Wednesday January 24th
7:30 – 8:30 am Registration and Welcome Social
8:30 – 8:45 am UCSRB Welcome
Species Survival and Life History
On August 4th, 1989, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Soon thereafter, the American Fisheries Society Endangered Species Committee identified 159 Pacific salmon and steelhead stocks at risk of extinction, from a combination of habitat loss, hydropower development, non-native species and stocks, and a management system overly-reliant on hatchery production. Motivated in part by these concerns, NMFS initiated a series of ESA status reviews in the mid-1990s, and by the end of the 20th century had listed as threatened or endangered more than half of all Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) of salmon and steelhead spawning in west coast rivers. In the Upper Columbia, these included spring-run Chinook salmon and steelhead. Here, I examine the status of these ESUs a quarter century after ESA listing, and compare their status to other ESUs (listed and unlisted) spawning in rivers throughout the west coast.
Co-Authors: Andrew Murdoch, WDFW, Rich Zabel, NOAA NWFSC, Cory Kamphaus, Yakama Nation Fisheries, Mark Scheuerell, UW & USGS, Eric Buhle, Mount Hood Environmental, Sarah Converse, UW & USGS
Abstract: For spring Chinook salmon, which rear in freshwater for over a year as juveniles, headwater streams are a critical habitat for spawning and juvenile rearing. Consequently, protecting and restoring this habitat is regarded as a priority for conservation of these endangered fish. However, spring Chinook are also known to exhibit life history diversity in their juvenile rearing habitat, with some individuals emigrating from the headwaters to rear substantially lower in the watershed than where they were spawned. By evaluating the proportion of juvenile fish from a given brood emigrating past screw traps at different ages, we found that downstream rearing life histories were more prevalent from broods with more spawners. This suggests that downstream rearing habitats may become increasingly important at larger population sizes, and survival in these downstream habitats may have a considerable affect on the capacity of a watershed to support larger populations of spring Chinook salmon. To test this hypothesis, we developed a life cycle model that accounted for the relationship between spawner abundance and juvenile life history expression and used that model to simulate population trajectories under alternative management strategies that increased survival in headwater streams, downstream areas, or both. The results of these simulations were somewhat surprising in that, despite the feedback between population abundance and the proportion of juveniles exhibiting downstream-rearing life histories, increasing survival rates in headwater streams led to greater increases in population size than increasing survival in downstream rearing areas. This may have been because even with increased survival, population abundance did not increase to the point where a majority of smolts exhibited downstream-rearing life histories. Furthermore, none of the simulated management strategies led to the population reaching recovery goals for abundance. Thus, it may take more than the simulated improvements to juvenile rearing survival to meet recovery goals for abundance.
Co-Authors: Andrew R. Murdoch (WDFW) & Thomas Desgroseillier (WDFW)
Abstract: We compared estimates of run escapement based on PIT tagged Spring Chinook Salmon to redd-based spawner estimates to calculate prespawn mortality in multiple streams in the Upper Columbia. Run escapement starts with fish counts at Priest Rapids dam, but these can be biased and imprecise because many hatchery Spring Chinook are not adipose fin-clipped, and the run timing of Spring and Summer Chinook overlaps significantly. Putative Spring Chinook Salmon were randomly trapped, sampled and PIT tagged at Priest Rapids Dam. Hatchery fish were identified using adipose fin-clip, coded wire tags or scale patterns analysis. Tissue samples from possible wild Summer Chinook Salmon were analyzed by the WDFW Genetics Lab to distinguish Spring and Summer Chinook Salmon, and all of this data was used to estimate total wild and hatchery Spring Chinook passage at Priest Rapids. PIT tag detection histories of known Spring Chinook were used in a branching occupancy model to estimate probability of movement throughout the Upper Columbia while accounting for imperfect tag detection. Estimates of run escapement were generated at several spatial scales including the ESU, population, and each major spawning stream, and decomposed into male and female estimates. Pre-spawn survival was estimated by comparing female run escapement to redd counts across a variety of streams through the Upper Columbia ESU.
Co-Author: Phil Roni, Cramer Fish Sciences
Abstract: Understanding the combined effects of environmental factors known to influence salmon egg-to-fry survival during incubation can aid in the prediction of survival at both local and regional scales. Between 2009 and 2021, four large-scale studies of Chinook salmon egg-to-fry survival were conducted in upper and middle Columbia River tributaries, specifically in the Entiat, Methow, Wenatchee, and Yakima River Basins. Each study was conducted within known Chinook salmon spawning habitats, over multiple years, and using the same methodology. Together these studies provide a unique opportunity to assess factors known to influence egg-to-fry survival, such as fine sediment infiltration and substrate scour, while also identifying differences in survival among rivers and study years. Our results suggest prominent negative relationships between Chinook salmon egg-to-fry survival and both substrate scour and fine sediment accumulation across the study design. We identify district differences in survival both within and among rivers, and more subtle effects of parentage in the presence of environmental factors.
Co-Authors: Lance Campbell, Thomas Desgroseillier, Wade Smith, Andrew Claiborne, Seth Shy, Austin Anderson, Michael Hughes, Josh Williams, Chris Russo, Greg Fraser, Catherine Willard, Scott Hopkins, Jeremy Cram, Andrew Murdoch
Abstract: Growing evidence in the Columbia River suggests juvenile fall and summer Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), utilize portions of both the natal and non-natal freshwater environments as well as estuarine habitats on their juvenile migration. However a clear link between these varied life history pathways and the success of returning adults is not well understood in spring Chinook. To test the hypothesis that non-natal rearing is important for juvenile Chinook, we recovered adult otolith samples on the spawning grounds of the upper Wenatchee and Entiat Rivers. Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS, MC-LA-ICPMS) was used to analyze elemental and isotopic chemical patterns in otoliths. Otolith microchemistry was used to estimate the size and timing of juvenile outmigration for selected adult populations. The success (i.e. survivors) of juvenile life histories will be discussed in context to juvenile outmigration patterns, habitat limitations and stock recovery.
10:30 – 11:00 am – BREAK
Co-Author: Andrew Murdoch, WDFW
Abstract: Integrated population models (IPMs) provide a means to estimate and quantify uncertainty around both standard population parameters such as intrinsic productivity and carrying capacity and the effects of environmental drivers such as streamflow, temperature, and marine conditions. We applied a variant of one such model, SalmonIPM, to examine the population dynamics of Steelhead in the Wenatchee River from 1988 through 2019. Preliminary results suggest this population is affected by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, ocean upwelling, and streamflow during the hatchery smolt release period. Expanding this model to multiple Upper Columbia populations within a single framework may soon provide greater clarity on the relative importance of tributary-specific freshwater conditions versus the common ocean environment. We will discuss the details and implications of the current results for Wenatchee River Steelhead and plans to further develop IPMs to leverage increasingly comprehensive and complex aspects of Columbia basin salmonid life histories.
Co-Authors: Todd Seamons (WDFW), Charlie Snow (WDFW), Andrew Murdoch (WDFW), Alf Haukenes (WDFW)
Multiple studies conducted over the last couple decades suggest that domestication effects may reduce the reproductive fitness of hatchery steelhead relative to wild steelhead. However, few studies have assessed reproductive fitness of hatchery and wild steelhead relative to phenotypic variation and shifting hatchery practices. Since 2009, we have evaluated the relative reproductive success of hatchery and wild summer steelhead spawning in the Twisp River using a DNA-based pedigree approach. From 2009 to 2017, we measured phenotypic characteristics of 1,579 adult steelhead sampled at the Twisp River weir, prior to releasing them to spawn naturally – these years include the hatchery program transition from Wells-collected (non-local Wells stock) to Twisp-collected (local Twisp stock) broodstock, and the introduction of reconditioned kelts to the basin. Juvenile offspring captured from 2010 to 2019 have been genotyped, and our results to date suggest that the reproductive success of Wells stock and Twisp stock hatchery steelhead are lower than that of wilds for both males and females as measured at age-1, age-2, and smolt offspring life stages. In generalized linear model analyses, we found significant relationships between reproductive success and fish origin, somatic lipid content, body length, arrival date, year (females), and sex ratio (males). In addition, reconditioned wild female kelts were included in our study since 2015; results from the 2015–2017 spawning cohorts suggest that reconditioned kelts are reproductively viable and may produce more offspring per spawner than maiden-spawning wild females.
Co-Authors: Brooklyn Hudson, Confederated Tribe of the Colville Reservation
Abstract: Non-migrant (residual) hatchery steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss often have adverse effects on wild populations of salmonids. Therefore, fishery managers will estimate densities of residual steelhead to monitor those effects. A residual steelhead is a hatchery-reared steelhead that failed to emigrate within three months from release. To better understand the life history traits of hatchery summer steelhead in Omak Creek, a tributary to the Okanogan River, we estimated brood year (cohort) survival of juvenile hatchery steelhead using a Variable-Age-at Migration (VAM) model based on the Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) estimator. Hatchery steelheads were released with passive integrated transponders (PIT) so their downstream migration could be detected in tributaries and at hydroelectric dams to estimate survival. Using PTAGIS we then derived estimates for these same cohorts six months, 12 months, 18 months and up to three years from release. Using this VAM expansion model we determined between 0.08% and 3.01% of juvenile steelhead migrated to the ocean six months to three years from release. The majority of delayed migratory steelhead left in the following spring 12 months after release. Estimated total number varied between 21 and 577 additional migratory fish not included in the first three months of release. These results demonstrate how environmental conditions (e.g., hydrology, temperature, population density, etc.) can influence migration timing among populations of the same species. Care should be taken when generating downstream survival estimates using a fixed migration time.
12:00 – 1:00 pm – LUNCH
Salmon restoration efforts take place in complex multi-scalar social-ecological systems. More often than not, restoration frameworks and activities emphasize the ecological systems rather than the entwined and emplaced social systems at play. Yet, restoration work, whether among practitioners, scientists, or communities, is highly social, whether we are talking about what motivates restorationists themselves, what cultural impacts restoration has among communities, what values inform residents’ environmental behaviors, what institutional arrangements are required to enact restoration on-the-ground, what drives local community conflicts, or what attributes are needed to bridge science and policy. This talk will highlight the potential contributions of the social sciences to inform salmon restoration. Building upon recent research on human-salmon relationships, this talk will demonstrate the connections among salmon, people, and place in Washington, notably how salmon contribute to residents’ senses of place and help make the multispecies places we share. Overall, the talk aims to foster creative thinking and pragmatic application of the social sciences to enhance our grasp of the complex social-ecological systems in which all of our work takes place.
Species Survival and Life History
Co-Authors: Chris Repar – WDFW, Michael Hughes – WDFW, Katy Shelby – WDFW
Abstract: Effective conservation and management of bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus, requires managers to understand temporal and spatial movement patterns throughout the organism’s life. While several studies have focused on understanding the complex life-history of bull trout, they are generally limited by the length of study, sample size, and focus primarily on large adult fish. From 2005 to 2021, 4,309 bull trout were tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags and movement was monitored via PIT tag antenna arrays as well as juvenile (rotary smolt traps) and adult (fishways at dams and weirs) fish collection infrastructure. Juvenile bull trout tended to have limited movement until age 2 or 3, at which time they migrated out of their natal tributary to continue rearing in a larger waterbody (e.g., Lake Wenatchee, mainstem Wenatchee River or Columbia River). After rearing for another 2 or 3 years they returned to their natal tributary where they initiated a more consistent annual movement pattern. Most bull trout (94%) in the upper Wenatchee Basin stayed in the upper Wenatchee Basin, spending most of the year in Lake Wenatchee or the upper Wenatchee mainstem, entering the tributaries in the fall to initiate spawning runs or to follow the food resources of spawning salmon. About half (57%) of the fish in the middle Wenatchee Basin stayed in the middle basin and associated tributaries, while most (78%) fish in the lower basin stayed in the lower basin and several (33-53%) also used the Columbia and its tributaries. While the majority of fish stayed in the relative area (upper, middle, or lower basin) from which they were tagged, each basin had fish migrate into the mainstem Columbia River, with one fish traveling from the upper Wenatchee basin (Chiwawa River) to the Okanagan River and back (>408km) in less than one year.
Co-Authors: RD Nelle and Dylan Meek – USFWS-MCFWCO
Abstract: The Nason Creek watershed historically supported one of nine recognized local Bull Trout populations in the Wenatchee Basin. Recent redd survey data indicates this Bull Trout population may no longer be spawning within its primary historic spawning habitat in the Nason Creek watershed. The absence of observed Bull Trout spawning within this area may imply the Nason Creek population is extirpated or nearing extirpation. To assess the status of the Nason Creek Bull Trout population, between 2021 and 2023 the USFWS-MCFWCO conducted distribution and abundance assessments within the Nason Creek watershed using a combination of environmental DNA (eDNA) and night snorkel surveys. Census night snorkel surveys were used to assess current Bull Trout abundance within the 1.8 rkm of stream habitat that comprised the primary historic spawning and rearing reaches for the Nason Creek Bull Trout population. Environmental DNA samples were collected at 1 rkm intervals at all potential Bull Trout habitat within the Nason Creek watershed to determine if Bull Trout spawning and rearing had transitioned to new locations. Night snorkel surveys were also used to assess Bull Trout presence and relative abundance within any areas where Bull Trout eDNA was detected outside of historic habitat. A total of 15 juvenile Bull Trout were found during snorkel surveys in historic spawning and rearing reaches, which indicated recent Bull Trout spawning occurred within these reaches, but likely not at levels sufficient to sustain an independent population. Environmental DNA and follow-up snorkel surveys found that juvenile Bull Trout were present outside of historic spawning habitat, but densities in surveyed locations were also low and likely not sufficient to maintain a permanent population. This data indicates that the Nason Creek Bull Trout population is extant but likely near extirpation, and management action may be required to prevent population extirpation.
Co-Author: Cory Kamphaus, Yakama Nation
Abstract: By the end of the 20th century, native populations of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus
Abstract: Douglas PUD funded numerous studies in the 1990s to identify factors limiting natural production of Okanagan Sockeye Salmon. In 2000, as mitigation for the Wells Hydroelectric Project, Douglas PUD and Canadian partners selected a novel approach to restoring Sockeye natural production in the Canadian Okanagan: the Fish-Water Management Tool (FWMT)—a decision-support system to assist with water-management decisions for operation of the Okanagan Lake Regulation System (OLRS). Historically, OLRS water management routinely subjected Sockeye to redd desiccation and scour events resulting in density-independent mortality that dramatically reduced smolt production. Annual implementation of the FWMT in the OLRS beginning in 2003 succeeded in minimizing those density-independent losses. The resultant increases in smolt production from Osoyoos Lake fueled a spectacular rebound in the abundance of adult Okanagan Sockeye, while other Columbia River Sockeye Salmon populations did not experience commensurate increases in returns despite a period of generally favorable ocean conditions. Concurrent efforts involving Chelan, Grant, and Douglas PUDs and Canadian and other US partners focusing on habitat improvement, barrier removal to allow expansion into historical habitat, and hatchery programs funded by Chelan and Grant PUDs to expedite that expansion, have substantially contributed to the restoration of Okanagan Sockeye. Recent range expansion into Skaha and Okanagan lakes represents the future of Okanagan Sockeye, as the eutrophication of Osoyoos Lake increases and thermal conditions squeeze late-summer juvenile-rearing and adult-holding habitat. Continued hatchery intervention to accelerate expansion into historical habitat is a race against climate change threatening this population. Annual implementation of the FWMT maintains the productive potential of Okanagan Sockeye in all three lakes, facilitating both the range expansion and diversification of run timing necessary for the population’s persistence in the face of numerous threats. Nevertheless, that persistence will require additional management actions on both sides of the border, including increasing current escapement goals.
Abstract: Coming Soon!
3:00 – 3:30 pm – BREAK & POSTER SESSION
Time spent in the marine environment in the months following freshwater emigration is regarded as a critical period in the life history of juvenile Pacific salmon and steelhead. Mortality rates often exceed 90%, so even small variations in survival can contribute substantially to interannual differences in adult returns. Over the last decade, the frequency and severity of extreme events in the ocean have increased, including extensive marine heatwaves, strong El Niños, and a three-peat La Niña, and have affected salmon survival and distribution in the ocean. Heat domes, drought, and wildfire events have also impacted terrestrial habitats, affecting rates of pre-spawn mortality in Upper Columbia salmon populations. Ocean conditions experienced by juvenile salmon and steelhead during the early marine residence period have been continuously monitored by researchers from Oregon State University and NOAA since 1998, and a suite of ocean ecosystem indicators are made available each year to salmon managers. This stoplight table ranks local, regional, and basin-scale physical and biological ocean indicators and compares data from all years to provide an outlook for salmon growth and survival. Fish entering the ocean in 2023 likely benefitted from three successive years of favorable ocean conditions, particularly with respect to the prey field at the base of the food chain. However, with projections for the current El Niño to strengthen to one of the top five events since 1950, managers should closely track climate effects on salmon and steelhead marine survival.
Abstract: Collectively, the Rock Island (RI) and Rocky Reach (RR) Hydroelectric Projects’ Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) including Passage Survival Plans, Hatchery Compensation Plans, and Tributary Conservation Plans, were successfully implemented to achieve No Net Impact (NNI) on Plan Species for RI and RR by 2013 for all spring migrating Plan Species (spring Chinook yearlings, sockeye, and steelhead). As called out in both HCPs, future confirmation survival studies are to be conducted at ten-year intervals, utilizing one representative Plan Species, to confirm that Phase III – Standards Achieved survival designations are still applicable. Confirmation survival studies were conducted at both RI and RR by studying yearling Chinook and adult spring Chinook survival through both project areas in 2021 and 2023, respectively, utilizing Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry Systems technology. Evaluations at both projects produced combined adult and juvenile survival estimates that exceed the survival standard established in the HCPs of 91% (94.45% CAJS at RI, 93.54% CAJS at RR), as well as route specific passage (RI and RR) and route specific survival (RR only) estimates. These project survival estimates, along with the continued implementation of both Hatchery and Tributary Conservation Plans, demonstrates that Chelan PUD and the HCP signatories continue to achieve NNI for Plan Species at RR and RI Projects, which contributes to the rebuilding of tributary habitat production capacity in addition to basic productivity and numerical abundance of Plan Species in the Mid-Columbia.
Co-Author: Andrew Murdoch, WDFW
Abstract: Chinook salmon are an iconic species that often defines the geographic scope of the Pacific Northwest, where they have supported the cultural and economic identity of the region for millennia. However, within the Snake River and Columbia River basins, a myriad of environmental and human factors has led to population declines and nearly all the naturally reproducing stocks have been listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In the freshwater in particular, research on the causes of declining smolt survival has cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the last two decades; yet, among the dozens of Cormack-Jolly-Seber survival studies that have been published, there is rarely consensus about which covariates to include or how to model their functional relationships related to survival. The result is lack of understanding or agreement among co-managers and resource users about how to compare studies or results when making resource allocations or management actions. We have developed a generalized survival model that can integrate new and existing data and has the capacity to produce uncertainty in the derived outcomes that are relevant to co-managers. Specifically, for evaluating hydro operations and relicensing procedures, the model integrates smolt travel time, survival, and dam passage route data, using biologically meaningful processes that are scalable to a broad range of fish phenotypes and phenologies across the Columbia and Snake River domains. Our simulation analysis demonstrates that the parameters of the model are unbiased and estimable, while future work will focus on comparing project survival estimates to previous empirical CJS estimates under different survey and sampling designs.
Abstract: Altered ecosystems, warming climates, and various management policies throughout the north Pacific Ocean region have resulted in taxonomic winners and losers even within Oncorhynchus. Despite many salmon and steelhead Evolutionarily Significant Units being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and substantial declines in abundance of some stocks and species, recent salmon abundance in the ocean is the highest since record keeping began about 100 years ago. Some Oncorhynchus species and life-histories are doing better than others. For example, Pink Salmon drive total salmon counts in the ocean, ocean-type Chinook Salmon are faring better than stream-type Chinook Salmon, and ESA delistings are uncommon. Density dependence is common in both fresh and saltwater habitats, even for populations at relatively low abundance. Hatchery-origin Chinook Salmon and steelhead are often more prevalent than natural-origin counterparts in some locations and although they can contribute to harvest and rebuilding populations, they also pose ecological and genetic risks. Predator populations of multiple taxa are increasing (e.g., birds, mammals, fish) and laws protect many of them from harvest. Chinook Salmon size and fecundity has declined with time resulting in reduced per capita, and likely population scale reproductive potential. Declines of Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye Salmon and steelhead are associated with interactions (e.g., temperature, food, competition, predation, harvest) in the ocean. Most of these patterns have also occurred in populations without factors associated with localized declines in freshwater such as habitat alteration, dams, and hatcheries. Without addressing large-scale interactions, policies, and drivers that limit salmon production, it is unlikely that recovery or achieving harvest objectives of Chinook Salmon and steelhead will occur, including spring Chinook Salmon and steelhead originating in the Upper Columbia Basin.