Major US retailers reject ‘frankenfish’

mutantsalmonA number of top US grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, have pledged to reject selling the genetically engineered “frankenfish” if it is allowed on the market in April.

The mutant fish was engineered by scientists at a company called AquaBounty, which has spent more than 15 years and $50 million researching and perfecting the frankenfish. The mutants can grow to market size in 16-18 months, rather than the usual 30 months required for the Atlantic salmon. The Food and Drug Administration began its approval process in 2010, and in December decided that the fish is safe enough to be consumed.

The FDA is still conducting its final review of the genetically engineered salmon and retailers expect it to be on store shelves soon. But a coalition of consumer, health, food safety and fishing groups representing more than 2,000 US stores have taken a stand against GE fish and have pledged not to sell it, due to safety concerns and unanswered questions about consuming genetically engineered products.

Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Whole Foods, and Marsh are some of the stores that will refuse to put the frankenfish on its shelves.

“We won’t sell genetically engineered fish because we don’t believe it is sustainable or healthy,” Trudy Bialic from PCC Natural Markets in Washington State told Consumer’s Union. “It is troubling that the FDA is recommending approval of AquaBounty’s salmon as a ‘new animal drug,’ subjecting these engineered creatures to less rigorous safety standards than food additives. That’s not a credible safety assessment.”

Stores like Walmart, Costco and Safeway, however, have not expressed any opposition to selling the mutant salmon, which is likely to be cheaper due to its expedited growth.

AquaBounty has been trying to obtain FDA approval for the frankenfish for the past 17 years, but their engineering has come with a wave of opposition from people concerned about the possible long-term effects of consuming a genetically engineered fish. The fish contains DNA from the eelpout, a ray-finned fish that resembles an eel with its elongated body. Scientists have long been studying the eelpout to see if it can be used to accelerate growth rates of other fish or even to preserve human tissue and organs. But if the FDA allows the mutant salmon on store shelves, it will be the first ever genetically engineered animal deemed safe for consumption.

Scientists are concerned that the FDA has been lax about its decision and might be making a mistake by allowing grocery stores to sell such a creature.

“There are still unanswered safety and nutritional questions and the quality of the data that was submitted to the FDA was the worst stuff I’ve ever seen submitted for a GMO,” Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen told Alternet in early 2013. “There’s stuff there that couldn’t make it through a high school science class.”

It is likely that the FDA will not label the genetically engineered fish as having been scientifically manipulated. Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch, is afraid that consumers won’t recognize the mutant fish on store shelves and purchase the produce without knowing where it came from – even if they would otherwise have a problem with consuming such a questionable species.

“Most consumers don’t want to eat genetically engineered salmon, but without mandatory labeling it will be hard for them to avoid,” she told Consumers Union. “That’s why the stores who have committed to not to sell genetically engineered seafood are making a smart move and giving their customers what they want — a way to avoid this controversial, unnecessary biotech fish.”

But despite the wave of opposition by non-GMO campaigners, “not a single new scientific or legal argument has been presented to the FDA,” AquaBounty CEO Dr. Ronald Stotish told FoodNavigator. He expects the engineered fish to be on the market by late 2013.

This article was taken here.

Biologists are forecasting the best run of fall chinook salmon to the Columbia River in almost a decade

salmon_chinookphoto courtesy Idaho Fish & Game

Biologists are forecasting the best run of fall chinook salmon to the Columbia River in almost a decade with expectations for a record-high return of bright fish to central Washington.

The forecast, released late last week, predicts a return of 677,900 fall chinook to the Columbia, the highest return since 2004 and significantly larger than the actual return of 512,300 a year ago.

Particularly encouraging is the forecast for a record-high 432,500 “upriver brights,’’ mostly wild-spawning fish produced from the free-flowing Hanford Reach downstream of Priest Rapids Dam near the Tri-Cities.

The highest actual return of upriver brights was 420,700 in 1987. Upriver brights fuel catches at places such as the mouth of the Cowlitz River, Kalama, Vancouver and Government Island.

“Upriver bright chinook have been the foundation of fall salmon stocks since their big comeback in the 1980s,” said Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There are a number of actions that have contributed, including protection of the free-flowing Columbia River in the Hanford Reach, the United States salmon treaty with Canada, and improved dam passage conditions for migrating juveniles.”

Another forecast for a record high is for bright fall chinook returning to the hatcheries of the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools of the Columbia River Gorge. The forecast is for 70,000 in 2013.

The actual return in 2012 was 46,300 and the existing high is 67,400 in 2003.

Fall chinook returns to the Columbia are categorized in six different stock groups.

Four of the groups are “bright’’ fish, while two are “tules,’’ which are dark-skinned and generally less desirable in mainstem Columbia sport and commercial fisheries but power Washington ocean and Buoy 10 fisheries where they are brighter.

Here’s a look at the six stocks:

Lower River hatchery — These are tules headed for hatcheries such as Cowlitz, Kalama and Washougal. The forecast is for 88,000, which is similar to the five-year average of 87,000 and the 2012 return of 84,800.

These fish are important because they are used as surrogates in fisheries to determine the strength of wild-spawning chinook in the catches.

Lower river wild — These are bright wild-spawners, mostly in the North Fork of the Lewis River downstream of Merwin Dam, but also in the Sandy and Cowlitz rivers. The forecast is 14,200, equal to the 10-year average and similar to 13,900 of 2012.

Bonneville pool hatchery — Another tule stock, these chinook are headed mostly for Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery in eastern Skamania County. The forecast of 38,000 is about 40 percent of the 10-year average and quite a bit less than the actual return of 56,800 in 2012.

Bonneville upriver brights — These are produced at Bonneville Hatchery on the Oregon side of the Columbia downstream of Bonneville Dam. The forecast is for 35,200, which would be almost triple the 12,400 of 2012 and similar to the average of 39,100.

Pool upriver brights — These are reared at Little White Salmon, Klickitat and Umatilla hatcheries. The forecast, as mentioned above, is 70,000.

Upriver brights — Besides Hanford Reach, these are produced at Priest Rapids and Ringold hatcheries and the Snake River, plus lesser numbers in the Yakima and Deschutes rivers.

Coho — Finally, some good news about Columbia River coho salmon. The biologists predict there will be 501,100 Columbia-origin coho out in the ocean this summer, a much better number than the forecast of 317,200 in 2012 and the bleak actual return of 170,300.

The five-year average is 404,700 coho.

“It’s good news, better than we’ve seen for a while,’’ said Steve Watrous of Vancouver, Washington sport-fishing representative to the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

While it takes 700,000 to 1 million coho to have excellent fishing in August and September at Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River, a half million coho is a move in the right direction, Watrous said.

The forecast calls for 331,600 early coho and 169,500 late coho.

Early coho enter the Columbia River from mid-August to mid-September and tend to migrate south from the river mouth while in the ocean.

Late coho enter the Columbia from mid-September into late November with the peak in mid-October. They migrate north from the Columbia River.

A large number of early coho normally results in better catches at Buoy 10. Article taken from here.

Abundant runs of Columbia River chinook

March 01, 2013
Contact: Pat Pattillo, (360) 902-2705

Abundant runs of Columbia River chinook,
Puget Sound pink and coho salmon projected

columbiagorgePhoto: Stephen Sasser

OLYMPIA – Fishing prospects look bright this year for chinook in Washington’s ocean waters and the Columbia River, according to preseason salmon forecasts released today at a public meeting in Olympia.

Opportunities for anglers also look good in Puget Sound, where coho and pink salmon runs are expected to be strong this year.

Forecasts for chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon mark the starting point for developing 2013 salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas. The forecasts were developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes.

Fishery managers have scheduled a series of public meetings over the next few weeks to discuss potential fishing opportunities before finalizing seasons in early-April. A meeting schedule, salmon forecasts and information about the salmon season-setting process are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Salmon fisheries developed through this extensive process will once again be driven by the need to rebuild depressed wild salmon populations while protecting healthy stocks, said Phil Anderson, WDFW director.

“This year’s preseason forecasts point to a number of opportunities for us to design some exciting fishing opportunities in waters across the state, while staying true to our conservation principles,” Anderson said. “We look forward to working with our constituents in designing salmon fisheries.”

As in past years, salmon-fishing prospects in 2013 vary by area:

Columbia River: Nearly 678,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this season. About 80 percent of those fish are “bright” stocks, most of which are destined for areas above Bonneville Dam, including the Hanford Reach and Snake River.
Brights are really the foundation of the recreational fishery, “and with the numbers we are expecting there is good reason to be optimistic about this season,” said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for WDFW.

Columbia River fisheries also are expected to benefit from a significant increase in coho numbers. The abundance of Columbia River coho is forecast to be about 501,000 fish. That would be better than the five-year average and total nearly three times as many fish as last year’s actual abundance.

Washington’s ocean waters: Chinook salmon returning to the lower Columbia River will also contribute to fisheries off the coast, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon fishery manager for WDFW.
About 126,000 lower river hatchery chinook are expected back this season, about 15,000 less fish than last year’s return. Those salmon, known as “tules,” are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

“The numbers of lower river chinook are slightly down from last year, but it’s still a pretty good return,” Milward said. “Add to that the expected increase in lower Columbia River coho numbers, and we should see great fishing opportunities in the ocean this summer.”

Coastal bays and rivers: For the second-straight year, fishery managers are expecting a strong return of wild coho salmon to many of Washington’s coastal streams, including the Queets and Quillayute rivers, as well as those flowing into Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, said Ron Warren, regional fisheries manager for WDFW.
“Coho fishing started off slow in those areas last year – likely due to the lack of rain – but picked up later in the season,” Warren said. “If this year’s coho runs come in at forecast and the weather cooperates, I expect fishing to be good throughout the entire season.”

Puget Sound: Another strong run of coho salmon will boost fisheries in Puget Sound, where millions of pink salmon also are expected to return this year.
About 880,000 coho are forecast to return to Puget Sound streams, about 150,000 more fish than last year’s forecast. “Fishing for coho was really good last season, and we expect much of the same this summer,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager for WDFW.

In addition, more than 6 million pink salmon are expected back to the Sound this year. Most pink salmon return to Washington’s waters only in odd-numbered years.

“It’s a pink year, which is a great time to introduce a friend or family member – especially children – to salmon fishing,” said Lothrop. “Fishing this summer should be similar to 2011, when anglers were catching limits of pink salmon throughout the Sound and its rivers.”

Summer/fall chinook salmon returns to Puget Sound are expected to total about 264,000 fish, similar to the last few years. Most chinook fisheries in Puget Sound, where the bulk of the return is hatchery chinook, will be similar to last year, Lothrop said.

Meanwhile, a Lake Washington sockeye fishery is unlikely this year. The sockeye forecast is about 97,000, well below the minimum return of 350,000 sockeye needed to consider opening a recreational fishery in the lake. However, fishery managers will once again consider sockeye fisheries in Baker Lake and the Skagit River, Lothrop said.

One fishing rule on the agenda this year is a proposal to lower the minimum size limit from 22 inches to 20 inches for chinook salmon in Puget Sound sport fisheries. For years, anglers have requested that WDFW consider making that change in the Sound’s marine waters, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW.

“Now that the majority of our recreational chinook fisheries focus on abundant hatchery salmon, we decided it was time to discuss the size limit,” said Pattillo.

State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet March 6-11 in Tacoma with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Additional public meetings have been scheduled in March to discuss regional fishery issues. Input from these regional discussions will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the “North of Falcon” and PFMC meetings, which will determine the final 2013 salmon seasons.

The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 6-11 meeting in Portland. The 2013 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters will be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.