Review of “Development of a Regional Framework for Fish and Wildlife Restoration in the Columbia River Basin”

In 1993 the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) concluded that a major shortcoming of the Northwest Power Planning Council's Fish and Wildlife Program was that it lacked an explicit conceptual foundation (ISG, 1993). In Return to the River, the ISG (1996) developed a conceptual foundation for restoration of salmonid fishes in the Columbia River basin. The Northwest Power Planning Council (Council) has continued the process of development of an explicit conceptual or science foundation by articulating a set of eight ecosystem principles and discussing their implications for salmon restoration. These principles are derived from a number of other reviews and recovery strategies for Columbia River salmon including Return to the River. Several current reviews of the causes for decline of salmon in the Pacific Northwest have emphasized the need for an ecosystem perspective as a basis for designing a recovery program for salmon in the Pacific Northwest. The Science Foundation developed by the Council is moving in that direction and represents an important step in the development of a recovery program founded on ecosystem principles.In the Council's Science Foundation, the natural ecological processes of aquatic ecosystems are frequently contrasted with the controlled conditions of agricultural systems. McIntosh (1985) argues that fisheries management abandoned the holistic approach advocated by Stephen Forbes (1887) and emphasized the production of single species. As a consequence fisheries biologists divorced themselves from the major developments in ecology. Fisheries management adopted agricultural goals and the science to support them (Bottom 1997). The agricultural model is more than just an example. It represents the current scientific foundation. It appears that the Council is attempting to depart from the current foundation and reestablish the connection to ecology through this framework document, at least in its fishery restoration program. An emerging consensus in the world fisheries literature questions, at least in large measure, the agricultural model. The body of literature on how to approach sustainable fisheries management is rapidly growing (Stouder et al. 1996; National Research Council 1996; ISG 1996; Mooney 1998). One factor in this rapid growth appears to be dissatisfaction and frustration among resource management professionals and the public with the outcome of historical management programs for many exploited wild plant and animal species (Hofmann and Powell 1998; Lauck et al. 1998). Increasingly, attempts are being made to move from single-species management toward multi-species approaches, and toward incorporating many more elements of the ecosystem in fisheries management (Fujita et al. 1998; Hofmann and Powell 1998; Jarre-Teichmmann 1998). Those involved in salmon management need to be aware that a growing portion of the scientific community is deeply dissatisfied with the science of salmon fisheries management, as it has been practiced in the past (National Research Council 1996).

For example:

An overriding focus on extraction of biomass and numerical goals in fishery management has promoted the depletion and biotic impoverishment of the Pacific salmon ... resource. The prevalence of mechanistic thinking has marginalized or excluded critical ecological and cultural functions that sustain the resource and embody much of what humans value about it. This approach to salmon management has led to its own demise. (Frissell et al. 1996, p. 411).

This statement is applicable to a growing suite of sport and commercial salmon fisheries in the contiguous northwestern United States and Canada (Nehlsen et al. 1991; Huntington et al. 1996; Hyatt 1996; Mills et al. 1996; Slaney et al. 1996). In a fisheries context the definition of conservation is changing from maximizing yield for single stocks toward encompassing, " ... the protection, maintenance and rehabilitation of native biota, their habitats, and life-support systems to ensure ecosystem sustainability and biodiversity." (Caddy 1995, p. 1587). The general rationale for fisheries conservation from a broad perspective appears to be converging on enabling long-term harvests within the context of protecting the health of the ecosystem (Fujita et al. 1998). Indeed, conservation principles for sustainable fisheries management appear to be converging on the generic purpose of maintaining ecosystem function and processes (Starnes et al. 1995; Olver et al. 1995; FAO 1995; MSC 1996; National Research Council 1996; ISG 1996).

Finally, an ecosystem perspective implies that biological and physical approaches alone are not sufficient for sustainable salmon management (National Research Council 1996). Solutions enabling long-term sustainable salmon fishing and ecosystem protection also require institutions and property rights regimes appropriate to the nature of both the ecosystem and the human users (Hanna 1998). Property rights are the collections of entitlements that define the rights and responsibilities of users of the resources. The institutions capable of supporting salmon in its ecosystem need to be capable of attaching value to both the services and the commodities, such as tourism and commercial fishing, provided by the ecosystem. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the institutions of ecosystem management need to be able to coordinate user groups and managers on the geographic scale of the ecosystem (Hanna 1998).

General Comments

1. The stated purpose of the document is to provide a "scientific foundation for the restoration of fish and wildlife in the Columbia River basin." However, the document focuses primarily on general principles about ecosystems. Consider giving greater emphasis to three issues directly related to salmonid management: (1) the concepts of carrying capacity or productive capacity are no longer considered to denote stable or characteristic values but are inherently variable over time and management must adjust resource utilization accordingly; (2) the productivity of a population must be assessed over the life cycle of the species and the number of returns per female spawner must exceed two before exploitation is allowable otherwise the population size will decline; (3) the conservation of habitat and genetic diversity of salmonids are co-dependent and are both necessary for the sustained future production of salmonids in the Columbia Basin.

2. Aspects of the ecosystem principles overlap. Combining some of the principles would reduce their number and allow clearer discussion of some implications. To capture the point that productivity of natural populations varies over time and space, consider expanding the statement of principle 1: " Biological productivity of a population varies over time and between populations of a species, reflecting the conditions in ecosystems experienced throughout the life cycle of each population." Perhaps statement 2 in General Comment 1 could be incorporated here. The second principle would be a logical combination of principles 3 and 4: "Ecosystems are structured hierarchically and are defined relative to specific communities of plant and animal species" (assemblages may be a better word than communities in this definition). The third principle would combine principles 2 and 6: "Ecosystem conditions develop primarily through natural processes, and are both dynamic and resilient." However, even with this change, the principle is confusing since, at present, ecosystem conditions develop (change) through both natural and human processes. You need to decide what you are trying to convey with this principle. One implication of the principle is that ecosystem features and processes that are necessary to restore and sustain diverse and productive salmonid populations must develop. Using the term "evolutionary" as a description of natural ecosystems in principle 2 will immediately cause people to think about genetic adaptation (as opposed to "change" that we assume the authors were implying in principle 2). All biological systems can change but only biological populations and species can evolve genetically.

The fourth principle would be a re-statement of principle 5. "Biological diversity accommodates environmental variation." The discussion of this principle should incorporate the comments on variation in productive capacity and genetic diversity included in General Comment 1 above. A strong statement concerning the conservation of genetic variation, habitats, and connectedness between spawning populations should be included in this discussion. The fifth and final principle would be a revision of principle 7. "Responses to ecological management will be uncertain and must be monitored for evaluation and learning." Consider addressing uncertainty in restoration by explicitly incorporating it into principle 7 (or its revised form). The concepts of adaptive management versus direct experimentation can be left in the discussion and noted as means to address uncertainty and to develop a process for learning and adapting.

Principle 8 does not appear to be a principle about natural ecosystem function but actually may be only a statement of fact. Humans can severely disrupt natural ecosystem processes, so much so that the ecosystem may not be able recover naturally and the consequences are unpredictable. The statement about "human actions" (principle 8) would follow logically as an implication of the third principle (combining principles 2 and 6). The implication is that the state or condition of the ecosystem could change in an unpredictable way due to the complex interactions between species and/or by random environmental events.

3. The critical test of the effectiveness of the Science Foundation will be in how it is used to develop specific actions for recovery and how well these actions work to achieve ecosystem recovery goals. If the Science Foundation were to be used to guide the development of specific strategies and actions, it would be helpful if it were more explicit as to how the Council will use the principles to achieve that guidance. Since the use of an explicit scientific foundation is a new approach to program guidance the region has little or no experience in what the framework is trying to achieve. Some explicit advice would be helpful. The Annual Implementation Work Plan of the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Foundation (CBFWF) has elements of a conceptual foundation that are also consistent with an ecosystem perspective. They are drawn largely from Return to the River. However, the program (individual projects) CBFWF recommends is not entirely consistent with its own foundation. How will the Council achieve concordance among the elements of its Science Foundation and the implementation of program measures as projects?

4. If possible, the Implications sections should describe implications to the current suite of program measures and actual projects being funded by the program. This would be difficult, but a few examples would be instructive.

5. Consider a short summary paragraph at the end of the paper to re-emphasize the major points.

Specific Comments

1. Page 1, paragraphs 2 and 3. To make the definition of a Science Foundation more explicit indicate that it "leads us to logical conclusions about how we expect our management measures to affect the ecosystem in a way that will lead to increased production of salmon." 2. Page 2, paragraph 1. What do "analytical tools" mean. Are they the products of PATH? Or are the tools monitoring and evaluation in general?

3. Page 2, Part I, Introductory paragraph. To prevent critics from looking for answers to each question, consider omitting this paragraph. It does not add to the text or information. 4. Page. 2, paragraph 5, last sentence. Change "geology, hydrology and natural selection." to "climate, geology, hydrology and biological responses to environmental change."

5. Page 3, paragraph 1. The text reads "allow" the ecosystem to develop. Also, we can manage in ways to "encourage" the ecosystem to develop characteristics that are consistent with the needs of species. 6. Page 3, paragraph 2. The text reads "…although large numbers of individuals are protected through their freshwater phase…." Salmon are not really "protected" through their freshwater phase. They are subject to innumerable variations in freshwater conditions, both natural and human-caused. For example, a major concern for hatcheries is that production cannot be fully protected; smolts are released into the hydrosystem and natural environments. The last sentence of the paragraph reads "… activities must be engineered to operate within the biological system." This is unclear. What do you mean, specifically? Activities must be compatible with ecosystem processes? Also, it would be clearer if the wording were changed to "activities, human activities must be engineered …"

7. Page 3, Principle 2. Principle 2 emphasizes temporal variation in the environment. Spatial variation is an equally important property of ecosystems, particularly large ones like the Columbia Basin. Salmonid life histories have evolved to achieve concordance with both spatial and temporal ecosystem changes.

8. Page 3, paragraph 4. The text reads "Many fisheries management actions are designed to achieve a stable and predictable yield…" Change to "Many fishery management actions hope or were envisioned/developed to achieve a stable and predictable yield from a highly dynamic system. Hatcheries were conceived, in part, to smooth out natural variation in fish populations and to sustain catch over time. Fisheries management often has emphasized predictability of catch to encourage …" The last sentence of the paragraph also seems strange. How do hatcheries provide "a predictable fish migration …"? Should migration have been mitigation?

9. Page 4, paragraph 1. Insert "attempt to" after "… engineered to…"

10. Page 4, paragraph 2. " is their ability to survive and reproduce in the natural system that determines success." If the text read "ultimate success" it would avoid confusion with other possible definitions of success, such as one measure of hatchery success which in the past has been number of smolts released. Paragraphs 3 and 5 repeat some of the same thoughts. Combine.

11. Page 4, middle 3 paragraphs. These paragraphs confuse stability, resilience, and evolution. If ecosystems are resilient to disruption, they will normally return to a characteristic state following disturbance. Is this what the authors mean as stability? The use of "evolve" in this sense seems to be incorrect, as discussed in General Comment 2 above. 12. Page 4, paragraph 6. Consider indicating that natural variation in ecosystems is a confounding factor in determining the success of mitigation measures. Isn't a major implication of principle 2 that natural ecosystems typically have a resilience and stability to complex biological interactions that can accommodate natural variability and buffer change? Responses to major perturbations are unpredictable and could de-stabilize natural systems. Managers must accept variability in natural processes, and establish processes to accommodate changes in productivity and allowable exploitation impacts.

13. Page 4, last paragraph. For emphasis, consider the following change in wording "However, while each doll is a discrete entity, ecosystems are not. Ecosystems are a continuum …" The Russian doll analogy and the accompanying text on hierarchical structure tends to view ecosystems in a rather static and mechanical way. Any hierarchical level consists of an interacting system of lower-level components. The interaction of lower-level systems implies connectivity among them. In the Science Foundation, more emphasis needs to be placed on the connectivity aspect of ecosystem organization since it is critically important for completion of salmonid life cycles and metapopulation dynamics. Also, in considering the hierarchical structure of ecosystems, we often miss the critical links between scales. At the fine scale, we see a lot of details. At the large scale, we see the results of those details in some higher function. But what details are the most important for establishing the higher function? Is it truly the aggregate of the details or are there keystone details? As we try to link scales in the hierarchy for a functional analysis (especially when we want to fix something gone wrong), we may very well be focused on the wrong details.

14. Page 5, paragraph 1. You indicate that "Ecological characteristics at any level reflect the characteristics of smaller scale systems…" It would be helpful to indicate that the larger-scale systems also constrain the behavior of smaller-scale systems. For example, the kinds of pools (lower level systems) that would be found in alluvial valleys (higher level systems) would not have the same morphological characteristics as those found in bedrock canyon stream segments due to geomorphic and hydrologic constraints imposed by bedrock canyons. Higher levels are not simply a sum of the parts, but manifest their own level-specific properties. The last three sentences of the paragraph are confusing. In particular, what is the importance of "we need to filter out smaller-scale data." These sentences should be clarified.

15. Page 5, last sentence, paragraph 1 of Implications. "Consideration of the ecosystem …" In the context of this paragraph, it may be clearer to say "Consideration of one level of ecosystem …"

16. Page 6, Principle 4. Focusing on the ecosystem of a particular endangered stock of salmon, and planning manipulations to favor that stock, might involve trade-offs in losses of other stocks. For example, resident salmonids in headwater areas may be adversely affected by a narrow focus on a single group of endangered salmon.

17. Page 6, paragraph 3, last sentence. This sentence seems to be a problem. The interactions determine the success of individuals in those environments, but do not select for populations. Further, in the case of sudden or rapid change, the interactions may not allow for healthy robust populations. The authors should reconsider what their point was in this paragraph.

18. Page 7, paragraph 1. "It is the continuum of habitat and biological interactions …" This is an important statement that should be highlighted in the text.

19. Page 7, paragraph 2. Be careful about implying that we need to have an inventory of all species to define an ecosystem. In practice, ecosystems often are defined based on landscape boundaries (e.g., a watershed), not on first knowing the species list and then defining boundaries.

20. Page 7, Principle 5. Return to the River should be cited here. Biological diversity is a central component of the conceptual foundation in Return to the River.

21. Page 7, paragraph 4. The last sentence in the paragraph reads "Generally speaking, greater diversity in species and populations leads to greater ecological stability." Be careful of falling into the "More diversity is better" trap. First, there are lots of systems with naturally low diversity that have persisted for a long time. Second, the composition of diversity matters. High diversity of non-native species could be destabilizing. Also, straying of hatchery fish may increase genetic diversity over the short term, but break up well-adapted genotypes and so be deleterious in the long run. Perhaps all we can say with assurance is that diversity should be consistent or concordant with spatial and temporal variation of the environment (this is how diversity reflects adaptation to varying environments). Delete the sentence. It is not needed and could be misleading.

22. Page 7, paragraph 5. Biological variation is not really a function of these traits but exists as a sum of variation in these traits. Variation and differences in the traits may exist as adaptive genetic variation in response to environmental or biotic differences between populations.

23. Page 8, paragraph 2. Indicate how fish passage measures affect diversity? A wrong impression might be conveyed by the last sentence in the paragraph referring to "stabilizing banks." It depends upon how and why the banks are stabilized, e.g. through regrowth of native riparian vegetation, with riprap, or using old refrigerators, car bodies, and cinder blocks. The latter two seem to be the kind of stability described here, which may be short-term at best, and not the fencing out of livestock, or other measures that can encourage the ecosystem to respond appropriately. Clarify.

24. Page 8, paragraph 3. Consider strengthening the point about not defining a "proper" level of diversity. We cannot predict future environments or pressures and therefore cannot pretend to know what level of diversity is needed. We need to protect the "capacity" of populations and species to manifest diversity that is consistent with spatial and temporal environmental change by protecting genetic diversity, metapopulation integrity, and habitat diversity and connectivity.

25. Page 8, paragraph 4. "So, for example." would be better expressed as ""Thus, for example." 26. Page 9, paragraph 1. Clarification here would help avoid lumping what is described in paragraph 3 with what is meant in paragraph 1. Perhaps if the text read "Attempts to engineer these conditions within a stream have generally been unsuccessful," confusion might be avoided.

27. Page 9, paragraph 3. Reword the last sentence to read "to moderate the effect of logging or grazing that caused the river to deteriorate in the first place."

28. Page 9, paragraph 4. Many of the comments about uncertainty in ecosystem restoration are contained in this paragraph. If the revised wording of the principle is used, as suggested in General Comment 2 above, this first paragraph would be a good introduction. However, in the second paragraph the authors need to explicitly comment on the need for monitoring and assessment in order to test the hypotheses and to learn from these efforts.

29. Page 10, paragraph 2. What is meant by "normal" trophic structure, biological diversity? Clarify.

30. Page 10, Principle 8. There may be a fundamental issue that has not been addressed and involves human actions. That is, the development and expression of social values/choices and the fundamental trade-off between human disruption of ecosystems for development and the natural ecosystem most suitable for the re-establishment of salmonid production. In terms of defining principles for the restoration of Columbia Basin fish and wildlife, isn't one principle that you have tried to establish that of the "normative river" and what that means in ecological terms? This would logically seem to be the final principle for both ecological processes and resource management objectives. Food for thought?

31. Page 11, paragraph 2. "specific species" is awkward. "particular species" might be better, or "individual species."

32. Page 12, paragraph 2. Change "high desert" to "arid plateau."

33. Page 13, paragraph 2. "…spawned out salmon carcasses." 34. Page 14. Discussion of metapopulation dynamics. Consider indicating that metapopulation thinking is relatively new to fisheries. A lot of studies are in progress, but, at present, data on salmonid metapopulation structure and dynamics is limited.

35. Page 14, paragraph 5. The text reads "The core for maintaining much of the biological diversity associated with fishes still exists." If you are referring to core populations, this statement may not be true for salmon. Many core-like populations that spawned in mainstem areas of tributaries and the Columbia and Snake have been extirpated. Also, text later in the document alludes to extinction of core populations, seemingly contradicting the statement. What we take to be "core areas" today may simply be the only remaining viable populations, but historically they may not have been cores.

36. Page 16, paragraph 1. Other references are needed here besides Chapman. For example, Fulton 1968; Lichatowich and Mobrand, 1995; and Return to the River.

37. Page 17, paragraph 2, line 4. Change "adapted" to "adjusted"

38. Page 17, paragraph 2. The text refers to "noncharismatic species." This terminology is confusing. Both Oregon and Washington have programs aimed at "non-game" species and there are people who think these organisms are highly "charismatic." How about "interesting and unique," "not of direct economic value, or "endemic."

39. Page 17, paragraph 2, lines 6&7. This sentence seems to blame weak anadromous fish production on passage mortality. Do you really want to imply that this is the only or the principle cause?

40. Page 18, paragraph 3. "As many core populations have become extinct,.." It would be reasonable to say "extinct or less abundant."

41. Page 19, paragraph 1. The text refers to the Hanford Reach as "free flowing." "Undammed" would be more accurate since the river reach is regulated.

42. Page 19, paragraph 2. Fall chinook spawn below most of the mainstem dams, including those in the mid-Columbia, as well as Bonneville and possibly John Day, and Lower Granite, Little Goose and probably Lower Monumental dams in the Snake.


Bottom, D. L. 1997. To Till the Water: A History of Ideas in Fisheries Conservation. In "Pacific Salmon And Their Ecosystem: Status and Future Options", D. J. Stouder, P. A. Bisson and R. J. Naiman (eds.), p. 569-597. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY.

Caddy, J. F. 1995. Comment - fisheries management science: a plea for conceptual change. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 52: 2057-2058.

FAO 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome, Italy, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Forbes, S.A. 1887. The lake as a microcosm. Bulletin of the Illinois Natural History Survey 15: 537-550.

Frissell, C. A., W. J. Liss, R.E. Gresswell, R.K. Nawa, and J. L. Ebersole. 1996. A resource in crisis: changing the measure of salmon management. In "Pacific Salmon And Their Ecosystem: Status and Future Options", D. J. Stouder, P. A. Bisson and R. J. Naiman (eds.), p. 411-444. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY. Fujita, R. M., T. Foran, and I. Zevos. 1998. Innovative approaches for fostering conservation in marine fisheries. Ecological Applications Supplement 8(1): 139 - 150.

Hanna, S. S. 1998. Institutions for marine ecosystems: economic incentives and fishery management. Ecological Applications Supplement 8(1): 170-174.

Hofmann, E. E. and T. M. Powell 1998. Environmental variability effects on marine fisheries: four case histories. Ecological Applications Supplement 8(1): S23-S32.

Huntington, C., W. Nehlsen, and J. Bowers 1996. A survey of healthy native stocks of anadromous salmonids in the Pacific Northwest and California. Fisheries 21(3): 6-14.

Hyatt, K. D. 1996. Stewardship for biomass or biodiversity: a perennial issue for salmon management in Canada's Pacific region. Fisheries 21(10): 4-5.

Independent Scientific Group. 1993. Critical uncertainties in the Fish and Wildlife Program. Bonneville Power Administration. Portland, Oregon.

Independent Scientific Group. 1996. Return to the River: Restoration of Salmonid Fishes in the Columbia River Ecosystem. Northwest Power Planning Council, Portland, OR.

Jarre-Teichmmann, A. 1998. The potential role of mass balance models for the management of upwelling ecosystems. Ecological Applications Supplement 8(1): 93 -103.

Lauck, T., C. W. Clark, M. Mangel, and G.R. Munro 1998. Implementing the precautionary principle in fisheries management through marine reserves. Ecological Applications Supplement 8(1): 72-78.

McIntosh, R. 1985. The Background of Ecology: Concept and Theory. Cambridge Studies in Ecology, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.

Mills, T. J., D. R. McEwan, and M. R. Jennings. 1996. California Salmon and Steelhead: Beyond the Crossroads. In "Pacific Salmon And Their Ecosystem: Status and Future Options", D. J. Stouder, P. A. Bisson and R. J. Naiman (eds.), p.91-111. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY.

Mooney, H. A. (1998). Ecosystem Management for Sustainable Marine Fisheries. Ecological Applications Supplement 8(1). Ecological Society of America. Washington, D.C. MSC 1996. The Marine Stewardship Council Initiative, Results of an Initial Workshop held in Bagshot, UK, 10-12 September 1996. Bagshot, UK, World Wildlife Fund and Unilever.

National Research Council. 1996. Upstream: Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

Nehlsen, W., J. E. Williams, and J. A. Lichatowich. 1991. Pacific salmon at the crossroads: stocks at risk from California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Fisheries 16(2): 4-21.

Olver, C. H., B. J. Shuter, and C. K. Minns. 1995. Toward a definition of conservation principles for fisheries management. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 52: 1584-1594.

Slaney, T. L., K. D. Hyatt, T.G. Northcote, and R.J. Fielden. 1996. Status of anadromous salmon and trout in British Columbia and Yukon. Fisheries (Bethesda) 21(10): 20-35.

Starnes, L. B., G. C. Jiminez, D. Dodge, G. Huntsman, P. Janik, J. Lloyd, N. Prosser, W. Royce, and W. Taylor. 1995. North American Fisheries Policy. Fisheries 20(4): 6-9.

Stouder, D.J., P. A. Bisson and R. J. Naiman (eds.). Pacific Salmon and Their Ecosystem: Status and Future Options. Chapman and Hall, New York, NY.

This website was archived in May 2018.

Go to this page on the new site or keep browsing the old site.

Contact Eric Schrepel with any questions or requests for our new (current) site, thank you.