Remains at the Klamath Hatchery, where 50,000 triploid brown trout perished in the Two Four Two Fire. Photo by Lee Juillerat
2020 has yet again humbled us by demonstrating mother nature's strength and wrath. First and foremost, I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to the men and women fighting to save our land and livelihoods on the front lines of the wildfires. I also want to extend my deepest condolences to those who have lost their homes and their loved ones to these disasters.
Luckily, as September comes to a close, so do many of the wildfires that have ravaged Oregon. However, we are far from returning to "normal," whatever that means. Families, companies, and state agencies are just now starting the tally for what has been lost, damaged, and what’s still threatened.
Northwest Steelheaders has long supported ODFW hatchery operations, as they are essential for maintaining recreational angling opportunities throughout the region. If we all come together as a community to support Oregon’s hatchery operations, we can help ensure that our children and grandchildren will one day experience the unique thrill of pursuing salmon and steelhead in the northwest.
Salmon and steelhead returns were dismal prior to this disaster. Hatcheries were already losing funding. Now, we have an opportunity to build resilient infrastructure to not only replace, but improve what we’ve lost. As so many projects in our community need funding right now in the wake of the wildfires and COVID-19, we hope that you will consider giving whatever you can to help us rebuild the facilities that support salmon and steelhead sportfishing.
Columbia River Salmon Threatened by Recent Decisions on Commercial Gillnetting & Lower Snake River Dams
In a devastating blow to the Columbia River sportfishing community, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 5-4 to amend their Columbia River salmon fisheries management policy on September 11. The new policy abandons key elements of the 2013 bi-state Columbia River Salmon Fishery Management Policy and violates the mandate for concurrent regulations put forth in the 1915 Columbia River Compact.
Washington’s new policy reduces many beloved mark-selective recreational fisheries in the lower mainstem, including spring and summer Chinook, in order to increase commercial gill net harvest allocations. The new policy allows commercial gill nets to be used at managers’ discretion during all non-treaty commercial seasons at any location in the lower Columbia River. Not only does this revision abandon a key element of the 2013 policy, it is wildly inconsistent with current Oregon regulations that restrict commercial gill nets to specific river sections during specific seasons.
Instead of prioritizing recreational fisheries over commercial fisheries when determining harvest allocations, one of the major conservation victories we secured in the 2013 agreement, the Commission increased the non-treaty commercial fishery’s allocation of spring, summer, and fall Chinook by 50% - 100% and reduced the recreational share by 12.5% - 25% from the 2013 policy, depending on season and run size.
The Washington Commission went further by including Commissioner Graybill’s amendment into the final policy, allocating an additional portion of the lower recreational spring Chinook fishery harvest to anglers in the Washington section of the Snake River. Commissioner Graybill argued that this amendment is necessary in order to make the allocation between upriver and downriver recreational anglers more equitable.
Commission Chair Carpenter voted to align with the sportfishing community, opposing the proposal to reinstate gill nets on the lower mainstem. Citing his career in the commercial fishing industry, he was adamant that gill nets are not selective and expressed concern about bycatch.
Commissioner Baker expressed significant concern about the break in concurrency, claiming that it is not strategic to implement a policy that will cause conflict in the fishing community when Oregon may not agree to the new regulations. She argued that with this vote, Washington is drawing a line in the sand on the especially divisive issue of commercial gill nets. She pressed for studies to confirm bycatch and release mortality rates for gill nets in various fisheries in order to defend their proposed policy. Ultimately, she opposed the proposal.
Northwest Steelheaders has consistently opposed these policy revisions and will continue to track developments. While we are working to reverse this misguided policy in Washington, we are also urging the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to remain committed to the agreements in the 2013 policy - prioritizing sportfishing allocation over commercial interests and limiting commercial gill nets to off-channel areas.
We are looking for members who are interested in standing up to protect sportfishing on the lower Columbia River, especially now that Washington has decided to reinstate gill nets and ODFW begins reviewing the Columbia River Salmon Policy.
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Upon release of the final environmental impact statement for the Columbia River hydrosystem, I’ve been reflecting on the urgency of the issue surrounding endangered Columbia River salmon and steelhead with a cadre of career fishery scientists. Together, we have a combined 260 years of experience working to recover fish in this river system.
In the 1990s, some of us served on a team of biologists representing Oregon in negotiations with the federal agencies that manage the Columbia River hydrosystem: Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA Fisheries, to correct a series of illegal and ineffective biological opinions, at the direction of the court. Each time, these agencies introduced suites of measures designed to tinker around the edge of the salmon survival problem without causing much disruption to the economic benefits the hydrosystem provides.
But the problem is that not enough was done to improve survival for salmon. For the last 50 years, we have been losing time and options as the plight of salmon and the orca whales that depend on them has grown increasingly dire. We have systematically sacrificed the promises made to the treaty and non-treaty fishermen when the dams were built and doubled down on those tradeoffs when the Endangered Species Act was invoked.
In the newest biological opinion, which the court provided an additional five years to be developed, we see another suite of measures that lack the strength to turn around the demise of the salmon and orcas. The agencies have proposed another suite of measures that jeopardize the salmon that are the heart of the promises in the Native American treaties. As the plight of the salmon grows more and more dire, more drastic measures will be required to recover salmon because the delay and obfuscation process has used up much of our lead time. Now, we have to take strong action to recover salmon, including decommissioning the four lower Snake River Dams and increasing spill at the remaining dams on the mainstem Columbia River.
Time has shown that investing ratepayer and taxpayer money in tributary fish habitat improvement, while helpful, is not powerful enough to offset the damage that the mainstem dams are inflicting on the salmon. It is easy to point to ocean conditions and predators as the culprit, but wild Upper Columbia River salmon populations continue to decline, steadily marching toward extinction. The increasing population of the Pacific Northwest and the associated development of our watersheds, as well as the human-caused shift in climate are all signs that salmon will have a tougher time in the future than in the past. For salmon and salmon-dependent orcas to survive, and for our promises to Native Americans to be kept, science shows that we must implement stronger survival measures, not weaker ones.
The “Lords of Yesterday” want a few more years of status quo management on the Columbia River. They may well offer measures that are long on study and short on salmon survival. That has been the track record for the last 50 years and it will continue as long as the court and our elected leaders allow it. We are nearing the point where we will purposely allow these salmon and orcas to go extinct and instead of acknowledging our role in that extinction, we will blame the weather. We have a responsibility to tribes to honor the promises we made in the 1850s. This is a time of moral decision as well as scientific strategy. We are convinced that the federal agencies should be relieved of duty as a result of their failure to save these salmon. We are out of time. We cannot afford more foot dragging and delays.
The court should create a continuing jurisdiction and requiring that power sales and dam operations be consistent with measures that are strong enough to save these salmon — measures that can build from Oregon’s state-level leadership on this issue. Anything less will be writing the history of this shameful failure to live within the law and to honor our promises as a people.
The time for decision is now — we can’t delay. How will we explain our role in salmon extinction to our grandchildren?
Northwest Steelheaders has decided to postpone Crossing Boundaries in order to focus on the urgent need for hatchery recovery fundraising in the wake of recent wildfires. Our Oregon Hatchery Recovery Fund will support ODFW projects to rebuild and repair critical infrastructure that was severely damaged or lost entirely to the fires.
The virtual fishing derby and auction will be held October 24 - November 1. Registration is open now!
Growing up in the Portland community, Kristina found her passion for environmental education through her time volunteering with MESD Outdoor School. She has a B.S. degree in Environmental Studies and double minors in Biology and Special Education from the University of Oregon. She has served as a camp counselor, youth director, garden educator, volunteer, and environmental education director. She has served with organizations like YMCA Camp Seymour, Riverdale Grade School, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, Eugene Science Center, and Oswego Lake Watershed Council. Kristina has spent the past year serving on the Board of Directors for the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network. Kristina is excited for the opportunity to continue to provide educational programming for students and the community through Fish Eggs to Fry, family fishing events, and the Garden for Wildlife program. She will also support NWF's Eco-Schools USA and Schoolyard Habitats during her service term.
You can reach her at email@example.com
Tualatin Valley Chapter Hosts Fall Salmon Derby
The Tualatin Valley Chapter's Salmon Fishing Derby went off without a hitch! Thirty-nine anglers caught eleven salmon from the coast to Bonneville Dam. The victor was Tim Lenihan and his team: Grant Stugert, Maija Muller, Jeff Smith, and Don Schaefer. The biggest fish was caught by Joe Pepinto on Tom Vanderplaat’s boat. The Chapter raised about $900 for the scholarship program to benefit Fish eggs to Fry, kids fishing events, and the apprenticeship program. Thanks to Judy and Mike for the idea and hard work to make it happen and for the boat captains for their time, expertise, and equipment.
In the Upcoming Election, Vote to Preserve Oregon's Sportfishing Tradition
We are knee-deep in election season, folks. Make sure you are registered to vote and review our Advocacy Toolkit to check which candidates in your district support salmon recovery. Still not sure? Email them and ask! We have provided a list of example questions you can ask to make sure your preferred candidate is giving due consideration to salmon recovery and sportfishing opportunity. Use your vote to advocate for salmon and sportfishing!
Emerald Empire Chapter Fin Clips Winter Steelhead Fingerlings at Letz Creek Hatchery
A Letter From Ken Johnson, President of Emerald Empire Chapter
Please accept my sincere "THANK YOU" for your commitment to help make our Letz Creek STEP Hatchery a success. For many of you that are involved on a regular basis; both workers and feeders and some that are both, I really appreciate your involvement. For others that may not be regulars but step up to volunteer when possible, I also look forward to your participation. It takes a real team effort to make it all possible.
We experienced a few challenges this past year but I look at them as learning opportunities and am hopeful the future will bring more successes. I remain committed to continue our work towards greater successes in the future.
We just completed the most tedious 2-day job of fin-clipping and transferring 13,850 fingerlings to the pond. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to collect the eggs, fertilize them, watch them hatch, move them to the circulars after about 3 months, watch them develop and grow for another 3 months in the circulars, and now release them into a very natural setting in the pond. No other hatchery raised fish in Oregon get to enjoy that experience prior to being released to begin their 2 year journey in salt water. The others are raised in concrete raceways. Never enjoying a truly natural setting in such an absolutely gorgeous environment.
I don't mean to sound too corny, but I am committed to the cause and I really appreciate your commitment and all that you do.
The opportunity for organizations to respond to the federal government's newest salmon plan is quickly closing. Take a minute to urge your elected representatives to support a new, regional approach to recover our salmon and communities, before it's too late. Federal agencies have been planning how to recover endangered salmon and steelhead populations from risk of extinction for 30 years - spending substantial time, energy, and financial resources developing plans, only to have those plans deemed illegal by district Courts, putting the agencies back at square one.
Be part of NWF's visual community that recognizes the impact of gardening for wildlife. They are rewarding the photographs that best illustrate the faces of Garden for Wildlife through striking color images showing the impact of habitat gardens, on wildlife and people – in urban, suburban and rural settings on land, in the air and in the water.
Every person who enters not only honors their own work, but also helps support the conservation mission of the National Wildlife Federation, which is dedicated to saving wildlife species and their habitats. Photographers retain rights to their work. Those who chose to donate some of their images share joint ownership with NWF, and further help us advance our conservation mission. Learn more and submit your photos!
Grand Prize: $1,000 cash prize
Runner-Up: $500 cash prize
Category Winners (5 total): Each will receive a bird feeder, a copy of Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife, and a $100 gift certificate to Botanical Interests, Inc.
Runner-Up Category Winners (5 total): Each will receive a $40 gift certificate to Botanical Interest, Inc.
Honorable Mentions: Each will receive a $20 gift certificate to Botanical Interests, Inc.
As an affiliate member of the Northwest Steelheaders, Tim Wilson will donate $1000 if any Steelheader works with Tim or refers him to friends and family to purchase or sell real estateand the transaction closes. $500 will go to the procuring member's chapter and $500 will go to the association's general fund. To date, Tim has raised over $11,000 for the Northwest Steelheaders through this program. View Tim's webpage and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
When you visit https://smile.amazon.com/and designate "Association of Northwest Steelheaders Inc" under the search bar before you make a purchase, Amazon will donate 0.5% to our organization. While this seems like just a small drop in the pond, it really adds up and is easy to set up.
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