waters are cooling and attracting higher value, more fat-rich food -- a good
sign for salmon, steelhead and ocean predators, such as Orcas -- after several
years of unusually warm conditions (2014 – 2016), when the warm water “blob”
dominated coastal conditions, according to a report released last week by NOAA
ocean conditions are still mixed.
good news is that copepods off Newport, Ore. are mostly of cool-water, lipid
rich species; krill lengths off Northern California have increased, an
indicator of available forage for salmon and other species; anchovy numbers are
on the rise; and several indicators of juvenile and adult salmon survival
increased slightly off the Northwest Coast, especially for coho salmon, which
are expected this year at average numbers after several years of low returns,
according to the report.
less than good news is there was still some evidence of unfavorable conditions
during 2018: there is warmer than average subsurface water in the southern
portion of the California Current; there is strong hypoxia (lack of oxygen) on
the shelf in the northern areas; and pyrosomes (sea cucumbers) that moved north
in high numbers during The Blob remain abundant in the northern and central
the report forecasts low returns of chinook salmon to the Columbia River in
2019 (these are the last survivors that entered the ocean during the warm years
and are now returning to the basin to spawn), there is a potential for higher
returns in coming years as salmon in the ocean are now benefitting from the
found some of the highest numbers of juvenile coho they had ever seen off the
coast, following the steep decline in marine temperatures in 2014 – 2017,
leading to, perhaps, better future coho runs. Juvenile chinook salmon catches
were near normal, according to the report.
annual report given each year to the Pacific Fishery Management Council is a
product of scientists from NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle
and its Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif.
oceanographic and streamflow indicators were near average in 2018, “though
indices suggest weakening circulation and emerging mild El Nino conditions,”
the report says. Ocean conditions have yet to fully return to the stable cold
water pattern scientists saw prior to 2014.
coming off of some really bad conditions and returning to more normal
conditions,” Dr. Toby Garfield, director of the Environmental Research Division
at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and co-editor of the report, said on
an informational conference Friday. “Although there is this potential to return
to more normal conditions, we’re concerned that a change back to warmer
conditions could occur sooner than would allow for species recovery.”
this year – 2019 – the report calls for a 65 percent chance of a weak El Nino
at least through spring, average coho returns and below average chinook salmon
returns, and extensive hypoxia and acidified bottom waters over the shelf off
Washington and Oregon.
this the new normal or will we return to the conditions we saw prior to 2014?”
Garfield asked about the current mixed results and uncertainty.
report also noted an increase of 27.4 percent in West Coast fishery landings
from 2016 to 2017, with revenues increasing by 12.3 percent. Most of the
increase was driven by Pacific hake, Dungeness crab and market squid.
was also a higher number and growth of sea lions along the coast and some
seabirds, a result of more food along the Pacific coast.
Garfield’s comments, Chris Harvey, ecologist at the Northwest Science Center,
and co-editor of the report, said “This is a time of transition in the
California Current Ecosystem, and the ocean and marine life reflect that. What
we don’t know yet is where the transition will take us – whether the system
will stabilize, or keep changing.”
annual report tracks a series of species, and climate and ocean conditions, as
barometers of ocean health and productivity and also draws on economic
indicators that reflect the state of West Coast communities,” NOAA Fisheries
said in a blog by the agency’s Michael Milstein.
also supports NOAA Fisheries’ shift toward ecosystem-based management, which
considers interactions throughout the marine food web rather than focusing on a
all the indicators together into a picture of how the ecosystem is changing can
also give us clues about what to expect going forward,” Garfield added.
report, “California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (CCIEA), California
Current Ecosystem Status Report, 2019,” was delivered to the Pacific Fishery
Management Council at the Council’s meeting in Vancouver, Friday, March 7, as
they develop fishing seasons and limits (https://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/E1a_IEA_Rpt1_CCIEA-Report-2019-MAR2019BB.pdf. This is the seventh
report, given annually in 2012 and 2014 – 2019.
editors are Garfield, Harvey, Greg Williams of PFMC and Dr. Nick Tolimieri (Northwest
CBB, July 27, 2018, “Invasion Of The Sea Pickles: Common In Warmer Waters, Now
Adapting To Cooler Pacific Northwest,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441182.aspx
CBB, March 16, 2018, “Ocean Conditions Returning To Normal (Cooler), Salmon
Returns Will Remain Depressed A Few Years,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440365.aspx
CBB, January 12, 2018, “Council Hears Rundown On Ocean Conditions Impact On
Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440075.aspx
September 29, 2017, “Warmer Northwest Waters Have Fish Moving North, Spawning
Earlier, Longer Off Pacific Northwest,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439640.aspx
July 14, 2017, “Ocean Conditions, Sea Lions Faulted For Low Willamette
Steelhead Return; Only 822 Wild Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439268.aspx
February 17, 2017, “New Research Details Forage Fish Stocks Boom-Bust Cycles
For Centuries,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438350.aspx
January 19, 2017, “Research: El Nino, Pacific Decadal Oscillation Correlates
With Domoic Acid Shellfish Toxicity,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438200.aspx
October 7, 2016, “Study Connects Massive West Coast Toxic Algal Bloom In 2015
To Unusually Warm Ocean Conditions,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437700.aspx