New era looms for lower Columbia salmon fisheries

By Allen Thomas
Columbian Reporter, Outdoors

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

For decades, sport and commercial fishermen have fought in legislative halls, before state wildlife commissions and in countless other forums over the allocation of salmon and sturgeon in the Columbia River.

Come Dec. 7 at the Holiday Inn Portland Airport and Jan. 11-12 in Olympia, the goal of sportsmen to move the gillnetters off the lower Columbia River is expected to make a major leap toward reality.

The Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions will be voting on proposals to make sports fishing the priority on the main stem lower Columbia and to gradually move gillnetting primarily to off-channel locations.

Since September, a committee of three Washington and three Oregon commissioners has been working out the details of the biggest change in lower Columbia fisheries management in 80 years.

In simplest terms, off-channel areas such as Youngs Bay, Tongue Point, Blind Slough and Deep River will be stocked with additional salmon and gillnetting limited to those spots.

“It will be the end of the commercial fishery on the Columbia River,” said Jim Wells, head of Salmon For All, an Astoria based commercial fishing group.

Sportsmen will get larger allocations of salmon in main Columbia. In fact, by 2017, sportsmen will get 100 percent of the summer chinook.

“People have done their very best to redesign these fisheries to be more productive and reasonable long-term,” said Jim Martin, conservation director of Pure Fishing, a group of fishing tackle makers. “This is a good example of getting ready for the future.”

The new plan is complicated, loaded with details, depends on unsure financing and carries a great deal of uncertainty.

It involves developing alternative methods — beach seines and purse seines — for use in commercial fisheries at times and locations in the lower Columbia. Yet in Oregon, the seines currently are illegal for commercial use and will require authorizing legislation.

The plan has a 2013-16 “transition” phase, then a 2017-and-beyond final phase.

Also under consideration is a five-fish limit on spring chinook in the Columbia, required use of barbless hooks, rubber landing nets for sportsmen and a sport-fishing closure zone in a popular portion of Buoy 10.

All this jump-started when sport-fishing and conservation interests got Measure 81 on the November ballot in Oregon. The measure would have outlawed gillnets and tangle nets in Oregon waters — and much of the lower Columbia is on the Oregon side of the boundary.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber then advanced a compromise proposal to continue use of gillnets, but only in the off-channel areas, plus prioritizing sport fishing.

Sport interests agreed to abandon Measure 81 in favor of the Kitzhaber plan, although the issue still garnered 34 percent voter support despite a campaign against it and no campaign in favor.

Accompanying this story is a graphic comparing the status quo, the proposals for 2013-16 and those for 2017 and beyond. In addition, here are some of the discussion topics — species by species:

Spring chinook — The plan calls for releasing 1 million additional spring chinook smolts in the off-channel areas. That would be 750,000 on the Oregon side and 250,000 in Washington.

The commercials point out the off-channel areas are not particularly large and saturated with netters now. Gillnetter Chris Doumit referred to them as “side ditches.”

The Deep River off-channel area — the only off-channel site on the Washington side — has been getting 350,000 spring chinook smolts and adult returns of fewer than 100 fish, said Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The plan is for a different location for the additional 250,000 spring chinook smolts, possibly Cathlamet Channel, Norman said. Cathlamet Channel is the portion of the Columbia between the Washington mainland and and Puget Island in Wahkiakum County.

The sport share of spring chinook increases from about 60 percent now to 70 percent in 2013-16 and 80 percent in 2017 and beyond. The 20 to 30 percent commercial share covers the straying of upper Columbia spring chinook into the off-channel areas.

Summer chinook — The current sharing is 50-50 downstream of Priest Rapids Dam.

The bulk of the summer chinook allocation already goes upstream of Priest Rapids Dam, where there is no non-Indian commercial fishing. That will not change.

Of the allocation downstream of Priest Rapids Dam, sportsmen will get 60 percent in 2013 and 2014, 70 percent in 2015 and 2016 and 100 percent beginning in 2017.

This change gives the gillnetters no shortage of angst. They are cut out of the new Chief Joseph Hatchery with a large increase in summer chinook releases coming on line soon in Eastern Washington.

Robert Sudar, a buyer in Longview, said that while the commercials did not catch a large number of summer chinook, those fish fetched $5 a pound and came at a time when there were not a lot of other salmon on the market.

“Once again our interest is so casually tossed aside,” Sudar said.

Summer chinook return far into north-central Washington. Washington commission member Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls said summer chinook are very important to inland anglers.

Thirty-nine percent of the $8.25 Columbia River salmon and steelhead fishing license surcharge fee in Washington originates in Eastern Washington.

“They are critical to the total package,” Douvia said.

To compensate the commercials, 750,000 bright fall chinook smolts will be added to the off-channel areas. Those fish, of Rogue River-origin, return in early August.

Wells, also a commercial fisherman, said 750,000 smolts will return about 2,200 adults, which first have to negotiate through the maze of sport boats at Buoy 10 to make it back to the Youngs Bay off-channel spot at Astoria.

He asked for a no-sport-fishing zone from Hammond to Desdemona Sands to the Astoria Bridge to allow those adult chinook to make it back to Youngs Bay.

Fall chinook — The commercials are expected to make a big share of their income in the future catching fall chinook salmon, particularly the brights heading for Eastern Washington.

The goal is to have this big harvest come from the Columbia River using beach seines and purse seines. The lion’s share of this harvest will come between the mouth of the Lewis River and Bonneville Dam.

Upstream of the Lewis, there are relatively few wild tule fall chinook, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and limit harvest of other fall chinook.

However, many commercial fishermen do not like fishing in this stretch of the river.

The bi-state committee of Washington and Oregon commission members danced around the question if whether large-mesh gillnets still could be used upstream of the Lewis River after 2016.

Seines might not work as well in this stretch of the Columbia and gillnets might be needed to achieve a level of harvest sufficient to keep the commercials in business.

The goal is no gillnets, but a lot of ambiguous and fuzzy language surrounds this topic.

Coho — Gillnets would be allowed through 2016 for coho in the main stem. Beginning in 2017, tangle nets or other selective gear would be allowed in main Columbia.

A tangle-net fishery for late-stock coho in October is another spot where the commercials are expected to gain to compensate for losses in spring and summer chinook.

The plan also calls for an additional 1.9 million coho released in the off-channel areas, where they can be a gillnetted upon return as adults.

Coho do not bite sport gear well once they leave the estuary. There would be no change in the existing allocation.

Sockeye — Through 2016, the split would be 70 percent sport and 30 percent commercial. The allocation would shift beginning in 2017 to 80 percent sport.

Sockeye runs are expected to grow as habitat improvements in Canada continue. Yet sockeye headed for Idaho are on the endangered species list and the return timing of sockeye overlaps with spring and summer chinook.

The three factors combine to make sockeye management challenging.

Sturgeon — The 80 percent sport-20 percent commercial allocation will continue, but it may be mostly moot.

The lower Columbia sturgeon population is in decline and no retention of sturgeon in either the sport or commercial fishery looks likely beginning in 2013.

Other issues

There are several peripheral issues that appear likely as part of the fisheries reform.

• Barbless hooks are anticipated in all Columbia and tributary fisheries for salmon and steelhead.

• Rubber landing nets probably will become the rule in all Columbia River salmon, steelhead and sturgeon fisheries. This would be phased-in to give suppliers time to ramp up.

• There was talk of requiring fishing guides to have recovery boxes on their boats. Later, the bi-state committee chose a path that requires a recovery box if a wild fish is taken out of the water for release.

• The committee agreed in principle to a five-fish seasonal limit on spring chinook caught in the Columbia through June 15.

• The bi-state committee also agreed on the concept of sport-fishing closure zones adjacent to existing and new off-channel areas.

• Two Oregon-only issues also are on the table. It is suggested Oregon initiate a Columbia River sport-fishing surcharge license, as is done in Washington. Limiting the number of fishing guides in Oregon also was suggested.

Washington has limitations on guides downstream of Longview. Oregon’s guide program is managed by the Oregon Marine Board, not the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Article can be seen at

Salmon Farming Comes Ashore

Fish grown in closed containment systems offer big environmental advantages, proponents say

By Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun November 17, 2012

7562927Photograph by: Jackie Hildering

Twenty-three thousand Atlantic salmon smolts will arrive at the ‘Namgis First Nation’s salmon farm in January, just a fraction of the millions of similar fish that grow to maturity each year in B.C.

What’s different about these fish is that they will never swim in the ocean, never come in contact with wild salmon and never be treated for sea lice.

‘Namgis Closed Containment Salmon Farm is the first commercial-scale, land-based fish farm for Atlantic salmon in North America. It’s part of a global trend of large closed-containment farms also being pursued in Denmark and in Chile.

The ‘Namgis smolts will grow to maturity in just 12 to 15 months in a facility nearing completion not far from Port McNeill on Vancouver Island. The ‘Namgis farm uses five 500-cubic-metre tanks capable of producing a total 500 tonnes of fish each year.

The system is the first of five identical modules to be built on the site, when the designs and systems are proven, for total capacity of 2,500 tonnes a year, about the same as a net-pen salmon farm.

Despite the extra costs associated with land-based salmon farming, the product needn’t cost much more than net-pen Atlantic salmon. The carefully controlled environment in an advanced closed-containment system allows the fish grow to maturity twice as fast, in a smaller space with less feed than net-pen salmon.

Concerns about the spread of disease and sea lice between wild and farmed salmon make a commercially viable land-based Atlantic salmon farm something of an environmental Holy Grail.

And that search has intensified since the report of the Cohen Commission found that net-pen salmon farms can and do hurt the health of B.C.’s wild sockeye salmon stocks. The report urges an immediate freeze on new net-pen farms along sockeye migration routes.

The ‘Namgis project is intended to be a hothouse for innovation with the goal of advancing closed-containment technology for Atlantic salmon to commercial viability as quickly as possible. For that purpose, ‘Namgis has attracted $8.5 million from philanthropic, conservation and government sources, coordinated by the conservation foundation Tides Canada.

“We put together this innovation fund to explore land-based aquaculture as an alternative to open net aquaculture, primarily as a way to better protect the marine environment and wild salmon,” said Catherine Emrick, who co-ordinates the fund at Tides Canada.

The ‘Namgis First Nation spent years challenging the provincial and federal government in court over the “mismanagement” of the net-pen salmon industry near their traditional territories, according to Chief Bill Cranmer.

“We had seen the effects on our sockeye salmon returns on the Nimpkish River and the effect of the sea lice on the chum,” said Cranmer. “Eric Hobson at Save Our Salmon told us we could use litigation, but we should also provide an alternative.”

From that seed planted six years ago, a partnership has grown including Tides Canada Salmon Aquaculture Innovation Fund ($3.7 million), Sustainable Development and Technology Canada ($2.65 million), Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program, ($800,000), Aboriginal Affairs Canada ($257,000), Coast Sustainability Trust ($113,000) and the ‘Namgis First Nation ($1 million.)

To survive and thrive, land-based systems have to compete on both price and quality with net-pen Atlantic salmon, while using an infrastructure that requires significantly more money to build and to run.

Closed-containment systems are already used in B.C. to grow Atlantic salmon to 100-gram one-year-old smolts, which are then transferred to mature in ocean-based net pens.

But using land-based systems that grow salmon to maturity have a number of advantages over net-pen farming, according to aquaculture systems researcher Steve Summerfelt of the Freshwater Institute in West Virginia.

The advantages can be summed up in a single word: Control.

. Control of light and temperature allows growth rates that are double those of ocean-raised Atlantic salmon.

. Control of effluent and solid waste protects B.C.’s marine environment and the nutrients recovered can be sold as fertilizer.

. Control of the growing environment protects farmed fish from predation, bad weather and disease, eliminating the need for pesticides and antibiotics.

Along with additional control, land-based systems come with additional costs. ‘Namgis will cost nearly $30 million when it is completed, compared with a Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) estimate of $5 million to install and stock a net-pen operation.

Pumping, heating, cooling and lighting all require energy, which adds about 30 per cent to the costs of running and-based systems over ocean-based farms.

The project will marry an array of technologies, such as variable speed pumps, high-density rearing environments and biofilters, and employ creative new uses for proven systems such as geothermal heating and cooling and heat exchangers that draw energy from groundwater to maintain optimal temperatures in the tanks, according to operations manager Cathal Dinneen.

The ‘Namgis were a natural partner for the project because they are the B.C. First Nation most affected by the collapse of wild salmon stocks, said Hobson, also a board member of the K’udas Partnership, the company formed to build and operate the project with the ‘Namgis.

“The ‘Namgis have occupied the land at the mouth of the Nimpkish River and the Broughton Archipelago for 5,000 years and it’s only in the last 20 that the salmon have been wiped out,” said Hobson. “There are 27 net-cage farm sites in the Broughton Archipelago, so they are very eager to prove that you can grow salmon on land.”

A 2010 DFO analysis of land-based and in-ocean closed containment systems found land-based aquaculture has potential to be profitable with available technology, even without charging a premium price in the market for a sustainable product.

“Even 3½ years ago we didn’t know if this would work,” said Hobson. “(Save Our Salmon) wanted to mitigate the impacts of net-pen farming and come up with a vision for the long term.”

Recent studies have found that more than three quarters of the world’s wild fish stocks are being fished to capacity or headed to extinction, while global demand for seafood is rising steadily, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

“We knew we needed to move these fish onto land and we needed to be able to clean the water, so we didn’t create another environmental problem on land,” Hobson said. “What we found out was that not only was the technology already there, but it was off the shelf.”

Cost projections based on the enhanced technology being used at ‘Namgis and the results of growth trials convinced SOS and Tides Canada that a true closed-containment system could finally produce a superior product at a price that is competitive with net-pen operations.

Recirculating aquaculture systems – land-based farming systems that the industry calls RAS – are being used to raise trout, catfish, yellow perch, Arctic char, eels and tilapia in North America, Chile and Europe. Sturgeon and coho are being raised in RAS systems in B.C.

But while Atlantic salmon have been grown to maturity in research facilities and boutique-sized projects, they have never been grown to harvest size in a commercial-sized RAS system.

Without the help of angel investors – governments and philanthropists – it might have been many years before anyone was willing to invest private funds in land-based Atlantic salmon farms.

“It has to be this way,” said Hobson. “It has never been tried before so there was little chance of attracting traditional investors.”

Tides Canada recruited expertise for the project from cutting edge researchers such as Freshwater’s Summerfelt to advise the K’udas project. Systems for water recirculation and waste capture developed by the Freshwater Institute are being employed in commercial RAS systems all over North America and will be incorporated into the ‘Namgis project.

The ‘Namgis project has also sought out the most experienced growers in the industry for guidance to complete the first of five production modules this winter.

K’udas board member Per Heggelund operates a RAS-based farm capable of annual production of 180 tonnes of coho, which he sells in Over-waitea stores under the Sweet-Spring brand. SweetSpring coho is regarded as the most sustainable farmed salmon on the market by Greenpeace.

“‘Namgis has learned a few things from us on the design side and about some of the pitfalls from our mistakes,” said Heggelund. “(SweetSpring) is operating the fifth generation of RAS technology and we are proving that out, growing fish to three kilos in 12 months.”


The path from environmental hazard to revenue stream

. Bell Aquaculture uses leftovers from processing – heads, tails, guts and gills – from its yellow perch farm in Indiana to make Fish Rich 2-2-2 Organic Fertilizer, a significant additional revenue stream.

. Waste water from recirculat-ing aquaculture systems is naturally rich in nitrogen and is used to grow aquaponic greenhouse vegetables, algae and even brine shrimp suitable for use as fish feed.

. Solid waste from aquaculture tanks is used to create nutrient-rich compost for farmers and gardeners.

Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more:

Parasites have big impact on salmon

07 November 2012

Authors: Martin Krkošek, Crawford W. Revie, Patrick G. Gargan, Ove T. Skilbrei, Bengt Finstad and Christopher D. Todd

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

A new study published in Proceedings of the Royal society B today shows that between 18% and 55% of adult salmon in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean are lost to parasites each year.

Scientists have long been puzzled by the fluctuating numbers of fish in the oceans. An international team of researchers, led by Martin Krkošek from the University of Otago, New Zealand, compared the survival of wild salmon that received parasite medication with those that did not. The authors conclude that parasites can have a significant impact on fisheries and conservation.

The scientists analysed data from 24 trials, which tagged 283,347 young Atlantic salmon between 1996 and 2008. Paired groups of control and anti-parasite treated salmon were released into ten areas of Ireland and Norway. All experimental fish were infection free when released and a proportion of each group were recovered as adults returning to coastal waters one or more years later.

Treatment had a significant positive effect on survival. The untreated salmon were 1.29 times more likely to die. The parasites were probably acquired during migration in areas that host large populations of domesticated salmon, which elevate local abundances of parasites. The concern is not only for a loss in salmon abundance, but also the loss of genetic variability and its associated potential for adaptation to other environmental changes.

Article can be seen at

Nearly 40 per cent of Atlantic salmon is being killed by parasites, researchers believe

Salmon louse may affect up to 55% of population
Fears it could harm genetic variability of species already at risk

By Mark Prigg

PUBLISHED: 00:00 GMT, 7 November 2012 | UPDATED: 17:27 GMT, 7 November 2012

Nearly 40 per cent of Atlantic salmon is being killed by parasites, researchers believe.

A study found that 39 per cent of the fish are being lost to the parasitic salmon louse, which spreads from fish to fish and feeds on surface tissue.

The true mortality figure could even be as high as 55 per cent, reports journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Martin Krkosek, of New Zealand’s University of Otago, was part of a team which studied surveys of thousands of hatchery raised salmon young – or smolts – as they were released into rivers.

Half received parasiticide treatment and the other did not, and all were tagged on release.

Twelve months later, after a year in the North East Atlantic, the recovered fish were examined.

The researchers estimate that nearly 40 per cent of the salmon was dying because of the lice.

They found that although the parasiticide significantly increased their chance of survival, in all 39 per cent of the fish had been killed by the parasites.

Dr. Krkosek said that a further worry was that because salmon tended to return to their native rivers, it meant that the parasite could easily infect small populations of the fish.

He said: ‘The concern therefore is not only for a 39 per cent loss in salmon abundance but also for the loss of genetic variability and its associated potential for adaptation to other environmental changes.

‘Our results supply manipulative field evidence at a large spatial scale that parasitism may be a significant limiting factor for marine fish, fisheries and conservation.’