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Idaho Chinook deserve more spill

By Tom Stuart

Bonneville_damLast summer, more than a million fall chinook salmon returned to the Columbia River. This blessing for the Columbia and its fishing towns has lessons for Idaho, where returns of our most valuable salmon, spring/summer chinook, were poor in 2013 and have now been poor three years in a row.

First, a million fall chinook in the Columbia shows Idaho the sweet promise of what we could have. Fishing was great for people and businesses on the Columbia this year. And large numbers of uncaught salmon gave back to the circle with their deaths, nourishing their next generation and all other life along the river. Imagine 400,000 wild spring/summer chinook — 10 times this year’s return — streaming regularly into the heart of Idaho. Imagine the boon to people and towns. This isn’t nostalgic reverie. It can happen, with good policies.

Second, most of those fall chinook returned to the Columbia’s Hanford Reach. Hanford Reach has two qualities critical for salmon: it flows freely, and its salmon have only four dams to deal with as they migrate to and from the ocean. Its salmon have a living river and face half the dams Idaho’s salmon do.

Third, Hanford Reach salmon have benefited since 2006 from regular water spills over their four dams each summer, moving ocean-bound young salmon the safest way possible. This moderate but guaranteed spill occurs because Idaho fishermen and the Nez Perce Tribe, among others, won it by court injunction in 2005. It’s been in effect for eight years, and it is working.

Of course, Idaho’s salmon and steelhead have also benefited from these regular spills. But with eight dams to get past, the benefits are more a holding pattern against extinction than a truly restorative measure. Most scientists agree that restoring the lower Snake River, by removing four unnecessary dams, is the best restorative measure.

Right now, the lower Snake dams, and their damage to Idaho salmon, remain. So, Idaho fishing groups are focused first on expanding spill at the eight dams between Idaho and the ocean. After eight years’ proven success from the moderate spill levels ordered by the court, science, common sense and business sense agree that the smart step is to expand spill for five to 10 years. This will further boost salmon survival and also test how much spill alone can do to put salmon on a path to recovery.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed an expanded spill test for the Snake and Columbia and is asking for federal support for it. The most recent salmon plan, released by NOAA Fisheries Jan. 17, does not include expanded spill; we are disappointed, and this serious omission and other shortcomings in the plan may force us back into court.

Free-flowing rivers work. Idaho hosts 5,000 miles of free-flowing salmon habitat, the most in the lower 48. But eight dams, not two or four, choke access to Idaho. As long as they stand, lesson three from Hanford Reach fall chinook applies: Spill works, and a several-year test of expanded spill, across different water years, should occur at federal dams now. The NW Energy Coalition, which has a better track record on spill costs than dam agencies do, says costs are relatively small and affordable. Our best salmon scientists and most experienced fishermen project that more spill will bring more salmon.

Some scientists believe expanded spill could help salmon enough to take lower Snake dam removal off the table. We doubt it, but there’s a way to find out. If you need a reason, look at what a million fall chinook did last year for fishing, fishing towns and the river itself on the Columbia.

Tom Stuart is a longtime board member of Idaho Rivers United and the current board chair of the national Save Our Wild Salmon coalition.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/01/27/2992944/idaho-and-its-chinook-deserve.html#storylink=cpy

 

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.

Finding the salmon

When you are looking for salmon, keep an eye out for all that is going on around you. Look for birds, look at the water color, notice the light conditions and water temperature. All these things contribute to where the fish are possibly going to be. If there isn’t much happening on the surface, chances are that the salmon are going to be down near the bottom. Read more