Current Activities - More
After evaluating current available scientific information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the Lake Sammamish kokanee population does not meet the criteria of a distinct population segment and is therefore not a listable entity under the Endangered Species Act.
Long-billed Curlew Study Links Contaminant Exposure to Population Size
Long-billed curlews are the largest shorebirds in North America and are designated as highly imperiled in the U.S. and Canada. Environmental contaminant exposure in curlew habitats, particularly pesticides, PCBs and metals, has been identified as a potential limiting factor to population growth. Contaminant toxicity may be further exacerbated by increasing temperatures associated with climate change.
The Eastern Washington Field Office (EWFO) and Hanford National Monument/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex are working with the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center to evaluate contaminant exposure and migratory connectivity of long-billed curlews in the Columbia Basin. This cooperative study, funded by the Environmental Contaminants Division’s on-refuge investigation program with substantial in-kind support from USGS researchers, involves collection and contaminants analyses of long-billed curlew eggs at several Pacific Northwest refuges where the birds breed annually. Eggs will be analyzed for organochlorine pesticides, mercury, and other environmental contaminants to determine if exposure to these compounds at breeding or wintering habitats is contributing to their population decline. USGS will conduct additional analyses on the eggs to help identify the general areas where exposure may have occurred throughout their migratory range. These data will further contribute to large-scale research that USGS is conducting on the birds related to the effects of climate change on the population.
Volunteers from the Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society are working with Refuge and EWFO staff to assist in nest surveys and egg collection in the field. Volunteers have provided invaluable support to the Service with their bird observation skills, long hours of rope-dragging to locate nests, and their general enthusiasm for the curlews. So far, sampling has been successfully completed at the Hanford National Monument.For more photos of the long-billed curlew, please visit our Regional Flickr page.
Condit Dam decommissioned! (You Tube)
Sand Verbena Moth 411 Call
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed a 90-day finding on a petition to list the sand verbena moth as endangered or threatened throughout its entire range. Although the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing the sand verbena moth may be justified, it contained little information on the biology, distribution, and habitat requirements of the species or potential threats. We did find that dune stabilization and habitat conversion may pose a threat to the Sand Verbena Moth throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
As a consequence, we are initiating a more complete review to determine whether listing the sand verbena moth under the Endangered Species Act is warranted. To ensure our review is thorough, we are requesting information regarding the moth’s biology, habitat, and threats.
Nine moth populations have been documented in the Georgia Basin and Puget Sound region of Washington. Adult moths have one flight period that occurs from mid-May to late July. The moth's only known host plant is the yellow sand verbena, which occurs along the coast from British Columbia southward into California on spits, dunes, and sandy coastal habitat.
To learn more about the sand verbena moth, click here.
Coho Salmon Die-Offs in Urban Streams - Assessing the Ecological Impacts of Stormwater on Salmon
Fix the habitat, the fish will come. And they might die, says research into the effects of non-point source pollution on the health of salmon in urban watersheds. The Washington FWO Contaminants program, along with our partners at NOAA Fisheries, is examining the effects of stormwater runoff on salmon spawning in streams near Seattle. The work has revealed that up to ~90 percent of female coho salmon die before spawning in Longfellow Creek, where fish physical and hydrological habitat has been restored. It seems there’s more to habitat than shade, fish passage, and pools and riffles. Oils and grease, heavy metals, and pesticides from nearby roads and lands wash into the creek, negatively affecting water quality and thwarting salmon productivity.
Many watershed restoration projects in the Puget Sound area focus on improving the physical conditions of urban streams such as removing barriers to fish passage or improving habitat for salmon. Beginning in the late 1990’s, agencies in the greater Seattle area began conducting salmon spawner surveys to determine the effectiveness of local stream restoration efforts. These surveys detected a surprisingly high rate of death among adult coho (“silver” salmon) females that were in good physical condition but had not yet spawned. In addition, adult coho from several different streams in the area showed similar symptoms (disorientation, lethargy, loss of equilibrium, gaping mouth, and fin splaying) that quickly lead to death. This phenomenon has been referred to as pre-spawn mortality (PSM).
In recent years, PSM has been observed in many lowland urban streams, with overall rates ranging from 25-89% of females returning to spawn. Although the precise cause of PSM in urban streams is unknown, conventional water quality parameters (temperature and dissolved oxygen) and disease do not appear to be the cause. Rather, evidence suggests that adult coho, which enter small urban streams following fall storm events, are very sensitive to non-point source pollution (contaminants that cannot be traced back to one origin or source, such as stormwater runoff) that typically comes from urban land-use activities.
Why Should We Care?
The reduced spawning success that results from PSM can have detrimental impacts on the persistence of local salmon runs. As human populations grow and urban centers expand into undeveloped regions, wild coho salmon in currently pristine watersheds may also be affected. Therefore, an understanding of the cause of pre-spawn mortality is essential for the protection of salmon populations today and into the future.