National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose to designate critical habitat for three species of rockfish in Puget Sound & Strait

Big news. The Federal Government is proposing designating critical habitat for certain rockfish. Public comment now open. Comments on this proposed rule must be received by 5 p.m. P.S.T. on November 4, 2013. Requests for public hearings must be made in writing by September 20, 2013. Comments close on 11/04/2013. The Feds say “Puget Sound” but actually are also including some areas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. To them, it’s apparently all the same. They delineate it deeper in the document.  From the people I’ve talked to close to this decision, this has been studied a great deal and a lot of meetings have been held getting to this decision.  It likely will raise some objections, likely intense. But the stocks are in such critical shape in many places,  this appears to be needed. It’s not a new issue, the fact that the Feds have finally moved on it is. Hopefully (and apparently) we still have time to save some of them.  As you may or may not know, rockfish do not migrate. They hang out in their habitat, and can live  a long long time. They are often bycatch of other fisheries, and if you bring them up from a great depth, they end up often getting ‘the bends’ (barimetric poisoning) and die.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose to designate critical habitat for three species of rockfish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the threatened Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus), the threatened DPS of canary rockfish (S. pinniger), and the endangered DPS of bocaccio (S. paucispinus) (listed rockfish). The specific areas proposed for designation for canary rockfish and bocaccio include approximately 1,184.75 sq mi (3,068.5 sq km) of marine habitat in Puget Sound, Washington. The specific areas proposed for designation for yelloweye rockfish include approximately 574.75 sq mi (1,488.6 sq km) of marine habitat in Puget Sound, Washington. We propose to exclude some particular areas from designation because the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion and exclusion of those areas will not result in the extinction of the species.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/08/06/2013-18832/endangered-and-threatened-species-designation-of-critical-habitat-for-yelloweye-rockfish-canary

 

And more from Mike Satos’ blog:

The National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to designate almost 1,200 square miles of Puget Sound as critical habitat for three species of endangered rockfish. The habitat protection follows the 2010 decision to list yelloweye, canary and bocaccio rockfish under the Endangered Species Act. The Fisheries Service says the rockfish are vulnerable to overfishing because they have long lives and mature slowly with sporadic reproduction. Tuesday’s designation will require federal agencies to make sure their actions don’t harm rockfish habitat. The protected area in Puget Sound overlaps existing critical habitat for Puget Sound Chinook and Hood Canal summer-run chum, bull trout and Southern Resident killer whales. Critical habitat listed for Puget Sound rockfish http://kplu.org/post/critical-habitat-listed-puget-sound-rockfish Also, if they haven’t erected a paywall, Chris Dunagan reports: Habitat protection proposed for endangered rockfish in Puget Sound http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2013/aug/06/habitat-protection-proposed-for-endangered-in/#axzz2bGUhM000

 

Derelict Fishing Gear Funding Received – NW Straits Foundation News

The Northwest Straits Foundation received $660,000 to finish the job of removing derelict fishing nets from shallow subtidal waters of Puget Sound. The Foundation estimates there are 500 shallow water derelict nets left to remove. The Foundation is aiming to complete the work by December 31, 2013. Funding comes from the US Environmental Protection Agency through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This funding will be combined with current and pledged funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, NOAA Marine Debris Program, ConocoPhillips Migratory Bird Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, Lucky Seven Foundation, Tulalip Tribes and private donations.

The new funding also pays for a new response and retrieval program designed to prevent future re-accumulations of derelict nets by responding to reports of newly lost nets immediately. The Foundation will be developing this new program in close coordination with the Puget Sound fisheries co-managers.

Washington poised to get tougher with shellfish operators

3/1 KPLU-FM
By Austin Jenkins and KPLU News Staff

Last summer, we brought you a story about gaps in the system that’s supposed to keep Washington shellfish safe to eat. Now state lawmakers appear ready to get tougher with shellfish operators who violate food safety laws.

Early last year, Washington Fish and Wildlife cops shut down a Hood Canal shellfish harvesting operation. They allege G&R Seafood poached $500,ooo worth of oysters and clams from state and private beaches.

But Fish and Wildlife police say even after the business was raided, the company’s owner – who denies any wrongdoing – was spotted selling shellfish at fairs and other public gatherings. But Chief Deputy Mike Cenci says there was nothing his officers could do since it was G&R’s harvesting license <http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/>  that had been yanked:

More at
http://www.kplu.org/post/washington-poised-get-tougher-shellfish-operators

Retiree ‘matriarch’ of North Olympic Peninsula environmental community

Editor note: If you are a recent resident to the Olympic Peninsula, you should read this whole article to better understand the history of the last 25 years on this place. The hard fought battles for Protection Island by Eleanor Stopps, and the ones discussed in this article about Dr. Eloise Kailin are history that is rarely available on the Internet. Enjoy.

*11/28/10 Peninsula Daily News

Retiree ‘matriarch’ of North Olympic Peninsula environmental community

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — Dr. Eloise Kailin helped fight against a nuclear power plant on the Miller Peninsula east of Sequim — and won.

That was in 1973 and led to the formation of the nonprofit Protect the Peninsula’s Future, the North Olympic Peninsula’s longest-standing environmental group.

Today, the group tackles issues affecting health, wildlife habitat and quality of life in the region, while Kailin remains active in environmental battles while sharing a 4-acre farm off River Road with her son, Harvey, where the two have built a commercial kitchen to produce apple butter.

Bob Lynette, a retired conservation lobbyist and renewable energy consultant who has worked with Kailin on the PPF board for 12 years, sees the 91-year-old retired physician as the original driving force behind Peninsula environmental activism.

Read the whole story at: http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20101128/news/311289983/retiree-matriarch-of-north-olympic-peninsula-environmental-community

Superb video on local ocean acidification

Check out this 9 minute video from Oregon Public Broadcasting on the effects of ocean acidification on shellfish and animals at Tatoosh and the Oregon coast. A very good narrative of what’s happening to us right in our backyard of Tatoosh, and Hood Canal for that matter.

http://ecotrope.opb.org/2010/10/video-what-makes-oyster-larvae-unhappy/

New beach for Port Angeles voiced at idea session – PDN

10/22 Peninsula Daily News

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

EDITOR’S NOTE — Click to see the 43-page presentation to the Port Angeles City Council on the proposed Port Angeles Waterfront and Transportation Improvement Plan: http://issuu.com/peninsuladailynews/docs/ptcitycouncil.3.15.00

PORT ANGELES — The idea of establishing a beach east of the Valley Creek estuary received enthusiastic support from the City Council on Thursday during a discussion of a proposed waterfront and transportation improvement plan.

David Roberts, a state Department of Natural Resources aquatic lands assistant manager, suggested creating a beach there during the public comment portion of the meeting.

The shore between Oak Street and the estuary is one of the areas slated for a makeover under the plan, which focuses on the waterfront but also will result in new entryway monuments on the west and east entrances to Port Angeles, new “wayfinding” signs to direct traffic and pedestrians to points of interest and shopping, and a citywide transportation study.

More at
http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20101022/NEWS/310229988/new-beach-for-port-angeles-voiced-at-idea-session-and-click-to-see

Coast Guard Bill – Huge win for protection of the Strait!

-Update – Chris Dunagan goes into detail on this bill. This is really significant and is one of the most important pieces of legislation to help us protect our coasts since the Magnuson Act. Read the overview at

http://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2010/10/10/coast-guard-bill-covers-safety-and-budget-issues/

President Obama is expected to sign a sweeping authorization bill that reorganizes U.S Coast Guard operations, increases maritime safety rules and calls for improved oil-spill prevention and response in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

This bill has been blocked for over a year, so this is great news. It is a great win for everyone who fishes, or makes a living off people enjoying the Straits. Thanks are in order to Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray, as well as all the other people behind the scenes who pushed this, like Fred Felleman,  People For Puget Sound, The Makah Nation, and many others. This has been a major effort for over 10 years. It is sad that it took losing the Gulf to get this over the hump, but we are there. Now to the House for a final vote. This also will help better protect fishermen who have the most dangerous job in America.

9/30 Seattle Times
Bill OK’d that overhauls fishing-industry safety, protects Sound
Seattle Times staff
The U.S. Senate late Wednesday night unanimously approved a Coast Guard authorization bill that includes a major overhaul of federal fishing-industry safety laws, and measures to strengthen efforts to prevent Puget Sound oil spills.
The bill was expected to soon be approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the President Obama for signing.
“It has been nearly four years in the making to get this important legislation through Congress,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., who chaired a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the legislation. “This bill establishes new safety laws on oil-spill prevention and fishing vessel safety so that we can continue to operate in these pristine waters in a safe and effective manner.
…. The oil-spill provisions will include measures to expand oil-spill response capabilities around the entrance of Strait of Juan de Fuca and increase the role of Indian tribes in the response effort. The legislation will result in oil-spill response equipment, including booms and barriers, positioned along the strait.
Approximately 600 oil tankers and 3,000 oil barges travel each year through Puget Sound and carry about 15 billion gallons of oil to Washington refineries, according to Cantwell.
More at
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013032351_webcoastguardbill.html

No, Double Hull Tankers Do Not Ensure ‘Total Safety’

While this is an old story from last June, it’s only now come to our attention, and needs being shared.

From our friends north of the border on the Tyee Opinion. The whitewash from the Canadian government  and the oil industry on tanker safety in the Straits.

While 65 oil tankers traversed Burrard Inlet last year,  it’s not clear how many single hull vessels currently traverse Burrard Inlet. Is BC providing escort tugs for all these tankers?

While tankers in the US need escort tugs, freighters have never needed them. And what’s missing in this analysis is that in 2012 escort tugs come off US  tankers (not freighters) in the US, as the Magnuson act only protected us from single hull tankers. The fact that an incident hasn’t yet happened is cold comfort given the disasters in Alaska in 79, the huge number of tanker and freighter sinkings since 79, and even San Francisco’s calamity just last winter. Canada’s lackluster investigation and lack of transparency on the sinking of a ferry a year or so ago shows that the government cannot be trusted.

The issue of Canada protection for the Straits is huge. Canada has never taken adequate protection of the Straits, relying on the US to protect the whole waterway. This whole ‘special meeting’ seems like a whitewash, as just last November the Canadian government and Coast Guard was caught unawares as a freighter that was anchored at Mayne Inlet in Plumper Sound drug anchor and narrowly avoided a disaster. Captain Brown’s statement in the following article  is total PR BS, frankly, and the kind of whitewash that we have seen over the years from countless other officials of industry and the government of many countries just prior to major spills.

Last winter, as I and a few other small news organizations watched the Plumper Sound event unfold, Canadian officials were in the dark, unaware, and had to be contacted by US officials who were alerted to the issue by citizens. There were 1.2 million gallons of fuel on this freighter!  It was over a day before the Canadians had a clue, and it was not reported on any major news outlet in Canada for at least 72 hours! So excuse me if I’m underwhelmed by the government official and B.C. Chamber Stewart pronouncements….If a major disaster occurs, it will affect us as well as Canada.

Let’s be clear, a major tanker or freighter spill in the Straits or the Straits of Georgia can undo hundreds of billions of dollars of environmental work, and decades of protection efforts on our marine habitat. We cannot let PR doublespeak like this go unchallenged. There is an agenda here of trying to expand the tanker traffic for the Alberta Tar Sands pipeline for sales to China. This is all about money, not environmental safety.

more on that old story here:
http://olyopen.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/update-on-canadian-tanker-grounding/

Here is the current crop of governmental bs as appropriately covered by the Tyee Opinion

___________________________________________________

9/27 The Tyee Opinion
Contrary to industry reassurances, Vancouver faces increasing risks of oil spill.
By Mitch Anderson
Is it safe? That was the question posed last July when Mayor Gregor Robertson convened a special meeting of Vancouver city council to discuss increased oil tanker traffic through the treacherous waters of Burrard Inlet.
Vancouver has quietly become <http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/06/03/VancouverOilTankers>  a major oil port, as the capacity of the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby has recently been scaled up to 300,000 barrels per day. Every week several oil tankers squeeze through Second Narrows at the highest tides with less than two metres of water under the keel. These shipments have doubled over the last two years.
At the July meeting, Captain Stephen Brown of the B.C. Chamber of Shipping assured the city that these transits were happening in "total safety" and that "We have yet to have a pollution incident from a double hull tanker."
More at
http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2010/09/27/DoubleHullTankers/

Huge Humboldt Squid (NOT) found in Discovery Bay!

Geoduck farmer Peter Downey called to tell me that he found an 11 foot long Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas) washed up on his beach on the 26th. Actually, it appears that it may have been a robust clubhook squid, according to some Stanford marine biologists that corrected me!  The squid is not usually found around these waters, but one was caught about a year ago, if my memory serves me well. Downey has a commercial scale, so he weighed the thing in at 59 lbs (!).  Peter took the squid to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. No idea what the center will do with it, but it’s the largest they’ve seen. Photos by Peter.

Dept of Ecology Sends Oil Spill Equipment to Gulf – NW oil spill safety net frayed

A fallout of the Gulf fiasco is now that our state is sending both Navy oil skimming vessels, temporarily lowered our oil spill preparedness standards,  and sent essentially our  entire stock of boom and dispersants to the Gulf as well as barges that could be used in the event of a spill here.  This seems like a very bad idea. While personnel can be rapidly deployed, the notion of emptying our supplies and lowering standards is exactly the wrong idea. Accidents and mechanical failure are what this is all about. You have to be prepared for accidents. By emptying our stocks for this futile effort in cleaning up the Gulf, it leaves us more vulnerable to it happening here. We have this beautiful environment here because we didn’t lower our standards or enforcement, we raised them! The Gulf is in this predicament because they have allowed themselves to be controlled by the oil industry and it’s cheerful, “can’t ever happen here” lobbyists and spokespeople, and regulators who lowered the standards!.  We need to not let our guard down. The tragedy in the Gulf is not going to be changed one bit by our sending all our supplies there, but it could be a fiasco for us.

Update – 7 July: It appears that DOE is also considering  sending our rescue tug to the Gulf. I am checking today with DOE on this and other issues.  It appears that neither the Port of Port Townsend, nor county officials were alerted in advance, nor asked if this was a concern to them locally. Discussions appear to be under way with the State, the Feds, our elected federal officials, the Navy, the Tribes and others. There should be clarification on this coming later today, or tomorrow.

——————————————————————————————

OLYMPIA – Navy Region Northwest will soon send five oil-skimming vessels to help with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico, pending receipt of Washington Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) official notification on Tuesday, July 6.

Oil-skimming vessels collect oil spilled on water. The Navy earlier sent two of its nine skimmers as well as several smaller work boats from Washington to the Gulf.

Ecology regulates two Navy oil-transfer facilities in Puget Sound. The Navy will keep its two remaining Puget Sound skimmers at their regular stations.

Ecology and the Navy have agreed that the Navy will maintain standing measures, and add interim measures, to help prevent and be sufficiently prepared for any spills that might occur in Washington while the skimmers are helping the Gulf response. These standing or interim measures include:

  • Continuing the requirement for all Navy vessels to be pre-boomed while in port, even if the vessel is not being fueled.
  • Restricting fuel transfers over water to daylight hours – unless there is a documented necessity to support an operational mission. Non-daylight transfers must be approved by a Navy on-scene spill coordinator.
  • Following established Navy directives, orders and other measures that already apply to fuel transfers while in port. These include enhanced staffing levels during all fuel transfers, to include having supervisory personnel on deck and watching from topside to prevent spills. It also means ensuring fueling crews are fully qualified in the Navy’s spill prevention and response procedures.
  • If an oil or hazardous material spill occurs, the Navy must ask the U.S. Coast Guard to activate the services of the Marine Spill Response Corp., National Response Corp. or other private spill-response contractors in Washington to assist with response equipment and personnel. The Coast Guard has confirmed this action will be taken, if requested. Both Ecology and the Coast Guard have agreed to adopt an aggressive, enhanced response posture until the Navy equipment returns from the Gulf.
  • Updating the Navy’s state oil-spill contingency plan that outlines the response actions it will take to minimize environmental impacts from a spill.

“We believe these spill prevention and preparedness measures will help ensure Navy is ready and capable of mounting a rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated response to any spill that might occur while their skimmers are out helping with the Gulf spill response,” said Ecology Spills Program Manager Dale Jensen.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency announced they had lowered federal oil-spill preparedness standards, including cleanup equipment, to get more resources – especially skimming vessels and other skimming systems – to the Gulf.

The new temporary measures require industry and entities like the Navy to maintain enough equipment to respond to a much more modest but more likely spill of 2,100 gallons.

Washington state law, however, requires the oil industry and other entities that transfer large amounts of fuel over state waters, to be able to respond to a worst-case spill scenario. In some instances, that means oil-handling facilities must be prepared to respond to spills involving millions of gallons of oil and other petroleum products.

Jensen said Ecology has received numerous requests by private spill contractors to send equipment to the Gulf. Ecology quickly established a process to track and evaluate each request from the regulated community. The state agency also is tracking what its federal response partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have sent.

Ecology has let experienced response personnel, the state’s entire stock of about 15,000 gallons of chemical dispersants and 1,400 feet of fireproof oil boom, several shallow water barge systems, and more than 50,000 feet of oil containment boom go to the Gulf so far. See how Washington is helping the Gulf spill response.

Jensen said, “We are doing all we can to help our neighbors in the Gulf while preserving a core level of spill response readiness in Washington. It also means, however, that everyone must be extra vigilant about keeping oil out of Washington’s waters. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the helm of an oil tanker or if you’re a weekend boater. We need your help in preventing all oil spills, regardless of size.”

A 2004 draft study commissioned by Ecology estimates that if a major spill were to occur in Washington waters, the state could suffer nearly $11 billion in economic losses, and more than 165,000 jobs across the state would be adversely affected, along with the environmental damage.

On May 10, Ecology and the Marine Spill Response Corp. held unannounced oil-spill response drills in five critical locations in Puget Sound to test the company’s agreement with Global Diving & Salvage Inc. to temporary backfill for more than 25 experienced responders as well equipment MSRC had sent to the Gulf. The call-out test was successful.

Major action by U.S. Senate to help Puget Sound

We still need to get this bill passed. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for a vote. – editor

July 1, 2010

OLYMPIA – The Federal Government today took a major step to augment the monumental collaborative efforts already underway to restore Puget Sound by 2020.  The Puget Sound Recovery Act, sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell and co-sponsored by Senator Patty Murray, is designed to strengthen cleanup of the Puget Sound. It won the approval Wednesday of the key Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW).
“As the second largest estuary in the nation and the core of our region’s identity and prosperity, it is absolutely critical to restore and preserve this important body of water for generations to come,” Senator Cantwell said. “With the passage of the Puget Sound Recovery Act, the ongoing cleanup of Puget Sound will benefit significantly from the creation of a federal grant program to support a more comprehensive effort and complement the great work of the Puget Sound Partnership. I am proud that with the committee’s passage, we have taken a significant step toward restoring Puget Sound and protecting everything from animal habitats, to tourism, to our precious environment and our regional economy.”
"Yesterday’s passage is an important step in giving Puget Sound the protection it deserves," said Governor Gregoire. "I applaud Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray for their leadership and continued support as this bill moves forward."
“This is a big step forward,” said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We are on the path to move from the kids’ table to the big table with the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay in terms of the federal government’s commitment to our national treasure – Puget Sound.”  
The Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and a handful of other “great water bodies” have enjoyed formal Clean Water Act “program” status for years, ensuring consistent federal attention and funding.  
Achieving this federal status was one of the goals that Governor Gregoire and the Washington State Legislature had in mind in 2007 when they created the Puget Sound Partnership and mandated the creation of an Action Agenda to restore Puget Sound by 2020.  That plan was finished in December 2008 and has been widely supported.
Recognizing Washington’s leadership, the Puget Sound Recovery Act takes a new approach that would provide the national attention and strong federal involvement, up to $90 million per year, while supporting Washington State’s leadership and existing stakeholder effort.
“Federal support will be tethered to the Action Agenda’s priorities and therefore result in greater coordination and leverage for both State and Federal efforts.  This codifies our Action Agenda’s citizen-based effort.  I applaud Senators Cantwell and Murray for this achievement” said David Dicks.  
Bill Ruckelshaus, chairman of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council and the first head of EPA, said “We in Washington State greatly appreciate the efforts of this committee to fashion legislation that will put the federal government on a course to play a major supportive role in the restoration of Puget Sound.  Congressman Dicks and Senators Murray and Cantwell have already helped get a major increase in federal funding, this bill will take the Puget Sound Partnership’s efforts to the next level.”
The bill now moves to the Senate floor. 

Dungeness Crab Mortality Due to Derelict Pots

From the NW Straits June Newsletter

People at the Crab Mortality PresentationJeff June, Natural Resources Consultants, is the derelict fishing gear removal field manager for the Northwest Straits Foundation. Jeff presented results from the recent study of Dungeness crab mortality from derelict pots supported by the Stillaguamish Tribe and Northwest Straits Foundation.

Jeff reported that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that 12,193 crab pots are lost each year in Puget Sound. Each lost crab pot without escape cord kills approximately 30 crabs each year until deterioration. Jeff provided several ways to prevent crab pot loss:

· Don’t fish in marine transit zones

· Weight your pots so they don’t move in high currents

· Make sure line is long enough for the depth you are fishing

· Use multiple floats in high current areas

· Don’t set pots too close together

· Always use escape cord – 120 thread count is regulation but a better rule of thumb is to use 1/8 inch diameter cord.

· Report lost pots

A recent change in regulations allows enforcement agents to ticket crabbers for transporting illegal pots on marine waters, instead of only ticketing for actively fishing illegal pots. Jeff explained that there are some areas of concentrated accumulation of crab pots that will be targeted for this enforcement.

Click here for a pdf copy of the presentation.

Crab Management in Washington State

From the NW Straits June Newsletter

Rich Childers, Shellfish Manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, recently gave a presentation on the management of Puget Sound’s Dungeness crab fishery. This is one of the most complex fisheries in the world to manage, involving 17 tribes and three natural resource agencies. This year the state will assess a $10.00 penalty for failure to report crab catch, in an effort to more accurately estimate the recreational harvest. Rich reported that the crab fishery is sustainable, and currently all marine areas except for South Hood Canal have the highest catches on record.

Click here for a pdf of Rich’s presentation.

If you are interested in crabbing at all,you should read Rich’s great presentation.

Rockfish Conservation Plan needs comments by May 21st. Please help.

Support efforts to protect the dwindling rockfish population in Puget Sound and the Straits. 

Revised Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan Comments due Friday, May 21st

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has issued the Revised Draft of the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan (PSRCP). New comments are needed in support the Revised Plan because it is substantially better in scope and application. This revised plan covers all of Puget Sound and creates Marine Reserves and Rockfish Conservation Areas where rockfish stocks and species are specifically protected. Marine reserves and Rockfish Conservation Areas are a network of protected marine habitats. Inside these areas, fishing is totally prohibited or severely restricted. This network of protected habitats will allow all Endangered Species of Puget Sound to rebuild their populations. Because there is always considerable political contention surrounding depressed fisheries and yet another restrictive management plan, adoption of the Revised Plan will require strong support from the environmental community and the public. Please support WDFW’s Revised Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan by sending letters and emails of support before Friday May 21st at 5PM. Include the name of the proposal and your name in the subject line of your comment. For example; “Revised Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan – John Doe.”

The important points to discuss are; a). The Revised Plan is clearly the most proactive plan the WDFW has ever done to protect and restore the fisheries and ecosystems of Puget Sound. b). Puget Sound has the most depressed fisheries in North America and Washington has the longest list (51) of endangered marine species. c). The revised plan is part of a larger nationwide political movement toward Ecosystem Based Management (EBM). EBM recognizes that ecosystem connections exist amongst all living things and human activities and habitat protection. EBM will guide our uses of the oceans and coasts so they are used and managed sustainably. EBM is clearly the future for managing all of our natural marine resources. d). Sierra Club supports the Preferred Action Alternative proposed by the WDFW. e). Emphasize that we need “No Take” marine reserves to protect marine habitats and help restore all endangered species. f). Modern fishing technology allows fishermen to identify and take fish from any habitat or site in Puget Sound. We need sites protected to protect vulnerable species. g). Ask the WDFW to hold local public meetings each time a marine reserve (MR) or rockfish conservation area (RCA) is proposed. h). Also ask them to promote the restoration potential of “No Take” marine reserves. Lastly, get ready to participate in those meetings and support “No Take” Marine Reserves. Many fishermen will oppose the creation of marine reserves.

 The restoration of Puget Sound ecosystems and sustainable fisheries are at stake. Submit your comments in one of the followings ways:

 Email to SEPAdesk2@dfw.wa.gov;

  Online at the WDFW website comment link at: http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm;

 Fax to 360- 902-2946  Mail to; WDFW Responsible Official Teresa A. Eturaspe, SEPA/NEPA Coordinator Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 600 Capitol Way Olympia, WA 98501-1091

Tug(s) comes to aid of container ship

Got reports on Wednesday of two tugs assisting a freighter, but was in Sequim and missed getting a shot. Chris Dunagan reports on it in his column today, with a nice photo by Fred Felleman, the guy who spearheaded the legislative work on the tug. Thanks again to Kevin Van De Wege for helping get it passed last year. Now we need to get the funding finished. Still in limbo!

http://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2010/03/03/container-ship-captain-calls-for-tug-assistance/

People For Puget Sound take stand on Rockfish

The public comment period on a state plan to conserve and recover Puget Sound’s rockfish population closes today January 4 and the environmental group People For Puget Sound has forwarded its comments to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

In comments prepared by Science Director Doug Myers, dmyers@pugetsound.org, People For Puget Sound wrote:

“In general, People For Puget Sound supports more robust management of rockfish populations and an ecosystem approach to addressing these unique, long-lived group of species.

The most diverse and abundant remnant of rockfish populations in the whole of Puget Sound persists in the area from Neah Bay to Tatoosh Island and must be permanently preserved as a No Take Marine Protected Area for its potential to restock depleted populations elsewhere in the Sound.

We agree that the complexity of rockfish life history may require that habitats other than the rocky habitats occupied by adult rockfish be protected and restored.

Some of the alternatives identified in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement present a false choice, because the grouping of environmentally sustainable and prudent management actions with more dubious “engineered solutions” such as artificial reefs and hatcheries leaves no clear way to separate those philosophically different choices.

Outreach messages should focus on the unique life history and management challenges that are leading to potential listing as threatened or endangered species.  The long lived nature of most rockfish species, long period of recruitment, the increasing fecundity with age, susceptibility to mortality as bycatch from other managed fisheries, complexities of their life history beyond adult rocky habitats and site fidelity that puts them at risk for overfishing are not generally known by either the public or the fishing community.

PDN – Plan to close rockfish habitat might be on hold.

While the rockfish and other bottom fish are being  over-fished to virtual extinction in our area, there seems to be people willing to fish them to extinction before effectively protecting them.  The problem with rockfish and other groundfish is their reproductive cycle is much longer than salmon. While I understand the tribe’s concern of their maintaining their livlihood, is there going to be a livlihood when the fish are gone, as they are elsewhere in the Sound? This seems very familiar. We heard similar arguements just prior to the collapse of the logging industry on the Peninsula in the late 70s. Once the big trees were gone, most of which happened due to the change to the laws to allow unlimited shipments of raw logs to Asia, not the Spotted Owl controversy, we then had jobs totally vanish. We are still recovering from that fiasco. This seems very similar. When the fish are gone, it will be a half century or more of no fishing at all to restore the stocks. Better to cut back now. As to Jennings support of a dive park, heck, we all have our personal goals. I’m sure the other members of the commission have theirs.

12/29 Peninsula Daily News
Controversial plan to keep sport fishers from Cape Flattery area might be put on hold
By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY — A member of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission behind a controversial proposal to close a six-square-mile area off Cape Flattery to sport fishing to protect groundfish and rockfish now says he expects the issue to be tabled for about a year.

His fellow commissioners need more time to review whether a closure is needed to protect the area’s groundfish population, said David Jennings of Olympia.

Jennings’ proposal remains in the agency’s draft 2010-2012 sport fishing rules document, which will be considered for a vote during the commission’s Feb. 4-6 meetings

More at
http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20091229/NEWS/312299995

Fighting to save the Rockfish – Your input needed!

Want to take action to help save our dwindling population of rockfish? Send in your comments on the EIS to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. They have extended the comment period to January 17th, 2010. My thanks to Norm Baker for forwarding this along. People For Puget Sound, Sierra Club, and many others will be taking a stand on this issue. Here’s the facts…

Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan (PSRCP).

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fish Program.

Natural Resources Building, 6th floor, 1111 Washington St. SE. Olympia, WA98501-1091

 

Date Issued. The DEIS is available for review and download beginning October 19, 2009 at http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm.

Mail comments. Theresa A. Eturaspe; SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, 600 capital way north, Olympia WA 98501-1091. E-mail comments to SEPA desk2@dfw.wa.gov or through the WDFW SEPA website comment link at http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm or fax to (360)902-2946. Make sure the title to your comments includes “Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan DEIS”.  The comment period has been extended from Nov. 19th through to Jan 4th, 2010.

Date of Final Action Plan. The final environmental impact statement will be released in 2010.

Future phase: Agency actions are anticipated as detailed regulations are developed for specific water basins. The plan applies to the entire Salish Sea (i.e. Puget Sound, Straits of Juan De Fuca, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal) north to the US-Canadian border and west to the mouth of the Sekiu River. Due to oceanographic, biological, bathymetric and geographical differences, the area of the plan is broadly divided into North Puget Sound and the South Puget Sound.

Plan Support. Environmental groups need to show strong support for the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan and the creation of a network of marine reserves. No actual marine reserves are proposed in the PSRCP plan. The Coastal Conservation Association, representing recreational fishermen, is aware of the benefits of marine reserves but is taking a cautious but positive proactive approach. Due to the enormity of the problem, many environmental organizations are starting to partner as PACs for legislative reform of our fisheries management. Implementing marine reserves, amongst other issues, is believed by fisheries scientists to be absolutely essential to fisheries management reform and ecosystem restoration.

Purpose of the PSRCP. Restore and protect Puget Sound Rockfish populations, ecosystem and provide opportunities for sustainable fishing. Four alternatives are being considered. Alternative 1 will provide the greatest in-depth benefits to all rockfish species. However, the WDFW PSRCP prefers a mix of the four alternatives based on the professional judgment of the fisheries biologists. Of the 15 elements reviewed for potential impact on the environment, the most significant is that recreational fishing opportunities could be reduced or severely modified apparently on a case by case implementation of each marine reserve. There is no mention of any impact or curtailment of commercial or tribal fishing and this is a significant and serious criticism. Thirty two endangered or threatened species endemic to Puget Sound are listed with known food web interactions with rockfish species. Sixteen of the endangered or threatened species are Rockfish species (Sebastes spp.). Currently, 47 species are listed as endangered or threatened for the Salish Sea. Currently, Washington has 62 endangered or threatened species state-wide.

 

Governing Environment. Implementing this plan will be difficult because of the number of governing agencies – ten in all. Each marine reserve proposed in the future will be accomplished on a case by case basis asking for public input and support.

 

Rockfish Biology. In Puget Sound, there are 28 species with very diverse biology’s, habitat requirements, depth requirements and life spans – as short as 5 years but commonly 50 years and up to 200 years.  Some are not sexually mature until they are 20 years old. All rockfish species have live-birth of young and exhibit low reproductive potential and erratic infrequent successful yearly reproduction. Rockfish have swim bladders and suffer extremely high mortality when released after being caught by fishermen. Most are associated with rocky habitats which are relatively few and easily disturbed. These factors make effective management and protection difficult and complex. Artificial reefs made from deconstruction materials have proven very useful for reestablishing rockfish.

 

Management. Traditional fisheries management tools have not helped restore rockfish. Commercial overharvest between 1970 the early 1990’s led to declines in rockfish populations, which have been further impacted by recreational fishing since the early 1990’s. Several forms of commercial fishing are no longer allowed. Currently, ghost nets and derelict gear are killing numbers estimated to be almost twice the recreational harvest. Incidental recreational catch while fishing for other species (salmon, halibut and lingcod) is also a problem. Juvenile rockfish in particular are significantly affected by disruption of aquatic vegetation and armoring shorelines. Due to the large number of rockfish species, the current conservation plan utilizes a “Key Species” concept to simplify management and restoration. Seven representative “key” species are identified in the plan.

Management decisions that impact recreational fishing could be negative and substantial. Season and area closures and gear limits are anticipated. In particular, marine reserves will be a particularly contentious point. Marine reserves are generally defined by the scientific community has “no take” areas of suitable habitat. A common attitude amongst commercial fishermen, recreational fisherman and the tribes is that fish stocks are already depressed and that marine reserves means that they will be losing extremely desirable fishing spots. Consequently, they oppose all marine reserves since livelihoods can be affected. This will be a very difficult problem to circumvent and will quickly become the most polarizing issue that modern fisheries management must face.

Points to be Made Supporting this Plan:

  • Over all, this draft of the EIS for the restoration of rockfish and the Salish Sea is quite sound and is clearly based in solid science. It continues the Washington Department of Fish and wildlife’s tradition of excellence in fisheries management and the implementation of marine reserves. In fact, Sobel and Dahlquist (1) compliment the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on a particularly incisive application of marine reserve science.
  • The EIS is also a significant positive science based step toward resolving a difficult and complicated problem of multi-species fish management in an effort to reestablish sustainable population levels for all species.
  • A review and consensus policy statement by the American Fisheries Society found several species of Salish Sea Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) to be particularly vulnerable.
  • Over harvest, especially commercial over harvest, is the principal cause for decline of rockfish. Current recreational harvest and incidental by-catch of commercial operations has kept populations suppressed.
  • Puget Sound has the distinction of being the second most threatened complement of fish stocks in North America. Only Chesapeake Bay is worse.
  • Current academic treatises on marine reserves (1) and marine conservation biology (2) recommend scientifically designed marine reserves and advocate 20% of the management area be established and regulated as “no take” fishing zones. Washington State currently has 0.02% of its fisheries management area designated as marine and aquatic reserves and those reserves only qualify as small research projects.
  • Total marine reserves on the West Coast currently contain less than 1.5% of ocean waters in protected habitat. Also, only 0.04% of the west coast Exclusive Economic Zone is protected. In contrast, 13% of global land areas are protected as parks, reserves and refugia.
  • Recreational, commercial and tribal fishermen are currently harvesting all fish species and populations endemic to the Salish Sea at less than 1% of historic levels. Hatchery production alleviates that production problem. Marine reserves will restore and help make our fisheries sustainable. Unfortunately, fisheries scientists have also shown that hatcheries contribute to genetic drift and harm wild fish populations. They have also shown that net pen farming harms wild fish populations by acting as centers for parasite dispersal to smolts.
    • Around the world 23 nations have established marine reserves to protect biodiversity, ecosystems, manage important fisheries and restore depleted populations of marine plants and animals. Restoration results are generally outstanding if the reserves are large enough and old enough. In a global review of marine reserves, biomass increased 413%, density increased 200%, fish size increased 82% and species diversity increased 71%. Additionally, the global average increase in fish biomass for many different reserves showed a range of 20% to 800% (1,2).
    • Of all the states with significant marine fisheries, Washington has the smallest and least effective system of marine reserves. Coincidentally, it also has the most severely degraded fish stocks and one of the largest lists of endangered and threatened species.
    • Marine reserves have been shown to be the best, most cost effective, fisheries management technique to combat genetic drift due to overfishing and combat ecosystem degradation.
    • Marine reserves, if well designed, large enough and given sufficient time, nearly always reestablish the natural biodiversity and functioning ecosystems within five to eight years.
    • Many environmental organizations, (for example – Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Wild Fish Conservancy, Coastal Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, People For Puget Sound, American Fisheries Society, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, National Research Council and many others) all have policy and position statements dedicated to marine fisheries reform and the establishment of marine reserves.  Additionally, President Obama established the Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force “…in order to meet our nation’s stewardship responsibilities…..”
    • The Ocean Conservancy has published A Scientific Consensus Statement Supporting Marine Reserves where 1900 leading marine scientists and experts advocate more marine reserves and more research.
    • Marine reserves have been shown to be the key to establishing protected areas that allow large old fish to produce more offspring and higher-quality offspring than exist in fishing zones. Those larvae and juveniles have been shown to be the principal source of fish outside the marine reserves.  For example, a 50-pound female halibut can produce about 500,000 eggs, while a female over 250 pounds can produce four million eggs – an increase of 800%. Halibut can grow to nine feet long and weigh from 500 to 700 pounds and the oldest on record was 55 years old. World record is 459 pounds. Clearly, marine reserves create successful trophy fisheries for recreational fishermen.
    • Acceptance of the Marine Reserve concept and the restrictions on recreational, commercial and tribal fishing will require a truly exceptional education and outreach program. The one outlined in the Rockfish Conservation Plan is wholly inadequate. We suggest the Department of Fish and Wildlife, especially the Fish Program, develop a special contact form on their website to secure in-house WDFW speakers for fishing clubs, environmental organizations, and sport shows. Every major sport show should have a speaker discussing marine reserves. That seminar should be preceded by considerable advertising and marketing to marinas, boat dealers, fishing tackle manufacturers, marine trade shows, etc. The speaker should come armed with an amazing amount of information and many successful examples of marine reserves and the benefits to all forms of fishing and fisheries management. This is the only way to effectively inform the public at large about the benefits of marine reserves as a necessary step toward sustainable fisheries.
    • The plan makes no mention of curtailing commercial or tribal harvest of any fish species that incidentally takes rockfish. To gain acceptance of this plan amongst the fishing community and have a positive impact on Puget Sound rockfish, curtailment of commercial and the tribal catch must be discussed in the revised plan. We suggest that strong provisions be added to the conservation plan that discuss selective harvest measures for tribal and commercial fishermen. Selective harvest should be aimed at hatchery fish while catch and release is applied to wild fish. Recreational fishermen would be far more receptive to the idea of marine reserves if they knew closures and restrictions impacted all fishermen more or less equally.
    • Marine reserves have a revolutionary potential that is becoming a mainstream fisheries management tool. Sustainable fishing cannot be accomplished without the ecosystem based management that marine reserves offer. Consequently, the goals of fisheries management and environmental conservation have become one and the same.

 

 

Update on Canadian Tanker Grounding

Exclusive to the Olympic Peninsula Environmental News: SUNDAY NIGHT 11/22 Update

The Canadian Gulf Islands and the U.S. San Juans dodged a bullet over the last two days, as the Canadian Coast Guard and others refloated a 794′ freighter that had run aground on Mayne Island, at Plumper Sound in the Strait of Georgia. Apparently no oil was spilled, though the freighter could have been carrying as much as 1.2 million gallons of heavy oil. The freigher apparently drug anchor during the storm, and ended up on “the reef” for as long as an entire night. Early reports stated  that may the ship may have  punctured it’s bottom, though the limited reports now out there are unclear on that issue. It was refloated Friday by the Canadians. Washington State oil spill response teams were shifted into action, according to  Dave Beyers of the Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Five sites in the San Juans that have been prepositioned by the state program were alerted,with staff and volunteers standing by. Since the freigher was righted and  assessments made relatively quickly, there was no moves to move additional equipment in from other, further counties, but it could have been if conditions warranted it, according to Mr. Beyers. (these spill prevention units are trailers that can be easily hauled around by truck or van.)

The 1.2 million gallons of potential fuel would have been a ‘disaster’, said Beyers, equivelent to 1/10th the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, but easily the largest spill ever seen in these waters. There was no readily available ‘rescue’ tug, as the Canadians rely on a loose coalition of independent tugs that would have to be called out to respond, based on availability. The tug at Neah Bay, paid for by Washington tax payers, is the only response tug on the Straits or the greater Salish Sea, composed of Canadian and American Sound waters. However there has been a Transboundary Oil Spill task force in place for a few years, which includes representatives of Washington, B.C., Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and Idaho. Mr. Beyers said that the work, “paid off, in that we were in much greater communication, faster, because of these efforts.”

A report in the Gulf Islands Driftwood on Friday, the freighter ended up on “the reef, overnight” (meaning Thursday to Friday), “the call from a ashore at 9:53 PM” and the Hebel Lion called back “saying it was aground  at 10:12″.  It apparently went aground, “at low water with a rising tide” which may have been the saving grace of the incident. As the article states: “Industrial use of Plumper Sound, near Mayne, Pender and Saturna islands, has been an issue of concern for the Islands Trust. Trust Council passed a Dec. 6, 2007 motion expressing its opposition to offloading of industrial freight, specifically gypsum, in that area.”

Just a month ago, many of the key players in the U.S. and Washington State efforts met at the Jamestown S’Klallam tribal conference center on the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and discussed current state of the art oil spill prevention issues, along with questions on what more needs to be done to protect the Salish Sea. Members of the Puget Sound Partnership Straits Working Group, including this reporter representing People For Puget Sound, were present. The efforts to properly protect our waters is still a work in progress, and we were extremely lucky this time, it appears.

There is a background story worth noting here. The Canadians are planning to run a pipeline from central Canada to pump the ‘tar sands’ dirty oil to ports in B.C., where they would then transship it to China (so much for using this oil for North America).  There is opposition growing in B.C. to this proposal and it would be very inconvenient to upset the population at this point with a story such as this. There has been some comment already on Canadian blogs.  And it strikes me odd that no news sources other than this one and the State DOE have had anything to say about it. More to come this week, as I get feedback from others on this story.

For more on this story, contact Al Bergstein in Port Townsend. Email al at mountainstoneconsulting dot com. Replace at with @ and dot with .

Ecology prepared for possible response in B.C. ship grounding in Canadian Gulf Islands

Possible 2 million gallons of fuel at risk????  No oil spill reported,yet. I’ll be on the phone to these folks at Ecology and Sen. Ranker’s office on Friday AM.

Department of Ecology News Release – November 19, 2009 09-273  

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) spill-response managers kept close watch today after a 794-foot cargo ship went aground in the Gulf Islands, just northwest of Washington’s San Juan Islands. No spill was reported. The bulk carrier Hebei Lion dragged anchor in winds that reached 74 miles per hour overnight and was blown onto a rocky reef off Mayne Island at Plumper Sound in the Strait of Georgia.

A tug towed the vessel off the reef at mid-Morning. Ecology was notified by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, and monitored the incident because it posed a significant risk of a large black oil spill. “Damage to fuel tanks on a cargo ship that size could have oiled the islands on both sides of the border,” said Dale Jensen, manager of Ecology’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program. “A major spill also could have forced a closure to vessel traffic. Given the profound environmental and economic risks we’re relieved and pleased at the outcome. We mobilized staff and were prepared to deploy response systems as needed.”

 State Sen. Kevin Ranker, who represents the 40th District, including his San Juan Island home, said, “This incident once again highlights the importance of having a strong spill prevention and response system in place, not only for Puget Sound but also for large transboundary spills that can have potentially devastating effects on our environment and economy.” Jensen added that winter storms can place ships in jeopardy, increasing the risk to the Northwest’s inland and coastal waters. He urged mariners to use extra vigilance during the high winds and rough water produced by winter storms. The Neah Bay emergency response tug is an asset the state had in place during last night’s storm in case a ship ran into trouble on the outer coast or in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Vessel safety is an essential part of Ecology’s focus on spill prevention. A cargo ship the size of the Hebei Lion can carry in excess of 2 million gallons of heavy black oil as fuel. Ecology’s spill prevention, preparedness and response programs are part of the department’s efforts to reduce toxic threats and to restore Puget Sound.

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