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With Science Review In Hand, Efforts Continue To Halt Non-Native Pike Expansion In Upper Columbia
Posted on Friday, April 08, 2016 (PST)

Supplemental funding for a northern pike suppression project managed by the Spokane Tribe of Indians was approved by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council at its February meeting, but on the condition that the Independent Scientific Review Panel review the Tribe’s latest proposal.

 

In March, the ISRP completed that review and gave the Lake Roosevelt Northern Pike Suppression Plan supplemental proposal its approval, saying it largely meets scientific review criteria.

 

However, it also put conditions on the proposal, most of which had to do with final reporting of the project.

 

The ISRP review of the supplemental project, submitted to the Council March 28 (http://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/isrp/isrp2016-6/), followed on a previous review completed by the ISRP in January (http://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/isrp/isrp2016-2/).

 

The supplemental proposal is to help the Spokane Tribes remove invasive pike from Lake Roosevelt. Initially, the request from the Tribes was for $71,211 in order to provide additional gillnetting of the invasive fish through March. However, the Council, following the recommendation of the Bonneville Power Administration, funded the supplemental proposal for $8,507 using Budget Oversight Group funds.

 

The request is in addition to a project already funded by BPA at a cost of $1,314,199 during fiscal year 2016.

 

Managers of Lake Roosevelt fisheries are concerned about the quick spread of the fish throughout the lake and ultimately into the mid-Columbia River. A survey of Lake Roosevelt in 2015 found “an alarming increase in Pike abundance.” At the same the 2015 spring angler catch rates increased significantly, with anglers routinely catching pike in the shallow bays in the Columbia River near Kettle Falls and on the Kettle River.

 

They are especially concerned about the spread of the predator to the Spokane and Sanpoil rivers where native redband trout populations are already hindered by non-native walleye, according to the funding request.

 

“In addition, Pike pose an enormous threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts below Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River,” according to the request.

 

The Council also had agreed to fund the project in June 2015 for $28,531, deeming the request “urgent.” However, the second year of funding was conditioned on a favorable review of the project by the ISRP. A pike suppression plan was submitted to the ISRP for review and ISRP completed its work January 25, 2016, but asked the Tribe for a response on eight issues.

 

Among those issues, the ISRP found that they needed:

--clearly defined hypotheses about several northern pike suppression activities;

--additional detail and information regarding methods being proposed;

--time deliverable objectives.

 

In order to keep the suppression effort moving along until the science review is complete, which it now is, they asked for funding that would continue the gillnetting effort in March.

 

Northern pike are voracious predators that are a likely threat to native species and non-native game fishes and they could potentially move downstream in the Columbia River and possibly impact the recovery of ESA listed salmon, according to Council information. The project proponents contend that “it is critical that a monitoring and suppression plan be developed immediately while abundance is still relatively low… to reduce the risk of Northern Pike numbers expanding within Lake Roosevelt and beyond.”

 

The proposed project is closely related to work by the Kalispel Tribe in the Box Canyon Reservoir in the Pend Oreille Subbasin. The ISRP concluded that the Kalispel Tribe’s effort to suppress the Northern pike population in Box Canyon Reservoir was justified. In that project, the Kalispel Tribe is applying similar gillnetting techniques to target spawning populations in shallow water.

 

The ISRP identified six qualifications that it said can be addressed when finalizing the statement of work for the Council and Bonneville Power Administration. They include:

 

1-Include explicit hypotheses to be tested by the proposed activities and provide quantitative objectives for what is to be achieved.

 

2-Include quantitative objectives for the northern pike suppression effort as a means to evaluate program success (e.g., reduce northern pike CPUE by __ percent and reduce the relative abundance of large northern pike [> __ mm total length] by __ percent by the year 20___). Quantitative objectives should be developed for each metric used to evaluate northern pike suppression, and a time frame should also be included in each objective.

 

3-Include quantitative objectives regarding the protection of native fishes captured as bycatch.

 

4-Revisit the elements of proposal that describe criteria for assessing the effects of bycatch and actions to alleviate the effects of bycatch on native species. The focus should be on preventing population-level effects of bycatch on native species. We question bycatch limitations for non-native piscivorous fishes (e.g., walleye) as they do not appear to be consistent with the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program to protect native fishes.

 

5-The planned use of 4-hour gillnet sets during daylight hours using nets with panels of five different mesh sizes needs to be supported. A detailed review of literature or a comparative study of catch rates during the day and at night, for varying durations of gillnet sets, and for different mesh sizes is needed to determine the design of gillnets and sets that will optimize catch efficiency for northern pike.

 

6-Include a study design and description of the otolith microchemistry methods the project will use to determine the natal origins of northern pike sampled in Lake Roosevelt. Discuss how knowledge of natal origins will inform adaptive management decisions regarding northern pike suppression in Lake Roosevelt.

 

Also see:

 

-- CBB, January 15, 2016, “Council Considers More Money For Pike Removal: ‘An Alarming Increase In Pike Abundance,”http://www.cbbulletin.com/435860.aspx

 

-- CBB, Nov. 19, 2015, “A Northern Pike Caught In John Day Reservoir: For Salmon, Canary In The Coal Mine?” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435580.aspx

 

-- CBB, July 17, 2015, “Invasive Northern Pike Spreading Further, Reproducing; Council Hears Information On States’ Policies,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434535.aspx

 

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