is some truth to this. Of the 79 closures announced by the Minister, 69 were BC fisheries. The balance are in the Yukon. Of the 69 BC fisheries, 28, or 40% had not been opened for many years. But many of these 28 were always minor fisheries. The remaining 41 fisheries that were to be closed included some of BC’s largest fisheries: Nass Continued on next page

11


Continued from previous page

sockeye, Area 8 chums, (East Coast Vancouver Island (ECVI) chums, Fraser chums, Fraser sockeye, and Fraser pinks. The closures included all gear types, including First Nation’s sale fisheries. This was indeed an opportunity for a major reset of the commercial fisheries that are intercepting endangered and threatened wild sockeye, chum, coho, and Chinook salmon, and steelhead populations. Although, interestingly, in that this story begins with Skeena gillnet fisheries, the Skeena gillnet fishery was not included in the list of closures. The Minister made the announced the closures on June 29. Her release stated: ‘Strong management measures will be in place for all salmon fishing sectors in 2021, and are in line with a precautionary approach based on conservation and sustainability. These plans are outlined in the 2021-2022 Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and will result in closures to nearly 60 per cent of commercial salmon fisheries for the 2021 season. (Bold and italics mine) However, just because Ottawa dictates something, doesn’t mean salmon managers will comply. And, in reading the fine print of the list of closures that accompanied the Minister’s announcement, one could see ‘PSSI’ alongside the first 13 BC fisheries, with IFMP shown next to the balance. No such distinction was made in the Minister’s press release or backgrounder. Nor was there any clarification provided on the list of 79 closures itself. But immediately, any experienced reader of DFO material understood something was up. In an attempt to gain some clarification, the Marine Conservation Caucus (MCC) met with the minister’s staff who confirmed the fisheries would be closed. They repeated that this did not mean the fisheries would necessarily be closed forever. That this was an opportunity to ‘reset’ the commercial fishery by introducing new gear and strategies for harvesting target species while minimizing impacts on non-target populations. They assured us that until this happened, the fisheries would indeed remain closed. Under further questioning, the minister’s staff said that reopening the fisheries would require meaningful consultations with First Nations and other stakeholders, including conservation organizations. With this confirmation in hand, most people involved in salmon conservation and restoration eagerly awaited the re-

12

lease of DFO management’s Integrated Fisheries Management Plans for salmon (IFMPs). We didn’t have long to wait. Seven days after the minister’s press conference, the northern and southern IFMPs were released, and instead of 69 BC closures, DFO management announced that only 13 commercial fisheries would be closed in 2021. DFO managers further doused any expectation that any real change

and First Nations sale) were listed, that ‘these closures are an initial step toward long-term conservation closures beginning in 2022, which will be considered following consultation with affected groups’. (Bold and italics mine) The minister’s announcement was reduced from the promise of 60 per cent of commercial fisheries being closed (something you still read in the media) to 9 per cent being closed and that any

Salmon management areas along the British Columbia coast. Map courtesy Fisheries and Oceans Canada was coming by saying, on page 599 of the 599 page IFMP, where the 13 closures (northern coho (troll), Area 3 sockeye and Chinook (gillnet and Nisga’a Treaty), Area 8 chum (gillnet, seine, and FN sale), Johnstone Strait chum (gillnet), Nitinat chum (gillnet and seine), and Fraser chum (gillnet,

further closures would be subject to consultation with harvesters. To gain further clarification, the MCC asked the minister’s staff to explain the rift between what the minister promised in her press conference, and what DFO delivered, only a week later. OtContinued on next page

The Osprey


Continued from previous page

tawa asked Neil Davis, DFO’s Acting Regional Director of Fisheries Management, to reach out and explain how his department planned to implement the minister’s commitment to transform harvest practices. His response, via an email exchange, was that, ‘the fisheries that are closed are likely to vary’ based on pre-season and in-season information, and ‘the bar for considering reopening any fisheries currently identified for closure will be significantly higher than it has been; we are taking a more precautionary approach to the consideration of adequate abundance of target stocks and potential encounters of other, weaker stocks, for example. We’re also looking for long term increases in abundance rather than just single years that may show higher numbers. That is the general approach that we will apply consistently across all the fisheries.’ In other words, DFO managers intended to operate in the future much as they had done in the past: fisheries will be opened based on pre-season and inseason estimates of the abundance of the target population. Anyone anticipating that DFO managers were onboard with transforming fisheries by introducing new selective management strategies, implementing National Policies, replacing gillnets currently used in mixed stock fisheries with selective gear, or requiring independent monitoring of fisheries that encounter endangered or threatened populations, are likely to be disappointed. Mr. Davies response to Ottawa’s directive mimics DFO managers’ ongoing response to national policies requiring the sustainable management of fisheries. One might therefore reasonably expect future IFMPs will pay ‘lip service’ to the minister’s announcement: while managers continue to manage as they have done for the past couple of decades. The above could all be put down to conjecture if it were not for DFO’s opening of Fraser River seine and First Nations sale for pink salmon fisheries this past September. These fisheries were on the list of fisheries the minister said would be closed in 2021. Fraser River pink returns were forecast to be poor in 2021. DFO said preseason that a commercial fishery was unlikely. However, as the season progressed, it became evident that pinks were returning in numbers that would allow for a commercial fishery consis-

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

tent with the management plan that had been written into the IFMP for a number of years. To be clear, pinks were not particularly abundant in 2021. The 2021 return was about 70% of the longterm average. The Fraser River pink salmon fishery is a poster child for the fisheries the minister said she was concerned about. The fishery encounters endangered steelhead and sockeye and threatened coho populations, exactly the kind of non-target impacts the fisheries closures were meant to address. The opening was announced at 8 p.m. to open at 7 a.m. the next morning. As someone who spent his career managing such fisheries, it is evident that there had to be several days of discussion and planning to have boats in place within 11 hours of an announcement. Clearly, there was no attempt by DFO to consult with anyone other than industry. One would think DFO’s baulking at moving forward with the harvest transformation promised by the Minister would be good news for commercial fishermen. But they are likely to continue to be treated cruelly. The minister’s announcement committed to working with harvesters to design a licence retirement program in response to the expected closures. Scientists tell us that the climate emergency will continue to constrain commercial fishing opportunities. DFO managers will be held to account relative to the Minister’s announcement by different stakeholder groups and may be more precautionary. Managers may not transform fisheries as the Minister promised, but it is likely they will be more conservative, further limiting commercial access. The danger for commercial fishermen is that without the promised closures, significant compensation may not be available for those who want to exit the fishery, as the Minister tied the licence buy back to closures, and a smaller fishery. The fishing industry — processors and companies — may welcome, and support, managers recalcitrance, but it is the actual commercial fishermen who may be hurt. In that 1987 North Coast Advisory Board meeting, in addition to Bob Hooton, another legendary steelhead advocate was in attendance: the late Bruce Hill. Bruce was an ex-logger, fisherman, and guide who tirelessly brought people together to proactively, and collaboratively work for conservation in northern BC. Bruce warned me

sometime later that engaging with DFO is akin to entering a ‘sewer of process’ and one can expect similar outputs. Bruce, as usual, was not far wrong. The years following this meeting led to hundreds more meetings, many announcements, regulations, and promises, but no real change. The minister’s announcement was an opportunity to short circuit the status quo, transform fisheries for those fishers who wanted to stay, and compensate those who wanted to leave. Whether a new minister stands by the actions announced by Minister Jordan and her staff last June, or allows Pacific region managers to undermine them, is an open question. Since I began my career, there have been 23 fisheries ministers. Of those 23, maybe seven have been willing to encourage salmon managers and the fishery to adapt and change. And only three — John Fraser, Brian Tobin, and David Anderson — have demanded it. Minister Jordan was on the cusp of joining their ranks. Bob and I continue to fight in the trenches. But we were never alone. Many anglers, commercial fishermen, and conservationists stood with us. And many remarkable First Nations leaders, such as Glen Williams, Donna MacIntyre, Gord Sterritt, Pat Mathews, and Murray Ned, occupied their own trenches. Meaningful change has been difficult to come by. But the future looks much brighter. Younger people, both inside and outside government, are entering the fray and have little patience for DFO’s ‘sewer of process’. They follow Bruce’s contention that one doesn’t ask for change; one demands it. Greg Taylor has operated Fish First Consulting, based from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, since 2008. He works with various partners like SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and Watershed Watch Salmon Society to explore ways to integrate the preservation of ecosystems with social and economic values; developing new fishing opportunities with indigenous communities; and bringing his business experience to bear on conservation challenges. Taylor was also formerly Manager of Ocean Fisheries Northern Operations, Chair of the North Coast Advisory Board, and sat on the Pacific Salmon Commission. In addition Taylor is CEO of Talok Fisheries LP, an indigenous owned ‘known-stock’ salmon fishery on Babine Lake.

13


2021 Columbia Basin Steelhead Populations on Track to be Lowest on Record By Dave Moskowitz

T

he cumulative return of both hatchery and wild summer steelhead past Bonneville Dam, the first dam on the mainstem Columbia River, is the lowest on record since counting began in 1939 and is just 34% of the current 10-year average (20112020) — itself is the lowest since 1985. The 2021 summer steelhead return is only 17% of the highest recent ten-year average (2001-2010). The few fish that have returned faced the second hottest water temperature trends in the past decade with mainstem temperatures at Bonneville Dam regularly passing 73F (survivability of salmonids like summer steelhead begins to decline after temperatures exceed 64.4F). On August 6, regional fish conservation groups sounded the alarm to fishery managers in both Washington and Oregon, asking the states’ respective Fish and Wildlife Commissions to implement conservation measures to protect this year’s run. As of August 26,

neither Oregon or Washington had acted; however, on the North Umpqua River, Oregon closed steelhead fishing on August 10 through the end of November due to similarly poor returns

Anglers and guides stepped forward during the current fishing season in the face of record low numbers of Columbia basin fish, high water temperatures and inadequate agency conservation action.

A steelheader works the waters of the Grande Ronde River. Photograph by Dave Moskowitz

and high water temperatures. Yet many steelhead angling seasons remained open on the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers and their major tributaries such as the Deschutes, John Day and Grand Ronde. Finally, following a joint Washington and Oregon Commission sub-committee meeting on August 27, Oregon adopted a suite of additional tributary rules closing the Deschutes and John Day to “angling for steelhead” though still allowing salmon, trout and bass fishing. The lack of definitive, comprehensive action by state and federal fisheries managers left anglers and guides to figure out the most responsible course forward themselves — and many gave up a beloved pastime on Washington, Oregon and Idaho steelhead rivers. The Conservation Angler and many others believe there are simply too few wild steelhead returning to responsibly fish for them. This often divisive and wrenching decision pointed a spotlight on a glaring lack of leadership coming from fishery managers who review the same grim run numbers and water temperatures and fail to act in a timely or decisive way. The decision to fish or not should rest on the manager’s shoulders — it is their job to take precautionary action with the future in mind and have a bottom line so they can tell anglers when it is safe and responsible to fish. Columbia and Snake river summer steelhead runs have been quite low since 2016, but this year’s forecasted return was low enough to motivate early agency action and planning to develop some important steelhead protective regulations in the mainstem Columbia. Sadly, agency managers refused to consider decisive agency action for tributary fisheries where anglers were left with an ethical decision of whether or not to fish or run their businesses. This was exacerbated by rules allowing fishing for salmon, trout and bass, which meant that steelhead protective rules were uneven and unenforceable. The only truly effective regulation would be to close rivers to all Continued on next page

14

The Osprey


Continued from previous page

angling — apparently a bridge too far. It is the state’s job to ensure these priceless wild steelhead populations are protected and conserved for the future. Remaining virtually silent while allowing status quo management practices to run their course is inexcusable and the Fish and Wildlife Commissions must not stand idly by accepting the stale rationales from staff as these wild steelhead dip towards extinction on their watch. The northwest’s wild steelhead and wild rivers deserve every ounce of fight we can deliver.

Wild Steelhead and Steelheading — My North Star There have been periods in my life when I spent more nights sleeping in my roll-a-cot on the banks of the Deschutes, John Day or the North Umpqua than in my own bed. I love my cot and I love those rivers. One particular spot provides a nighttime view of spectacular black canyon walls plunging to converge as they descend to the Deschutes River, creating a funnel-shaped gap filled with dark blue night sky and brilliant stars that is typically filled with the Big Dipper — as if God herself was dipping her cup into the cold delicious Deschutes. The North Star marked my place in the world. We fell asleep watching that view — and woke, still dark — seeing the wondrous results of a few more hours on this spinning blue marble of a planet, as the big dipper’s cup had turned up, filled with the hope and promise of spending another day trying to connect with one of our planet’s most magnificent animals. I am a steelhead angler. That means I am methodical, but also prone to flights of fancy — changing things up based on impulse and theory. This behavior is not unlike the wild steelhead themselves. Their unique migratory behavior and life history traits provide them the energy, power and whimsy to migrate up one river, then descend and move on, to sip mayflies like they did as kids, to allow resident fish to share their spawning bed, to survive these rigors and even heed the call to return to the salt and start it all over again. These fish are my North Star. If wild steelhead don’t provoke you to

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

wonder, or blow you up, frustrate you, make you shake your head, or simply make you want to drive your rig back to the put-in and do it all over again after you have encountered them, then there is little hope for you — or, as it turns out — for the wild fish themselves. I may be in a different position than many of my fellow steelhead anglers because my profession, the work I get paid to do, is to protect and conserve wild fish. In many ways, my career is a blessing because I often get to combine my profession with my passion, which is fishing for steel- If steelhead don’t provoke you to wonder, then there is little head. And like some hope for you, or as it turns out, for the wild fish themselves.. of you reading this, Photo by Dave Moskowitz

I spend all my waking and dreaming hours thinking about wild fish because I love encountering them and because I love fighting for their future. I spend all my waking and dreaming hours thinking about wild fish because I love encountering them, and because I love fighting for their future. Fighting for the future for wild fish means that I am protecting clean water. It means I am fighting for sound and sustainable land and water conservation practices. It means I think about how to reform factors that affect wild fish survival so that our collective impact is reduced to respond to declining populations of fish caused by many other factors that feel out of our immediate control. However, what is in my immediate

control is how, where and when I fish. I am going to look at my own impact on the fish that I am trying to protect for the future. That means that professionally speaking, through The Conservation Angler, I am going to examine how to reform fishing so that collectively and individually, anglers and fishers do not fish until the wild fish are gone. I am not going to fish for carp, or bass, or hatchery salmon — not because I don’t like fishing or don’t like those fish — but because I feel I owe it to the wild steelhead and their rivers in repayment for the years of incredible experiences I have had trying to encounter them. I feel a personal and professional obligation to do everything I can to ensure that enough wild steelhead make it back to every spawning stream they came from so that they can spawn the next generation. It is time for steelhead anglers to stop fishing and start fighting. Join us.

Dave Moskowitz is Executive Director of The Conservation Angler, one of The Osprey’s partner organizations. Learn more about their work at: www.theconservationangler.org

15


Removing the Four Lower Klamath River Dams Edges Toward Reality By Craig Tucker and Joe Curtis

L

ong-sought by wild fish advocates, removing the four lower Klamath River dams — Iron Gate, COPCO 1 and 2 on the California reach of the river, and J.C. Boyle in Oregon, is edging closer than ever to becoming reality. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that oversees licensing of non-federal power projects and decommissioning of such projects, approved transfer of the dams from PacifiCorp, their original owner, to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) — a non-profit entity created to manage the decommissioning of the Klamath River dams — earlier this year through the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). FERC’s final decision to approve dam removal requires the agency to produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to inform the final decision and specific details of the dam removal plan, and has committed to releasing a draft EIS before February 2021. FERC should complete the full environmental review and approve the project in time to remove the dams in 2023. Klamath River communities have been ready for the dams to come down for years. This summer’s juvenile Chinook salmon kill continues a long series of catastrophes caused by the dams. The dams have long elevated river temperatures and hampered sediment movement downstream. This year’s extreme drought conditions exacerbated these problems, creating the optimal conditions for a deadly disease, spread by the parasite Ceratonova shasta, which infected juvenile Chinook salmon. (See “High Juvenile Salmon Mortality on Lower Klamath River Due to C. Shasta,” The Osprey, May 2021.) By the end of spring, nearly an entire generation of Chinook was infected as they prepared to migrate to the ocean. Tribal biologists monitoring the situation reported greater than 95% infection rates and collected hundreds of dead juveniles in their fish traps for the first time ever.

16

In response to these disastrous declines in fishery health, the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council , which works to protect the Salmon River watershed, an important source of clean water to the Klamath River, petitioned the state of California to add Klamath River spring Chinook to the state’s endangered species list. The California Fish and Wildlife Commission ruled unanimously to add Upper Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon to the California Endangered Species List on June 17, 2021. This designation

If the drawdown and scheduled deconstruction proceeds as planned, removal of the four dams will begin in January 2023. was made after it was determined that the spring Chinook in the Klamath and Trinity rivers are genetically distinct from fall Chinook. California will now have to consider impacts to spring Chinook when developing fishing regulations, approve timber harvest plans, or any other project. The National Marine Fisheries Service is currently considering a similar petition for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. With the four lower hydroelectric dams gone, salmon runs blocked for over a century by will have access to historic spawning areas including dozens of cold-water springs and hundreds of river miles. An undammed river will result in lower river temperatures and a natural hydrograph for most of the river’s length. This will disrupt the life cycle of disease-causing parasites that currently thrive below

Iron Gate Dam that has been a serious ongoing threat to salmon runs, restore sediment mobilization and transport, alleviate toxic algae blooms, and lead to an overall healthier, cleaner Klamath River. Instead of bracing themselves for the next dam-related ecological disaster, Klamath Basin residents and their supporters are looking forward to a resurgence in fish stocks, ecosystem regeneration and reconnection, and the social and economic benefits of those outcomes. The record-breaking drought that continues to impact much of the West Coast has further underscored the immediate need for dam removal on the Klamath. In the span of a century, (COPCO 1, the first of the four dams, was built in 1918, putting an end to salmon and steelhead runs to the upper basin) the Klamath River has gone from the third largest producer of salmon on the West Coast that supported communities and ecosystems from its headwaters to its mouth, to this year’s Klamath and Trinity Rivers’ fall Chinook recreational quota being set at 1,221 adult fish and the Klamath tribal allocation set at 8,135 adult fall Chinook. Considering that these combined quotas allow fewer than 10,000 fall Chinook to be caught in the Klamath River, this represents a disastrous, unacceptable decline. The drop in the recreational fishing quota alone, down from 3,490 for the 2018 season, is disconcerting in the short-, as well as long-terms. As the KRRC proceeds with dam removal, the expectation is for a rapid increase in the size and health of Klamath salmon and steelhead runs, and in correlating seasonal quotas. If the planned schedule for drawdown and deconstruction proceeds as planned, removal will begin in January of 2023, with the dams out by the end of that year. The plan for removal is timed to mitigate the negative short-term impacts on the river and aquatic ecosysContinued on next page

The Osprey


mal detriment to people, wildlife, and landscape. While dam removal proponents can fitems while deconstructing all four dams simultaneously. Starting with nally enjoy some political momentum, drawdown procedures that will remove critics of dam removal are still working as much water as possible from behind to undermine the effort. In Siskiyou each dam, deconstruction details will County, California, a vocal minority retake several forms depending on the en- lies on disinformation campaigns to further efforts to derail the dam regineering details of each dam. There will be relatively little explosive moval process. Claims that salmon power utilized in the project. Other never migrated to upper Klamath than Iron Gate Dam, which will require Basin, that salmon are not native to the the strategic creation of a small hole via Klamath Basin, and claims that the a carefully engineered explosion, the dams are important for storing water to river flows during dams will be removed in much the same supplement way that they were originally installed, droughts are being circulated by a small but vociferous group of dam suponly backwards. What about the hatchery at the Iron porters in social media pages and local Gate dam? It is expected that dam re- press outlets. moval will eventually make the hatch- Dam removal opponents continue to reery unnecessary by allowing a cycle debunked myths and contrive resurgence of overall river health and new conspiracy theories to motivate a related fisheries growth. However; the certain kind of base to action. However, removal plans include funding hatch- FERC is a decision-making body that ery operations for eight years to allow functions similar to a court and facts an evaluation of its efficacy in restor- still matter in this arena. We know ing fish populations before being de- salmon made it to the upper Klamath commissioned. The Klamath River basin, and have photographic evHydroelectric Settlement Agreement idence including a photograph from with PacifiCorp contains extensive pre- Charles Holder’s text, “Gamefishes of cautionary measures created to cover the World”, published in 1913. The picall possible outcomes of dam removal ture (above right) was taken at what whether removal goes just as planned was known as the ‘Salmon Pool’ on the or if there are any undesirable out- Williamson River, a stream that feeds comes. The maintenance and timely de- Upper Klamath Lake, above J.C. Boyle Dam, the uppermost of the four dams. There are several ways to contribute to removal efforts that range from making financial contributions to the KRRC, to submitting comments to FERC in support of dam removal, to being prepared to challenge anti-removal myths and attitudes. Having conversations about dam removal with family, coworkers, neighbors and family members is another important way to participate in the removal process: helping inform the public even on a With the removal of the four lower dams on the Klamath small, personal basis River, wild fish will have the opportunity to recolonize can have important efformer habitat. Photo by Jim Yuskavitch fects on the long-term success of these kinds commissioning of the Iron Gate of projects. Submitting comments based on the hatchery is just one of many fail safes built into the agreements to make sure data presented above to FERC is a parthat dam removal proceeds with mini- ticularly potent way for river advocates Continued from previous page

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

to help the dam removal process. Writing a brief letter that illustrates your personal understanding of the situation and demonstrates your interest in dam removal can be a powerful component in the fight against disinformation. Success relies on as many invested individuals and groups contributing to the effort as possible. Thus far, wild fish advocates have been a powerful voice in the chorus of dam-removal demands. May this tradition of informed stewardship proceed into a future when the Klamath River is undammed at last. Tips on how to file your comment with FERC can be found at https://reconnectklamath.org/take-action/

Craig Tucker is principal at Suits and Signs Consulting, a firm that works with tribes, local governments, and NGOs to protect natural resources and promote responsible economic development. Craig has helped foster coalitions of Tribal governments, commercial fishermen, agricultural organizations, energy companies, and conservation organizations to advance a wide range of objectives from fisheries restoration and community fire protection to business development and health care. He has previously contributed articles to The Osprey on Klamath Dam fisheries issues. Learn more about Suits and Signs at: https://suitsandsigns.com Joe Curtis is a Graduate Student in Humboldt State University’s Environment and Community Program and holds a BA in History from the same institution. He works as a researcher and writer. His research focuses on the relationship between state agencies, Tribes, and land management outcomes. After living in Humboldt and Siskiyou Counties for the last 15 years he is driven to engage regional environmental and social issues that impact the county’s communities.

17


Field Report: Impacts of 2020 Archie Creek Fire in the North Umpqua Basin By Jim Yuskavitch

L

ast fall, deadly wildfires roared through the forests and communities on the west slope of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, incinerating habitat, homes, entire towns, and unfortunately, causing some loss of human life. For wild fish advocates and anglers, the Archie Creek Fire was especially disheartening. Not only did the wildfire destroy many homes, but also burned through the watershed of one of the world’s most storied wild steelhead streams — the North Umpqua River and its many important tributaries. The Archie Creek Fire was first detected on September 8, 2020, and by the time is was fully contained on November 16, it had burned 131,596 acres (206 square miles) across both private and public lands as well as through the communities of Rock Creek and Steamboat. The cost to fight the fire is estimated at $40 million. There were nearly 960 miles of streams within the fire’s perimeter, including 17 miles of Designated Critical Habitat for coho salmon and another 18 that can provide good coho habitat. Burning on both sides of the North Umpqua River within its National Wild and Scenic River designation, the most

hard-hit sub-basins included the Susan Creek-North Umpqua, Lower Rock Creek and East Fork Rock Creek. In terms of natural resources and environmental impacts, post fire erosion levels could increase by as much as ten times normal, particularly in Rock Creek, McComas Creek, Kelly Creek and Harrington Creek. Estimated vegetation recovery time depends on how severely an area was burned, with three to five years in lightly affected areas and as much as three decades in places that suffered stand replacement fire severity. Due to the loss of riparian vegetation that will increase runoff, peak flows are expected to increase as much as 1.6 times pre-fire with the largest increases in Rock Creek, Honey Creek and Lone Rock Road basins. High risk potential has also been identified along roads from hazard trees, and to private property from post-fire flooding and floating debris. Winchester Dam, on the lower river, is considered at high risk from post fire woody debris flow and increased sedimentation. Because some reaches of streams lost most or some of their riparian vegetation, water quality decline — specifically temperature increases — puts fish

Watershed Percent Burned Area - Archie Creek Fire. Map courtesy FEMA

18

The Archie Creek Fire destroyed both property and habitat. Photo by Cheyne Rossbach. Attribution 2.0 Generic License. at high risk. In the extensively burned areas, it could take ten or more years to recover. On a more positive note, overall, fish habitat does not seem to have too negatively impacted. Water quality decline from turbidity caused by erosion runoff may have short-term impacts on salmon and steelhead spawning success, but there is enough alternative spawning habitat to make this a low risk threat. Similarly, rearing and refugia habitat could be negatively affected by increased runoff but probably will not impact more than one or two fish generations. However, high debris loads could block the Rock Creek fish ladder making it difficult for wild fish to ascend the stream. Some post-fire habitat recovery recommendations include maintaining and restoring habitat connectivity, such as replacing damaged culverts, increasing riparian shade by re-planting burned areas or managing for natural regrowth, conducting salvage activities to leave large woody debris in streams, increase beaver habitat and restore refugia impacted by the fire. Information for this report came from “Archie Creek Fire: Erosion Threat Assessment/Reduction Team Summary Report” available at: https://gscdn.govshare.site/1aa8ace4ad df06592a8d7dcb775413bf10fd1ec6/ETA RTSummary-ArchieFire.pdf Jim Yuskavitch is editor of The Osprey.

The Osprey


September 2021 • Issue No. 100

19


FISH WATCH — WILD FISH NEWS, ISSUES AND INITIATIVES NOAA Fisheries Moves to Reduce Fishing Impacts on Chinook Salmon, Critical Food Source for Southern Resident Orcas NOAA Fisheries has approved a Pacific Fishery Management Council’s proposed amendment to the Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan (Amendment 21), which would limit ocean salmon fishery impacts on Chinook salmon availability as prey for endangered Southern Resident orcas, during years of particularly low Chinook salmon abundance. (See “NOAA Fisheries Seeking Comment on Amendment to Limit Ocean Salmon Fisheries Impacts on Chinook Salmon”, The Osprey, May 2021)

Illegal Fishing on Fraser River Threatens Endangered Salmon and Steelhead Runs After receiving reports and photographs of apparently wide-spread illegal gillnet fishing activity and fish sales on British Columbia‚ Fraser River, the BC Wildlife Federation and Watershed Watch Salmon Society requested additional information from Canada’s federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) including the number of salmon, steelhead and sturgeon being taken by species, the number of gillnets seized, the numbers of still fishing by location and how many C&P (Conservation and Protection) personnel are involved and if there have been any altercation on the ground. DFO confirms these reports of illegal fishing and responds: Continued illegal fishing activity on the Fraser River is posing a direct threat to dwindling salmon stocks returning to spawn. To deter the public from illegal fishing, and buying illegally caught fish we are hoping to reinforce the current dire state of salmon stocks and the imperative that as many adults return to their natal streams as possible as one key step in supporting the rebuilding of salmon populations, underscore the serious harm illegal fishing activity does, particularly to Fraser River Sockeye salmon, and also Chinook, which in turn threatens the future sustainability of the at-risk Southern Resident killer whale population. DFO says it is implementing the following enforcement activities targeting illegal fishing:

Chinook salmon are a critical food source for Southern Resident orcas, with wild fish having more fat content and higher food value than hatchery fish. Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS Amendment 21 sets a threshold for annual Chinook salmon abundance, currently estimated at 966,000 in waters north of Cape Falcon, Oregon, below which the Council and NOAA Fisheries would take additional fishery management actions through the adoption of annual ocean salmon management measures. Above this abundance threshold, ocean salmon fisheries will be managed consistent with the existing Pacific Coast Salmon Fishery Management Plan. Amendment 21 does not include implementing regulations; therefore, there is no final rule related to this amendment. NOAA Fisheries will also continue to work with its partners in Canada, the State of Washington, tribes, and interest groups, to reduce impacts from the three main threats to the whales — to improve Southern Resident access to their preferred prey, Chinook salmon; reduce vessel interference in Southern Resident foraging and other activities and; lessen exposure to and contamination by pollution that threatens their health and reproduction. For the specific details on Amendment 21 and each of the required management measures, visit the NOAA Fisheries website at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/amendment-21-pacific-coast-salmon-fishery-management-plan

Conserving salmon, and working collaboratively with the public to allow sufficient numbers of fish to reach the spawning grounds to sustain the species, is a key priority for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Commercial, recreational and First Nations fisheries on the Fraser are all affected by the salmon fishing closure. Despite high compliance, the Department has received an increase in public reports of illegal fishing in a few areas. As a result, we are increasing our enforcement activities, particularly at night. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has also received public complaints about illegal fish sales. The Department would like to remind the public of the legal penalties and potential health and safety concerns surrounding the purchase of seafood products from unauthorized and unapproved sources. It is not just illegal to sell unauthorized harvested seafood, it is also illegal to buy it. Businesses or individuals that buy or sell seafood that has not being sold legally may be subject to arrest, fines, jail, and forfeiture of anything seized. If found guilty under the Fisheries Act, individuals may face a maximum $100,000 fine, or be imprisoned for up to two years. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and Continued on next page

20

The Osprey


Continued from previous page

Nearly 40 DFO Conservation and Protection Officers have removed over 200 illegally set gillnets from the Fraser River to date. Photo Courtesy DFO conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities. As part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada work to end illegal activity, the Department asks the public for information on any suspicious or potentially illegal activities, or any contravention of the Fisheries Act and Regulations. Anyone with information can call the toll-free violation reporting line at1-800-465-4336, or via email at DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfompo.gc.ca.

New Tool Assesses the True Costs and Financial Risks of Hydropower Projects The first comprehensive geospatial tool to assess oftenoverlooked environmental and social risks and commercial viability of hydropower projects called Riverscope has been recently developed by TPM Systems, a finance and technology systems development company, in collaboration with International Rivers. The electricity produced by large-scale hydropower is often expensive financially in part because these dams often create significant and irreversible impacts on societies and ecosystems. Yet the way proposed hydro projects are currently assessed systematically underestimates environmental, social, and governance risks. Riverscope is designed to quantify these financial risks in order to improve energy planning and investment. Riverscope has been tested on five hydropower pilot projects in Africa and Southeast Asia, including three dams planned on the Mekong River. These assessments found that large hydropower is regularly associated with environmental, social, and governance risks that are extremely difficult to manage effectively and at a reasonable cost. This leads to long delays and budget overruns which, in turn, reduce the commercial value of these projects and increase the end costs of electricity from them. Partly as a result, large hydropower projects are often uncompetitive with alternative technologies like wind and solar by the time they eventually come to market. These Riverscope pilot project results strongly suggest that assessment processes for hydropower are in urgent need of overhaul. Assessments of large projects fail to recognize the inextricable linkage of social, environmental, and commercial risks, which contributes to consistently poor decision-making. Solar and wind turned out cheaper than hydropower in all five pilots studies, making the business case for many large dams suspect.

DFO Conservation and Protection fishery officers are monitoring the Fraser River Watershed from the mouth to its headwaters in British Columbia through a mix of enforcement activities from Helicopter flights in the mid-river areas, to vehicle and patrol vessel monitoring, to night time enforcement. Approximately 38 C&P staff are currently dedicated to this enforcement effort. To date, fishery officers have removed 212 illegally set gillnets from the Fraser River, along with other fishing gear. Some Fraser River Chinook, sockeye and steelhead runs are in dire straits. Illegal fishing activity adds to the stress factors that include habitat degradation, impacts from human development and natural resource exploitation, and rising water temperatures due to climate change. The bulk of the illegal fishing activity is reported to be between the Port Mann Bridge and Lillooet. Watershed Watch Salmon Society and the BC Wildlife Federation continue to investigate, and are working with the media and others to bring more information forward.

Large-scale hydro projects are often poor investments, with their negatives outweighing positives. Riverscope will help determine a proposed hydro project’s viability. Photo Courtesy US Bureau of Reclamation Continued on next page

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

21


Continued from previous page

Riverscope combines geospatial analysis, financial modeling, and an in-depth qualitative investigation to provide a unique and comprehensive assessment of hydropower risks. It is designed to: 1. Identify, mitigate, and avoid the most serious commercial risks 2. Translate social and environmental risks into financial terms 3. Evaluate competitive alternatives to hydropower that have better impact Riverscope’s statistical process is based on the past performance of 281 dams, which were used to identify quantitative and statistically significant indicators of financial risks in hydropower development. Common and comparable financial metrics are then used to demonstrate the impact of these risks on a project’s financial viability. Having applied this methodology across five pilot projects, some of the findings include: 1. Large dams regularly face long delays of between 4 to 10 years based on an examination of 281 cases. Riverscope’s methodology can use a dam’s location to estimate how long delays might be. 2. Riverscope found that social and environmental challenges would reduce average Net Present Value (NPV) of a hydroelectric project to negative 40%. The business case for these investments is very weak once a proper assessment has been made. 3. Large hydropower is typically expensive and the idea of it as a cheap energy source is increasingly inaccurate. Electricity from the five pilot dams is likely to be 49% more expensive, on average, than locally available solar options per kWh. As time passes, hydropower becomes more expensive as alternatives become cheaper. 4. Most large dams have severe environmental, social, and governance impacts that should make concessional finance unavailable — loans provided at more lenient terms in case the investment turns out to be economically inefficient — although this capital is still key in almost every hydropower deal. Among the pilot projects assessed, Riverscope found that an average of 52,755 people were put at immediate risk of physical or economic displacement, with millions more substantially affected in areas like the Mekong River basin.

Two Year Drought De-waters Lower South Fork Eel River, Unprecedented Event As a record two-year drought continues in parts of northern California, conservationists with the Eel Recovery Project made a surprising, unprecedented, discovery in late September of this year. The lower South Fork Eel River had gone dry at its confluence with the Eel River, and was no longer connected to the mainstem. In addition, the South Fork was mostly dry below Highway 101 at Dyerville. The situation is being caused by a large stationary high pressure zone over the last two years that is deflecting the jet-stream, which normally brings storms to the North Coast of California, into Canada. The drought impacts vary with the most serious effects in the Lake County and Medecino sections of the Eel River watershed. Where water levels are low, salmon and steelhead are having difficulty reaching headwater spawning streams. For more information on the Eel River see: www.eelriverrecovery.org and eelriver.org.

Wildfire Impacts on Coho Salmon in Russian River Tributaries Being Studied California Sea Grant and Sonoma Water are in the process of monitoring the impacts of the 2020 Walbridge Fire, which burned 55,000 acres, and destroyed 150 homes, within the Russian River watershed in northwestern Sonoma County, California. A little over 20 percent of stream reaches used by coho salmon are within the perimeter of the burned area. Steelhead runs are also found in these streams. The effects of fire on stream environments can be both positive and negative. While riparian vegetation and increased erosion may be negative impacts, wildfire can also increase biological diversity and recruit more instream logs and other materials that improve fish habitat. The researchers will be looking at environmental changes resulting from the Walbridge Fire including sediment load increases, large wood recruitment, water temperatures and pH levels. For more information go to: https://caseagrant.ucsd.edu/blogs/the-walbridge-fire-andsalmon-habitat

Riverscope’s findings demonstrate the urgent need for better planning in the energy sector to avoid environmental, social, and governance impacts as well as financial risks, which will result in better outcomes for all. For further information about Riverscope, the General Summary report, and five case study summaries, visit www.riverscope.org.

22

Depending on the circumstances, wildfires can have negative or positive impacts on stream ecosystems and fish populations. Photo by Jim Yuskavitch

The Osprey


Continued from page 5

spawning escapement, eliminate excess harvest, and monitor habitat conditions and so on. At the inception of this joint Russian-American program, Kamchatka steelhead populations had been drastically reduced with annual runs to our project rivers down to about 1,000 fish each in the Kvachina, Snotalvayam and Utkholok rivers. Note below, how steelhead responded to the management changes which facilitated increased escapement. Note also, these are small rivers, none larger than Washington’s Tolt River:

River Kvachina

1994 1,100

Snotalvayam 1,000 Utkholok

1,400

was unable to mount our normal field programs in 2020. KSP friends and sponsors generously donated over $50,000 to provide for an anti-poaching team of fisheries enforcement personnel which deterred poaching 100%. This year, combining a group of Russian sponsors with an equal number of western sponsors, KSP has been able to mount a smaller field season. The first two groups of sponsors are on the river now. All three rivers are choked with big, WILD steelhead. Where would you want to pursue steelhead? Which management model do you think most appropriate? I know where I’m heading.

Present 8,000 10,000 7,000 9,000 25,000 30,000

Imagine, these three small streams host wild returns of at least 40,000 – far more the continent spanning rivers such as the Skeena or Columbia. As can be seen, 27 years later after eliminating net fishing and angling harvest, populations have soared. The Utkholok return alone exceeds that of ANY river in BC, Washington, Oregon, Idaho or California. These wild Kamchatkan steelhead populations appear to still be expanding. Because of the COVID pandemic, KSP

Pete Soverel is Chair of The Osprey Management and Editorial Committee and founder and President of The Conservation angler: www.theconservationangler.org.

their own without massive hatchery manipulations geared to unsustainable harvest regimes. To this end, The Conservation Angler sponsors participation by agency biologists in the annual Kamchatka Steelhead Project field programs so they can see, with their own eyes, what abundance looks like and can be achieved in very short time spans. Throughout North America, most land habitat has been drastically altered and is certainly less productive than historically. However, wildlife managers have put their faith in the critters, worked to improve or at least protect habitat and implement harvest regimes geared to sustainable natural production. The result is thriving deer, elk, cougar, coyote, fox, turkey, pheasant, duck, bear, racoon, dove, goose, and other wildlife species all WITHOUT massive hatchery overlays. Let’s give that model a chance. — P.S.

Postscript I want to be clear that the foregoing is a commentary of the leadership — state, provincial and federal — not the rank and file species managers. I know and have worked with and continue to work closely with many of them. They are good people with good intentions operating inside a bureaucratic system that refuses to manage for wild fish or even believe that wild fish can thrive on

Photo by Justin Miller

SUPPORT THE OSPREY To receive The Osprey three times per year, January, May and September, please fill out this coupon with your check made out to The Osprey - The Conservation Angler and mail to: The Osprey/The Conservation Angler 4034 NE Davis Street Portland, OR 97232 Or donate at: www.ospreysteelhead.org/donation NAME

Yes, I will help protect wild salmon and steelhead ❏ $15 Basic Donation/Subscription ❏ $25 Dedicated Angler Level ❏ $50 For Future Generations of Anglers ❏ $100 So There Will Always Be Wild Fish ❏ $

Other

Send My Copies By E-Mail

q

Send My Copies by Standard Mail

q

ADDRESS

CITY/STATE/ZIP

PHONE

E-Mail

September 2021 • Issue No. 100

23


THE OSPREY Wild Salmon Rivers 4034 NE Davis Street Portland, OR 97232