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CBB SHORTS:
Posted on Friday, April 18, 2008 (PST)

CBB SHORTS: NOAA March Climate Report; Idaho Spring Salmon Season; Limiting Lake Billy Chinook Kokanee; Reintroducing Salmon to Upper Klamath; NOAA's New Marine Sanctuary Website

-- NOAA: Western U.S. Snowpack Healthiest in a Decade

An analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center shows that the average temperature for March in the contiguous United States ranked near average for the past 113 years. It was the 63rd warmest March since record-keeping began in the United States in 1895.

The average global land temperature last month was the warmest on record and ocean surface temperatures were the 13th warmest. Combining the land and the ocean temperatures, the overall global temperature ranked the second warmest for the month of March. Global temperature averages have been recorded since 1880.

Snowpack conditions dropped in many parts of the West in March, but in general, heavy snowfall during December-February has left the western snow pack among the healthiest in more than a decade, with most locations near to above average.

Nine states from Oklahoma to Vermont were much wetter than average, with Missouri experiencing its second wettest March on record. Much of the month's precipitation fell March 17-20, when an intense storm system moved slowly from the southern Plains through the southern Midwest.

Rainfall in the middle of March improved drought conditions in much of the Southeast, but moderate-to-extreme drought still remained in more than 59 percent of the region.

In the western U.S., the weather pattern in March bore a greater resemblance to a typical La Niña, with especially dry conditions across Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. March was extremely dry in much of California, tying as the driest in 68 years at the Sacramento airport with 0.05 inches, a 2.75 inch departure from average.

The global land surface temperature was the warmest on record for March, 3.3 degrees F above the 20th century mean of 40.8 degrees. Temperatures more than 8 degrees above average covered much of the Asian continent. Two months after the greatest January snow cover extent on record on the Eurasian continent, the unusually warm temperatures led to rapid snow melt, and March snow cover extent on the Eurasian continent was the lowest on record.

The global surface (land and ocean surface) temperature was the second warmest on record for March in the 129-year record, 1.28 degrees F above the 20th century mean of 54.9. The warmest March on record (1.33 degrees above average) occurred in 2002.

Although the ocean surface average was only the 13th warmest on record, as the cooling influence of La Niña in the tropical Pacific continued, much warmer than average conditions across large parts of Eurasia helped push the global average to a near record high for March.

Despite above average snowpack levels in the United States, the total Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent was the fourth lowest on record for March, remaining consistent with boreal spring conditions of the past two decades, in which warming temperatures have contributed to anomalously low snow cover extent.

Some weakening of La Niña, the cold phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, occurred in March, but moderate La Niña conditions remained across the tropical Pacific Ocean.

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-- Idaho Fish and Game Sets Spring Salmon Season

Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners have set spring chinook salmon seasons, beginning Saturday, April 26.

The season opens a half hour before sunrise on April 26 on parts of the Snake, Clearwater, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers. It opens on May 24 on the Lochsa River.

Commissioners are expected to consider seasons on the South Fork Salmon River and the upper Salmon River in May.

Chinook fishing will be open on the Snake River from the Dug Bar boat ramp upstream to Hells Canyon Dam; on mainstem Clearwater River from the Camas Prairie Railroad Bridge at Lewiston upstream to the South Fork Clearwater River; on the North Fork Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam; on the South Fork Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to the confluence of American and Red rivers; and on the Middle Fork Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway rivers.

The Lochsa River will open, starting May 24, from its mouth upstream to the Twin Bridges immediately upstream from the confluence of Crooked Fork and Colt Killed Creek.

These segments will be open until July 20 or further notice, whichever comes first.

The Lower Salmon River will be open from the Hammer Creek boat ramp upstream to a posted boundary at the mouth of Short's Creek - about 1.4 miles upstream of the mouth of the Little Salmon River - until June 22 or until further notice.

The Little Salmon River will be open from a posted boundary at its mouth upstream to U. S. Highway 95 Bridge near Smokey Boulder Road will be open until August 3 or further notice.

Fishing hours are from one half hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, local time, seven days a week until the seasons close.

Limits in the Clearwater River drainage are two per day, six in possession. On the Snake, Lower Salmon, and Little Salmon Rivers limits are three per day, nine in possession. The statewide limit for adult chinook is 40 for the season.

Only hatchery chinook salmon with a clipped adipose fin -- evidenced by a healed scar -- may be kept. All salmon with an intact adipose fin must be released immediately. Any salmon caught in a legal manner must be released or killed immediately after landing.

The rules have changed for jack chinook salmon this year. A jack is any chinook less than 24 inches long. Anglers may keep two adipose-fin-clipped jacks per day and have six in possession in addition to the adult chinook daily and possession limits. But they don't have to record the jacks on their permit.

When the adult possession limit is reached, the angler must stop all fishing for salmon, including catch and-release and for jacks.

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-- Kokanee Fishing Limited on Lake Billy Chinook

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is implementing an emergency regulation change for Lake Billy Chinook that will eliminate the 25-fish bonus bag limit for kokanee. The new regulation, which goes into effect May 1, limits the daily harvest of kokanee to five fish included in the trout bag limit.

The reduced bag limit is in response to a sharp decline in kokanee populations.

"Our current estimates indicate the kokanee population is less than half of what it was in the 1990s and early 2000s," said Brett Hodgson, ODFW fish biologist.

The new five-fish bag limit can include any combination of kokanee, rainbow trout and up to one bull trout over 24 inches. Possession consists of two daily limits.

The emergency regulation will continue through October 27. ODFW is proposing to extend the regulation change through the 2009-2011 angling regulation cycle.

"We think that a limited harvest now will lead to a stronger kokanee population and better angling in the future," Hodgson said. "The new regulations should also benefit the re-establishment of a sockeye salmon run in the Lake Billy Chinook and Metolius River ecosystem."

For more information, contact Brett Hodgson, Deschutes District fish biologist at (541) 388-6363.

The mission of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is to protect and enhance Oregon's fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations. Headquartered in Salem, ODFW has regional offices in Clackamas, Roseburg, Bend, and La Grande with ten district offices located throughout the state. For additional information, please visit www.dfw.state.or.us.

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-- ODFW to Study Reintroduction of Salmon into Upper Klamath Basin

Salmon disappeared from the upper Klamath River basin in Oregon almost 100 years ago when Copco Dam in California blocked fish passage upriver.

Today, however, with PacifiCorp's four large hydroelectric dams up for re-licensing and facing mandatory federal requirements to provide passage to migrating fish, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is proposing to reintroduce chinook salmon into Upper Klamath Lake and tributaries.

"With a new federal mandate for fish passage and the millions of dollars already spent on habitat restoration, we think it's reasonable and prudent to study the possibility of bringing salmon back to the basin," said Roger Smith, ODFW district biologist.

The upcoming fish passage complements the federal government's expenditure of over $171 million in recent years on fish habitat restoration projects within the basin, Smith added.

A proposal will be presented to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission at its May 9, 2008 meeting to amend the Klamath River Basin Fish Management Plan. The amendment calls for a cautious, science-based approach to the reintroduction of chinook salmon into Upper Klamath Lake and tributaries, according to Smith. Commission endorsement of the amendment of the 1997 Klamath Basin Management Plan will be voted on at its July meeting.

A copy of the draft plan is available at the ODFW web site www.dfw.state.or.us under Special Plans and Programs.

The department will hold public meetings on the plan amendment and proposed reintroduction in Central Point and Klamath Falls in late April. The Central Point meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 22 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the ODFW Central Point Office located at 1495 East Gregory Road, Central Point.

The Klamath Falls meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Oregon Institute of Technology, Mt. Shasta and Mt. Scott Rooms located on the second floor of the Student Union, 321 Campus Drive, Klamath Falls.

The first step in the proposal is for biologists to develop an Implementation Plan, consistent with the department's Native Fish Conservation Policy, to introduce chinook salmon at the upper end of the watershed, in Upper Klamath Lake and tributaries. Of primary interest will be selecting a broodstock that will be disease resistant and interact well with existing populations of redband trout.

"Salmon and trout in the upper Klamath basin spent the last 2 million years evolving together," Smith said. "It's only been in the last 91 years they have been apart. We're very excited about returning salmon and steelhead to the upper basin. Their return will enrich species diversity and will help restore culturally significant fisheries. Stronger salmon runs in the Klamath River basin will have coast wide implications for sport, tribal and commercial fisheries in Oregon and California."

Once passage is restored, the plan calls for monitoring natural re-colonization of salmon and steelhead in the Klamath River and tributaries once blocked by PacifiCorp's dams.

"We expect lower river salmon and steelhead populations will immediately begin to re-colonize areas of the river above PacifiCorp's dams once fish passage is provided," Smith said. Scientists will monitor how far up they go and in what numbers, he added.

The ODFW is charged with restoring natural fish populations under its Native Fish Conservation Policy.

"Reintroduction of salmon into the upper Klamath bBasin not only makes biological and economic sense, but it's the right thing to do to restore Oregon's cultural heritage," said Smith.

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--- NOAA Launches Marine Sanctuaries Science Website

NOAA and partners have launched a comprehensive, user-friendly online resource featuring the latest scientific research conducted within three West Coast national marine sanctuaries.

The Web site, http://sanctuarysimon.org, integrates scientific monitoring data from Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries -- three contiguous, federally protected marine areas off California's northern central coast. Developed by the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network, the site makes a wealth of information about the region's marine ecosystem instantly and easily accessible.

"This new SIMoN web site is a dynamic portal that provides the public and decisionmakers with valuable information about one of the planet's richest and most diverse marine ecosystems," said William J. Douros, the sanctuary system's West Coast regional director. "This innovative resource will greatly enhance our ability to identify natural and human-induced changes in the marine and coastal ecosystems that our sanctuaries protect."

The site's photo gallery also offers users access to more than 2,800 free, high-quality still and video images, sounds and graphics. Visitors can view the sanctuaries' incredible diversity of marine life, including fishes, seabirds and marine mammals, and explore a wide variety of habitats ranging from kelp forests to submarine canyons. Other sections of the site examine the physical characteristics of the area, including geology, oceanography and water quality.

SIMoN was created in partnership with the regional science and management community to integrate scientific research and long-term monitoring data to provide information needed for effective management and a better understanding of the sanctuary and its resources. With nearly 100 contributing partners already, sanctuarysimon.org will be continuously updated and enriched as additional partners in science and education join the project. Researchers from all over the world can contribute information, which will be authenticated and incorporated into the site's verified pages.

The numerous collaborators involved in the SIMoN project include the U.S. Geological Survey, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, California Department of Fish and Game, Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory and Cascadia Research Collective.

Stretching from the waters off Bodega Head south to Cambria near San Luis Obispo, Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries encompass approximately 7,130 square miles of ocean and estuarine waters.

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