Losing salmon

The North Pacific Ocean is at this time home to more salmon than at any time in recorded history, and the residents of Seattle are worrying that their local sockeye, which once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, might soon be extinct.

The usual suspects are being blamed.

“Today the worry is that the fish can’t beat the combination of climate change that is warming the water in the lake and Lake Washington Ship Canal to lethal temperatures; urbanization of the lake; and surging predator populations gobbling juvenile salmon,” reporter Lynda V. Mapes wrote in the Seattle Times last week.

Predators are clearly a problem in the 34-square-mile lake in the heart of the city and warm water isn’t helping salmon survival, but the biggest problem might have been overlooked in The Times’ summary: ocean survival.

Ground-breaking research by Canadian scientists has suggested that ending West Coast salmon declines now isn’t nearly as simple as dealing with freshwater issues. The Canadians discovered that even where salmon streams are unsullied by the hand of man, as in parts of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, Chinook – the big kings – are suffering declines similar to those of the disappearing sockeye of Lake Washington.

Their peer-reviewed study was published late last year in the journal Fish and Fisheries. Canadian David Welch and associates at Kintama Research Services in British Columbia reported that all along the North American West Coast,  the numbers of Chinook – a long-lived species like sockeye – declined by 65 percent over the past 50 years due to changing ocean conditions.

Downward trends have also been seen in sockeyes and coho, or what Alaskans usually call silver salmon. All of these fish have something in common with kings; their young spend at least a year in freshwater before going to sea where they spend multiple years before returning to spawn.

Welch doesn’t dismiss the problems salmon face in the rivers and streams of the rapidly growing Pacific Northwest (PNW), where hydroelectric dams have long interfered with spawning migrations of adult fish and increased the dangers of predation on young fish heading to sea.

But what his research found was that this is not the deadliest threat to the region’s salmon.

“At the broadest level, the major implication of our results is
that most of the salmon conservation problem is determined in the
ocean by common processes,” he and his co-authors wrote. “Attempts to improve smolt to adult return rates by addressing region-specific issues such as freshwater habitat degradation or salmon aquaculture in coastal zones are therefore unlikely to be successful.”

Given the study’s challenge to the widespread and prevailing belief that PNW salmon would thrive if only hydroelectric dams were removed and people constrained, the research was heavily challenged. The paper spent more than a year in review with reviewers arguing the data couldn’t be right before finally accepting that it was sound.

Battleground Pacific

All of this is coming at a time when Alaska and Russia are seeing record catches of salmon. There are no doubt lots of salmon in the ocean.

Scientists Greg Ruggerone and James Irvine have documented the greatest abundance of the fish in the Pacific since humans began keeping records in 1925.

Part of this is clearly linked to warmer water. Scientists have known for decades that when the waters of the Gulf of Alaska are warm, salmon productivity in Alaska goes up and that in the Northwest goes down.

Fisheries biologist Steven Hare in 1996 coined the term “Pacific decadal oscillation” (PDO) to describe naturally fluctuating ocean temperatures reflected in coastwide shifts in salmon harvests along the North American West Coast.

“Major changes in northeast Pacific marine ecosystems have been correlated with phase changes in the PDO; warm eras have seen enhanced coastal ocean biological productivity in Alaska and inhibited productivity off the west coast of the contiguous United States, while cold PDO eras have seen the opposite north-south pattern of marine ecosystem productivity,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The causes of the shifts remain unknown. Some believe they have been compounded by the general global warming of the 20th century that is continuing in the 21st century.

This is not, however, the only change that has been underway in the Pacific in modern times. Man has also been tampering with the system by using hatcheries to add more salmon to the stew of ocean fishes and, particularly in Alaska, managing salmon for maximum abundance.

One of the chief results has been an explosion of pink salmon – the smallest and shortest-lived of the Pacific species. Pinks are the cheapest and easiest to raise salmon as they require no freshwater rearing and offer a quick turnaround in production.

The fish need spend only about 18 months at sea to reach spawning sizes of 3.5 to 5 pounds before returning to the hatchery.

“Once they reach the ocean, they feed voraciously and grow rapidly,” NOAA observes. “In fact, they’re among the fastest growing of the Pacific salmon species.”

The fish have been a godsend for Alaska’s Prince William Sound where pink salmon catches averaged but three million fish per year from 1951 until hatchery production began amping up in 1980.

Now the average, annual catch is 15 times as high at 45 million humpies, as Alaskans call them, and the value of these “wild-caught,” ranched salmon (Alaskans abhor the term “farmed salmon”) is put at $125 million per year in the Sound. 

How Alaska’s ranching and management for maximum productivity is affecting the ocean ecosystem is becoming an issue attracting increasing attention as salmon runs to the south of the 49th state struggle.

Alaska and Russia have done such a good job with pink salmon that Ruggerone and Irvine estimated that about seven out of every 10 adult salmon in the ocean today are pinks, which along with getting a helping hand from hatcheries appear to enjoy a competitive advantage over other salmon in warmer water.

A team of scientists from the University of California, the University of Alaska, Canada’s McGill and Simon Fraser universities, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and GKV & Sons, an independent consultancy this summer warned the large numbers of pinks could be harming other salmon Pacific-wide. They reported steady declines in the average sizes of Chinook, sockeye, chum and coho since the 1990s with dramatic declines in the size of Chinook and sockeye starting in about 2000.

Their peer-reviewed paper published in Nature Communications pointedly warned of possible negative effects from industrial-size hatcheries.

The approximately “5 billion hatchery salmon…released into the North Pacific each year…add to already high abundances of wild pink, chum, and sockeye,” they wrote. “While signals of conspecific and interspecific competition are increasingly evident, managers currently lack tools to help inform difficult decisions regarding hatchery releases. Tools that quantify the apparent trade-offs between the releases of one species and the impacts of size and productivity on conspecifics and other species are urgently needed.”

The linkage between the Nature study and the Welch study is clear.

Who would conduct studies to try to figure out how to manage the situation is unclear. The director of fisheries research for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has said such studies are too difficult for his agency to undertake.

Critics of the Alaska hatchery program have, in turn, charged that is just an excuse for the agency’s unwillingness to pursue research that might produce results the agency doesn’t want to see.

The Alaska hatchery program was born of Fish and Game’s Division of Fisheries Rehabilitation and Enhancement (FRED) before being largely turned over to private, nonprofit aquaculture associations run by commercial fishermen after the state found the hatcheries too costly to operate. 

Commercial fishermen, who catch nearly all the hatchery fish, were at first expected to support the costs of the hatcheries solely with a so-called “salmon enhancement” tax on their catches, but the state later gave the hatcheries themselves the authority to conduct “cost-recovery fisheries” to pay operating expenses.

The hatcheries now operate much like salmon farms in the rest of the world with the fish being raised to pay the wages and the salaries of hatchery operators. The only major difference is that any profit from the operations in Alaska goes into the pockets of commercial fishermen and not the employees of the hatchery.

This has been good business in areas with hatcheries, but possibly not so much in others both in and outside of Alaska.

“For sockeye salmon, North Pacific pink salmon abundance had a particularly strong negative association with body size,” the Nature study warned.

That in turn produces a negative association with value. Salmon are graded on size and quality with big, well-handled fish commanding the top price.

Smaller salmon also mean the females carry fewer eggs thus dictating more spawners are needed to maintain productivity. As with everything in nature, as the authors of the Nature study noted, there are tradeoffs and complications.

Whether one of the tradeoffs involves Alaska’s massive production of salmon lowering salmon production to the south is a huge question. But there is no doubt the state’s harvest is now massive.

State salmon catches that averaged under 50 million fish per year in the 1970s more than tripled to an average of about 180 million in the 2010s with hatchery fish, primarily pinks, regularly comprising a quarter to more than a third of the catch.

This was all fine when the food supply for salmon in the ocean was thought to be near inexhaustible, but that idea has increasingly come under question. And some in Canada and the lower 48 are starting to wonder if their salmon stocks could be paying a price for Alaska’s bounty.

In an email exchange on Tuesday, Welch noted that Lake Washington isn’t the only waterbody now suffering dismal sockeye returns.

Along with shrunken runs in “Puget Sound,” he wrote, “we could add the similar problems for all but one of the 20-plus sockeye populations in the Fraser River, plus the Redfish Lake sockeye issue in the Snake River, and those are being mirrored in multiple other parts of the coast, but not all.

“I have to think that the real location of the problem is farther away from the coast because 13 years ago we were working on exactly this problem in British Columbia and found using acoustic telemetry that sockeye smolt survival was quite high in the first four to six weeks of ocean life, but then dropped sharply at some later point in their life history prior to adult return.”

 The Fraser, a river just north of the U.S.-Canada border, last summer witnessed the worst return of sockeye in its history. Despite the closure of sockeye fisheries, only 293,000 salmon made it back, according to the Pacific Salmon Commission. 

From 1980 to 2014, the river averaged returns of almost 10 million sockeye per year.

At the limits

Sockeye in the Fraser, like those in Lake Washington and the Snake River drainage of the Columbia River system, are among the southernmost sockeye in North America. They are thus thought to be the fish most vulnerable to global warming.

How exactly this threat might manifest itself is unknown, but food competition could be one way. Intense, interspecies competition for food is a norm in marine ecosystems where big fish eat little fish with almost no regard as to species.

Alaska’s FRED program once wanted to undertake a “predator control study” in Tutka Lagoon near the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula to determine how many hatchery fry were being consumed by Dolly Varden char and herring, a prey of large salmon.

The study, according to state files, was intended to “help to determine the extent and feasibility of conducting future predator control programs….”

Seattle seems to be in some ways following the Alaska model for solving salmon problems. When the Lake Washington sockeye run first started to falter, a hatchery was built along the Cedar River.

With the hatchery having now failed to produce the desired results, scientists are studying the predators that kill an estimated 94 to 99 percent of sockeye fry in the lake before they get a chance to go to sea as smolts.

Fry-to-survival rates of sockeye are hugely variable, but the Lake Washington loss rates can only be described as high. Long-term monitoring of sockeye in Hidden Lake on Alaska’s Kenai show losses of 60 to 92 percent with a 20-year average of about 81 percent.

Still, in-lake losses of fry and out-migrating smolt can’t fully account for the overwhelming losses of returning Lake Washington sockeye.

The last three years set records for the worst runs the lake has ever seen. The 2018 return of 32,103 was the lowest on record before the disaster of only 17,411 fish in 2019. Last year slotted in between the two with a count of 22,950.

These are the numbers of fish counted coming through the Ballard Locks. If there were heat-related kills in the ship canal beyond or in the lake itself, the numbers would only shrink farther, but there have been no reports of major heat-related kills of fish in either place though there has been significant prespawn mortality among sockeye in the Cedar River, the lake’s main spawning tributary.

That might be due to heat stress, disease or a combination of the two.

The Cedar River hatchery has reported that a third to a half of the sockeye being held in holding pens waiting to be milked died in the 2010s and that in-river mortalities of fish left to spawn there also increased “dramatically.”

The loss of the young from those fish compounds the predation loss, but that still doesn’t fully account for the hundreds of thousands of sockeye missing at the locks.

Still, the possibility that the problem for Lake Washington sockeye is in the ocean runs somewhat counter to decades of environmental activism focused on hydroelectric dams and climate change in the region as the sole cause of salmon declines. Climate change might be part of the problem the fish face, but it does not appear as simple as the scary idea that salmon are now cooking in the waters of the lake.




A climate shift that favors warm-water fishes appears more likely. Naturally dominated by salmon, Lake Washington is now home to large populations of perch, bluegills, crappies, bass – largemouth and smallmouth – bullheads, sunfish and more.

All have been introduced into the watershed over the years, and they’ve recently been joined by walleyes and northern pike. All prey on young salmon, and some are notorious for their ability to tear through salmon populations.

The catch of a large pike in the lake in 2017 caused something of a stir.

“Watch Your Toes? Vicious New Fish Caught In Lake Washington,” headlined at the time. A fish with a historic range that extended from Alaska north of the Alaska Range down through Canada and into the Midwest, pike have been transplanted and/or introduced throughout the West where they have regularly been implicated in decimating native salmon populations.

Pike that invaded Alexander Creek, a tributary to the Sustina River just across Knik Arm from Anchorage, are blamed for destroying the Chinook, coho and sockeye angling there. 

But pike would only add to the predator problems that were already facing Lake Washington sockeye thanks to humans tampering with nature in the old, fish-“stocking” way.

In one of the richest bits of irony in this story, it would appear most of the Lake Washington sockeye also owe their existence to ancestors transplanted from various PNW locations, including Cultus Lake in the Fraser drainage. Genetic testing has left open the possibility that there might have been a very small population of native fish using the lake’s Bear Creek, but the evidence is thin.

The genetics indicate that most of the salmon using the lake today trace their origins back to U.S. Bureau of Fisheries stocking operations from 1937 through 1954.

This is not the only irony, however.

Today’s predator problems are such that a reporter for Northwest Sportsman suggested Lake Washington might have been better habitat for salmon when the lake was something of a cesspool in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

“The system produced reliably high returns of as many as 400,000 spawners into the river in the 1960s and 1970s, at the end of the era when Lake Washington was thick with blue-green algae that hid the smolts from predators,” wrote Andy Walgamott.

“Following cleanup efforts, water clarity went from as little as 30 inches in 1964 to 10 feet in 1968 to up to 25 feet in 1990….(Predatory) native cutthroat (trout) and northern pikeminnow primarily but also nonnative bass, yellow perch and other species suddenly had the advantage over the young sockeye.”

Since sewage flowing into the lake was diverted to a treatment plant in the late 1960s, King County reported, “rapid and predicted water quality improvements followed, blue-green algae decreased and have been relatively insignificant since 1976.”

Cleaner water helped some fish thrive. The salmon in turn suffered.

Sport fishing for sockeye salmon in the lake has been closed for years,  but the lake remains widely popular for fishing for cutthroat trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, and crappies despite warnings to limit consumption of those fish due to mercury contamination, according to the WDFW.

It appears unlikely the lake will ever host another sockeye fishery, and the Seattle Times suggested Lake Washington sockeye are headed for extinction.

The hatchery is no longer much help in stemming the decline.

From 2004 through 2013, King County records indicate, 70,000 to 75,000 sockeye per year on average made it back to the Cedar River with about 10,000 of those being captured to use for hatchery broodstock.

Since 2014, however, it’s been largely downhill and getting worse almost by the year. The total return to Cedar River fell below 8,000 in 2018, below 3,500 in 2019, and barely made 3,000 this year. Hatchery managers captured 2,000 fish, a number far below the goal, and left the rest to spawn naturally.

The hatchery fish, which are raised in a controlled environment where they don’t have to worry about predators or the water heating up when they are small, have been surviving in somewhat larger numbers than their relatives spawned in the wild, but not by much.

Meanwhile, the hatchery is looking at a troubled future. A $31 million fund set aside to build and operate the facility through 2050 is down to about $4 million, the Times reported.

The facility cost more than expected to build, and “we figured it would be $300,000 a year to operate, and it is double that,” hatchery project overseer Paul Faulds told The Times. With operating costs running at $600,000 per year, the remaining $4 million in hatchery funds will run out by 2028 – 22 years ahead of schedule.

Were this not enough, the hatchery now finds itself unable to obtain enough eggs to maintain full production because of the small returns of fish.

Seattle’s best hope might be that ocean conditions start shifting back toward a situation more favorable to PNW salmon than the fish in Alaska, but when or if that sort of shift might take place is impossible to predict.





37 replies »

  1. “Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organisation, that tends toward rebellion against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent toward, or rebellion against, established authority”.-wikipedia
    Lisa stood up, unlike most of the Republican Eunichs.Just because you dont side with her, give her the respect due.

    • Dave , explain how sedition applies to recent events. lets talk lisa . First respect is earned. Lisa for years now has been catering to special monied intrests both in Alaska and out of it . Shes not catering to the group who elected her as a representative. Alaska swings red and or independent. Ive know her fairly well for a decent time . 20 years . Ive seen her a couple times a year in person. She is not easy to access and unresponsive to voters and ive tried to discuss with her . She caters to monied interests . Truly kissing up . Ive seen her do it physically first hand . Im not talking technical sexual but im talking trying to form overt Freindship with power full intrests that undermines her impartiality and reduces her ability to acknowledge her voter blocks desires . Which is an element of democracy. Seeing her do this removed my respect for her. She has no respect due and should be voted out regardless if she is republican or Democrat.

      • Dave , i just want it to be clear im not trying to imply im a close associate of murkowski or have any knowledge thats not mostly public. Except what i saw in person and interpreted from my view .

      • Dave and yes she technically kissed a monied intrest in a technical way to gain favor .

      • DPR,with regards to Lisa.
        Is it possible that its a matter of perspective?I dont doubt that she cozies up to power, but thats the nature of power as well.I wonder if she is more of a manager(taking the 30k’ view and delegating details to staff),rather than pressing the flesh and getting bogged down with details(which would make her seem more warm and human I suspect).
        Ive known people(well, one person),who have been hired by her fisheries staff.He was expected to come with the knowledge and facts and represent Alaskas diverse commercial fisheries agenda’s.
        Did Lisa walk down the docks in Haines talking to gill netters and trollers?Probably not.
        Did she perhaps take an office visit from say the head of American Seafoods,or there lobbyists?
        Im just making this example up btw, but probably.
        Has she lost her roots with a relatively small electorate(except at election time),quite possible.
        But like all 1 of 100 senators,she has to balance regional issues with national and indeed even international issues as well.
        Id say she appears to be very involved with energy issues, which effect this state directly in an unfortunately disproportional way.
        Did she take a phone call from a villager in Nuiqsut?,probably not.Did she most likely entertain an office visit from ASRC or there lobbyists?One could probably see that happening.
        I certainly cant prove it, but I believe she traded her vote on impeachment for ANWR.Thats the nature of our representative form of govt.,basically horse trading votes for agendas.
        Is it right, morally correct?The answer for me is a slimy shade of grey.
        A bit semi off topic,
        I used to fish for someone who was instrumental in the passage of the IFQ program, basically federal fishing rights for halibut and sablefisheries.He represented the FVOA,a small insurance pool of owner operators of the historic Seattle long line fleet.If I had to guess, the membership couldn’t have been more than 40-50 boats/owners.In fisheries management circles, they were referred to colloquially as the Seattle mafia.They are at every NPFMS/IPHC meeting, if not on the councils or working committees, then attending in person, along with a rep from DSFU(deckhand union).
        They basically shepherded the IFQ program through the federal process, probably took a good 10 yrs.Against them were several thousand disorganized alaskan small boat operators(the larger more capitalized Kodiak fleet eventually saw how they would benefit, and jumped on board).It made instant winners and losers of all stake holders, including some fish processor owned fleets(Icicle Seafoods for example).
        My skipper would come back from lobbying trips during our few breaks, and I remember him telling us casually, that he always felt “slimy”,after these power meetings.
        He never mentioned Lisa by name, but did mention Ted Stevens.And Im sure he met with the Washington State senators, since thats where the fleet was homebased.A few years later, while on wheel watch,I asked him how he got it through.He said it was a “brokered deal”.I didn’t ask anymore questions, figured I wasn’t supposed to.
        $’s is power,$’s is access.There are lobbyists in podunk Juneau,making nice 6 figure incomes(J Landfield does a nice spreadsheet when its time).Just imagine the $’s exchanging hands electronically on the federal level.And Lisa is 1 of only 100.
        I always thought it distasteful how she got her seat, and the potential Kenai land deal stunk for sure.I suspect you have to sell a good portion of your soul to be effective, it truly is a swamp.
        In my mind I think she has been net positive for the state, and so was Begich,it was a mistake to vote him out,on purely partisan lines.Which committee(s) would he be sitting on now?
        Dan is sorta like the tide,and when your junior you have to keep your head down.But if your keeping your head down your not representing imo.He’s doing a great job of bamboozling his electorate.

    • Dave, the only thing i can think of where sedition truly applies is when today nancy pelosi attempted to subvert trumps authority as commander and Cheif when she called the top army general to discuss how to keep control of the nukes out of trumps legally authorized hands . That was distinct rebellion against established authority. Prosecutable or not i don’t know. But it’s technically similar to coup and conspiracy to be seditious. Sadly it also says loudly to our enimies that our commander in cheif may not be able to re act quickly in a defensive manner if pelosi was successful in her seditions ambitions . That puts our nation in dire danger and frankly introduces instability and danger to the whole world. Pelosi is currently the most foolish person on the planet. If you were talking about the protesters protesting a contested and unclean vote requesting it be audited by bipartisan committee- thats not sedition. Nor was a few extreme people who broke into and disturbed the capital. ( may have been instigated by antifa types) they were not trying to take power or over throw legitimate authority. They want redress of grievance. Confidence in an accurate vote . Discrepancies looked into and resolved. So finding how sedition fits is a tough one .

      • DPR,Haa Haa,tried to keep it non partisan with my original post.Theres a lot I deleted for the good of the board.
        I really dont want to go at it,to much wine,your on the run….thats all right.Tide will turn.Unfortunately.

      • Dave , smart man to keep it non partisan and delete for good of board ( i dont think parties are the answer. I dislike all parties even birthday parties ; ) My post was also non partisan. ( not meant to be snarky just factual) i dont think anyone is on the run . So not sure what you speak of . I respect that you have been calm and collected. Good man .

      • DPR,go back and read the definition, the act wasn’t by the mob, that was Insurection,a different charge.Sedition was by the Presidents words preceding the march to the capital.
        The last time the capital building was invaded was 1814.As arrests and charges are being filed daily,Im disappointed that Insurection wasn’t added to them.
        Look at how many reps took back there motions to dissent to the mostly procedural electoral vote.That should tell you everything you need to know.There was no Antifa,BLM provocateurs.
        Just mob crazed Trump supporters,whipped up by trump ancillary groups, who apparently dont have a clue.
        Not smart enough to cover there mugs(forget covid, how bout anonymity),facial recognition software is hard at work as we speak.How did they think this was going to go down?
        War veterans,various state legislators(besides Eastman and Rheinbold,talking out of state),all sworn to uphold the constitution, apart of this mob.
        On the national level you have two republican senators who will be pariahs.The blowback will put them in the cheap seats for the rest of there time.
        The president is un-hinged,and having a psychotic episode,Pelosi being concerned about the nuke launch codes is just taking care of business.She’s second in line of succession after Pense,who seems unwilling to invoke the 25th amendment.
        There are many news sources who were there, some videoing walking calmly past the security guards, with the mob.If you dont like the US coverage, try the UK,they were there as well.
        Ill leave you with one final quote
        “Today’s violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump,” Mattis wrote. “His use of the Presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice.”

        The United States will overcome “this stain,” while Trump “will deservedly be left a man without a country,”-j Mattis 1/6/21

    • Sedition is the Speaker of the House attempting to insert herself into the military chain of command. Perhaps you are confused. Cheers –

      • Ag,
        I could well be, but seems to me at first glance, that republican men are incapable of leadership or governance.Im sure you’ve come to a similar conclusion.Strange how history rhymes again and again.

  2. wasn’t it once said, while Nero fiddled Rome burned! most folks appear to be stuck in the “fix man’s impacts upon fresh water habitats and the fish will return” mind set. my opinion, from observation of what data is available since the Columbia Basin Bulletin was taken away, was, is and continues to be, salmonid survival in the Pacific Ocean is in steep decline and has been for some time. (whatever happened to the DF&G Chinook guru Swanton and his forecasts of those West Coastal salmons rebounding a few years ago?) anyway, it appears to me that all species, with maybe the exception of those confounding Pink salmons, east and south of the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Island chain are going go’n gone, but, and this may be the salvation for the species, those waters north and west of the AP and AI chain seem to be doing quite well and in fact moving further north thru the Bering Straits and probably eventually into the Arctic Ocean in greater numbers. or so the data suggests. perhaps there’s hope for the salmons to survive past humans as we continue to self-destruct while disregarding evidence which if we’d taken seriously might have made things……..sigh…. different. of course I could go off on what’s happening to the halibut resource and P cod, too, but I won’t

    • Dave ,Im in agreement. I respect your wisdom. There may need to be more reforms such as removing anything smacking of corporate donations or an imbalance due to one person donating more than someone else can afford. A distinct limit on amount of money or goods and service value used to elect politicians needs implemented . wisdom says develop a commission to develop long term solutions. As the solution is not party based. Even with multiple parties financial reform is needed or you end in corruption and imbalance. The republicans have shown nearly full incompetence in concert with the democrats. We all really need to step up and work harder together to make sure our voices are heard and acted up and not watered down by self serving career politicians. There is no one to blame but ourselves if our great nation implodes before its time wasting half the efforts of our ancestors. I like my generation before me would like to bury my head and finish living a self serving life . Thats not going to work for the future. We the common sense class who can think beyond self service need to work together like our founders did and make this nation better for future peoples . Otherwise we end up with a self serving Congress like we have a disfunctional reality show president and a tyrannical imperialist government . Those that can must step up . It’s distinctively possible yesterday was one of our nations greatest moments because it makes clear how far we have fallen. Which demands we act . A time for quality men and women to step up as leaders . If opertunity is not acted upon at first presentation my experience has been the second time it knocks will present far more sweat and blood to accomplish the same tasks . Oftentimes unsuccessfully.

  3. I believe it’s time for the truth although your article has many good points the Puget sound fish in particular are suffering from a few situations the fact that over the last 20 years Noah and the wild fish coalition have been systematically shutting down hatcheries without doing anything to clean up the Puget sound until we clean up our own backyards how could we possibly expect the world to clean up the ocean as far as the disappearance of our fish as of late especially from California Oregon and Washington all we have to do is look North and see Canada’s issues with the overpopulation of net pins that have systematically wiped out their native fish over the last 15 years to a point that Canada had to set up emergency rules to get rid of these Atlantic salmon cesspools that have been killing their fish for years like I said until the people put pressure on the fish and wildlife and the local and state government to regulate the chemicals and fecal matter and human waste that comes out of their sewage treatment plants and their water treatment plants fish will not have a choice they will swim until they die I hope and pray that we can all come together and work on these issues instead of lying continuously with bogus research the truth is out there just have to seek it out I know sometimes the truth isn’t profitable to those companies and professional fishermen but to be honest with you it’s essential for the future of our fish and fish are a natural resource that’s not squander that

    • Puget Sound definitely has water quality problems, but they appear related as much or more to runoff as to waste treatment, although waste treatment plants all over the country need to do a better job of removing chemicals, especially pharmaceuticals.

      But the Sound has problems from runoff with copper from brakes and rubber compounds from tires, both of which are known to create problems for salmon.

  4. Great article by the way!
    Re. Lake Washington: In a simple world, if all predators could be eliminated by rotenone and localized sea lion populations were removed. Do you think the exponential increase in ocean escapement of sockeye smolts would result in a complementary increase in return to the Cedar River Hatcheries or would there be a limiting factor of competition for available oceanic biomass of phytoplankton, ephausids,etc ?
    If the 70% preponderance of pinks was reduced by reduction of AK and Russian hatchery augmentation would this boost the survival rates of other salmon species?
    What effect does ocean fisheries have on salmonid
    returns? Are high value kings being specifically targeted
    on the open seas and is this a significant concern?
    Lot’s of questions! Any thoughts?

    • Questions I wish someone could answer, Ken. But the ocean is a tangle. That said, the evidence does seem to indicate pinks have a competitive advantage, and there is some reason to believe that rolling their numbers back a little might benefit others species of salmon.

      It’s something of a cattle versus sheep debate from the old Western days with no data good enough to make any real scientific recommendation.

      The ocean fisheries have been largely ended although there is significant bycatch in some Alaska trawl fisheries. The population level effects of that are much debated. The trawlers are catching fish bound for a lot of river systems, and the effect on any one river is likely to be quite small.

      The only targeted Chinook fishery on the open seas is the Southeast Alaska troll fishery, a hook-and-line operation that has been cut back to a fraction of its historic size. The quota is under 150,000 this year. That is a big number or a little number depending on how you look at it.

      The average in the ’70s was about twice that. How many of these fish are Washington, Oregon, California fish varies by season, but overall you could probably figure about half or a few more are from there.

      When the Columbia River alone was producing Chinook in the millions, 75,000 to 80,000 or more was nothing. The estimated ocean catches of Columbia Chinook in the ’50s were 700,000 to 800,000 per year to put this in perspective.

      But today? Well, today much is different.

  5. Craig,
    What are the missing words in this sentence? It makes a difference if it is “1 of 7” or “7 of 10”.

    Alaska and Russia have done such a good job with pink salmon that Ruggerone and Irvine estimated that about seven of every adult salmon in the ocean today are pinks, which

    • it’s been fixed. 7 out of every 10. thanks for the catch.

      thankfully the ratio wasn’t that high on my Kenai dipnetting last summer, but there were an amazing number of humpies in among the reds.

  6. Hatcheries: Why would we think that doing something so different from Nature, in Nature, would be better than Nature?

    • i love questions i can answer, Ben: we think it because we’re human.

      it’s that “dominion over” thing from the Bible though plenty of scientists have been/are moved by the same belief.

  7. Good article. Do you think the Mount Polley spill into the Fraser River in August 2014 had something to do with the decline in salmon in succeeding years? I would say yes.


      British Columbia
      Contamination from Mount Polley spill continues to affect waterways, study finds

      24 million cubic metres of mine waste spilled into nearby waterways when the Mount Polley dam breached in 2014
      · Posted: Aug 13, 2020 5:34 PM PT | Last Updated: August 13, 2020

      The Mount Polley mine tailings spill that sent more than 24 million cubic metres of mine waste into nearby waterways in 2014 continues to impact lakes, rivers and aquatic ecosystems, according to a new study.

      Researchers have been monitoring Quesnel Lake since the spill, which is considered one of the largest environmental mining disasters in Canadian history.

      Though samples taken one year after the spill showed the lake waters had potentially returned to their pre-spill state, new information from a three-year study reveals that is not the case; elevated levels of copper and fine sediment have been found in the lake in both the spring and fall.

      Turbidity in parts of the lake increases each spring and fall as it mixes up, bringing sediment up from the lake bottom turning the clear-blue lake green in a natural process called turnover, according to lead researcher Ellen Petticrew.

      She said this raises concerns about contaminants being reintroduced into the water column.

      It is unknown what effects those toxic sediments will have on the ecology of the lake; if these metals are being seasonally re-mobilized from the lake bed they could make their way into the food web, said researcher Andrew Hamilton.

      The research team said chronic exposure to elevated copper concentrations can reduce the growth, reproduction and survival of fish populations. Small changes to the colour and clarity of a lake can alter algal communities.

      “Copper for aquatic organisms can be, not just toxic, but also has been found to modify some of the ability for organisms to move,” said Petticrew.

      Quesnel Lake flows into the Fraser River and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean. The state of the water in the lake could impact trout fisheries and Fraser River Pacific salmon stocks.

      “Inevitably, these spills end up flowing downstream into lakes or the ocean where they can disappear from view, yet that doesn’t mean the impact is over,” said Hamilton.

      Future of Fraser River’s 2nd largest sockeye population unclear 3 years after mining disaster

      Phil Owens, another researcher on the project and a professor of environmental science at UNBC, said this project will help inform what happens with future environmental incidents.

      “I think we need to understand what the environmental implications are when a catastrophic incident like this occurs, so that when other ones occur in the future … we have a much better understanding of what the implications are likely to be to aquatic systems.”

    • I would say it could, but the bulk of the fish most directly impacted would have come back in 2018. So what happened that year?

      For a better answer, it would be nice to know what smolt out-migration looked like in 2015 and 2016, and what sort of returns came back to Quesnel Lake in 2019 and 2020.

      I haven’t seen any of those numbers reported anywhere, but I’d would hope Canada is collecting the data.

      • Natural events sometimes do that. The Good Friday earthquake had a much greater impact on Southcentral Alaska than the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

        As all-powerful humans, however, we do have something of a tendency to undervalue how much Mother Nature can muck things up when she’s having a bad day. Or maybe in her world delivering chaos is a good day.

        Who knows. She does seem to prefer entropy far more than we do.

      • I’ve read recently about the sockeye in Surprise Lake, that’s a lake in a volcanic caldera. It’s amazing the conditions fish can live in, we as a species certainly think a lot of things that are demonstrably false when it comes to nature.

    • What a joke! I have lived on the Sol Duc river for 56 years and have watched the wild runs of Salmon and Steelhead die out. Hey idiots there are no Dams on the Sol Duc. You want to save the runs it’s easy my Nephews 3rd grade science class can tell you get rid of the Native and Non Native fishing nets that wipe out millions of Salmon. Close everyone down for 8 years and watch the runs come back. That will never happen ofcourse while all of these bleeding hearted Liberal Morons will continue to waste my Federal tax dollars with their dumb ass studies.

      • Lynn,an even bigger waste of my tax dollars is logging on federal lands with tax payer built logging roads.With a total mileage the Forest Service cant even come up with.
        What a crock!

      • Dave , an even bigger crock is that only 50% of the federal money spent to build roads and study fish or pork related items comes from tax dollars per year . At best it’s borrowed from future generations or at worst its helping destroy our currency. Allowing the printing of money not backed by taxes or a hard asset reduces the people’s say in government and the value of your tax contribution. Thus the people loose control of our nation. Logging roads are inherently good and fulfill many . Fish studies are good . Politicians spending money beyond what their constituents give them is not good. Because it gives a higher percentage of power to politicians with seniority. Thats not how democracy or our republic was meant to function. It changes the percentage of power balance from number of representatives to who has been king longest and figured out how to play politics. Thats the real crock . Lack of term limits. Career politicians who have forgotten their power comes from consent of the governed. A gentle reminder occurred at the capital yesterday. Only to be met with faux political outrage. The mice sheltered in place or were herded to safety. Was there not one brave spokesman amongst them who could have addressed the unarmed crowd to discuss their grievances? What an embarrassing show by our pansy false leaders . Not one hero amongst them. Where have the brave men who stormed Normandy gone ? They definitely do not occupy our capital. Though one did temporarily but she was unarmed and murdered by a nervous nancy . Therin lies the crock!

      • Bryan, – accurate voting must become a priority. If not we dont have a democracy or republic= people’s buisness in latin . So the protest was legitimate and succinct but sadly leaderless. Now murkowski has done a great job showing her colors abandoned the republican platform. Being un responsive to the people. She will probably soon be voted out if we can get clean voting. That’s going to take a commission . As well as a demand from the public. The question is do we need new parties ? Or can we work with the ones existing? The ones existing have obstructed quality government by being corrupt and self serving so bad that very few quality people desire to be politicians.

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