Join Date: Feb 2004
Columbia Salmon Crisis. Term Paper.
I chose to write a paper on the Columbia basin Salmon Crisis. let me know what you think of it..
Columbia River Salmon Crisis
The Columbia Water aqueduct spans from Buoy 10(the mouth of the Columbia River which drains into the Pacific) all the way to these territories: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Canada. This watershed is about 260,000 square miles, roughly the size of France. In olden times, this aquatic water shed supported salmon runs that were in the ballpark of ten to sixteen million fish per year. Many of these species swim over nine hundred nautical river miles upriver to their spawning beds. Unfortunately, after one hundred years of civilization, all seven species of Pacific Salmon (genus Oncorhynchus) native to the Columbia Water shed are in atrophy as far as the native stock of genus Oncorhynchus. The seven species of salmon include; King (otherwise known as Chinook), Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Coho, Steelhead, and Masu (Japanese Salmon.)(Jay 17) It is estimated that the Wild Salmon stock run has been depleted by about ninety-eight percent of historical figures. Historically Idaho’s streams produced 45% of the Snake/Columbia Oncorhynchus runs, today the figures are at less than 10%(Jay 17) The first cannery was opened in 1864, but by the early 1900’s there were forty canneries on the Columbia. In 1975, however, the last cannery was closed.(Huppert 3) There needs to be some major revamping in order to restore our historical fish counts, which may include tearing down dams, creating more ecologically friendly riverbanks, reduce the amount of pollution that is dispersed into rivers by various methods such as cattle grazing in riparian habitats, mining, logging, and industrial pollution. We have a long way to go before we are successful in this endeavor, which we willhopefully do. In the meantime, we hopefully won’t wipe out native stocks of Oncorhynchus before we are able to accomplish one goal at a time. This map shows the vastness of the Columbia Watershed. Fig1.
Since the early eighteen seventies, fishery managers and salmon scientists have been worried about the depletion of the Columbia stock of genus Oncorhynchus. Mining which has caused debris flow into the rivers, unhealthy elements for streams, and clouding up the water, has thus reduced oxygen levels, and caused deforestation. Using rivers to transport logs downriver to port cities, has damaged many salmons habitats and spawning beds, and various agricultural harvesting and growing practices have ruined most of the historically noted salmon spawning beds. Other factors taken into consideration as far as climatic conditions affecting the salmon runs ,may include low snowfall years, record high temperature years, industrial pollution, draught out condition years and El Nino furthermore La Nino cyclic years.
Evidence has shown and pertained to the fact that the spring salmon runs are dramatically affected whenever we have a low snowfall from a prior winter. These salmon need water as cool as possible, and need clear water with high oxygen levels. When we have a low snowmelt year, as an example, some rivers that have sandbars will not be fully submerged, which can be a hassle for the freshwater upriver passage of the salmon. Also another affect of low snowmelt is since the water is low, often times the water clarity will most likely be consisted of mud, and other landslide particles as well as higher concentrations of land based industrial toxins. These salmon are just returning to the rivers from a multi-year ocean voyage. Salmon often travel hundreds of nautical miles just to reach their spawning beds. Most of the time salmon are unable to make back to
their spawning beds, because of these obstacles. Salmon are known to spawn in makeshift areas. Female Salmon will typically find a body of water that is comproised of low current, high levels of oxygen, 49 degrees or colder, and a gravel-pebble rock type of bottom structure, where the female will kick up the bottom structure and lay her eggs, while the male fish will swim over the egg’s and inject sperm onto the egg’s, thereafter he will kick up the bottom too, usually by thrusting up the river beds which displaces more pebbles onto the fish nest.
Acid rain is another serious problem for the genus Oncorhynchus. This is an issue that is a result of global warming. With all the carbon monoxide pollution that is infused to the atmosphere by internal combustion engines, we happen to have a ozone layer that protects us from the harsh UV rays that the sun offsets. With global warming we are experiencing a greenhouse effect. The carbon monoxide has nowhere to go, since it can’t all escape through the ever-increasing ozone leaks into outer space. The carbon monoxide is dispersed to the stratosphere and circum-stratosphere clouds, which ultimately pick up water from large bodies of water such as the ocean, and then dumps rainfall into the mainland. At the same time, pollution is infused into the rainwater. Ultimately rivers happen to be the most common drainage of rainfall. As a result most pollution ends up in our rivers. Salmon are hit the hardest since they require utmost environment : namely the clearest water conditions available. When all the acidic rain is draining through the drainages (rivers), salmon will be our first indicator that our rain is not clear, but rather polluted. Affected the most by acidic rain would have to be the smolts. Once an adult salmon has completed its upriver journey to its spawning beds, they will lay their eggs into the gravel beds. Acidic rain is the number one killer of smolts, followed by water spillage of dams. These smolts are often times ground up in the power-generating turbines. Another predator that smolts have are natural predators, such as the ever increasing population of coastal birds. As a result of global warming, this is shifting the sea surface temperature analomies of the Pacific Ocean. When we are experiencing rapid SST abnormalities, the bait fish follow the warm water current, while salmon are cold water fish, this makes it harder for the Oncorhynchus to survive its ocean voyage.
A predicament that we are just beginning to stumble upon is the saltwater to freshwater migration of Sea-Lions/Pinnipeds (Zalophus californianus-californianus). This is an issue we are trying to figure out how we are going to deal with. Apparently there are about five hundred sea lions chilling out in front of Bonneville Dam according to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. In short, there are two fish ladders (ten feet tall and eight feet wide), one on the Oregon side and another on the Washington side of Bonneville Dam. The issue that we are facing is that these sea lions are hoovering down the salmon, before they can even swim past their first obstacle, which is Bonneville Dam. It is known that sea lions eat an average of three salmon per day. That adds up to forty-five thousand fish per month. When we only have a spring salmon run of fifty thousand fish per spring (February to late may), this can be a devastating problem. Conversely species, such as Chinook and Coho salmon as well as Sea lions are on the endangered species list. So that means that we cannot tinker with the Sea lions. There was a similar problem in the Monterey Bay in Northern California, where ,sea lions were being killed because they would follow the commercial fishing boats out to sea and then steal their catch. The aftermath of these actions led the federal government to give adequate protection to these mammals. Contracted biologists from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers have tracked sea lions that are migrating from the Monterrey Bay all the way up to Bonneville Dam, all in the matter of two weeks. They were able to determine this, by tranquilizing a sea lion at Bonneville dam, tagging it, and relocating it back to the Monterey Bay, fourteen days later it was back at the concrete walls of Bonneville Dam. The Oregon department of fish and wildlife is currently in the process of allowing a short hunting season for the native tribes to hunt one sea lion per person each year. This would be an excellent idea, as Indians never waste an animal, and so they would find a use for the sea lions once they have bagged one from a hunting trip. Be it a skinning ritual, or eating the meat, the Indians will definitely not waste the animal by any means.
There has been a lot of talk about various methods of controlling the Pinnipeds population. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife encountered a serious issue in 2001, when the Ballard Locks in northwestern Washington, nearly lost its entire winter Steelhead run, due to the sea lions that were hanging out in front of the locks. They brought in a pod of Orca Whales to try to initiate an apex predatorily system in place for the Ballard Locks. This concept worked quite well, however the state department of fish and wildlife did not initiate this program until the end of the Oncorhynchus run, so only one hundred fish made it through the locks out of an estimated 25,000. Most of the sea lions left once the Orcas came through. This would be a great solution for the Bonneville Dam crisis; however Orca’s don’t fare too well in brackish waters (at least 50% saltwater.) Regional fishery managers, tribal fishery managers, and Us Army Corps of Engineers have tooled with the idea of using sonar technology, and robotic Orca’s; sadly the experiments aren’t going as well as anticipated.
Urbanization is the largest participant in this issue. We are
a growing continent, economically, socially, and the environment is taking the toll. The destruction of the environment is nature’s way of telling us, there are too many inhabitants here on earth, and she cannot nurture everybody. So that means that the environment is taking the toll, animals are going extinct, and new diseases are being discovered. Cures aren’t found in time to substantiate the destructive nature of the diseases, and species in need of cures are taking the toll. Basically urbanization and salmon, are synonymous in that destruction of riverbeds, dredging of channels, forest clear-cutting, neighborhood development parallel to a river, and not to mention sewer drainage are all a result of urbanization A huge factor in the outrageously increasing urbanization status is the ever-increasing demand for new technology. As a result of the Industrial Age and technological boom, there is often a large amount of greenhouse gases and pollution that is an offset of the manufactorization process.
Between the time frame of 1931-1984 sixty-one dams were built on the Columbia River basin. (Huppert 4) Only less than half of those dams have fish ladders. For the other dam’s that don’t have fish ladders, they usually implement a netting process where they take three boats and use a seine net to round up the fish, which is later loaded into a truck with a huge fifty thousand gallon water tank. This is a good concoction, however biologist are surmised, by the high counts of fish that do not survive the truck ride, they think this is mainly due to all the stress that the fish encounter while being trucked upriver. Another affect of dam’s is the spillway, when smolts would be going downriver on their voyage out to sea, most of the smolts would get ground up in the power turbines. They have devised new screening technology that hopefully displaces the fish into alternative spillways. This is not always effective. In the 1930’s when the Grand Coulee Dam was constructed, it destroyed every inch of spawning habitats within 1,000 square miles of the upper Columbia Watershed. (Jay 84).
Another issue that is prevalent in this problem is the combining of wild and hatchery fish. Hatchery fish are grown and raised in fish hatcheries. The state department of fish and wildlife usually release these fish a year after birth, once they’ve reached a size of about ten to fifteen inches. These fish are usually dumped in rivers that are adjacent to the hatcheries, either by backpacking into a desired location, aqua-bucket transport by a helicopter, as well as by heavy duty truck with a refrigerated and oxygenated water tank. These fish will begin their downriver voyage to the ocean, and spend a few years in the ocean before returning back to freshwater to the very same spot that they were released in. If a female hatchery Pink Salmon spawns with a wild male Pink Salmon, for instance, succeeding generations of that union will inherit only part of the precious genetic code of the wild. Because early life in a hatchery is easy living for a salmon, survival traits-- powerful physiology and ancient instincts—are not fully selected and tested. Hatchery salmon are weaker salmon. (Jay 86) There is a lot of hullabaloo about how the hatchery stock often times will be territorial over the wild stock, in ways such as breeding grounds and hunting for food. However, if we didn’t have hatchery stock, the native fish stock would be exhausted instantaneously, by means of recreational fishing, commercial fishing, and the Indian fishery.
An issue that we are facing nowadays is the olden treaties that we had signed and came to agreement with as far as the American government and Indian tribes. Native American tribes have harvested salmon for centuries, and there are a few instances where the tribes were harvesting salmon close to extinction rates, as their harvest was managed to ensure future salmon survival. Ultimately we did steal land from them, and destroyed their historical fishing spot, which was Celilo Falls. This happened when we built Bonneville Dam and Hood River Dam. An another affect of building these dams, was that historical Indian villages were submerged underwater as a result of rising water levels of the reservoirs as an result of damming the waterway. There have been several ratifications between the tribes and the American government, the Belloni Decision in 1969 is one and the other is the Boldt decision in 1974. U.S District Judge George Boldt initiated the Boldt decision in 1974, which allocated half the harvestable salmon to Native American tribes in Washington.(Jay 121) These were both amendments to historical treaties dating the 1800’s, which the US government implemented the right for Native Americans to fish. Present day laws prohibit wiers and traps, however modern seine and gillnet have been modernized and modified to reduce the by catch of juvenile genus Oncorhynchus. Another method that has been granted to Native Americans is the right to build stationary platforms extending out to non-navigable waters (white-water rapids).
Another larger player in this game are the farmers in the Columbia basin watershed. Historically Indian’s had water rights, just as farmers have had. The main issue here is that most farmers plant their crops in the spring time, and harvest by the end of the summer. During that time period eastern Oregon is usually in its dry spell, meaning there are water rights battles amongst these groups; farmers, government officials, ranchers, and native Americans. With the federal government mandating the endangered species act, the genus Oncorhynchus has been given its stringiest protection. This law requires the dam’s to spill water at higher rates than normal, for various reasons. They may include; lowering the water temperature, increasing down-river depth, as well as increasing the oxygen levels, it takes cool and fast moving water to generate oxygen. When this happens there isn’t much water left for the agricultural farmers and ranchers of the Columbia Basin. Our Eastern Oregon economy thrives on agriculture. The largest exports include barley and livestock .With the water crisis, there is a battle between civilians of eastern Oregon and the bureaucratic leaders of the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as the federal government. It almost seems like there is no perfect solution to this issue. Either the farmers or the genus Oncorhynchus is going to have to suffer, the federal government has given all rights to the genus Oncorhynchus. In 1937 Congress and the Roosevelt Administration created Bonneville Power Administration, which is a federal agency, headquartered in Portland, Oregon; they market wholesale electricity to the Pacific Northwest’s public and private utility corporations. The Bonneville Power Administration brightens up approximately half the light bulbs in the Pacific Northwest, as well as operating three-fourths of the regions high voltage transmission. Conversely while the Bonneville Power Administration is part of the Federal Government’s Department of Energy, It is not supported by tax dollars. However the Bonneville Power administration recovers all of its operating cost’s through sales of electricity, and transmission, also it repays the U.S Treasury, in full with interest to any debited monies. The Bonneville Power Administration works closely with the Department of Interior, as far as the endangered species act goes. They will release water through the turbines and spillways; which help the genus Oncorhynchus with their upriver run, and oceanic run downstream.
The Department of Interior in 1973 implemented the Endangered Species Act, in hopes of preserving and regenerating the intensification of species that are deemed threatened or endangered. Prior to 1991,the genus Oncorhynchus has been placed on the Endangered Species list sixteen separate times, during the allotted time frame of 1973 and 1991(Montgomery 4.) Furthermore there are over eight species of various salmon. With this act in place, this control’s how dams on the Columbia Basin operate, as far as water spillages, and opening up of fish ladders. There has been a lot of controversy whether or not the Oncorhynchus should be placed on the Endangered Species list, as well as how the fiscal budget finances are handled.
In the 1830’s is when European citizens started to move out to the North West. Conversely this is when the salmon were starting to be commercial fished. Hapgood, Hume and Company at Eagle Cliff, Washington, opened the first cannery in the Columbia Basin in 1866; which is about fifty miles upriver from Buoy 10. (OSU. Fig 2) The first year’s production yielded over two hundred and forty thousand pounds of salmon, or roughly four thousand cases In the early days of 1900’s there were about forty canneries in commission on the Columbia River. In spite of this, in 1975 the last cannery was closed. The following graph shows the canning operations over the last few centuries: shown here is fig. 2.
In 1919 there was an estimated one to two thousand oceanic salmon trollers, many of which fished without licenses, and claimed that they fished beyond the states jurisdiction. They often commented that they caught their fish in international waters, which is the body of water one hundred miles off the coast. It’s pretty much a political asylum zone. By 1975 the ocean troller salmon fleet burgeoned up to roughly eight thousand vessels. In 1976 the United States federal government declared jurisdiction over the two hundred mile fishery conservation zone off the mainland. The commercial industry blamed oceanic currents and poor conditions to be the factor of low salmon count years. Another factor was that prior to the 1990’s only 53% of Ocean Salmon trollers reported a catch, on the other hand however, in the 1990’s only 43% reported a catch. The main issues here with the commercial fishing deal, is that there was a lot of unscientific data being used in decision making, also there was a lot of dispute between Oregon and Washington fisheries managers. There is a lot of money to be made in this business, in 1984 the average commercial fisherman made twenty-one thousand dollars for nine days of work, fishing for Sockeye Salmon on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. (Jay 76). As the attached graphs prove, there has been a dramatic decline of salmon. Fig 3.
A recent technological advancement that we are encountering these days is the ability to farm raise fish, and to Ranch Salmon. Currently there are over fourty salmon farms in the Alaska Marine Highway (body of water between the Canadian islands and mainland-southeast Alaska). This is a major migration route for the Columbia basin stock of genus Oncorhynchus. There has been alot of controversy about farm-raised salmon being able to escape and condone in cross breeding between hatchery and wild stocks of salmon. You have to remember that these are farm raised, genetically modified salmon. These fish farmers have a top priority, and that is to breed and raise these fish as fast as they can, more inventory means more profits. The New York Times did an investigation on this issue, and came up with some bizarre information. Apparently, these fish are fed high protein diets, genetically modified of course. As a result of this, a four month old wild fish will be approximately 10 inches long, while a genetically modified fish of the same age would be approximately 24 inches and has a physique of a football. These genetically modified fish have grey colored meat, if it weren’t for the brilliant scientists over in Switzerland, who devised a edible-friendly food coloring, that the fish farmers combine in with their genetically modified fish protein pellets, which is used to feed the fish. There has been a lot of hype as well as, about the possible correlation between cancer and genetically modified fish. As mentioned; there has been a lot of talk about what can and would happen if a farm raised fish were to cross breed with a wild fish. This can and seriously will affect the genetic mapping of a wild fish, this would be very unhealthy to the wild stock of genus Oncorhynchus, at the same time this can be devastating to future Oncorhynchus runs. There is another way to raise salmon, and that is to breed them in a landlocked hatchery, then release it into a man made pool adjacent to a creek or river, three to five years later the fish will return to the very same spot that it was released in, then the ranchers can net the fish and sell it.
Salmon has now earned rave reviews amongst restaurateurs, because scientists have discovered the flesh has a high concentration of Omega-Three oil, which is a known cancer blocker. Because of this, restaurants are purchasing their fish through fish wholesalers, who are now beginning to get their fish from foreign countries. A example of how this plays out; a long-range commercial boat leaves the Hizakai Harbor in northern Japan, to embark on a monthly voyage at sea, because of our politics, once you are two-hundred miles off the North American seaboard you are in International Waters. This means that there are no restrictions as far as what the commercial fisherman can and cannot do. There has been some talk about the Japanese finding out secretly where the Salmon are migrating and they are netting them up. There have been a few theories that this principle could be the reason for our low spring salmon upriver counts of 2005. The main countries that are included may be Central American, Asian, and USSR. If you remember the Japanese fishing boat that was sunk by a ascending Us Navy Submarine, I was talking to some locals on the Island of Hawaii, and they all said it was an intentional attack, because the local Hawaiians were getting irritated on how all the long range Japanese commercial fishermen were fishing 200 miles off the Hawaiian islands and literally cleaning up the area dry. Another issue with the Commercial fishing industry is that they nearly decimated the Herring, Sardine, and Anchovy stocks in the late 70’s, as a result we extremely low counts of upriver bound Salmon. Mainly because herring, sardine and anchovy are the main staple, as far as diet for the saltwater bound Oncorhynchus.
In order to evaluate possible solutions to the Columbia River Watershed Salmon crisis, we have to establish, recommendations after all analyses have been thoroughly conducted. Our main focus right now needs to be the declination of upriver salmon runs in the past century. We have to realize that we are a growing society, and sacrifices have to be made in one way or another. Currently there is a federal Salmon Restoration plan in action. For example, current recommendations that were brought up by Rock Peters, who is the Senior Program Manager, Northwest Division, United States Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with D. Robert Lohn, who is the Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service. The current proposals have been submitted for a upcoming hearing between The National Wildlife Federation et al vs. National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S Army Corps of Engineers, the date scheduled for April 22, 2005 at the U.S District Court, District of Oregon. The recommendations include a few proposals for the Grand Coulee Lower Lake; blocking resident fish from Oncorhynchus spawning sites, reducing nutrients for residential marine fish due to the declining water level, and last inducing a requirement of a water surface elevation of 1283ft of higher before condoning a netting/transporting operation. D. James Fodrea Jr came up with these proposals, his title is being the Chief Engineer for the Columbia/Snake Salmon Recovery Office/ United States Bureau of Reclamation. As a result of increasing the reservoir depth to 1283ft, the Lower Granite reservoir will be below minimum operating pool. This would shut down the operation of commercial vessels, due to the fact that there will be unsufficient water depth for these boats. This area would include the Columbia River between the ports of Lewiston, and Wilma. It has been estimated that total economic loss over a period of two and a half months would be somewhere in the figures of two and a half million dollars, declared by Gregory S. Graham, in affiliation with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Another declaration by D. James Fodrea Jr, is due to the affects of the Salmon Recovery Plan and the Grand Coulee Lake, it is estimated that half of the boat ramps on the lake will be inaccessible because the waterline will be so low. It is also estimated due to this Salmon Recovery Plan, that certain locales will endure economic loss near the figures of 102 million dollars during the fiscal years of 2005 and 2006.
There are many possibilities and solutions to this crisis, furthermore there is no easy fix, nor will it be a overnight process. We need to decide whether we want to conserve the native stock of wild salmon, and eliminate the entire recreational and commercial fishery so there is a chance for the salmon population to rebound. Either that or we need to increase funding for our hatcheries, and start breeding more hatchery fish for the commercial and recreational industry. Climatic weather cycle conditions is not something we have control over, it is just going to deteriorate worst and worst as a result of globalization and global warming. It looks like our best shot at the moment is to keep doing what is being done at present day.