The summer’s early snowmelt, record temperatures and drought in the Northwest killed young hatchery fish and adult fish returning to spawn. And federal experts are expecting 2016 to be even worse for fish.

Deschutes Fish Die-Offs Tied To Water Management

Oct 16, 2015

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that 500-1,000 fish died recently because of low water in the Upper Deschutes River. The fish kills are a recent annual occurrence tied to water management in the basin.

The Upper Deschutes is fed from the Wickiup Reservoir. A few weeks ago, river flows were about 2,000 cubic feet per second. But once irrigators were done with water for the season, dam operators cut back water releases by at least 75 percent.

Something unusual is happening in America's wilderness — some animals and plants are moving away from their native habitats. The reason is a warming climate. It's getting too hot where they live.

Species that can't migrate may perish, so some biologists say we need to move them. But they admit that's a roll of the dice that violates a basic rule of conservation: If you want to keep the natural world "natural," you don't want to move plants and animals around willy-nilly.

New Plan For Recovering Bull Trout Takes Effect

Oct 1, 2015

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a new plan for bringing back the declining bull trout in Oregon, Washington and three other Western states. But conservationists say it won't actually restore the fish's population to a healthy level.

Bull trout are predators native to streams across the Northwest. In some places, bull trout were purposely over-fished to keep them from eating precious salmon.

Crabs, shrimp and fish lie dead in shallow water near Potlatch State Park along Hood Canal on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015.
Skokomish Tribe Department of Natural Resources/Seth Book

HOODSPORT, Washington -- Marine life is struggling to survive in the oxygen-starved waters of Hood Canal.

Hundreds of rockfish hovered in shallow water near shore this weekend, listlessly crowded together to access the limited oxygen closest to the surface. Wolf eels, normally reclusive creatures, came out of their dens, “panting” so as to move water over their gills and avoid suffocating.

Chris Burns, natural resources technician with Washington’s Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, stands in the Dungeness River. Flows are roughly one-third of normal, prompting fears that salmon won’t be able to make it upstream to spawn.
EarthFix-KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – The fishing aisle at Swain’s General Store is stocked with tackle for catching salmon and trout on nearby rivers.

But something is missing among the rows of lures, floats and ornately tied flies: customers.

Sturgeon Poachers Angle For Caviar On The Columbia

May 21, 2015
 The man in this photo has been charged with trying to sell an illegal sturgeon. Police say he used this cellphone photo of himself alongside the fish on the bank of the Columbia River to market the fish.
Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The high value of caviar is driving poachers to an inventive way to cash in on giant sturgeon in the Columbia River:

They lash live fish with ropes to the riverbank for safe-keeping until black-market buyers can be located. Enforcement officials have also found sturgeon carcasses floating in the river with their bellies slit open to harvest their eggs.

Feb. 17, 2015 is a happy day for biologists Brian Bangs and Paul Sheerer. Today the Oregon chub, a tiny minnow that exists only in the Willamette Valley, is the first fish species to be officially taken off the endangered species list.

Never heard of it?

“The Oregon chub is kind of an underdog. Not very many people know what they are. Actually, a lot of biologists don’t know what they are,” says Sheerer, who works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “They only grow to be about three inches long.”

Construction begins this week on a state project in the Methow Valley that will give fish a boost of cold, clean water in rivers near Twisp, Washington.

Courtesy of Lincoln County Historical Society

In the competitive world of fishing, joining forces can be tough work. It’s even more difficult if the two parties are superpowers at the height of Cold War tensions.

Why Don't We Eat Our Own Fish?

Jul 24, 2014

Paul Greenberg‘s new book “American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood,” explains how lopsided the U.S. fishing market really is.

Most of the fish Americans eat is imported — about 90 percent. At the same time, the U.S. is exporting about one-third of its catch.

So why aren’t we eating what we catch?

Tribes: Fishing Rights Not For Sale

Jul 11, 2014

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have a message for coal shippers: their fishing rights are not for sale.

This blunt response comes after two years of talks between the tribes and Ambre Energy – the company that wants to build a coal export terminal on a part of the river that the tribes consider historic fishing grounds protected by their treaty with the federal government.

Washington's pollution standards would be made much tougher -- making water clean enough that people can safely eat a daily serving of locally caught fish and shellfish -- under a plan laid out by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The governor announced Wednesday that he wants Washington to set the same fish-consumption standards that guide water pollution rules in Oregon.

As a consequence, waters in Washington would be clean enough that people can consume 175 grams of fish a day, up from the current standard of 6.5 grams a day.

Marcie Sillman speaks with KUOW reporter Ashley Ahearn about the specifics of Governor Jay Inslee's long-awaited proposal for how to improve water quality in Washington.