Human ingenuity brought us the ‘salmon cannon’, designed to propel salmon over dams – but is it efficient enough to bring Chinook populations back to the levels needed for the Southern Resident orcas?
Over-fishing and management mistakes have caused biological mayhem for salmon, and if we want robust wild fish in the future we need to restore the environmental blocks to their survival. These include habitat restoration, contaminant abatement, and dams.
Salmon cannons may be a genius – if hilarious – solution for moving salmon and a good tool to help the remaining wild salmon navigate the dams, but one of the most urgent things the wild Chinook salmon – and the Southern Resident orcas that rely upon them – need is unfettered access to the native spawning grounds.
For more information please go to Damsense.org.
Killing the animals that co-evolved with salmon won’t help restore fish populations – we need to remove just a few of the 15 dams on one of the rivers that flow into the Columbia River.
Following the breeding season, male California sea lions leave the Channel Islands and other rookeries and migrate north, eventually seeking out protected inland waterways in the winter. The females remain in the general region of the rookeries, and so aren’t among the sea lions that Congress aims to wipe out.
The crime? Eating salmon that congregate at dams – specifically those on the Columbia and Willamette river systems. Two bills – one that passed in the House of Representatives, and another working its way through the Senate – remove any semblance of management and open the door to wholesale slaughter of pinnepeds.
Presently the fisheries services must prove that a sea lion is actually eating salmon before he is euthanized. This involves branding the animal if he lacks identifying marks, then keeping track of him.
To get around that, the new bills define ‘identifying marks’ as being in the river past more than 112 miles from the ocean. In other words, he just has to be a sea lion. For the Senate bill, it just has to be a pinneped, meaning harbor seals. Neither bill specifically excludes the endangered Steller sea lions.
The bills increase the number of animals that can be killed, who can kill them, and where.
The senate bill expands the prey issue from salmon to any species of fish.
The sea lions will still catch salmon entering the rivers, though they may need to work a little harder. It is pointless to try and wipe them all out, even if it made any kind of logical sense. From TDN.com:
[Dr. Naomi Rose], a biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute said Tuesday that killing more sea lions will not reverse the decline of wild salmon runs.
“The main problem is that this is not going to solve the problem,” Naomi Rose, the institute’s marine mammal biologist, said in an interview. “This is an example of lawmakers scapegoating these natural predators to satisfy the anger that constituent groups feel toward salmon decline.”
Rose said wild salmon numbers have fallen mostly due to a loss of habitat and the construction of dams on the Columbia River.
Killing more sea lions could even make the problem worse, she said, because sea lions consume other species of fish that eat young salmon.
The decline of salmon, one of the region’s iconic species, has been attributed to a host of factors: overfishing, habitat destruction, construction of the hydroelectric dams and predation by Caspian terns and cormorants.
Sea lions historically have shared the salmon’s ecosystem, but their numbers have rebounded while the fish runs are still far below their historic, pre-dam levels.
So the mammals’ impact on salmon runs is more pronounced, especially because manmade structures like fish ladders have made it easier for the sea lions to catch them. TDN.com
Trump Administration Stalls Protections as Southern Resident Killer Whale Population Drops to 76
SEATTLE— “The Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal notice today pressing the Trump administration to protect ocean habitat off California, Oregon and Washington to save the last remaining Southern Resident killer whales.
Today’s notice points out that the administration has unlawfully delayed critical habitat designations sought by the Center in a 2014 petition under the Endangered Species Act.
Endangered Southern Residents live along the Pacific Coast and are starving for lack of their preferred prey, spring chinook salmon. Other threats to these orcas’ survival include oil spills, water pollution and vessel noise.
“These iconic orcas are going extinct, but the Trump administration has proposed oil leases rather than protections for their habitat,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney and marine scientist at the Center. “The Southern Residents desperately need protected foraging areas full of salmon to feed them through the winter. Without swift federal action, these whales will continue their steep slide to extinction.”
The threat of legal action comes just a week after the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission met in Seattle. Experts there warned of the crisis facing Southern Residents with a steep population decline to only 76 whales and few calves born. There were calls for urgent action, including habitat protections, to prevent their extinction.
Responding to the Center’s petition in 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service said it would expand habitat protections in 2017 to safeguard key foraging and migration areas off the West Coast. Yet the Trump administration has failed to act, despite broad public support.
“These incredible orcas should not become victims of the Trump administration’s policy of blocking science-based protections for the environment,” said Kilduff. “With extinction right around the corner, Southern Residents can’t afford to wait for help.”
Photo credit: Center for Whale Research
While spending their summers in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, areas protected as critical habitat in 2006, these killer whales travel extensively along the West Coast during the winter and early spring, congregating near coastal rivers to feed on migrating salmon. The Center petitioned in 2014 to protect areas off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California as critical habitat (see map).
The death of the two-year-old male orca known as “J52” in 2017 came as the population dipped from 83 in 2016 to only 76 individuals today, the biggest year-to-year decline ever recorded. The death was confirmed by the Center for Whale Research, which reported malnutrition was likely the cause.
Today’s notice, which typically precedes the filing of a lawsuit, outlines how the Fisheries Service’s failure to act on the Center’s 2014 petition violates federal law. The letter asks the agency to propose habitat protections by August 6.” Media Release.
Tiny, Unique, and Nearly Gone from Wikiwhale on Vimeo. Update: Ask McDonald’s to stop buying their fish from New Zealand – please sign this new petition. When tweeting, please use @Mcdonalds and #MauisDolphinSOS.
The tiny Maui’s dolphin, whose evolutionary path has out-maneuvered that of the brainiest predator in the ocean – the killer whale – now faces near extinction at the hands of man. In a few short decades this unique dolphin and its close relative the Hector’s dolphin have been decimated by greed and corruption.
For millennia the little dolphins thrived in spite of several types of killer whales that navigate the region. These cute dolphins with ‘Mickey Mouse ear’ dorsal fins have developed an evolutionary trick – their sonar is too high pitched for the orcas to hear. The dolphins have abandoned whistling and instead have adapted their sonar to communicate with each other as well as to navigate and locate prey. (Read more about this fascinating adaptation here and here.)
Their home range is restricted to shallow (100 meter) depths that tend to be ‘acoustically cluttered’, further making them hard to detect.
But while perfectly adapted to an open environment, they run afoul of nets and an indifferent government. The future of the remaining 43 – 47 Maui’s dolphins left in existence is dependent upon preventing just two types of fishing – gill netting and trawling – in the small region off the coast New Zealand that this species calls home.
Yet New Zealand’s Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy. refuses to take action. Worse, an academic paper has emerged that implicates him in failing to report half of the fish taken by commercial boats, and for allowing cover-up of dolphin deaths.
scoop.nz reports: Auckland, 16 May 2016 – Greenpeace is calling for an independent investigation of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in light of an explosive academic report released today, which finds that the quantity of fish caught in New Zealand is more than twice what is officially recorded.
…Of the total catch from foreign and New Zealand flagged vessels, commercial discards were estimated to be as high as 37.4% of fish caught. Unreported landings from the industrial sectors made up 18.3%.
“That means nearly twenty percent of all fish caught are stolen and over a third are thrown back. The waste is mind boggling,” says [Executive Director of Greenpeace New Zealand, Russel Norman].
…The University of Auckland’s report also reveals a situation where multiple vulnerable Hector’s dolphins were caught, and only one reported. This follows on from allegations that surfaced just last Friday, in a study by German conservation organisation, NABU International, that revealed a critically endangered Maui dolphin catch cover-up by MPI. Norman says Greenpeace is demanding an independent investigation into the government department.
“Not only has the catch been more than double what has been recorded, but it appears that MPI have known and kept it quiet,” he says. “MPI must now release any visual evidence they have hidden, and let all New Zealanders see what is going on out at sea. ”
The dolphins are facing extinction because of the profits gained from overseas sales, not because of a need to feed the population of New Zealand. Seafood New Zealand reports that $1.71 billion ($1.17 billion U.S.) was made from exporting seafood to foreign countries:
The strongest value growth is from exports of frozen fin fish with rock lobster, orange roughy, fish meal and mussels also returning increased prices.
China accounts for nearly one third of total seafood export value.
The second most valuable market is Australia followed by the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Spain, France, Germany and Thailand.
The Maui’s dolphins, and their close relative the Hector’s dolphin, need a break and time to recover. You can help by refusing to buy seafood caught in New Zealand, and by volunteering to help spread the word to pressure the government of New Zealand to fully protect the remaining dolphins.
Leonardo DiCaprio has just cast both his fame and a small fortune into solving ocean conservation problems and is counting on all of us to help. On the political front, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to put the ocean health high on their agendas, and there is a sense of urgency underlying their stance.
In some ways, it is the wild west out on the oceans, where greed exceeds rationality, but we may be on our way to doing something about it. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that President Obama plans to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument, a grouping of seven islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Secretary of State John F. Kerry is making ocean health a priority:
An online course called “Ocean Solutions”, taught by Professor Duarte at the University of Western Australia, is also sounding the alarm that we are nightmarish-ly close to destroying the wold’s remaining ocean fish populations. We are running out of time (but as promised by the class title, solutions are offered, some of which are fairly draconian but all of which have to happen now. I highly recommend the class if it is still open). And after several visits in the pre-dawn hours to the Honolulu Fish Auction (where the fleet of long-liners sell their catch) I have learned that while the U.S. fisherman are highly regulated, others are not once they are outside of our territorial waters, causing economic hardship to local fishermen that eventually cascade into problems for whales and dolphins that are seen as competitors for the dwindling fish stocks of the more nearshore, smaller fish species.
Our taste for top ocean predators not only drives up the price, but as I have learned, has no equivalent among land animals in terms of the food chain – tuna and bill fish are at the same trophic level as a mythological land animal would be that ate another mythological animal that ate wolves! We have no idea at this point how these top fish predators control the marine environment, and as they become scarcer we look for smaller and smaller species – yet we really have no idea what that is doing to the ocean food web either. From Fisherman’s Voice, Honolulu:
Although the prime species at the auction is bigeye tuna, a lot of other fish come in. After the bigeye is sold, they move to skipjack tuna, albacore tuna and yellowfin tuna. Then the billfish: broadbill swordfish, shortbill spearfish and striped marlin; and the other open ocean fish like dolphinfish, wahoo, moonfish and bigscale pomfret. Some bottom fishermen, too, sell grouper, red snapper, crimson snapper, russet jobfish, yellowbar jobfish, yellowstriped snapper and lavender jobfish at the auction.
Outside, while the auction is going on, the captain of one boat watches as his 10 tons of bigeye tuna are offloaded–and sold nearly as fast they can reach the floor. The 100-foot vessel usually makes three-week voyages, going from 400 to 800 miles offshore. This trip, however, was cut short and his catch wasn’t what it could have been. But he says even his best catches are nothing next to the Japanese and European longliners, who have superior technology. “We’re just fishermen,” he says. “And right now this is one of our last open fisheries since Alaska went to ITQs. That doesn’t even seem legal,” he adds. With the cost of fuel and bait (he paid 22 dollars a case for frozen sardines), he says they’re not making much money, but the catch has been constant, so far.
Benefactors like DiCapro and our politicians need your support to overcome partisan and international conflicts, and helping the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is a good place to start.
“We don’t just want to hear about meagre compensation for our financial hardships. We want to fish, living the way we’ve lived for thousands of years. This is our legacy, our right and what we know best. It seems to be a case of feeding the rich and depriving the less privileged. We are scattered all over Trinidad and Tobago which makes it easy to divide, fool and conquer us to get us out of their way as they have done just last week with our fellow fishers on the south coast, who accepted the untruths and inadequate packages dangled at them, as we once did, because of their financial distress and ignorance, just as ours, distress which is counted on to weaken our resolve and fool you, the public.” Diane Christian-Simmons
Photo courtesy of Diane Christian-Simmons.
Fed up with trying to work through government channels, the fishing community of Trinidad Tobago has held a series of peaceful pickets to protect the fish that have fed their nation for thousands of years – fish that are known to be harmed by oil companies in the seemingly unquenchable offshore quest for oil and gas. A research article (see page 205) speculates that humpback whales have not returned to that area because of the noise associated with the activities of oil companies, and the whales and dolphins of that region will also benefit by enforcing environmental constraints on big oil.
Now that the seismic surveys – which bombard the environment with loud noise for weeks or months at a time – have begun in spite of the fishing community demands, the fishermen decided to take their protest to the waves, and two dozen or so small fishing boats dodged police boats and slowed the huge seismic vessel.
According to the Caribbean New Media Group, a cat and mouse game ensued as the oil company police boats tried to block the local fishing boats, called “pirogues”:
Even with faster, bigger and more powerful vessels, the efforts of Petrotrin Police were frustrated. They could halt the progress of a pirogue or two, but they could not stop them all.
Several fishermen told C News they were prepared to face guns if need be to protect the fishery. But on Saturday morning, the only thing pointed in their direction from the authorities were cameras.
The convoy of fishing boats continued their pursuit of one of the ships being used in the seismic survey, with the Petrotrin Police boats in hot pursuit.
The police boats used their powerful engines to churn up wake, crossing in front of the bows of the smaller fishing boats to slow them down.
Coincidentally, it was a tactic that the fishermen planned to use as well. Using their greater numbers, they found their way into the path of the seismic survey ship and slowed their pace, forcing the ship to slow to a crawl to match their pace and allow the ship’s captain a chance to think of his next move.
Mr. Gary Aboud of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea said: “He cannot stop because the cables are in the water. He is doing the bombing already. But it is illegal so we are going to go in front the ship and stop it. But you have to be ready to pull out at a moment’s notice because the ship cannot stop.”
A maritime cat and mouse game ensued as the seismic survey ship turned and sped over to areas uncovered by the pirogues and Petrotrin’s Police offered whatever resistance they could muster to slow down the pursuit.
Eventually the seismic ship, the Sanco Star, was forced into rougher water where the small boats could not follow.
From a post I wrote last fall, explaining the significance of the problem fisheries have with the seismic search for oil:
Last November, a peaceful picket resulted in the dramatic arrest of Gary Aboud, head of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), environmentalist Cathal Healy-Singh and La Brea fisherman, Wayne Henry.
Gary Aboud, head of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (left), Diane Christian-Simmons, president of the Cocorite fishing association (center), and environmentalist Cathal Healy-Singh (right). This statement accompanied the press conference.
The situation in Trinidad Tobago is particularly complex because that well-educated nation enjoys a good standard of living in many sectors as a result of the extensive oil reserves that have built the economy, and which created a government that is closely tied to the industry.
In a press release, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea note that the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has never required Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) before seismic surveys for oil and gas are undertaken. They understand that oil exploration will undoubtedly occur there, but they are requesting something very significant: They just want basic science to figure out the degree of impact on fisheries, and they want the fish stock restored.
“Bombing” is a colloquial term for the seismic surveys, the fishermen (colloquially referred to as ‘fisherfolk’) understand the science of seismic surveys. Photo courtesy of Christian-Simmons.
The fishing community demands reasonable compensation from the oil industry for loss of income. The next oil survey will keep them from the area for eight months, and studies show that the fish may disappear from the region due to the noise.
Arrested in last week’s protest, environmental engineer Cathal Healy-Singh has documented the situation there in detail, and provided the information to the government.
There is a plethora of scientific data worldwide which concludes that Seismic Surveys (SS) are damaging to not only marine mammals but also to fish and other marine organisms. In 2011, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, presented to the EMA (and all relevant government agencies and fishing groups) a substantial technical document which compiles the results of scores and scores of research papers from scientific groups around the world which clearly and unequivocally recognizes the damage that SS does. “During the last 20 years there has been growing concern with respect to the impacts of offshore SS activities on marine life”
From the press release:
Since they [EMA] failed to require EIAs in the past, there is no documented evidence of where, how much and what types of fish are being caught, and what the impacts of previous specific Seismic Surveys have been on national fisheries and particularly commercial fisheries, since only the landing sites and gross quantities caught are intermittently documented by the Fisheries Division (according to fishermen).As a result, the EMA is not in a position now, nor will they be after the Guidelines are written, to “ensure that offshore activities are conducted in a regulated manner”. Hence they would have failed to “uphold principles of sustainable development”
Everyone is now fully aware of the grave concerns of fishermen forced, precisely because of a lack of consultations, to have to come into the full public gaze and demonstrate peacefully at the POS waterfront. They are reporting up to 70% drop in catch; lasting months after the Seismic Surveys are completed.
Why you should care about tiny fish:
We are already taking over 30 million tons of small forage fish out of the ocean every year, and because this fishery is largely unregulated we may be removing more biomass than the food web can sustain. Eventually the larger fish, dolphins, and whales will be affected, and sooner or later we will as well.
The endangered Southern Resident orcas’ preferred prey is Chinook salmon, which “typically feed on the most abundant pelagic planktivore. This generally includes herrings, anchovies, juvenile rockfish, and sardines” (Moyle 2002b). In other words – small forage fish.
From the Pew Environmental Group:
Tiny fish play a major role in sustaining a productive marine environment, but their importance can be easily overlooked. That’s why they need your help right now. Small species that you may never have heard of, such as saury, sand lance, and smelt, eat microscopic plants and animals drifting near the ocean’s surface. The fish are then eaten by larger animals, converting plankton into protein for other marine life. These prey species, which often are not well understood by scientists, occupy a critical position in the middle of the marine food web. Right now, fishing for them is unregulated, making it possible for new fisheries to spring up before the science is in place to manage them sustainably. Forage fish account for more than a third of all the fish caught in the world’s oceans—31.5 million metric tons–and most of them are turned into fish meal or oil. But demand is rising to harvest even larger quantities of forage fish out of productive marine ecosystems. Conventional fishery management does not account for the role they play as food for ocean wildlife. As a result, these prey fish, while not considered overfished may be caught in such large quantities that not enough are left in the water to feed bigger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. Fishery managers along the Pacific coast are considering a better approach, but they need to hear from the people who support protecting a healthy food marine web: fishermen who benefit from robust populations of salmon and albacore tuna; whale-watching enthusiasts from California’s Channel Islands to Washington state’s San Juans; and everyone else who wants to preserve a resilient and durable Pacific ecosystem for future generations.
Ask the Pacific Fishery Management Council to hold off on opening any new fisheries for forage species until management plans are in place.
As I hear about jobs and promising internships I’ll try to pass them along.
Being a marine mammal observer on a fishing boat requires the ability to witness the incidental death and injury of marine mammals of all types – from otters to whales – in the nets of commercial fisheries.
If you have the constitution to handle it though, you would be providing a service that ultimately reduces the mortality of marine mammals because your presence will help to control the loss.
Posted January 2012
Alaska Marine Mammal Observer Positions (AMMOP)
Saltwater Inc is currently recruiting applicants for the marine mammal
observer program in Southeast Alaska.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is mandated by the Marine
Mammal Protection Act to monitor the level and nature of interactions
between commercial fisheries and marine mammal stocks. Monitoring will begin
for the Southeast Alaska salmon drift gillnet fishery in Alaska Department
of Fish and Game management districts 6 and 8 during 2012 and 2013.
Saltwater Inc was awarded the contract to implement the program together
The Alaska marine mammal observer program (AMMOP) is focused on providing
statistically reliable information to measure and report on injury and
mortality of marine mammals. AMMOP will rely on marine mammal observers to
collect this information and support scientific studies. While on assignment
observers will collect and record data relating to commercial fishing
operations, gear types, and marine mammal and seabird interactions.
Observers will estimate quantity and species harvested, in addition to
conduct standardized surveys, observations, and sample collection for marine
mammals and seabirds.
We are currently seeking experience observers with a background in marine
mammal or fisheries observer research. Ideal candidates will be proven
self-starters, have excellent communications skills, and the ability to work
independently while following direction from a supervisor.
Observers must meet the following requirements:
* Prior fisheries or marine mammal observer experience with successful
* At least 90 days prior at-sea observer experience
* Bachelor’s degree or higher in the natural sciences with a minimum of 30
semester hours or equivalent in biological sciences, and at least one
undergraduate course in math or statistics
* Experience in systematic observations and making clear, concise scientific
* Possess excellent inter-personal skills, and demonstrate responsibility,
maturity, and self-motivation
* Able to live in close quarters with others for extended periods in a
* Have physical ability to carry out the duties of an observer, and work at
sea for extended periods without medical restrictions
* Have current first aid and CPR certifications
* Experience in outdoor living skills and etiquette
* United States citizen or non-citizen legally residing in the U.S. for at
least 3 years and have legal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
Observers will conduct field observations for each day the commercial
fishery is open. Observations may occur during the nighttime hours.
Commercial periods typically run for 3 to 4 days weekly. An additional day
of work will be required weekly for data debriefing in the office. Observers
will be paid for each day worked. The daily pay rate for observation is $256
and $176 for debriefing.
Observers will be primarily based in the towns of Petersburg and Wrangell,
Alaska. Observers will travel to the fishing grounds and work from
independent work boats operated by experienced, licensed boat operators.
During commercial fishing periods observers may stage for two to three
nights weekly in remote locations, with accommodations including shared
bunkhouses or floating cabins. All housing and meals will be provided while
All observers must successfully complete a two week training prior to
deployment. Training will begin May 29 in Anchorage, Alaska. A
transportation stipend will be provided for travel to Anchorage, and travel
to the duty location in Southeast Alaska will be covered. Housing and meal
reimbursement will be provided during training. Training will end on June 8.
Employment will begin immediately following on approximately June 10, and
will run through mid to late September depending on the duration of the
drift gillnet fishery.
How to apply
For additional information about the program and to submit an application
please visit our website: <http://www.saltwaterinc.com>. Applications
will be accepted through February 3, 2012.
733 N Street
Anchorage, AK 99501 email@example.com (907) 276-3241
A population of resident type orcas – whose feeding strategy is remarkably parallel to that of the Southern Resident orcas – are disappearing from their home range in the Ross Sea. Scientists know that the whales are decreasing in number, the only question that remains is whether the orcas have moved on or if they are dying of hunger.
That population of orcas prefers to eat toothfish (dubbed “sea bass” to make them sound more palatable – related to the Chilean sea bass that has been all but wiped out by over-fishing) much like the Southern Resident orcas of the Salish Sea prefer Chinook salmon. In their recently published article, An apparent decrease in the prevalence of “Ross Sea killer whales” in the southern Ross Sea, (Ainley et al, Aquatic Mammals, Vol. 35 No. 3), the scientists relay a dire warning yet again: wise up before it’s too late.
Resident type orcas are disappearing in the Ross Sea (Creative Commons photo)
Over and over the data is coming in from around the world – fisheries are collapsing, animals are starving, and we are next if we don’t get this figured out while there is still time. We can make some choices that will have a positive effect on fisheries everywhere (choosing only sustainable food is one easy way to make a difference), but we have a chance to make a huge difference to the salmon populations of the Pacific northwest.
I know that we have been hammering on the importance of restoring salmon, and it is because time is running out and we have to do something. I urge each and everyone of you to think of what you can do to help fix the salmon situation, then do it. Don’t eat farmed salmon. Help restore habitat. Figure out how to compensate our fisherpersons for lost revenue if they choose to let more fish slip past their nets. The single most powerful change? Pressure the government to remove some unneeded dams and let the salmon back up the rivers.