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David Welch receives the 2012 Award of Excellence from the Fisheries Management Section of the American Fisheries Society

David Welch has been awarded the 2012 Award of Excellence from the American Fisheries Society Fisheries Management Section. The Award of Excellence is given “…for inspirational leadership in the fishery profession and substantial achievements for AFS and the fisheries resource. The recipients must have effectively communicated their work at the national and/or international level. The Award of Excellence is given for cumulative accomplishments rather than a singular effort.

The award will be presented at the AFS Annual General Meeting in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) Minnesota, on the 19th of August 2012. The AFS is the oldest and largest professional society for fisheries scientists in the world.

More information and past recipients can be found here.

Nature’s Scientific Reports publishes results from Kintama’s salmon survival study

Kintama’s latest paper has been published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports. Dr. Erin Rechisky, Kintama’s Research Manager, is the lead author of the paper “Estuarine and early-marine survival of transported and in-river migrant Snake River spring Chinook salmon smolts” that was published today in Nature’s open access journal. The paper presents results from Kintama and Fish Passage Solutions’ 2006-2009 study on whether barging reduces survival of transported smolts in the Columbia River. The study used a large-scale marine acoustic telemetry array to experimentally test whether survival of transported spring Chinook salmon smolts was reduced relative to control groups that first migrated through eight major hydropower dams during their seaward migration. The results indicate that barging does not negatively affect survival of smolts post-release, a key issue that could not previously be resolved, and that attention should be placed on what ocean conditions the smolts may encounter as a consequence of altered timing of ocean entry due to transportation downstream.

The paper can be viewed in its entirety from Nature’s website while a full copy with the Supplementary Information section appended is also available direct from Kintama’s website.

“Many juvenile Snake River Chinook salmon are transported downriver to avoid hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River basin. As mortality to the final dam is ~50%, transported fish should return as adults at roughly double the rate of nontransported fish; however, the benefit of transportation has not been realized consistently. “Delayed” mortality caused by transportation-induced stress is one hypothesis to explain reduced returns of transported fish. Differential timing of ocean entry is another. We used a large-scale acoustic telemetry array to test whether survival of transported juvenile spring Chinook is reduced relative to in-river migrant control groups after synchronizing ocean entry timing. During the initial 750 km, 1 month long migration after release, we found no evidence of decreased estuarine or ocean survival of transported groups; therefore, decreased survival to adulthood for transported Chinook is likely caused by factors other than delayed effects of transportation, such as earlier ocean entry.”

David Welch awarded the J. P. Tully Medal in Oceanography for 2011

David Welch, president of Kintama, has been awarded the J. P. Tully Medal in Oceanography for 2011. The award was presented at the Awards Banquet held on 31 May 2012 during the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society’s (CMOS) Congress in Montreal, Quebec.

The award consists of a medal and a certificate with the following citation:

“To David Welch of Kintama Research Services, Ltd, for his three decades of research dedicated to understanding the sea life of salmon using innovative data-gathering techniques with special reference to acoustic arrays. The resulting data have been correlated with oceanographic conditions and climate change to obtain a much deeper understanding of how the two sciences of fisheries and oceanography are synthesized as a single discipline of Fisheries Oceanography. He has been the leader of a major initiative to track a wide variety of fish species’ movements around the Pacific, the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) program. This program has provided a core research platform for a wide range of scientists to address questions concerning fish movement and survival that would be otherwise prohibitively expensive for one researcher to undertake alone.”

More information, past recipients, and history of the award itself can be found here.

CBC Radio interview on TEFFS project (February 7, 2012)

CBC Radio interviewed Kintama on the proposed project TEFFS (Testing the Effect of Fish Farms on Salmon Survival). Click here to hear David Welch’s explanation of the TEFFS project and how it can provide needed answers on BC’s Fish Farm controversy for both sides of the argument.

Kintama’s TEFFS proposal profiled in Globe & Mail

The Globe & Mail recently profiled Kintama’s new proposal (“TEFFS”) to directly test whether exposure to fish farms reduces survival of young salmon. TEFFS (Testing the Effect of Fish Farms on Salmon Survival) is a large-scale research initiative led by Kintama which will involve a collaboration amongst a substantial number of leading British Columbia researchers. The study should provide a major step forward in understanding whether or not fish farm exposure is reducing the survival of wild salmon. The article can be accessed here while more information on the proposal can be found here.

SFU think tank – Managing for Uncertainty: Pathogens and Diseases in Pacific Salmon

As part of Simon Fraser University’s Speaking for the Salmon series, an Invitational Scientist’s Think Tank was held to discuss disease organisms and salmon health on November 30 and December 1, 2011. Kintama participated along with about 25 other invited local and International scientists. Following the meeting, the group released a consensus statement that highlighted key points, barriers, and opportunities for illuminating the role of disease organisms in wild salmon populations.

“Combining modern methods, such as molecular assays and telemetry, with classic pathology, on-the-ground population monitoring and large-scale experiments can provide the needed insight into the risk factors associated with disease in wild fish. It is time to develop new collaborative and independent infrastructures for addressing these challenges” stated the release.

Kintama agrees wholeheartedly. Working with collaborators from UBC, SFU, and government agencies, Kintama has developed a proposal for rigorously testing the effects of fish farms on salmon survival (TEFFS) using acoustic telemetry. Dr. David Welch, President of Kintama Research adds, “We have excellent support within the science community for TEFFS and are in the process of acquiring financial backing for the project. This study will go a long way to answering whether farms actually effect salmon survival or not”.

More information on the meeting can be found here along with a separate document highlighting the group’s recommendations. More information on TEFFS and the draft proposal can be found here.

Important findings from the 2011 Columbia River Chinook salmon survival study

Kintama has released preliminary results from the 2011 study: Estuarine and Early Marine Survival and Movements of Yearling Chinook Salmon funded by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Kintama’s Research Manager, Dr. Erin Rechisky, presented the results at the Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program (AFEP) forum on December 1, 2011. The study included tagging of approximately 800 Chinook yearlings, a portion of these were captured at the Lower Granite Dam and then transported to below Bonneville Dam, and another portion was collected, tagged, and released at the Bonneville Dam. DNA samples were collected from each fish to ascertain stock origin. The major findings, some expected and some not so, included:

  • Yearling Chinook smolts migrate north upon ocean entry more than 95% of the fish detected in the ocean were detected on our acoustic sub-array north of the Columbia River mouth
  • Smolts migrate farther offshore at Willapa Bay, WA, but are closer to shore off of Lippy Point, BC
  • Smolt survival in the lower Columbia River and estuary was high, while survival in the coastal ocean and particularly the plume, was lower.
  • Post-Bonneville Dam survival was similar for Snake River and Columbia River yearling Chinook tagged and released at Bonneville Dam. We found no evidence of delayed mortality for smolts migrating through Snake River dams
  • Post-Bonneville survival in the lower Columbia River and estuary was similar for Run Of River and Transported Snake River yearling Chinook

Kintama Research findings presented at AFEP forum

Kintama’s Research Manager, Dr. Erin Rechisky, attended the Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program (AFEP) forum on December 1, 2011 and presented Kintama’s work in the Columbia River and along the West Coast of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.  The talk, “2011 COAST Study: Estuarine and Early Marine Survival and Movements of Yearling Chinook Salmon“, reported the Chinook smolt distribution on the coastal array, as well as survival rates, travel time of the fish, and visualizations.

The Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program (AFEP) forum is held each year by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The main purpose of AFEP is to produce scientific information to assist the Corps in making informed engineering, design, and operational decisions for the eight mainstem Columbia and Snake River projects in order to provide safe, efficient passage through the mainstem migration corridor.

David Welch speaking at American Fisheries Society 2011 Conference

David Welch spoke at the American Fisheries Society conference in Seattle on Thursday September 8 at 2:30pm. His talk, “When is Recruitment Determined in the Marine Life History of Salmon? — Current Evidence From the POST Array” discussed the following:

Large-scale declines in marine survival of many Pacific salmon populations occurred over the last three decades. We examined when in the life history this mortality was expressed using the POST prototype array.

We first compared the size at tagging of released smolts and of the survivors at distant marine array locations, hundreds of kilometers away from the release site and requiring ≥1 month travel time. The mean, variance, and higher order moments of the size-frequency distribution was equivalent for each species examined (sockeye, steelhead, chinook, & coho). This indicates that mortality processes did not substantially distort the size distribution of survivors and that larger smolts did not survive better than smaller smolts above our pre-specified minimum size thresholds for surgical implantation (130 mm & 140 mm for Vemco V7 & V9 tags). We also found that survival to adult return of acoustically tagged Fraser River sockeye and Snake River spring Chinook smolts matched that of the overall (untagged) run in at least some years of tagging. As surgical implantation of acoustic tags does not therefore substantially reduce smolt survival after release, it is possible to calculate how much of the overall mortality is expressed in the first 1~2 months after release and how much afterwards; the results indicate that total mortality still to occur after the first 1 month of life in the sea equals or exceeds that occurring to that time. Thus events later in the life history still have the potential to determine much of the declining marine survival of the salmon stocks we have examined.

David Welch testifies at Cohen Commission

David Welch testified at the Cohen Commission (Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River) for two and half days in early July. A transcript of the testimony can be found here.