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Conservation in the Developing World

Marie Louise and I were traveling in India in January when I spotted this sign (see photo) across the road from a Catholic Church where our priest friend was ordained 30 years ago. Navelim is a town in the state of Goa on the southwest coast of India, on the Arabian Sea.

I could not find anyone or any information to elaborate on the NPG, but it appears that concerns about fossil fuels, mines and rivers are the same the world around. It struck me as a bit of a paradox, however, as it appears to the casual traveler that any river in India near a population center seems to function as a repository for sewage and litter, and they rely on the annual monsoon rains to sweep away the filth, to the ocean presumably. Probably better than the effluent of a coal mine, but we all live downstream...

Mark Metzdorff

Conservation Corner

Fish Where They Don’t Belong

I know there is some good conservation news out there! But my inbox has been blasted with so much bad news. Public lands at risk of being opened up for resource extraction, wild steelhead runs at alarmingly low levels, wild B run fish on the brink of extinction, the very scary thought of oil drilling off our rugged Oregon coast. There is an issue that seems to have moved to the back burner yet it still should be high on our list of concerns: The net pen industry on our Pacific coast. Remember the Cypress Island net pen failure back in August of last year. Over 300,000 Atlantic salmon were released when the Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s net pen failed due to negligence in maintaining the nets and moorings. An Investigation and Review Panel, made up of representatives from the Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Washington Department of Natural Resources recently released their report detailing the causes of the net pen failure and the response to the resulting disastrous release of non-native salmon. In 2017 Cypress Island Atlantic Salmon Net Pen Failure: An Investigation and Review, the panel found that Cooke failed to clean the nets and, as a result, they became heavy with mussels and other marine organisms. The weight of the marine life, referred to as biofoul in the report, put drag on the nets. The laden nets and supporting structure could not withstand the summer tidal currents and failed in July and again in August 2017. The second failure was catastrophic and it is estimated that approximately 250,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into Puget Sound. Cooke tried to recover some of the fish (they caught an estimated 42-62,000). An army of fishermen, primarily Tribal fishers, worked to extract as many of these invasive species from the Sound. But the Washington report estimates that up to 206,000 remain unaccounted for.

The Washington agency report cites Cooke for multiple failures, the most egregious being failure to report the magnitude of the August net pen failure. Initially, Cooke said 4-5,000 fish were believed to have escaped. When the state finally got out to inspect the site four days later, the bolus of a quarter million fish were out of the bag. As recently as this past December, “healthy” Atlantic salmon were caught in the Skagit River. The report states that the “long term impact of escaped Atlantic salmon in the rivers is not known at this time.” The fish that have been recovered have shown no evidence of feeding nor of sexual maturity. However, the panel notes that in freshwater, they “may survive for some time.” Monitoring will continue to follow both survival of the escapees and any evidence of spawning. The state agencies learned that they need to develop a better emergency response plan to deal with net pen failures. Some conservation groups are calling for much stricter regulations and oversight (not likely to be popular back in D.C). If you are interested in the details, please check out the report online.

Lisa Hansen

Conservation Corner

Cypress Island Net Pen Complex
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