Fisheries Scientists Drowning in Alarmist Equivocation

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

So say the fisheries “scientists” from the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Center [here], in regards to their predictions for salmon runs this year and next.

In terms of ocean conditions for salmon, 2010 could be summarized in the words of Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” …

Extremely mixed signals from ocean ecosystem indicators in 2010 made it difficult to forecast returns of coho salmon in 2011 and Chinook salmon in 2012. Our best guess is to expect near–average returns of coho in 2011 and Chinook in 2012. …

Fisheries “scientists” (I use that term loosely, as do they) are drowning in equivocation!

Record salmon runs (see all the posts below) due to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) cold ocean conditions are not what I would call “the worst of times”. But our tried and true alarmist gummit functionaries can’t kick the Chicken Little habit.

They seem to be saying, “Yes, there are more salmon than ever in history, but that’s no reason not to moan and wring our hands. It could be the worst of times. It could be a disaster. In fact, since we fisheries scientists and our esteemed agency, NOAA, had absolutely nothing to do with the PDO shift, except for denying it, it is possible that the public may not fully appreciate our efforts to save salmon, which are useless compared to the PDO, so we better cry wolf.”

Meanwhile, Congressional Tea Party sharks are circling the NOAA budget [here].

If the climate in DC doesn’t change, NOAA fisheries “scientists” might have to get real jobs! Now that’s a crisis!!!

I am going out on a limb. I predict record salmon runs for 2011 and 2012. No equivocation about it. But then, I am not a gummit bureaucrat “scientist” and so I can speak with clarity and substance without choking on my grant funding.

*****

Note: for a classic paper on the dangers of uncontrolled equivocation, see Mario Blaser. 2009. The Threat of the Yrmo: The Political Ontology of a Sustainable Hunting Program. American Anthropologist, Vol. 111, Issue 1, pp. 10–20 [here]. Some quotes:

Then, what we call “fact” (or reality) is better conceived of as a “factish” in which objectivity and subjectivity (and, therefore, nature, culture, morality, and politics) are entangled with each other in an indissoluble knot. …

Uncontrolled equivocation refers to a communicative disjuncture that takes place not between those who share a common world but rather those whose worlds or ontologies are different. In other words, these misunderstandings happen not because there are different perspectives on the world but rather because the interlocutors are unaware that different worlds are being enacted (and assumed) by each of them. …

The conflict that ensued from the hunting program highlights the need to understand these kinds of situations from a political ontology perspective that focuses on the power dynamics produced in the encounter between the dominant modern ontology and indigenous ontologies as they are embodied in concrete practices. The different political ontologies that shaped the “environments” of bureaucrats and experts make evident that “modern” factishes–-as much as any factish–-are variously “interested” and therefore not entirely coherent. …

15 Jan 2011, 10:38pm
Salmon counts Salmon science
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Salmon Scientists Blind to Record Fraser River Salmon Runs

by Ken Schlichte

An article entitled “Study Tracks Salmon Coping with Warming River” in the January 13th Oregonian [here] begins with the following statements:

Scientists working with wild sockeye salmon struggling to cope with warming temperatures in British Columbia’s Fraser River have identified broad genetic signatures that can predict which fish will live or die before spawning a new generation.

Oregon State University salmon geneticist Michael Banks, who did not take part in the study, said Thursday it represents a breakthrough in tracking how salmon are surviving new stresses from global warming. …

This article suggests that sockeye salmon are struggling to cope with warming temperatures in British Columbia’s Fraser River because of global warming, but Pacific Northwest temperatures have been trending downward for the last 25 years [here].

The 25-year downward temperature trend in the Pacific Northwest indicates that, if there is reliable data indicating that the Fraser River is actually warming, this river warming is not due to global warming. If the Fraser River is actually warming, this warming would have to have been produced by the Fraser River reservoirs or by land-use activities in the Fraser River Basin, not by global warming.

While the Oregonian article suggests that sockeye salmon are struggling to cope with warming temperatures in the Fraser River, Columbia River sockeye salmon runs in 2009 and 2010 were very large in comparison with the 10-year average.

In 2010 256,996 returning adult and jack Spring Chinook were counted at Bonneville Dam, 1.42 times the 2009 count and 1.39 times the 10-year average.

In 2010 531,864 returning adult and jack Fall Chinook were counted at Bonneville Dam, 1.33 times the 2009 count and 1.25 times the 10-year average.

In 2010 386,525 returning adult and jack Sockeye were counted at Bonneville Dam, 2.17 times the 2009 count and 4.09 times the 10-year average.

The size of sockeye salmon runs and other Pacific Northwest salmon runs is strongly influenced by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that has been in a cool phase for the last few years. The cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation increases the size of our Pacific Northwest salmon runs by increasing salmon food resources and by decreasing salmon predators in offshore waters.

Editor’s Note: the article did not present any evidence, or even make the direct claim, that the Fraser River is warmer. Substantial evidence exists, however, that Fraser River salmon are thriving. For instance, the Seattle Times reported [here] that the Fraser River sockeye salmon run in 2010 was the largest since 1914:

Fraser River whopper sockeye salmon run even bigger

A forecast released Tuesday by the Pacific Salmon Commission predicts some 34 million fish will return to spawn in the Fraser River, a substantial jump from last week’s estimate of 25 million.

By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times, September 1, 2023

A forecast released Tuesday by the Pacific Salmon Commission predicts some 34 million fish will return to spawn in the Canadian watershed. That forecast is a substantial jump from last week’s estimate of 25 million.

This year’s run, the largest since 1914, is expected to provide a bounty for Canadian and U.S. fishermen whose harvest openings continue this week on both sides of the border. The erratic Fraser sockeye run has frequently been a bust in recent years, and last year’s meager return forced harvest closures.

Commercial fishermen joining in this year’s harvest have enjoyed some of the best Fraser sockeye landings in memory. …

Related reports:

Huge [Fraser River] salmon runs bring cash bonanza for U.S. and Canadian fishermen [here]

Huge sockeye run filling up Whatcom County fishing boats [here]

Fraser River sockeye salmon returns among highest recorded [here]

Record Sockeye Run in B.C. [here]

27 Dec 2010, 2:28pm
Salmon counts Salmon science
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Are Overpaid Fish Biologists Stuck On Stupid?

Note: To be fair, the fish biologist bafflement reported by the MSM may be in the minds of science-challenged enviro-journo-listas only. — Editor and headline writer Mike D.

by Ken Schlichte

Why Did Salmon Return After Declining for 20 Years?, reposted from The Environmental Magazine into the Tacoma News Tribune [here], includes the following statements:

The miraculous sockeye salmon run in western Canada’s Fraser River watershed in the summer and fall of 2010 — indeed the biggest run in 97 years — still has fishers, researchers and fishery managers baffled. Just a year earlier only one million fish returned to spawn. No one seems to be able to say for sure what caused the massive 2010 run, but most agree that it probably had to do with the very favorable water conditions that were present in 2008 when the sockeyes were juveniles. “They’re very vulnerable at that stage of their life,” reports John Reynolds, a salmon conservation expert at Canada’s Simon Fraser University.”

-and-

Generally speaking, scientists and environmentalists are well aware of why wild West Coast salmon runs have been declining over the past century: namely pollution at almost every inch along the thousand mile river-to-sea-and-back underwater journey, overfishing in both rivers and the ocean, and man-made obstructions to fish passage. But environmentalists are now optimistic that the huge 2010 sockeye run is a sign of better times ahead. Perhaps improved logging practices, a resurgence in organic farming, new protections for upstream habitat or restrained commercial fishing catch limits — or some combination thereof — has begun to make a difference in salmon survival.

This article has suggested reasons for the large 2010 Fraser River sockeye salmon run and also suggested the reasons (namely water pollution, overfishing and dams) for the declines in West Coast salmon runs over the past century. Throughout this article, however, there is no mention of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the natural cycle of temperature shifts in the Northeast Pacific that has significant influences on West Coast salmon runs. The influence of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation on West Coast salmon runs is discussed in the statements and the figure referenced below from the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center [here]

Dr. Nathan Mantua and his colleagues were the first to show that adult salmon catches in the Northeast Pacific were correlated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (Mantua et al. 1997). They noted that in the Pacific Northwest, the cool PDO years of 1947-1976 coincided with high returns of Chinook and coho salmon to Oregon rivers. Conversely, during the warm PDO cycle that followed (1977-1998), salmon numbers declined steadily.

-and-

Adult spring Chinook runs have declined recently, beginning with returns of fish that went to sea in 2003 and experienced warm ocean conditions, indicated by the positive PDO signal during 2003 to 2007. Forecasts for returns in 2010 are for large numbers of fish, and again, these anticipated returns are associated with the strongly negative PDO (and cold ocean) in effect for juvenile Chinook and coho that entered the ocean in spring 2008.

Please see [here] Figure 2. Time series of shifts in sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), 1925 to 2009. Values are averaged over the months of May through September. Red bars indicate positive (warm) years; blue bars negative (cool) years. Note that 2008 was the most negative since 1956.

Environmentalists and environmental publications like The Environmental Magazine tend overemphasize the effects of human activities (including water pollution, overfishing and dams) on the environment, while ignoring the significant effects of natural variations including the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and variations in solar activity on the environment.

Note 2: Nothing has changed vis alleged “water pollution”, logging practices, organic farming, or “protections for upstream habitat”, yet salmon returns have expanded to record levels. None of those returning fish were killed by fresh water conditions, because they have been in the ocean for years. Nor were prior “changes” in fresh water conditions responsible for the expanded returns, because the salmon survived those conditions when they were smolts years ago. It is obvious and common sense that ocean conditions are the key factor in salmon return numbers.

The tweaky enviros have a political agenda that includes decimation of the economy. They use bizarre pseudo-science regarding salmon as a “justification” for their Luddite-itude, which has strong anti-prosperity roots. Oh the guilt they suffer! Or rather, false guilt is the poison they wish to inflict on the rest of society, for the most despicable reasons. — Ed. again

26 Jul 2010, 3:32pm
Salmon agencies Salmon counts Salmon science
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Record Salmon Return Explained

This year’s record salmon returns are a mystery to some folks, such as wildlife agency functionaries, but not to us.

Sockeye Count Easily Surpasses 1947

Record Run; ‘Unexpected And Hard To Explain’

The Columbia Basin Bulletin, July 09, 2023 [here]

Sockeye salmon continue to zoom up and over the lower Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam where they are now setting records daily.

The 2010 sockeye count at Bonneville’s fish ladders through Thursday had climbed to 364,019. Before this year, the record sockeye return to the Columbia, which includes fish caught in non-Indian commercial fisheries in the 146 river miles below Bonneville and the dam count, was 335,300 fish in 1947.

Note: as of July 25th the Bonneville sockeye count was 386,071.

The 2010 Bonneville count passed that 1947 mark on Independence Day.

Gill netters harvested 164,200 sockeye (574,000 pounds) in 1947 and 171,139 were counted passing Bonneville, according to data compiled by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. The two agencies co-manage mainstem fisheries on the mainstem Columbia.

The Technical Advisory Committee updated its 2010 sockeye run-size forecast last week to 375,000 fish. The preseason forecast was for a return of 125,000 sockeye to the mouth of the Columbia, but skyrocketing daily counts at Bonneville pushed the forecast to 250,000 and then to 375,000.

This year’s count also exceeds the record Bonneville count, which was 237,700 fish in 1955. Counts have been under way since 1938.

Virtually all Columbia River sockeye are wild-origin fish, originating predominantly from Osoyoos Lake in Canada, with a smaller proportion from Lake Wenatchee. In the Snake River, only a small number of sockeye have returned each year over the past two decades. But their number spiked in 2008 and 2009 when 909 and 1,219 were counted passing the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam, the eighth hydro project the sockeye pass on their way to central Idaho’s Stanley Basin.

Already this year (through Thursday) 938 sockeye have been counted at Lower Granite. The daily counts there rose steadily to a peak of 162 Tuesday. That count was followed by a tally of 143 on Wednesday and 104 on Thursday. Most of the returning Snake River sockeye are the product of a captive broodstock program.

Note: as of July 25th the Lower Granite sockeye count was 1,925.

The Bonneville sockeye counts peaked from June 20-25 when more than 160,000 climbed over the fish ladders. The counts during that period ranged from 25,011 on June 20 to 30,690 on June 24. The latter count is the highest ever, breaking a record set the previous day (30,374).

The record run is “unexpected and hard to explain,” said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Kathryn Kostow, who also chairs TAC. The committee is made up of federal, state and tribal officials. TAC typically would investigate such “odd events” at season’s end. …

Hard for some people to explain. But the abundantly obvious and evident reason for record salmon runs is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation shift that occurred in 2008, when cool waters replaced warmer waters in the eastern Pacific. Upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water feeds plankton and subsequently the entire food chain, including salmon.

Ken Schlichte predicted the record salmon runs here at NFTSF [here, here], and so did I [here]. No offense to Ken, but it didn’t take a genius to recognize the obvious, especially after record salmon runs in 2009.

The PDO shift was also predicted at W.I.S.E. in 2008 [here].

Maybe the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife ought to read this site. They could learn a lot here, and dispel some of their confusion and misapprehension.

12 Apr 2010, 7:20pm
Oceanic studies Salmon science
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Dead Zone Dire Report

The impending doom attributed to “dead zones” on the Oregon’s continental shelf is the latest “climate change” scare-mongering in the Dead Tree Press.

Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world’s oceans. They are natural deep sea oceanographic phenomena caused by a lack of mixing with surface waters. Dead zones have been present, it is assumed, ever since oceans formed on this planet a few billion years ago.

Some researchers, notably Jane Lubchenco, current Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), claim that dead zones are growing due to global warming [here, here]. However, oceanographic models have failed miserably in predicting dead zones, which have appeared to have shrunk in the last few years [here], contrary to model predictions.

But the scare-mongering won’t go away. The science is settled, except for the fact that it isn’t.

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9 Mar 2010, 12:27pm
Salmon science
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No Worries About Salmon This Year

by Ken Schlichte

Note: Ken Schlichte is an expert forest soil scientist in western Washington

“Worries rise as ocean oxygen levels sink — CLIMATE CHANGE?: NW waters among those facing food chain woes” is the title of an article alleging low offshore oxygen levels that appeared in the March 8 issue of The Olympian [here]. The article included the following statements:

Lower levels of oxygen in oceans, particularly off the Northwest coast, could be another sign of fundamental changes linked to global climate change, scientists say. They warn that the oceans’ complex undersea ecosystems and fragile food chains could be disrupted.

-and-

If the Earth continues to warm, the expectation is we will have lower and lower oxygen levels,” said Francis Chan, a marine researcher at Oregon State.

-and-

Scientists have long known of a natural low-oxygen zone perched in the deeper water off the Northwest’s continental shelf. During the summer, northerly winds aided by Earth’s rotation drive surface water away from the shore. This action sucks oxygen-poor water to the surface in a process called upwelling. Though the water that’s pulled up from the depths is poor in oxygen, it’s rich in nutrients, which fertilize phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms form the bottom of one of the richest ocean food chains in the world.

-and-

Scientists are unsure how low oxygen levels will affect the ocean ecosystem. Bottom-dwelling species could be at the greatest risk because they move slowly and might not be able to escape the lower oxygen levels. Most fish can swim out of danger. Some species, however, such as chinook salmon, may have to start swimming at shallower depths than they’re used to. Whether the low oxygen zones will change salmon migration routes is unclear.

This March 8, 2023 article suggests that climate change warming is associated with the recent coastal Northwest low-oxygen zones and that chinook salmon may be negatively impacted.

The NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center report [here], however, indicates that 2008 was the most negative (coolest) Pacific Decadal Oscillation year since 1956 and that these negative (cool) conditions continued on into 2009.

Figure 2. Time series of shifts in sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), 1925 to 2009. Values are averaged over the months of May through September. Red bars indicate positive (warm) years; blue bars negative (cool) years. Note that 2008 was the most negative since 1956.

Forecasts for returns in 2010 are for large numbers of fish, and again, these anticipated returns are associated with the strongly negative PDO (and cold ocean) in effect for juvenile Chinook and coho that entered the ocean in spring 2008.

NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center has also reported that:

During 2008, the trend of cold ocean conditions, which started to become established in 2007, has continued. The fact that cold ocean conditions have now become well established bodes well for marine fish (especially salmon) and bird species, since many of them will almost certainly have a good recruitment year.

Tacoma News Tribune reported on the December 17, 2023 [here] that the biggest run of spring chinook salmon since before the completion of the Bonneville Dam in 1938 is forecast to enter the Columbia River in 2010.

In 2005 the Seattle Times reported [here] that many scientists suspected that climate change may have been involved in the warmer waters along the Northwest coast, even though the article also indicated that these warmer waters, the seabird deaths and other marine food source shortages were apparently caused by a lack of northerly winds and the absence of upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface.

Northerly winds and the upwelling of the deep, cold, low-oxygen waters off the Northwest coast are known to result in the creation of low-oxygen “dead zones”. But an absence of northerly winds with no upwelling of the deep, cold, nutrient-rich waters off the Northwest coast is known to reduce food sources for sea birds, salmon and marine mammals.

Shifts in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation are primarily responsible for the wide range of Northwest offshore ocean temperatures since 1925, and 2008 was the most negative (coolest) year since 1956, in effect refuting the comments by the scientists in the two recent newspaper articles above about warming and climate change.

29 Dec 2009, 1:34pm
Salmon science
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The Pacific Decadal Oscillation Cool Regime Increases Salmon Runs

by Ken Schlichte, Washington Contract Loggers Association website, Jan, 2005 [here]

Note: Ken Schlichte is an expert forest soil scientist in western Washington

Over recent decades, warm ocean temperature periods have coincided with relatively poor ocean conditions for many Pacific Northwest salmon stocks, while cool ocean temperature periods coincided with relatively good ocean conditions for Northwest salmon. Fisheries scientist Steven Hare first used the term Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) in 1996 while describing the connections between Alaska salmon production cycles and changes in the Pacific climate. The PDO is now known to be a long-lived El-Nina-like pattern of Pacific climate variability. 20th century PDO cycles have lasted for 20 to 30 years and have primarily affected the North Pacific, while El Nina cycles have lasted from 6 to 18 months with the greatest effects in the tropics. Cool PDO regimes are now known to have occurred from 1890-1924 and again from 1947-1976, while warm PDO regimes occurred from 1925-1946 and from 1977-1998. A cool PDO regime has been in place since 1999.

Shifts from one PDO regime to another are known to correspond with dramatic shifts in salmon production regimes in the Pacific Northwest. Cool PDO regimes are characterized by the upwelling of cool, nutrient-rich coastal ocean waters which increases the abundance of plankton and krill, an important salmon food resource. Warm PDO regimes have significantly fewer salmon food resources. Salmon predators are also a factor, and changes between warm and cool water regimes may affect the distribution and abundance of predators. The movement of warm water mackerel northward during warm PDO regimes may significantly decrease the survival of young West Coast salmon.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program has indicated that salmon catches in the Northwest dropped sharply when the PDO shifted from cool to warm in 1977. The graphs on Page 64 of Our Changing Nature - Natural Resource Trends in Washington State, published in 1998 by the Department of Natural Resources, show salmon harvest peaks around 1976 followed by salmon harvest declines from around 1977 on through 1997. However, the following page of Our Changing Nature goes on to suggest that resource management activities were responsible for these “restricted fishing opportunities”, with no mention of the negative effects of the warm PDO regime. The salmon declines of the 1980’s and 1990’s have led to significant increases in the government regulation of resource management activities, even though these salmon declines, as the U.S. Global Change Program indicated, were primarily of the result of the negative effects of the warm PDO regime.

The significant increases in salmon runs that have been occurring across the Pacific Northwest since the PDO shifted to a cool regime in 1999 are illustrated in Figure 2 above. Note that this was a shift to a cool PDO regime, in spite of the environmentalist warnings of recent global warming trends. Figure 2 graphs the adult salmon and steelhead counts at Bonneville Dam from 1938, just after the dam was completed, until 2003 and is from Twenty Years of Progress - Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, published in 2003 by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The counts in Figure 2 have increased from around 600,000 fish up to around 2.4 million fish over this period, with most of these increases occurring since the shift to a cool PDO regime in 1999. These recent increases indicate that dam removal is not required for significant salmon run increases in the Columbia Basin.

Previous PDO regimes typically have lasted from 20-30 years and we can expect that the present cool PDO regime will continue to produce relatively large Northwest salmon runs for a similar period of time. When the shift occurs, and the new warm PDO regime starts to reduce salmon runs by naturally reducing salmon food resources and by naturally increasing salmon predators, it may be necessary to remind the government regulators that these salmon declines are natural, not due to resource management activities such as irrigation withdrawals, dams, agriculture, or timber harvesting.

20 Aug 2009, 7:25pm
Salmon science
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Record Salmon Run in Idaho

More salmon have returned to Idaho’s Salmon River in 2008 and 2009 than in any summers in over 30 years. Reported in the Idaho Mountain Express:

Hundreds of sockeye return home: 452 ‘red fish’ have arrived in Sawtooth Valley this summer

By Jason Kauffman, Idaho Mountain Express, August 19, 2023 [here]

For the second summer in a row, hundreds of sockeye salmon are pouring into the upper reaches of the Salmon River near Stanley. Their final destination is the Redfish Lake area, in the eastern shadow of the ragged crest of the Sawtooth Mountains.

Altogether, 452 of the “red fish” have arrived at either of two fish traps located on the Salmon River at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery or near the mouth of Redfish Lake Creek.

The back-to-back positive returns of the iconic fish of the Sawtooth Valley is largely the result of increased smolt production at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s captive rearing program. Positive river flows and good ocean conditions have also given the fish a boost in recent years. Last summer, 636 of the fish—sporting the classic green head and red-bodied look of spawning sockeye—arrived home to the high-elevation valley.

The cause-and-effect conclusion of the reporter is not verifiable. Sawtooth Fish Hatchery was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1984. It is capable of collecting and incubating about four million steelhead eggs for later transport and rearing at the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery and Magic Valley Fish Hatchery. Smolt production has been ample for many years (over 150,000 smolts per year) but returning adult salmon have averaged less than one per ~1,000 smolts released.

The successful returns of 2008 and 2009 probably have more to do with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a pattern of Pacific Ocean temperatures that shifts phases on an inter-decadal time scale, usually about 20 to 30 years. The PDO shifted to negative in 2008, meaning that waters off the coast of northern North American became colder, similar to the cool regime from 1947-1976.

Colder waters are nutrient-rich and provide a more abundant food chain for oceanic salmon. The improved ocean conditions propbably are most responsible for the increase in Idaho salmon retuens.

The first two sockeye of the 2009 season arrived in the Sawtooth Valley in late July.

The two runs more than surpass the recent high of 257 sockeye that came back in 2000, which was the next highest return since 1985. And it’s far more than the four sockeye that came back in 2007. Between 1991 and 1998, a total of just 16 sockeye returned to Redfish Lake.

The historic declines in the fish are tied to over-fishing, mining, poisoning in the early days and, perhaps most significantly, a dam-building boom on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers between 1937 and 1975.

Those contributing factors have been significant, but salmon spend most of their lives in the ocean. Ocean conditions since 1975 have been poor for salmon due to the 32-year-long positive (warmer) PDO from 1976 to 2008.

On Tuesday, Dan Baker, hatchery manager at the Eagle Fish Hatchery, headquarters for the state’s captive breeding program for Redfish Lake sockeye, predicted that as many as 650 to 700 sockeye will have arrived in the Stanley area by the end of summer. Baker said the last fish will likely arrive sometime around the beginning of September.

During the past few springs, Idaho’s hatchery program has released between 150,000 and 175,000 sockeye smolts. The young fish are kept in captivity as long as possible to give them a better chance of surviving the long voyage down the Salmon, Snake and Columbia rivers to the ocean.

“They’re released directly to Redfish Lake Creek or the Salmon River,” Baker said.

Redfish Lake sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in November 1991. Historically, up to 30,000 sockeye spawned in the Sawtooth Valley’s Alturas, Pettit, Yellowbelly, Redfish and Stanley lakes.

The fish were the first Idaho salmon to be listed under the ESA. Redfish Lake sockeye are unequaled in that they travel to the highest elevation, over 6,500 feet, run the longest distance, about 900 miles, and travel the farthest south of any North American sockeye population.

Idaho fisheries biologists hope that eventually, as many as 2,000 sockeye born from fish allowed to spawn naturally in Redfish Lake will migrate back to the Sawtooth Valley each summer. So far this summer, 69 sockeye born from natural spawners have returned.

Recovery, it seems, is still a long way off.

But that doesn’t mean that fisheries biologists aren’t excited by the successes they’ve seen two years running. Baker said future expansions to the state’s captive breeding program should allow even more sockeye to come home each year.

“It’s very rewarding to see this fish come back,” he said.

12 Feb 2009, 7:12pm
Dams Judicial incompetence Salmon science
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How Government Destroyed Science in Columbia River Dam Decisionmaking

News from the Front #95

Remarks at the First Annual Northwest Water Law Symposium, Lewis & Clark Law School, January 31, 2024 (edited)

By James Buchal, author The Great Salmon Hoax [here]

Before I begin discussing the use of science in Columbia River decisionmaking, I think it is important to have a definition of what science is, and I am going to choose a definition that will make it clear that science is not really used at all any more.

What is science?  Since this is a law school, I will cite the Supreme Court’s Daubert case, which determined how federal courts should decide whether to accept scientific expert testimony.  In that case, the Court actually managed at one point to stumble right on it:

Scientific methodology today is based on generating hypotheses and testing them to see if they can be falsified; indeed, this methodology is what distinguishes science from other fields of human inquiry.

I will argue that the essence of science is that there are things that are out there that are true, and while we can all speculate about the truth is, we can test our speculation against the truth.  This is usually done by taking measurements in an experiment.  And when our hypothesis is falsified, that is, contrary to the truth as revealed by the evidence we gather, we have to discard or refine that hypothesis.

I would also argue that measurement or quantification is another very important aspect of science.  As a famous physicist, Lord Kelvin once observed,

When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.

What Lord Kelvin did not say is that if you really have a scientific understanding of something, you can also use that scientific knowledge to predict what will happen under a certain set of initial conditions (at least outside the quantum context).

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22 Apr 2008, 2:03pm
BPA Salmon science Tribes
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Looters Limit Out on BPA Salmon Dollars

News from the Front #93:

By James Buchal, author The Great Salmon Hoax [here]

Now more than ever, as we sink in a cesspool of public and private debt brought on by a corrupted federal government, and we all tighten our belts, we can ill afford wasteful public spending. BPA’s recent announcements of “Memoranda of Agreement” (MOAs) with Pacific Northwest States and Tribes promise just that, with substantial hikes in electricity rates to fund another billion in salmon spending, and no real public benefits at all. And the MOAs only set a floor for wasteful fish and wildlife spending, not a ceiling.

he general design of the MOAs is a wholesale subversion of the decisionmaking processes crafted by elected officials in favor of agency decisionmaking by contract with special interests. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has been charged by Congress to develop the Region’s fish and wildlife plan, and BPA is by law supposed to follow that plan, funding programs the Council and its independent scientists identify as appropriate. The Tribal MOA gives lip service to the Council’s program, but warns that it contains “specific and binding funding commitments” irrespective of Council decisions. Thus big new programs will be established to promote salmon parasites (lamprey), irrespective of the lack of public or Council support for such programs.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is supposed to review actions concerning endangered and threatened fish, but through the MOAs, many of the choices NMFS would dictate are now to be specified by agreement with the special interest groups. The dam operators will now be bound by contract to take the fish out of transport barges, irrespective of scientific evidence proving higher survival. They will be bound to spill water at dams, irrespective of scientific evidence proving massive outbreaks of gas bubble disease. The Tribal MOA even attempts to bind NMFS to approve the wholesale gillnetting of endangered salmon, declaring that “tribal treaty fishing rights were present effects of past federal actions that must be included in the environmental baseline” and that the MOA is based on the “assumption that NOAA Fisheries will give ESA coverage” to future harvests. Ordinarily, scientifically-based natural resource management decisions might be expected to evolve based on better science, but the MOAs even attempt to prevent such scientific evolution.

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