Author Archive for FISHBIO

Vandal kills giant catfish in park pond

Bangkok Post

A vandal has killed a Mekong giant catfish being raised in a pond in a public park in Trang municipality and loved by local people, causing much sadness.

Chaninwit Sinchai, 48, chairman of Kapang Surin community in Muang district on Wednesday afternoon showed Trang police the carcass of the young but mature fish, which was around 1.6 metres long and weighed over 20 kilogrammes. It was shot in the head.

Mr Chaninwit said the Mekong giant catfish, a female aged 5-6 years, was in the Kapang Surin pond in the province’s oldest public park.

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Fish-friendly dams? Scientists race to reduce turbine trauma

NBC News

A hydroelectric dam building boom in the Pacific Northwest in the past century drove dozens of salmon runs to extinction and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars to try to save the fish that remain. Today, scientists from the region are hard at work to prevent a repeat of history at a time when countries around the world race to wring more energy from rivers to fuel a power hungry and warming planet.

“We’ve made some pretty good progress here in the Pacific Northwest on determining criteria that can help keep fish safe,” Richard Brown, a senior research scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., told NBC News.

Brown and his lab colleagues are collaborating with researchers from Laos, Brazil and Australia to apply what they’ve learned to reduce injury and death to fish passing through dam turbines on their way to the sea.

The change in pressure that fish experience while passing through turbines causes a rapid expansion of a swim bladder used to maintain buoyancy. In some cases, the organ can rupture. The pressure change can also cause pre-existing gas in the body to expand, eyeballs to bulge and stomachs to pop out of mouths. For some species and life stages, injuries from this so-called barotrauma may cause more deaths than lethal injuries sustained when fish are struck by spinning turbine blades, according to Brown.

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Court rules for environmentalists in water fight

The Modesto Bee

An appeals court said Wednesday that federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago. The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.

The ruling arises from one of several lawsuits filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalists seeking to protect the Delta smelt. The ruling won’t affect water flows because protections for the smelt were kept in place during the lawsuit.

“This about how we are going to manage the water in the future,” said Douglas Obegi, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Could this be the end of California’s drift gillnet fishing?

Bay Nature

Drift gillnets are a fairly ineffective method at capturing swordfish and thresher shark.

The nets are suspended like underwater curtains, a mile long and more than 600 feet wide, and anything that swims into them can get entangled.

In the deep sea waters off the California coast that’s meant everything from sea turtles to gray whales, as well as dozens of other species. Environmental groups call California’s drift gillnet fishing industry one of the nation’s deadliest catches, since more than 60 percent of what’s caught in the nets gets tossed away. They now have the images to lend drama to their statistics.

In February, the nonprofit Oceana obtained a treasure trove of photographs from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) in a public records request. The images — nearly 500 taken from 1997 to 2011— show a gruesome scene of hundreds of dead marine life entangled in nets. The images were obtained by NOAA observers who are by law stationed on fishing boats.

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Young San Joaquin River salmon catch a truck ride from Friant Dam

The Fresno Bee

Biologists this week helped 54,000 Northern California salmon become San Joaquin River inhabitants — launching the river’s largest experiment to rejuvenate a long-dead salmon run.

As part of the nearly 5-year-old San Joaquin restoration project, half of the juvenile fish will be released today for a long, dangerous swim to the Pacific Ocean. The other half will be released Friday.

The fish are tagged so survivors can be identified in a few years on the return trip to the San Joaquin for spawning.

“This is a big step for the project,” said biologist John Netto of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’re coordinating the right window of opportunity to get the fish down the river.”

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Lost sea lion in California found miles from water

NBC Bay Area

Workers at a central California ranch could hardly believe their eyes when they spotted a sea lion pup hopping through an almond orchard, a mile from the San Joaquin River.

The Merced Sun-Star reported Tuesday that the ranch hands quickly got in touch with wildlife officials after discovering the confused animal last month at Mape’s Ranch near Modesto.

A Marine Mammal Center volunteer eventually coaxed the lost sea lion into a cage, where it promptly fell asleep.

The newspaper reports the 36-pound sea lion, nicknamed Hoppie, is recovering at the center. Hoppie is undergoing treatment for sores and getting some nourishment in hopes of returning him to the wild.

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Dry flow: The steelhead recovery effort starts below Bradbury Dam, but the water isn’t always on

Santa Maria Sun

A low-hanging mist is strung out between the summits directly above the gray-blue expanse of Lake Cachuma. From the Bradbury Dam overlook, you can only see the side of the lake that butts up against a 2,976-foot-long, 206-foot-high, rock-covered slope of a wall with a road running along its top and a gigantic cement structure of gates on one end. Remnants of last night’s rain cling to the vegetation on both sides of the fenced vista point, and a tall, thin man looks out at a portion of the lake. What he sees this March 26 morning prompts him to knit his eyebrows together.

Tim Robinson, whose hands are shoved into the pockets of his faded jeans, crouches down, pulls one hand out of its shelter, and points through a gap between oak tree branches, toward a spot in the lake a couple hundred feet from the dam.

There are two barges, one much smaller than the other. As manager of the Cachuma Operations and Management Board Fisheries Division, Robinson’s got a problem with what’s not working out there. He said the smaller barge is responsible for dangling a water intake pipe at a certain level in the lake, and the bigger barge holds two pumps. The contraptions link up to pull water from a cooler portion of the lake, send it through a little black pipe that runs over the top of the dam, and deposit it into Hilton Creek on the other side of the dam wall.

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Fish ladder changes at Columbia dams working

The Spokesman-Review

Modifications to fish ladders at Wanapum and Rock Island dams are allowing salmon and steelhead to pass over the mid-Columbia dams, utility officials said Wednesday.

Fish counts show that 31 spring chinook and 102 steelhead passed over Wanapum Dam near Vantage, Wash., this week. Thirty-eight miles upstream at Rock Island Dam, three steelhead and eight whitefish passed over that dam.

The reservoir behind Wanapum Dam has been drawn down since late February, when a crack was discovered in the concrete support for one of the dam’s 12 spillway gates. As a result of the lower reservoir, fish ladders had to be modified to allow for salmon passage.

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Corps study proposes a 90-acre Delta ecosystem restoration project


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District today released a draft study report recommending restoration of 90 acres of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to its natural tidal marsh state.

The proposed project would fill the sunken interior of areas near Antioch, using existing dredge material including stockpiles from dredging at the Port of Stockton. The Corps used the same method in 1987 to restore vibrant tidal marsh conditions for Donlon Island, another nearby tract in the same area of the Delta.

“This is an important first step for the Corps in helping with the critical problem of ecosystem degradation in the Delta,” said Col. Mike Farrell, Sacramento District commander. “This plan would use a proven, sustainable restoration method that we hope can serve as a model for more Delta restoration work in the future. Still, this is a draft recommendation, and we very much want to hear from the public about it during the open comment period.”

Co-funded by our partners the California Department of Water Resources, this study examines the feasibility for a Corps ecosystem restoration and flood risk reduction strategies of varying scope and complexity. The study found that the cost of even the most efficient flood risk reduction project considered would be nearly double the expected benefits, and does not recommend Corps investment in levee improvement work for now.

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Meet the tiny fish at the heart of Calif.’s latest water battles

E&E Publishing

The delta smelt has an unfortunate name; it’s easy to say with a sneer. The fish is also quite puny — 2 to 3 inches, on average — and physically weak. It can’t swim very well.

All these traits make a creature easy to pick on. So it’s no surprise that people have seized on the smelt as the unwelcome party in California’s latest drought.

“They want to protect this fish right here called the delta smelt,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said on the House floor in February, pointing to a poster of the fish. “This is what this is about. It is about the Endangered Species Act. It is about the biggest water grab in history and running people out of water to protect this little fish.”

The semitransparent delta smelt has a life span of one year. Swimming using a “stroke-glide” style that takes advantage of the tides, the fish inhabits the zone where the salty waters of the Pacific mix with the fresh water of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest such estuary on the West Coast. Before the 1980s, it was often abundant in the delta — the only place in the world where this particular species lives.

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