29 Oct 2009, 1:45pm
Salmon agencies
by admin

Huge Coho Salmon Run Swamps Oregon Fish Hatcheries

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced last week that, “This year’s coho run is on track to be one of the largest salmon returns in the Columbia Basin over the past decade.”

As of October 23rd, an estimated 703,000 coho were forecast to enter the Columbia River at Astoria. Last year’s run size was 472,000 coho.

ODFW noted in their news release: “This year’s run was large enough that fishery managers increased the bag limit to three fish a day and extended the season in many areas. Despite these measures, several ODFW hatcheries have been inundated with fish.”

The news release (below) is interesting for a couple of other reasons. First, ODFW makes no conjecture or supposition as to why this year’s run is double the ten-year average. In their 2007 Oregon Coast Coho Conservation Plan For the State of Oregon [here], ODFW asserts:

Several limiting factors are identified for individual independent coho populations in this ESU (Table 4), including stream complexity (high quality habitat), water quality, water quantity, hatchery impacts, spawning gravel and exotic species. Stream complexity is the predominant limiting factor for populations in the Oregon Coast coho ESU.

Did “stream complexity” change radically in the last five years? No, no significant changes have occurred, at least according to ODFW which needs ever more tax dollars to spend on grinding their teeth about stream habitat.

So what happened? Why has the coho run doubled?

Could it be that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) shifted in 2008 to cold waters off our coast? The Pacific Ocean has a warm temperature mode and a cool temperature mode and in the past century has switched back forth between these two modes every 25-30 years [here]. Upwelling cold water carries more nutrients and gives a boost to the entire marine food chain.

Typically, over the last 30 years, out of every 1,000 salmon smolts that enter the ocean, two or three return to the spawning river two to five years later. That means 997 (99.7%) die in the ocean. A very slight decrease in the ocean mortality rate (say from 99.7% to 99.4%) effectively doubles the return rate.

The PDO shift to cooler waters in the NE Pacific is apparently having that effect.

As far as the fish math goes, doubling the smolt production by increasing “steam complexity” does not result in a doubling of the run. The mortality in the ocean is so substantial that it overwhelms smolt production. Moreover, “stream complexity” is such a vague and nebulous term that it cannot be quantified or measured, and hence cannot be scientifically evaluated.

The other interesting thing about the ODFW news release is that they see the expanded coho run as a boon to the starving people of Oregon. I find that spin to be distasteful, but perhaps I am too sensitive. Apparently Oregon has the highest hunger rate in the nation, and has had that dubious honor since we stopped managing our forests 15 years ago, in part on the alleged behalf of salmon “stream complexity”, and it ruined our economy in the process. The recent dismantling of the national economy hasn’t helped any, either.

So now we are starving here in Oregon, and the coho overrun will help us finally get a mouthful. Thank you PDO, but no thanks to the government agencies that inflicted economic disaster in the first place.

Anyway, here’s how they put it:

Huge coho run will help feed Oregon’s hungry

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife news release, October 23, 2009 [here]

CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Oregon’s hungry will fare a little better this year, thanks to an extraordinary run of coho salmon.

Thousands of surplus coho are being processed at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish hatcheries along the North Coast and Columbia River in preparation for distribution to the hungry through food banks around the state.

“These huge runs of coho couldn’t have come at a better time, with a down economy and Oregon facing historically high unemployment rates,” said Bill Otto, manager of ODFW’s North Fish Hatchery Group.

For the past two weeks, ODFW staff, American Canadian Fisheries employees and volunteers at six hatcheries have been putting up to 2,000 fish a day on ice in plastic containers known as totes and turning them over to the Oregon Food Bank.

“This is a lot of fish, and there are a lot more on the way,” said Ken Bourne, manager of ODFW’s Sandy fish hatchery. “What would we do with these surplus fish if we didn’t have the Oregon Food Bank?”

“It’s not often that we have the opportunity to get this kind of premium protein for the families we serve,” said Dan Crunican, food resource developer for the Oregon Food Bank.

No one knows for sure how much salmon will be processed this year – that depends on the coho, but everyone agrees it will be considerably more than the 22,000 pounds of fillets that were donated and distributed last year.

This year’s coho run is on track to be one of the largest salmon returns in the Columbia basin over the past decade, with 703,000 coho forecast to enter the Columbia at Astoria. That compares to an actual run size of 472,000 coho last year. This year’s run was large enough that fishery managers increased the bag limit to three fish a day and extended the season in many areas. Despite these measures, several ODFW hatcheries have been inundated with fish.

“We’ve expanded opportunities for sport fishermen, achieved our hatchery production goals and met our tribal obligations,” said Otto, who oversees 11 hatcheries in ODFW’s Northwest Region. “We are fortunate that we are able to help feed a lot of people who are hurting right now.”

The Oregon Food Bank Network is seeing a substantial increase in the number of people needing help, according to Jean Kempe-Ware, Oregon Food Bank public relations manager.

“The number of people seeking emergency food through the OFB Network is unprecedented,” she said.

The food bank and its affiliates across the state are currently feeding about 240,000 people a month, up from approximately 200,000 last year. More than a third of the recipients are children, according to Kempe-Ware.


26 Nov 2009, 7:19pm
by bear bait

Nursery born fir trees work in a sawmill no different than native born trees, so it should not come as a surprise that a grand harvest of hatchery salmon has come to the rivers. The issue is not forest or stream complexity, but rainfall, temperatures and winds which determine survival and abundance. So Mike makes the point that hunger is a function of off limits forests, and has been with us long enough to have reduced installed capacity to convert logs to lumber is now less than half the annual tree growth on private lands, let alone public lands. Oregon is most likely harvesting less than 15% of our annual accretion of fiber. For those of you who are a product of “new math”, that means for every load of logs you see on the highway, there are five more loads of logs that grew last year that are not being harvested.

A friend who sells lumber wholesale told me that Asia is such a hot market for lumber, China is buying all the beetle kill timber sourced lumber Canada produces. That means that he is quoting American lumber yards at $30/mbf higher than six months ago, with no increase in American demand. We get lumber inflation with no appreciable increase in housing starts or decrease in interest rates. That the US cannot produce the lumber it will need in a recovery, yet the price of lumber will sky rocket with any uptick in housing starts, is our gift from the Green Lobby and Liberal economic policy. Add to that the stated desire to reduce fuels by not fighting forest fires, and the Left shoots us in the other foot.



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