A movement is underway to pursue a
comprehensive study of the potential economic impacts that could come with an
advancing northern pike invasion across the Columbia Basin river system,
including salmon waters referred to as “The Anadromous Zone.”
The study emerged as a priority during a
well-attended forum on pike in the Pacific Northwest that was held Tuesday and
Wednesday in Spokane. The forum was held in conjunction with the 28th annual
convention of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) at the Davenport Grand
The forum, attended by more than 60 people,
resulted in a consensus to pursue the economic impact study, along with
establishing a U.S.-Canadian committee on pike, and a resolution to advocate
for more funding to curb the proliferation of pike, a voracious predator
repeatedly described as an eventual threat to protected salmon species.
Justin Bush, executive coordinator of
Washington’s Invasive Species Council, said the intent is to conduct a
“PNWER-scale” economic impact study, meaning it will be regional, including
British Columbia and Alaska, where pike have had devastating effects on salmon
runs in the south-central part of that state. Because of its regional nature,
the study would be funded through considerable cost-sharing and it would be
coordinated by the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.
Brian Heise, Bush’s counterpart on a British
Columbia Invasive Species Council, said the PNWER executive committee will
decide, probably in a month, whether to pursue the study as recommended by the
Bush said there is potential for the Northwest
Power and Conservation Council to re-activate an Independent Economic Advisory
Board specifically to participate in development of an economic impact study.
He said Washington Council member Tom Karier has committed to exploring that
possibility for an advisory board that has assisted in past economic reviews
but has not been recently active.
While there are aggressive efforts to suppress
pike populations and prevent them from spreading in the Pacific Northwest,
forum participants said it is just a fraction of the effort that may be needed
in the future. And that’s why an economic impact study is considered crucial —
to inform the public and policy makers who control purse strings about how
costly an advanced pike invasion could be.
Joe Maroney, a fisheries manager with the
Kalispel Tribe, pointed to the success of a campaign that made use of an
economic analysis projecting the costs of allowing invasive quagga and zebra
mussels to proliferate throughout the region. “Really, it wasn’t until the
economic analysis that came out with $500 million annually and what that means
to ratepayers, what it means to infrastructure, what it means for water
After that, a coordinated effort emerged among
northwestern states, most notably with public education and strict watercraft
inspection sites along highways throughout the region.
(See CBB, Sept. 6, 2013, Report Says Spending
Millions On Zebra/Quagga Mussel Prevention ‘Economically Justified’ http://www.cbbulletin.com/428232.aspx).
The 2013 report, “Economic Risk of Zebra and Quagga Mussels in the Columbia
River Basin” is available at https://www.nwcouncil.org/fish-and-wildlife/fw-independent-advisory-committees/independent-economic-advisory-board/economic-risk-of-zebra-and-quagga-mussels-in-the-columbia-river-basin).
During a presentation to the forum, “Lessons
Learned From the Pend Oreille River: We Can Do This,” Maroney referred to a
“bar napkin” calculation that he did, based on a model used to develop a pike
economic impact study that was carried out in California.
His calculation came to $33 million annually
for the state of Washington alone, if pike were to become established in waters
they have yet to invade. The point of his estimate is that it is probably close
to accurate, but it is a crude estimate.
There are many economic impacts that weren’t
even considered in his estimate, such as potential costs to public utilities,
or the costs for re-licensing dams with provisions to protect native fish, including
threatened species. Dam licenses are already loaded with millions in those
costs, but they would escalate. That’s not to mention millions that have
already invested in habitat improvements and other measures to boost native
Bush noted there would be costs for hydropower
ratepayers, and costs would continue to ripple into areas such as the loss of
tribal fishing for commercial, sustenance or cultural reasons.
“These direct and indirect impacts, we kind of
know that will happen, but in terms of quantifying it in a scientific way,
that’s really what we’re trying to get at,” he said.
managers like Maroney are not waiting around for an economic impact study; they
have been engaged in pike suppression efforts for years.
“We’ve been dealing with it for about 15
years,” Maroney told the forum about work that has been underway since pike
were first detected in the Pend Oreille lake and river system.
Maroney described the effects of a
“full-blown” suppression program that got underway in 2012, after the
Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission declared pike a “prohibited” species
and a pilot project was conducted in the Pend Oreille River’s Box Canyon
Mostly through targeted gill netting and
electro-fishing, about 6,000 pike were removed in 2012; 6,500 in 2013; 4,000 in
2014; 750 in 2015; and by 2017, just 34 pike were removed.
Maroney said the sharp decline over a
five-year period shows the effectiveness of intensive gill netting that was
gradually tapered down to match the declining catch.
“There were a lot of people in the Columbia
Basin who thought, ‘there’s no way you can do it,” Maroney said. But the total
catch so far comes to about 17,500 pike, and their chances of becoming
permanently established have become sharply reduced.
Jim Baker of the Washington Department of Fish
and Wildlife said the Box Canyon Reservoir project is a good example of what
can be done elsewhere, but an equal effort would require about 10 times the
funding necessary to have similar results in Lake Roosevelt above Grand Coulee
Pike were first discovered in the upper
reaches of that reservoir in 2009, and by 2015 anglers were catching the fish
near Kettle Falls. Baker said the Colville and Spokane tribes have led the way
in a coordinated suppression effort that just got underway, netting 4,800 pike
in the Kettle Falls area last year. By the end of June of this year, 1,164 pike
had been removed.
Baker bluntly said more needs to be done on a
reservoir that is much larger and more dynamic than the Box Canyon Reservoir.
The underlying current strategy is to basically turn down the water spicket,
reducing the number of pike from a gush to a trickle.
Waters below Grand Coulee Dam are considered
“The Anadromous Zone,” and Baker said pike will eventually turn up in those
waters, whether they are drifting past the dam or they are being transported in
a pickup truck.
“My gut says, ‘when, not if,’” he said. “There
is always potential for pike to sort of hop-scotch down the basin.”
Public education is crucial, Baker said, but
he noted that Public Utility Districts downstream are already engaged in
alerting anglers to report any pike catches.
Other strategies and endeavors targeting pike
were discussed at the forum.
Kellie Carim, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, presented the results of genetic
analysis that aimed to identify source populations of fish in Pend Oreille
River, Box Canyon Reservoir and Lake Roosevelt, all located in eastern
Washington. She compared the fish in eastern Washington to a total of six
potential source populations: Thompson Falls Reservoir (MT), Noxon Reservoir
(MT), Cabinet Gorge Reservoir (MT), Lake Pend Oreille (ID), Coeur d’Alene Lake
(ID) and Cave Lake/Medicine Lake (ID).
The results of the genetic data indicate that
of the six potential source populations, pike in eastern Washington most likely
originated from Cave Lake/Medicine Lake, which are part of the chain lakes
upstream of Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. Given the pattern occurrence and spread
of pike in eastern Washington, these results suggest that fish were moved
overland by people from the Coeur d’Alene drainage, rather than swimming
through connected waterways. Carim is seeking to expand the number of
source populations to identify any other potential sources that may have
contributed to the current invasion in eastern Washington.
Speakers discussed varying levels of success
with pike suppression methods ranging from bounties for pike, regulations
requiring anglers to kill pike they catch, gill netting and perhaps a newer
direction targeting pike habitat.
University of Montana professor Peter Rice
talked about an invasive aquatic plant called flowering rush, which provides
pike with optimal habitat for spawning and ambush predation. He pointed to his
research in the Montana’s Flathead River in the sloughs just upstream from
Flathead Lake that are choked with flowering rush and a pike population that
has become well-established despite having no regulatory protections.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks conducted a
multi-year study of pike predation in the lower Flathead River, determining
that pike consumed 13,400 cutthroat trout and 3,457 threatened bull trout
during course of the study. Rice’s work examined the habitat in the study area,
finding that thick, weedy flowering rush was prevalent in areas where pike
dominated. He also pointed out how expanses of flowering rush emerge —
de-watered — as reservoirs in the
Columbia Basin drop to low-pool during the winter months.
Rice suggested that efforts to curb flowering
rush might have tangential benefits in reducing the viability of pike
-- CBB, May 11, 2018, “Pike Suppression
Efforts, Costs to Rise As Managers Fight To Keep Fish from ‘Anadromous Zone,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440703.aspx
--CBB, February 16, 2018, “Scientists Want
More Detailed Information On Northern Pike Suppression Plan In Lake Roosevelt,”
--CBB, July 21, 2017, “Lake Roosevelt Northern
Pike Numbers Rise; ‘Chronic Recruitment, Exponential Growth’,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439314.aspx
-- CBB, June 23, 2017, “Invasive Northern Pike
Spreading In Lake Roosevelt; Tribe Seeks Funds To Expand Removal Efforts,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439148.aspx
--CBB, September 23, 2016, “Council OKs More
Funds For Fighting Pike Invasion: ‘Pike Pose Enormous Threat To Salmon,
-- 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,”
-- CBB, June 12, 2015, “Invasive Northern Pike
Threaten Columbia Basin Salmon: Is Four-State Coordinated Effort Needed?” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434231.aspx
April 10, 2015, “Northern Pike Appear To Have Established Presence in Lake
-- CBB, Feb. 27, 2015, “Fish Managers Show
Success In Keeping Pend Oreille Northern Pike From Moving Into Columbia River” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433285.aspx
-- CBB, Dec. 16, 2011, “Washington Gears Up To
Stop Non-Native Northern Pike From Invading Columbia Basin Salmon Country” http://www.cbbulletin.com/414775.aspx