SHORTS: Idaho Opens Clearwater Steelhead Fishing Jan. 1; New USFWS Director; California Coastal Waters Acidifying; Washington’s New Oil Spill Rule For Rail

* Idaho Fish And Commission Re-Opens Steelhead Fishing In Clearwater, Lower Snake On Jan.1; Have Enough Fish For Hatcheries

Meeting by conference call on Wednesday, Dec. 18, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission reopened steelhead fishing in the Clearwater River and lower Snake River downstream of Couse Creek Boat Ramp, beginning on Jan. 1. Daily bag limit in those sections is limited to one adipose-clipped steelhead per day, none over 28 inches in length.

Anglers should note that the North Fork Clearwater River will be closed to steelhead fishing during the 2020 spring season. The South Fork of the Clearwater River will also reopen on Jan. 1, and all other season dates remain the same as what is printed 2019-21 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules brochure.

To see a summary of modifications that have been made to the 2019-21 printed steelhead seasons and rules, specific to the 2020 spring season, visit Idaho Fish and Game’s Steelhead Seasons and Rules Page. You can see the updated steelhead seasons and rules here.

The commission closed steelhead fishing entirely on the Clearwater River in September, as well as the Snake River below Couse Creek boat ramp. The closure came amid concerns that returns of hatchery steelhead would not be sufficient to meet broodstock needs for the Clearwater hatcheries.

Fisheries managers implemented additional trapping activities at Dworshak Hatchery and at Lower Granite Dam. Having never implemented these actions before, fisheries managers took a cautionary approach before proposing to reopen the fishery.

After an additional month of trapping steelhead for the Clearwater River hatchery programs, fisheries managers are confident there are enough steelhead for hatcheries and to provide steelhead fishing opportunities. Fisheries managers also plan to continue enlisting anglers to help provide steelhead broodstock in the South Fork fo the Clearwater in the spring.


* Senate Confirms Skipwith As New Director Of USFWS

The U.S. Senate last week voted to confirm Aurelia Skipwith as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Skipwith has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior since April 19, 2017.

“Aurelia Skipwith’s leadership at the Department of the Interior has been vital in helping us advance the President’s priorities for the American people,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “I look forward to working with her in her new capacity.”

Skipwith has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Fish Wildlife and Parks since April 2017. Previously, she served as Assistant Corporate Counsel at Alltech, Inc., an all-natural animal nutrition company that operates worldwide and has the world’s largest algae production system. She then became general counsel at AVC Global, an agricultural logistics and financing firm that she co-founded. Skipwith earned her B.S. in biology from Howard University, M.S. in molecular biology from Purdue University, and J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

“I am truly honored to serve the American people under the leadership of President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt,” said Skipwith. “I am grateful for the confidence that the Senate has placed in me, and I look forward to helping the Secretary advance this Administration’s priorities for the Department, for the Service and for American conservation.”

In her new role as the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service she will oversee a workforce of over 8,500 personnel charged with the mission of working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.


* NOAA Research Shows California Coastal Waters Acidifying At Rapid Rate

In first-of-its-kind research, NOAA scientists and academic partners used 100 years of microscopic shells to show that the coastal waters off California are acidifying twice as fast as the global ocean average — with the seafood supply in the crosshairs.

California coastal waters contain some of our nation’s more economically valuable fisheries, including salmon, crabs and shellfish. Yet, these fisheries are also some of the most vulnerable to the potential harmful effects of ocean acidification on marine life. That increase in acidity is caused by the ocean absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

In the new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists examined nearly 2,000 shells of microscopic animals called foraminifera by taking core samples from the seafloor off Santa Barbara and measuring how the shells of these animals have changed over a century.

Every day, the shells of dead foraminifera rain down on the ocean floor and are eventually covered by sediment. Layers of sediment containing shells form a vertical record of change. The scientists looked back through time, layer by layer, and measured changes in thickness of the shells.

“By measuring the thickness of the shells, we can provide a very accurate estimate of the ocean’s acidity level when the foraminifera were alive,” said lead author Emily Osborne, who used this novel technique to produce the longest record yet created of ocean acidification using directly measured marine species. She measured shells within cores that represented deposits dating back to 1895.

The fossil record also revealed an unexpected cyclical pattern: Though the waters increased their overall acidity over time, the shells revealed decade-long changes in the rise and fall of acidity. This pattern matched the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a natural warming and cooling cycle. Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are driving ocean acidification, but this natural variation also plays an important role in alleviating or amplifying ocean acidification.

“During the cool phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, strengthened winds across the ocean drive carbon dioxide-rich waters upward toward the surface along the West Coast of the U.S.,” said Osborne, a scientist with NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program. “It’s like a double whammy, increasing ocean acidification in this region of the world.”

Scientists hope to build on the new research to learn more about how changes in ocean acidification may be affecting other aspects of the marine ecosystem.


* WDOE Adopts Rule To Strengthen Railroad’s Oil Spill Response Efforts

The Washington Department of Ecology just completed rulemaking work to increase spill preparedness and response requirements of companies that move oil by rail. Specifically, this rule requires rail companies to:

•Enhance readiness requirements for non-floating oils – Washington wants to address response measures for oils that may degrade and sink when spilled. This type of oil is a challenge to traditional cleanup plans that are designed to respond to floating oils.

•Establish new requirements for spill and wildlife response teams – Spill Management Teams are the groups of people who respond to oil spills. Wildlife response service providers locate and care for oiled animals during a spill.

•Require railroad operators to conduct new oil spill preparedness drills – Drills help companies and their partners (local governments, tribes, state and federal agencies, etc.) know what to do when an oil spill occurs. Companies will be required to test their plans and staff, depending on the size of their operation and type of oil they transport.

•Streamline plans for smaller rail lines – Some short-line railroads haul non-crude oils, such as lube and vegetable oils, as cargo. Though these small railroad companies do not carry crude oil and serve small communities, oil of any kind is an environmental toxin and planning for spills is important. The new rules streamline planning requirements for smaller rail companies, depending on the type and volume of non-crude oil carried. 

This rule, says the agency, “is the next evolution of several legislative efforts to reduce the threat to the environment, human health, and local economies from a rail spill, the first being the Oil Transportation Safety Act in 2015.

“The adopted rule will go into effect on January 18, 2020. With the passage of this rule, railroads transporting oil in Washington will be better prepared to respond to a spill of various types of oil, work closely with spill management teams and wildlife response service providers, and train routinely on a number of scenarios.”

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