Posts Tagged ‘Salmon’

Mar31

Lawsuit Challenges Frankenfish Approval

 
March 31, 2016
Media contacts:
Gabriel Scott, Alaska Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 907-491-0856; gscott@cascwild.org
George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney, Center for Food Safety, 571-527-8618; gkimbrell@centerforfoodsafety.org
Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice, 415-217-2142; bhardy@earthjustice.org
Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity, (907) 952-5265; dlankard@biologicaldiversity.org
 
Lawsuit Challenges FDA’s Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon
Coalition of Fishing, Consumer, and Environmental Groups Say First-ever Approval of Laboratory-Created Food Animal Violated Laws and Ignored Risks to Wild Salmon and Fishing Communities 
 
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.
 
The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
 
In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks.
 
AquaBounty’s GE salmon will undertake a 5,000-mile journey to reach U.S. supermarkets. The company plans to produce the GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The GE salmon will then be grown to market-size in a facility in Panama, processed into fillets, and shipped to the U.S. for sale. That complicated scheme is only for the initial approval, however. AquaBounty has publicly announced plans to ultimately grow its GE fish in the U.S. rather than Panama, and sell it around the world. Despite this, FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for the far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of U.S. salmon runs unstudied.
 
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.
 
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.
 
When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. Studies have shown that there is a high risk for GE organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that GE salmon can crossbreed with native fish. Transgenic contamination has become common in the GE plant context, where contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade.  In wild organisms like fish, it could be even more damaging.
 
The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife heavily criticized the FDA decision for failing to evaluate these impacts. FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval. 
 
Statements from counsel and plaintiff coalition:
“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”
 
“FDA has not answered crucial questions about the environmental risks posed by these fish or what can happen when these fish escape,” said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy and co-counsel for plaintiffs. “We need these answers now and the FDA must be held to a higher standard. We are talking about the mass production of a highly migratory GE fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet. This isn’t the time to skimp on analysis and simply hope for the best.”
 
“Atlantic salmon populations including our endangered Gulf of Maine fish are hanging on by a thread– they can’t afford additional threats posed by GE salmon,” said Ed Friedman from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, one of the parties who successfully petitioned to classify most Maine Atlantic salmon as endangered. “The law requires agencies like FDA, who aren’t fisheries biologists, to get review and approval from scientists with that expertise. FDA’s refusal to do this before allowing commercialization of GE salmon is not only irresponsible, it violates the law.”
 
“On Prince Edward Island and across Atlantic Canada, indigenous peoples, anglers and community groups are working hard to protect and restore endangered salmon populations and rivers. Genetic contamination threatens all this work and in return there is little or no economic benefit to the region,” said Mark Butler, policy director at Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.
 
There’s never been a farmed salmon that hasn’t eventually escaped into the natural environment. Why should we believe that long term, these frankenfish won’t be the same?” asked Golden Gate Salmon Association executive director John McManus.
 
“Once they escape, you can’t put these transgenic fish back in the bag. They’re manufactured to outgrow wild salmon, and if they cross-breed, it could have irreversible impacts on the natural world,” said Dune Lankard, a salmon fisherman and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska representative. “This kind of dangerous tinkering could easily morph into a disaster for wild salmon that will be impossible to undo.”
 
“FDA’s action threatens and disrespects the wild salmon ecosystems, cultures and industries that are treasured here in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “These folks think a salmon is just a packet of protein, but we in Salmon Nation know better. From Alaska to California, Americans are intimately related with diverse runs of salmon and we’ve learned their unique attributes and incredible value. We’ve worked very hard to be good stewards of our natural heritage, and refuse to allow that to be undone by one company’s irresponsible experiment.”
 
“The FDA has failed to adequately examine the risks associated with transgenic salmon,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The long term effects of people eating genetically modified foods have never been adequately addressed—and this GE salmon is no exception. This fish is unnecessary, so why take the risk?”
 
“It’s clear that the market has rejected GE salmon despite FDA’s reckless approval,” said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Major retailers including Costco, Safeway and Kroger won’t sell it and polls show the vast majority of people don’t want to eat it. Yet under this approval it won’t be labeled, violating our fundamental right to know what we are feeding our families.”
 
 
 
Dec02

FDA Approves Frankenfish, Cascadians Resist

By Gabe Scott, Alaska Legal Director
 
CORDOVA, AK— Frankenfish may be coming to a store near you, but not if we can help it.   
 
Last week's decision by the Food & Drug Administration to approve Genetically Engineered Salmon for sale in the United States is hugely important. There are a lot of moving pieces and unknowns, so here’s the low-down.
 
What are Frankenfish? 
The fish is basically an Atlantic Salmon spliced with genes from Pacific King Salmon and a deep-sea fish to make it grow faster. A company called AquaBounty Technologies makes these fish at a facility on Prince Edward Island, just off the Fortune River in Canada. They are grown out in a land-based fish farm along a small  Pacific river in Bajo Mono, Panama. With FDA’s approval, they can now do this all commercially, and sell them as regular salmon to consumers in the United States. 
 
Copper river red salmon (Stillwater Science)What was Approved?
The AquaBounty operation is legally classified as a new “animal drug,” and was evaluated by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. Wait, fish farming frankenfish is considered an animal drug? Yep. So there’s your first clue the government is behind the eight-ball when it comes to dealing with new biotechnologies. 
 
This specific approval for a few ponds in Panama is just the beginning. The decision is the first of its kind, the first time any GE animal has ever been approved for human consumption.
 
The “AquAdvantage” salmon line is owned by AquaBounty Technologies, which in turn is owned by the global biotech conglomerate Intrexon Corporation (“A better world through better DNA”).  Based on how the fish are designed and the company’s own statements, many observers fear that AquAdvantage salmon are destined to be raised in ocean net pens. 
 
In spite of pleas from consumers, FDA also determined that the fish do not need to be labeled. 
 
And, at the same time they approved AquAdvantage salmon, the FDA also rejected two legal petitions relating to the inadequate regulatory processes for protecting consumers and the environment. 
 
What is the problem with frankenfish? 
There are a myriad off issues with genetically modified food, but the core problem is that the government regulators are flying blind. Rather than squarely address risks of contamination of wild stocks, disruption of wild fish markets, or health issues for consumers, genetically engineered animals are being green-lighted under a tortured reading of obscure and out-dated regulations. 
 
For example, they have flatly refused to consider economic impacts of their decision. This in spite of overwhelming opposition from the salmon industry. Wild salmon economies work because the product is a green, high-value healthy food. What will happen to those markets when consumers have to worry whether the fish on their plate is a frankenfish?
 
The agency also refused to consider any long-term or cumulative impacts. That’s preposterous for AquAdvantage salmon. The obvious plan is for them to be raised in ocean net pens on a wide scale— the venture makes no commercial sense, otherwise. 
 
Because it’s a new technology, we don’t know much about how GE fish might impact the environment. But it does raise significant questions and justified fears. Among them:
  • Escaped fish interbreeding with wild salmon, trout or another species;
  • Health risks to humans;
  • Economic effects. Harming the domestic fishing industry;
  • Animal welfare.
What are we doing about it?
A lot!
 
Opposition to “frankenfish” has been strong, in fact almost universal, in salmon territory (largely synonymous with Cascadia). It is notable that some of the strongest opposition is coming from “Salmon Nation,” from those of us whose livelihoods and culture are intertwined with salmon. 
 
Cascadia is committed to using every legal tool available to stop this irresponsible decision. The bedrock environmental laws we regularly apply to timber sales, the “look before you leap” rules like the National Environmental Policy Act, are well-suited to reign in reckless projects such as this.
 
Other national and international organizations are actively engaged as well, notably the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, and EarthJustice. 
 
At the grassroots level, Cascadia and our partners Mountain Rose Herbs took a leading role in the campaign for GE-free seafood, signing up groceries to take the pledge not to sell frankenfish. You can see the list of fish suppliers who took the pledge at: http://www.foe.org/gefreeseafood 
 
Even our politicians have gone to bat, although so far they've failed to make any hits. The Alaska legislature passed legislation banning the fish from the Alaska, and passed a resolution specifically opposing AquAdvantage salmon. In Washington D.C. Alaska’s congressional delegation, notably Lisa Murkowski and Don Young, have been vocal and strident in opposition, introducing several pieces of legislation and conducting hearings. Senators and representatives elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest are also vocal opponents. 
 
Commercial fishermen have been active.  The lack of labeling especially raises fears that wild salmon markets will be affected.
Whatever the right decision about genetically modified salmon, it is an important decision. The consequences should have been thought through. That is why us Cascadians are sure to continue leading the fight to demand that our interests— that the salmon’s interests— are not ignored. 
 
To remain involved, here are three tips:
 
1. To avoid eating frankenfish, shop at suppliers who have committed not to sell them. Grocers can also take the pledge, and refuse to buy any salmon with a country of origin “Panama.” Visit http://www.foe.org/gefreeseafood to see who has taken the pledge.
2. For fishermen, processors, groceries and restaurants, knowing where your fish comes from will become more important. 
3. Help support litigation challenging frankenfish by donating to Cascadia Wildlands! Also, any Cascadia members who have spent time on Prince Edward Island, or western Panama, and are interested in helping with litigation, please be in touch with our legal director, Nick Cady, nick(at)cascwild(dot)org.
 
(Spawned out red salmon, Copper River. Photo origin unknown)
 
 
 
 
 
Nov20

Cascadia Wildlands Joins Lawsuit to Protect Wild Salmon and Clean Water from Gold Mining

For Immediate Release, November 20, 2015
 
Contacts:
Forrest English, Rogue Riverkeeper, (541) 261-2030
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118
Glen Spain, PCFFA, (541) 689-2000
 
Conservation, Fishing Groups Move to Join Lawsuit to Protect Oregon From Gold Mining Impacts
Groups Defend Restrictions on Mining Practices Harmful to Salmon, Waterways, Wildlife
 
SpawningMEDFORD, Ore.— To defend an Oregon law designed to protect wildlife from damaging gold mining along waterways, a broad coalition of groups moved to intervene today in a lawsuit by mining interests challenging the restrictions. Passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013, Senate Bill 838 placed restrictions on gold mining using suction dredges and other motorized equipment along streams to prevent harmful impacts to salmon and develop a permitting process to better protect Oregon’s waterways. Miners are now alleging that the state law conflicts with federal laws passed in the 1800s to encourage westward expansion.
 
“We are defending the state of Oregon and the choice by its residents to protect iconic waterways and scenic rivers from damaging mining practices,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Asserting there is a ‘right to mine’ granted by an antiquated law from the 1800s is simply ridiculous.”
 
Suction dredge mining involves the use of a large, gas-powered vacuum to suck up gravel on the bottom of rivers in search of gold flakes. This practice targets gravel beds critical to salmon spawning and reproduction, and damages water quality and river hydrology. Motorized mining along streams clears riparian vegetation important for keeping streams cool for salmon survival, increases erosion, damages streamside wetlands and alters the floodplain.
 
“Suction dredge mining pollutes our waterways with toxic mercury, clouds streams with sediment, hurts endangered fish and wildlife and destroys cultural resources,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oregonians have the right to safeguard the health of their families, waterways and wildlife from this damaging, outdated form of mining.”
 
The bill does not ban the mining practices, but simply puts in place temporary restrictions to protect areas critical to salmon and bull trout reproduction. The restrictions buy the state time to develop a regulatory regime for the relatively new mining practice.
 
“Motorized mining in and along our sensitive salmon streams is harmful to fish and water quality,” said Forrest English with Rogue Riverkeeper. “It’s high time to put the brakes on these methods of mining until long term solutions are developed that protect clean water and habitat for salmon.”
 
Concerns over this mining practice were heightened when miners began targeting iconic and high-use Oregon waterways and their tributaries.  
 
“Several south coast salmon-rich rivers are under threat from heavy suction-dredge mining every summer, especially the world-famous Rogue River, the Chetco River and their tributaries,” said Cameron La Follette with Oregon Coast Alliance. “The salmon economy is critically important to local communities on the south coast such as Brookings and Gold Beach. Oregon must restrict suction dredging to protect salmon habitat, water quality and community livelihood."
 
There are also concerns by numerous commercial and recreational organizations that suction dredge and other motorized mining practices are disruptive and harmful to fishing, an industry that generates approximately $780 million a year in spending in Oregon.  
 
“Letting a handful of people suck up whole river bottoms looking for flecks of gold makes no economic sense, since it destroys salmon habitat and just puts more commercial fishing families out of work,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a major commercial fishing industry association that is also intervening. “Senate Bill 838’s passage by the legislature simply recognized that it is not a good idea for the state of Oregon to continue to use taxpayer money to heavily subsidize the destruction of our rivers.”
 
The groups are also looking to protect the public’s investment in salmon restoration.  Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been expended to restore streams damaged by past mining and industrial practices. The use of suction dredges and motorized mining equipment has been undoing many of these efforts.
 
“Allowing gas-powered dredges and heavy equipment to damage our delicate salmon streams directly undermines the $254 million investment Oregonians have made in salmon habitat restoration,” said Mark Sherwood with the Native Fish Society. “Oregonians and wild salmon deserve better.”  
 
The intervening organizations include Rogue Riverkeeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Coast Alliance, Native Fish Society and Cascadia Wildlands. They are represented by Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center and Roger Flynn of Western Mining Action Project.
###

 

Aug10

Oregon Land Board May Seek Buyer for Elliott State Forest

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
August 7, 2015
 
GRANTS PASS — The Oregon State Land Board is scheduled to vote on a plan to find an unusual buyer for the Elliott State Forest: one that will pay a fair market price, conserve older trees, protect threatened fish and wildlife, produce logs for local mills, and leave it open to the public.
 
The board, made up of the governor, the secretary of state, and the state treasurer, meets Thursday in Salem to consider the 315-page proposal.
 
The 140-square-mile forest in the Coast Range north of Coos Bay was created in 1930 and 90 percent of it generates money for schools. It once produced $8 million a year but lately has been running $1 million a year in the red. Attempts to ramp up logging to produce $13 million annually for schools failed. Lawsuits continually blocked timber sales on grounds they failed to maintain habitat for federally protected coho salmon and IMG_4527the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in big old trees.
 
Department of State lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis acknowledges that finding such a buyer is a tall order, but a series of hearings identified all those elements as priorities for Oregon residents. The board rejected two other alternatives, to find a new manager for the forest, and to develop a new plan for protecting threatened salmon and wildlife that would produce more timber.
 
Curtis said the department has been meeting with representatives of local governments and agencies, timber companies and conservation groups, but so far all are keeping their intentions to themselves. If no buyers emerge, the department goes back to the board in December 2016. Two options would be to retain the forest while accepting losses of $1 million a year, or selling it without the conservation and public access restrictions.
 
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands said it would favor a public land trust buying the forest and selling it back to the federal government, so it could be returned to the Siuslaw National Forest. That would retain public access and conservation protections, particularly on the half of the forest that has never been logged.
 
Bob Ragon, director of Douglas Timber Operators, said he could not imagine a private timber company being interested in buying the forest, because of all the conditions being imposed.
 
"I think (the board has) struggled so hard trying to find a happy ground that would meet everybody's interest, that the simplest solution would be to sell it to the highest bidder, and put restrictions on it like no log exports, which would keep the highest return for the School Fund," he said.
 
(Rally to save the Elliott State Forest. Photo by Cascadia Wildlands.)
 
 
Jan17

Suit Aims to Stop Clearcut Logging Near Springfield

The Register-Guard by Diane Dietz
January 16, 2015
 
A pair of environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday to halt a series of clear-cut-style timber harvests totaling 259 acres on federal land along Shotgun Creek, about 25 miles north of Springfield.
 
Seneca Sawmill Co. in ­Eugene bought the timber for $4.2 million in December from the federal Bureau of Land Management and got the green light to begin logging preparations this winter, the agency said.
 
The project is a step toward the bad old days of large-scale clear-cuts on public land, said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “This time they are only leaving two trees per acre. It’s going to look like private land clear-cutting in Oregon,” he said.
 
Environmental nonprofits Cascadia Wildlands  and Oregon Wild, with 22,000 members between them, are seeking an injunction from a federal judge in Eugene.
 
BLM spokeswoman Jennifer Velez declined comment on the lawsuit.
 
The suit comes as logging proponents advocate for clear-cutting on federal lands as an essential tool for meeting increased demand for lumber as the homebuilding sector recovers nationally.
 
Velez said the sale — called Second Show — would keep some trees, some in groups, some dispersed, on the logged terrain. The logging would be done on roughly a dozen tracts, all near each other but with some strips of forest left between them.
 
The cuts “will appear as ‘skips’ and ‘gaps’ on the landscape with scatterings of individual trees and small groupings of trees throughout,” she said in an email.
 
But the environmental groups say that the Second Show’s extensive logging and road building would damage quality and be hard on salmon, including spring chinook.
 
Shotgun Creek flows into the Mohawk River, which pours into the Mc­Kenzie River — and then into the Willamette.
 
“This is a drinking water supply,” Cady said. “It’s a watershed that runs directly into Springfield. We haven’t seen large scale logging on public lands right next to a community the size of Springfield in a really long time.”
 
The environmental groups are asking the court to halt the Second Show because the BLM failed to account for the cumulative effects of logging in the watershed and failed to account for the environmental groups’ objections in the environmental approval process.
 
About one-quarter of the Mohawk watershed is publicly owned BLM land, and the remainder is mostly owned and used as industrial timberlands, according to the lawsuit.
 
“The Mohawk watershed is already degraded by private land logging. It’s already classified as ‘not properly functioning,’ which is the lowest classification for watershed health,” Cady said.
 
The BLM failed to analyze the cumulative impact of another logging sale — for 1,500 acres for commercial thinning — nearby, the lawsuit said.
“Federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum,” the lawsuit said. “They must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects.”
 
That requires that the BLM produce an environmental impact statement that includes input from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Cady said.
 
The lawsuit also contends that the BLM failed to evaluate the environmental groups’ objections, because the agency improperly ruled that the groups missed the deadline for submission.
 
The groups mailed their objections in a certified letter with days to spare, Cady said, but agency officials weren’t available to receive the letter until after the deadline. Agency rules require the BLM to accept the postmark date as the time of submission, according to the lawsuit.
 
Nov23

Thermal Damns and the Need for Angry, Active Anglers

Bob Ferris
 
Recently I posted something on Facebook about the peril faced by marine fish species in British Columbia due drift creekto record ocean temperatures (see Record North Pacific Temperatures Threatening B.C. Marine Species) and a new friend reposted it with a query about what she called “thermal damns.” It was a classic Freudian slip, but a really elegant one as these too-warm spots in rivers and streams (thermal dams) that block fish passage do act as physiological dams and they do start the process of damning us in Cascadia to a future likely bereft of ocean running salmonids—mainly salmon and steelhead.  
 
I talked about this issue recently with Mike Finley of the Turner Foundation and they are working with the Wild Salmon Center to preserve salmon runs in Kamchatka so that when all this fecal matter hits the air moving appliance, as well as the associated ocean acidification, that we have some refugia for salmon so that seed populations would be available post eastern Pacific salmon collapse for repopulation.  And while I thought this visionary, commendable and necessary, the idea that this thinking and action were necessary made me angry.  I am not sure that I am comfortable with just accepting that we are "thermally damned."
 
“EPA has an extensive track record of twisting the science to justify their actions,” Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), head of the House Science Committee in Science Insider
 
This mood of mine was not improved by the fossil-fuel-funded-fools in the House of Representatives that passed bills that would hamper the US Environmental Protection Agency's use of science on climate change.  (No, this is not a story in the Onion.)  Sure…why we would want the agency that looks after our well-being and that of our supporting ecosystems to be guided by the best science?  But it was a story that cruised through like a coal-ladened freight train while most of the US was focused on the latest celebrity break-up or cute cat video.  
 
fly fishing for assassins
I am not completely sure why, but this makes me think of that utterly silly scene in that absolutely silly, but visually pleasing movie, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, where the character played by Ewan McGregor suddenly spies a gun-wielding assassin and realizes that he holds an effective weapon—his Spey rod (see review where I got the photo here, if you feel you are missing something).  He, in that special moment of time, became a bug-flinging super hero.  For all of the reasons cited above we need some fly fishing super heroes now to help us with our thermal damning issues.  And this really begs the question: When are we as anglers going to understand that we need to be our own super heroes in this regard and that we are already holding an effective weapon in our hands through our collective political power?  
 
“If you got a politician who's running for office who thinks he is smarter than 98 percent of the world’s climate scientists—they’re crooks or they’re dumbasses”  Yvon Chouinard 
 
The good news is that anglers are starting to understand the need for action and long-time heroes like Patagonia founder and environmental funder Yvon Chouinard are turning up the volume on climate change.  But others are emerging also like those joining Yvon in the below video clip.  We very much need more of this.
 

At the close of the above video, there is a quote by Albert Einstein: Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.  Likewise those who enjoy fishing—particularly in Cascadia—need to grasp that angling is part casting and catching but also must involve protecting and enhancing habitats as well as stewardship of our political system.  Certainly this means taking action on pressing issues like the proposed Coos Bay LNG export terminal that will enable more greenhouse gas emissions in the US and China.  But it also means protecting important salmon habitat in Oregon's Elliott State Forest or Alaska's Tongass, taking a stand against suction dredge mining in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, questioning the use of forestry herbicides and making sure that any changes to how the O&C Lands in Oregon are managed protects rather than reduces stream-side buffers.  
 
So as you are pushing yourself back from the Thanksgiving table this coming week, take some time to be an angry, active angler.  Please get engaged in these issues and make sure to support those organizations that are carrying on this important fight.  Investing in all the gear out there will do little good unless you also invest in those actions and entities that help keep fish coming back to our rivers and streams.  
 
 
Mar19

Of Dynamite, Lead, Mercury, Storms and the Myths of Suction Dredging

By Bob Ferris
 
About a decade ago I watched a giant front-end loader pull a metal culvert  that was restricting fish passage out of a steelhead stream in Southern California.  It was fun to watch and gratifying because my organization at the time had a hand in making it happen, but I did not for one second think that front-end loaders in streams were always good for fish.  I suspect being part of a discipline like ecology that has a lot of special rules and exceptions helps with this type of discernment.
 
I wonder if suction dredge miners have this same discernment “chip” or if they hope others do not.  The reason I raise this issue is that dredgers seem to be promoting the notion that because suction dredges are occasionally used to clean gravel beds in waterways hopelessly choked with silt or to move materials quickly, that suction dredgers and dredges are actually good for fish.  
 
East Fork of the Lewis
One example that at least one miner is using to seemingly prove this point is his participation in an impressive restoration project on the East Fork of the Lewis River near Vancouver, Washington (see above from Northwest Mineral Prospectors Club facebook page).  This project was undertaken by Friends of the East Fork who are really doing some incredible work to restore chum salmon and other salmonid runs in fish-poor wastelands created by gravel mining and other activities.  
 
While I would like to commend suction dredgers for the work of some dredgers to restore streams and rivers, that does not balance out or change the fact that they are doing much more damage at other times. (The above poster of this Facebook story, for example, neglected to mention his Hydraulic Project Approval permit issued in 2009 to move up to 50 cubic yards of material in the same waterway system). Can suction dredges be an effective tool for fish habitat restoration? Yes in rare instances, but the same can also be said for dynamite, front-end loaders and other agents of destruction.  
 

Lead Better
 
Suction dredgers are also quick to crow about how much lead they remove from waterways as a rationale for their presence on the water.  This too is not as it seems.  While lead is certainly a huge problem for birds while it remains mixed with the surface materials and accessible, legacy lead—older lead that is buried—is not as serious a problem once it sinks beyond the reach of birds
 
With the banning of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991 and awareness in the fishing community about the dangers of certain lead devices, "new" lead in the system has been greatly reduced and the rest continues to do what lead does best: Sink.  Therefore, claims of massive amounts of lead recovered by suction dredgers has less to do with environmental benefit and more to with massive amounts of materials moved and damage to waterways and streambeds. 
 

The Mercury Blues
 
"The impacts of suction dredging on mercury mobilization and transport are potentially more significant than what is presented in the report." From Mercury section of External Peer Review of the Water Quality Impacts of Suction Dredging for Gold Presented in the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report of February, 2011
 
Another of the “benefit myths” promulgated by suction dredgers and probably the most complicated is the one dealing with mercury removal.  We all know that mercury contamination is an important environmental issue and that gold miners polluted waterways with this toxic metal during gold rushes of the past.  While it is commendable that suction dredge gold miners want to remediate the sins of their predecessors, the question remains: Are they best equipped to do it?  And when that question has been asked of experts, the answer given is: No.  
Gravel and cobbles that entered the sluice at high velocity caused the mercury to flour, or break into tiny particles. Flouring was aggravated by agitation, exposure of mercury to air, and other chemical reactions.
 
"Gravel and cobbles that entered the sluice at high velocity caused the mercury to flour, or break into tiny particles. Flouring was aggravated by agitation, exposure of mercury to air, and other chemical reactions." From Mercury Contamination from Historical Gold Mining in California
 
A study conducted in 2005 that examined the removal of mercury by suction dredges found that the dredges removed 97% of the elemental mercury.  This is the finding that the suction dredgers tend to focus on and promote.  But there is a "Paul Harvey" moment here too, and that is that the discharge from those dredges would be considered a toxic waste and contains “floured” mercury which is mercury that is easily transformed into a biologically harmful form and transported in the river current.  An independent review of the 2005 study reinforced the findings and said that the peril described was conservative.  
 
The basic message being that it is better to leave the mercury where it is and undisturbed than to try and remove it with recreational suction dredges.  Now suction dredgers—wanting to confuse the issue—have claimed that a proposal to remove mercury from Combie Reservoir in the foothills of the Sierra using modified suction dredges for sediment acquisition proves that suction dredgers should be allowed to perform this “service” and they see this as equivalent to their actions.  My only possible and appropriate response is: Poppycock. 
 
Combie Reservoir
 
The proposed Combie project protocol takes the water and sediments, and pumps them into what is essentially an onshore laboratory which uses centrifuges to extract elemental mercury (see above excerpt from Combie plan).  Then the remaining materials are subjected to sophisticated magnetic and chemical treatments, before being sent to the equivalent of a high-tech sewage treatment facility with frequent testing happening at every step of the process.  Comparing recreational suction dredge mining with the above process is about as appropriate as comparing an abacus with a modern calculator.
 

Dredging Only Mimics Natural Processes
 
The last related myth we see is that some are arguing that suction dredging mimics natural processes like storm events and what suction dredgers do is no different than what nature does.  There are obvious problems with that in terms of timing and magnitude.  Our salmon have evolved over the years to make the best use of fluctuating, but fairly predictable cycles of rain, snow melt and dryness.  The lifecycles and life stages of these fish are dependent on these cycles.  Suction dredges inject disturbance during a time when these systems are least able to deal with disturbance.
 
The magnitude issue is a little more complicated.  Winter storms bring massive changes to rivers, streams, and other waterways.  These seem absolutely chaotic and without pattern or purpose, yet they also leave significant elements and often those are gravel beds and riffles that have become “armored” by a complex combination of cobble, gravel and silt over time.  Suction dredging disassembles these structures and redeposits the constituent parts in tailings that are more likely to be scoured from the streambed.  
 
While this may be characterized as trivial in the big picture view of rivers and tributaries, when you are dealing with endangered and challenged fish, actions that cause or are likely to cause redd failure cannot be allowed or enabled.  
 
*******
AMRA Salmon
People who love an activity are very resistant to being told that it causes problems. Because of that, a system of myths has been developed by those who want to feel good about their actions or who gain economically from the continuance of the activity.  Unfortunately, for the former, these myths are simply not supported by science or experience.  
 
 
Mar08

The Suction Dredging War Starts in Washington: Gentlemen Do Not Start Your Engines

By Bob Ferris
 

 

The above clip came to mind when I was dealing with a recent posting on a fishing site about suction dredge mining in Washington State.  No one expects the Spanish Inquisition and most are not prepared for the onslaught of vitriol, misinformation, threats and bullying typically unleashed by the suction dredge crowd anytime anyone questions their “rights” to run wild and go motorized in our precious and vulnerable salmon-bearing waterways.  
 
This rapid fire electronic carpet bombing by internet trolls is part of an escalating pattern that we have seen over the past decade or so as the idea of sucking up gravel and silt from the bottom of rivers and streams using noisy machines has gained public scrutiny and attention.  
 
Another element of this pattern are states and federal agencies that are wholly unprepared to deal with this issue.  Collectively they have historically worked to enable and simplify permitting without giving any substantive thought to the need for monitoring, enforcement and a consideration of the cumulative and material impacts of this destructive activity—particularly in waterways with struggling salmonids.  The agencies are as unprepared for this assault as we often are.
 
 
In Washington State the agencies seem much like Bambi—the fawn portrayed above.  They have written a nice pamphlet and have a rudimentary permitting program. They have even formed some ill-advised partnerships with suction dredge miners to undertake mercury removal in spite of strong and repeated evidence that this is not a good idea. And now the “Godzilla” created by the ban in California and the restrictions in Oregon is striding purposely towards them one giant, reverberating footfall at a time.  Boom.
 
And who exactly is this horde presently in and now heading north to Washington State?  If you read the comments section of this site and the steelhead site as well as follow what the miners are doing in Southern Oregon, the answer to that is not positive.  In short, they are generally folks with extreme views and behaviors with a high level of resentment to regulation.  And even though they appear largely without advanced education—as evidenced by spelling, grammar and correctness of expression—they appear to lack a corresponding humility because their frequent claims to know more about law than lawyers and more about fish and fisheries impacts than ichthyologists.
 
Racist Tribe Quote
 
The suction dredge miners are also monumentally unaware.  Cascadia is a region defined by rivers frequently named for and still held sacred by tribes working hard to cling to their aquatic heritage.  These are important and valued characteristics of the region to many of us who work with tribes to fulfill the dream of recovered salmon runs and fully functioning coastal ecosystems.  This is in sharp contrast to the overtly racist tone we frequently see from suction dredgers in comment sections.  The quote above (click to enlarge) from a poster known as Terry McClure is particularly offensive but it is by no means unique.
 

In addition, one of the frequent commenters on the Washington dredge piece is a fellow who dredges throughout Cascadia and also sells dredge concentrates on the internet to those who want to pay $50 a pop to pan for gold.  This dredger’s LLC is called Blue Sky Gold Mining which sounds very close to the title of the song by the Australian rock group Midnight Oil—Blue Sky Mining—that became an environmental anthem highlighting the deleterious impacts of mining.  I wonder if he understands the irony in that name?
 
And I wonder if salmon restoration supporters, the tribes, Washington legislators and the state and federal agencies can come together to deal with the existing issue and the looming increase before our salmon and waterways pay the price of this laissez-faire approach to suction dredgers.  Join Fish not Gold and get active. 
 
Nov26

Press Release: Sen. Wyden Drops Logging Turducken* Before Holiday

November 26, 2013
For Immediate Release
 
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, 541.844.8182
               Francis Eatherington, Conservation Director, 541.643.1309
 
Eugene, OR — Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands today expressed disappointment with the O&C forest legislation released by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that affects management of over two-million acres of public forestland in western Oregon. The conservation organization believes that it is a bad deal for the environmental values that make Oregon special and is committed to working with the Senator to see it drastically improved.
 
“At a time when the demand for clean water and fish and wildlife recovery is high, Congress should be doing all it can to ensure these Oregon values are embraced, not eroded,” says Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “This bill guts the landmark Northwest Forest Plan’s environmental protection measures, limits citizen participation and judicial review in forest planning, and doesn't solve the funding crisis faced Buck Rising Variable Retention Harvest 2by some western Oregon counties.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands has worked closely with Senator Wyden's office in the recent past on some of the Wilderness proposals in the bill, including Devil's Staircase and Wild Rogue, but believes those efforts should not be coupled with the logging bill for western Oregon. In the current legislation, the conservation gains are far outweighed by the costs to clean drinking water, fish and wildlife, and recreation opportunities. The bill unravels the framework of the 24-million acre Northwest Forest Plan by shrinking streamside buffers in half that were designed to benefit salmon and clean water and eliminating the old-growth forest reserve system established to protect older forest-dependent species.
 
“Some of the things in this proposal are what we saw George W. Bush and Big Timber attempt during that dark period, notably trying to weaken the conservation standards for fish and wildlife in the Northwest in order to ramp up the cut,” says Francis Eatherington, Conservation Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Instead of squeezing our cherished public forests for every last penny, Congress, state and county politicians should take a fresh look at the timber harvest and severance tax in the state, the absurdly low property taxes in some of the most affected counties, and capitalize on the jobs and raw logs being shipped to Asia.”
 
Cascadia Wildlands has long supported federal forest management in western Oregon that prioritizes restoratively thinning dense tree farms, which generates timber volume for local mills, employs a steady work force in the woods, and raises revenue for counties. Senator Wyden’s bill moves away from this restorative approach toward a controversial clearcutting practice called “variable retention harvest” in forested stands up to 120 years old where 70% of the trees are logged.

* Turducken (dictionary.com): a deboned turkey that is stuffed with a deboned duck that is stuffed with a deboned chicken.

Take action by sending Senator Wyden a personalized comment.

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Sep27

We are Salmon

By Bob FerrisMattCasselman_1598Frasier reds

When reading Tim Egan’s recent op-ed in the New York Times on salmon I was reminded of an “aha” moment I recently experienced at the Tongass talk I gave for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry Science Pub.  Towards the end of the talk I asked the crowd of 90 or so if anyone had never eaten salmon.  No one raised their hand.  No one.

"…what if I told you that the trees are here, in part, because of the salmon? That the trees that shelter and feed the fish, that help build the fish, are themselves built by the fish?" Carl Safina, essayist for “Salmon in the Trees” by Amy Gulick (2010)

When I say “we are salmon,” it is really quite literal because some part of our chemical makeup comes from salmon.  When we consume salmon we certainly derive energy and enjoy taste but our body also takes part of that salmon and incorporates it physically. As Carl Safina suggests above our forests are built in part from salmon, but so are we and we should remember and honor that happenstance.  

Wyden Rally Poster FINAL 10.1.2013Perhaps this is why it is or should be so important for us to fight for salmon and why it has become so important for this organization to stand up against clearcutting of the Tongass, the Elliott and the O&C lands.  It is also the reason why we have opposed GMO salmon and suction dredging for gold in our rivers.  While it is great that we have taken these public stances, you need to channel your inner fish and do likewise.  The good news is that there are many opportunities for this locally, regionally and nationally.

Feel Your Fins and Let Your Activism Swim:

Comment on the Tongass clearcutting schemes

Attend the October 1st Rally for Forests in Portland and Send Senator Wyden your thoughts on the O&C Lands  

 

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