The mysterious decline of Puget Sound herring

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by CacheCreek, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. CacheCreek

    CacheCreek always learning

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  2. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!

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    The USGS Westen Fisheries laboratory at Marrowstone Point has been working on this for years. Very troubling indeed. As recently as 2007 WDFW Forage Fish experts were stating that "the Herring in Puget Sound were doing fine". What the hell does it take to make changes around here? What do we have to lose?
     
  3. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    One of the major causes of the decline of Puget Sound herring populations is the alteration of beach environments. The armoring and bulkheading of beaches by property-proud owners of beach real estate has probably done more damage to herring populations than any other single factor. These processes alter the normal flow of sands and sediments along the beaches and are particularly damaging or destructive to stands of eelgrass which are of paramount importance to spawning herring. I can't find the figures right now but the existing mileage of unaltered Puget Sound beaches is surprisingly small and diminishing.
     
  4. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    What Preston said. Same general mechanisms have all but eliminated cod spawning beaches is PS. So I am told.
     
  5. Milt Roe

    Milt Roe Active Member

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    Loss of spawning habitat or nearshore habitat would not cause the ageclass structure to compress into younger age fish as it apparently has. Increased predation or excessive harvest would have that result though. Sounds like the cause is uncertain.
     
  6. kelvin

    kelvin Active Member

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    The cod population was destroyed in one year when the state allowed commercial fishing of the run that use to spawn here
     
  7. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    Oh, unless your 80 years old, the Cod were mostly gone before you were fishing. I know I sometimes sound like a broken record about my Grandpappy, but he was a Fisheries Bio many moons ago (he is dead now...would be 90 something). He talked a lot about a lot of things, but I distinctly recall a conversation about the loss of spawning beaches for Cod. At the time, he said Cod were pretty confined to a few suitable spawning areas. When they were disrupted, the populations crashed. This was in the 80's and I definitely got the sense he was talking about "a long time ago" but he was not specific. He mentioned Cod used to spawn near golden gardens.
     
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  8. Derek Day

    Derek Day Rockyday

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    Aprox 25% of PS's 2500 shoreline miles have been armored.

    http://www.psp.wa.gov/vitalsigns/shoreline_armoring.php
     
  9. kelvin

    kelvin Active Member

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    OH?
    No I am not in my 80s but my fathers is.
    When I was a teenager in the 70s we use to fish for Black Mouth and Cod off Shilshole marina (Golden Gardens) and limit on both salmon and True Cod in the 5-10lb range on a regular basis
    I believe the commerical boats fished both there and off Agate Pass where they would spawn one year when it was opened to fishing commercaily. The year cod was opend for comercial fishing was last year I ever caught a cod in Puget Sound or ever heard of one being caught.
    I am sure the loss of spawning area contributed to all of this
    however I think it is more likely the commerical fishing that year was the last nail in the coffin as they say.
    Sadly I recall a time we use to catch Steelhead and Large Bull trout out there.
    I hooked my first steelhead in the salt off Shilshole at age 13.
    I still fish that area now from the beach with a fly rod,
    not because fishing is great but because it is 5 minutes from my house.
    Waters that once looked like it was pouring raining with herring on the surface have had little if any herring the last several years.
    Nor have there been any Grebs that would alert us to the presence of fish below .

    Perhaps grandpappy recalled a time when the cod were as thick as the herring I recall.

    Perhaps our kids will recall a time when there where these people called fishermen
     
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  10. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    And don't get me wrong, I'm not trash talking or have any first hand knowledge :)

    And while I wasn't actually trying to argue, I suspect the PS fisheries were less healthy my a good margin by the 80's and that what you describe may have been the straw that broke the camels back. I am afraid your last statement may come true. The old man told me that once upon a time he thought he would live to see the Columbia salmon disappear (I think it was more commentary on peoples priorities than on the looming extinction of the CR salmon).
     
  11. kelvin

    kelvin Active Member

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    No worries
    other than the alarming decline of herring that is
     
  12. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    If anyone is interested in more detailed information on Puget Sound herring and the status and trends of the various spawning stocks the following may be of interest.

    http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00928/

    The first link in this thread is focused on the Cherry Point stock and its troubling collapse. It looks like on the average the aggregate of the rest of the Puget Stocks has been more or less stable during the period of the Cherry Point stock collapse following the start of the sac-roe fishery in early 1970s.


    Lots of info with a number of things to mull over. A couple things that jumped out to me was the fact that harbor seal populations are increasing at a rate of 7.7%/year and the only herring fishery in recent years has been one targeting younger fish to provide bait for various fisheries; the average landings for the decade ending in 2007 was 387 tons/year.

    Derek's point about the armoring of the shoreline of Puget Sound (especially the eroding bluffs) is very important for the bait fish species (smelt and sand lance) that spawn at the upper tidal margins. The fine material input from eroding bank is key to providing the spawning substrate (a mix of fines and small pebbles) that does not dry out while the area is exposed during lower tides. With out those fines the spawning gravel dries out and the eggs die.

    Curt
     
  13. Upton O

    Upton O Blind hog fisherman

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    Very interesting information, what comes to mind for me is the eroding of hill sides along the Sound and how that might play in replenishing sand and fines to the system.
     
  14. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    So the Coupville landslide is not a problem, it is a fisheries enhancement project :)

    Seriously though, I wonder if the slide front will draw in fish in the coming days.
     
  15. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    Another point to keep in mind; the armoring of beaches has not only an effect on the immediate area armored, but on areas that may extend downcurrent for miles. Puget Sound beaches are dynamic systems and "drift cells" which transport sediments can be disrupted by many (most) forms of construction along the beach. Ron Hirschi wrote an excellent article on the subject which can be found as a chapter in Doug Rose's Fly-Fishing Guide to the Olympic Peninsula (Chapter 27, Rivers of Sand).