sos.logo1IN THIS ISSUE

 1.  New Federal Salmon Plan is Neither New Nor Much of a Plan

2.  New study documents Puget Sound's orca concentrated at the Columbia's mouth during Spring

3.  DamNation Film premieres at SXSW Film Festival

4.  Salmon Mean Business:  Big thanks to Patagonia and Cocoon!




 1.  New Federal Salmon Plan is Neither New Nor Much of a Plan

manysockeye.smOn Jan. 17, federal agencies released their latest plan for protecting imperiled salmon and steelhead that are harmed by the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. As foreshadowed by a draft issued last Fall, the new plan comes as a big disappointment – if not exactly a big surprise. By the agencies’ own admission, their 2014 plan is barely distinguishable from the illegal 2008/2010 plan it’s supposed to replace – despite clear direction from a federal court to do more to help salmon.

By hewing so closely to its illegal predecessor, this new – or, um, “new” – plan repeats many of the same mistakes that have kept our wild salmon at a prolonged (and, we would argue, unacceptable) risk of extinction over the past two decades. A partial list of the 2014 federal salmon plan’s shortcomings:

➢ Ignores regionally-supported sound science;

➢ Employs a low-bar recovery standard that declares success as long as salmon populations increase by more than one additional fish per year;

➢ Allows dam operators to roll back spill – our most effective near-term salmon protection measure that’s been a key driver of the modestly higher salmon returns of the past few years;

➢ Fails to address the current and worsening impacts of climate change, which are already hitting salmon hard.

It’s still too soon to say whether the 2014 plan will end up back in court, but what is clear is that NOAA Fisheries, Bonneville Power Administration, and other federal agencies have squandered a huge opportunity to finally do right by science, law, Northwest communities, American taxpayers – and salmon.

For more on the 2014 federal salmon plan, check out SOS’s factsheet here.

And here’s some recent press on the plan that we highly recommend:

Seattle Times editorial: Water over dams save salmon

High Country News: For better or worse, feds’ Columbia River Salmon plan stays the course

Crosscut: Feds’ latest Columbia River plan: Play me an old-fashioned melody

The Drake: Groundhog Day for Salmon:  Another biased BiOp makes the rounds

2. New study documents Puget Sound's orca concentrated at the Columbia's mouth during Spring

L116.orca.webA recently-published study from the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America makes new findings that connect endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) with threatened and endangered salmon of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. NOAA-Fisheries, the federal agency charged with protecting endangered orcas has previously identified the historic predation by these orcas on Columbia Basin chinook salmon and described the decline of salmon in the Columbia River basin as “[p]erhaps the single greatest change in food availability for resident killer whales since the late 1800s...”

Today, there is strong evidence that the SRKWs are often severely nutritionally stressed (starving). The lack of available prey is a key source of mortality and low reproductive success in recent years. This new study documents the frequent presence of SRKWs at or near the mouth of the Columbia River in March in recent years and speculates that they are drawn there to feed on oily, energy-rich spring chinook that also gather at the river’s mouth in March before beginning their upriver migration.

Needless to say, a Columbia Basin that produces many more chinook salmon would be a very good thing for SRKWs and help address what scientist consider orca’s biggest threat today: lack of a sufficient prey base to support them.
The study’s abstract below nicely summarizes the study’s findings, followed by a link to the full study.

Assessing the coastal occurrence of endangered killer whales using autonomous passive acoustic recorders.

By M. Bradley Hanson, Candice K. Emmons, and Eric J. Ward

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

, November 2013

 Using moored autonomous acoustic recorders to detect and record the vocalizations of social odonotocetes to determine their occurrence patterns is a non-invasive tool in the study of these species in remote locations. Acoustic recorders were deployed in seven locations on the continental shelf of the U.S. west coast from Cape Flattery, WA to Pt. Reyes, CA to detect and record endangered southern resident killer whales between January and June of 2006–2011. Detection rates of these whales were greater in 2009 and 2011 than in 2006–2008, were most common in the month of March, and occurred with the greatest frequency off the Columbia River and Westport, which was likely related to the presence of their most commonly consumed prey, Chinook salmon. The observed patterns of annual and monthly killer whale occurrence may be related to run strength and run timing, respectively, for spring Chinook returning to the Columbia River, the largest run in this region at this time of year. Acoustic recorders provided a unique, long-term, dataset that will be important to inform future consideration of Critical Habitat designation for this U.S. Endangered Species Act listed species.

You can read the full study here

3.  DamNation Film premieres at SXSW Film Festival

damnation.damSOS looks forward with great anticipation to the premiere of DamNation at the prestigious SXSW Film Festival in early March. Soon after it will appear at the Washington, DC Environmental Film Festival in late March, and Telluride Mountain Films in May.

Talented filmmakers Travis Rummel and Ben Knight, creators of the powerful Red Gold that documented the battle to stop Pebble Mine and save the greatest sockeye fishery in the world, have turned their cameras on the damage wrought by dams on our nation’s rivers and the growing movement to restore rivers around the country.

Rummel and Knight toured the country, interviewing community leaders, agency staff, tribal members, fishermen, and others where dams have come out and where momentum is building to take dams out. The film visits the Elwha, White Salmon, Rogue and Columbia-Snake Rivers among others. With their trademark beautiful and creative camera-work, humor and poignancy the film covers the history of our nation’s dam-building binge, its repercussions, and hope for the future as communities come together to remove costly and outdated dams.

Produced by Patagonia and Stoecker Ecological, DamNation will embark on a 9-city national tour this spring with stops in Seattle, Portland, Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Denver. SOS will be working with our member groups and local organizations to host film showings in the Northwest once the national tour launches.

Please contact Sam Mace at for more information on film events in your area.

Watch the trailer and learn more here.

Read Outside Magazine on DamNation here.

4.  Salmon Mean Business:  Big thanks to Patagonia and Cocoon!

patagonia-logoPatagonia has always been more than an outdoor clothing company.  Founder Yvon Chouinard has consistently set the standard for quality, integrity, ethics and ingenuity in both Patagonia's products and conservation work.  Patagonia is a long-time supporter of restoring rivers and protecting wild fisheries around the world.  The company has offered unwavering commitment to restoring the wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, including supporting removal of the four lower Snake River dams.  Now Chouinard and Patagonia have produced the tremendous DamNation film, which will get the word out to many new audiences around the country.  A huge thanks from the wild salmon of the West!

logo sleep gear cocoon2Cocoon has supported the work of Save Our Wild Salmon for years.  With staff Sue Morrison, an avid steelhead angler,  based in Wenatchee, the sleeping bag manufacturer has joined with other outdoor companies in WA state to urge Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and other elected leaders to support a strong Columbia-Snake BiOp and to bring stakeholders together for long-term solutions.   Many thanks to Sue's work on behalf of wild salmon and steelhead and to the company for its support.  

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