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7. Eulachon

Strategy

Increase understanding, protection, and required restoration of eulachon for the Columbia Basin, estuary, and ocean ecosystems. Better understand how the development and operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) affects eulachon spawning, survival of eggs and larvae, and migration patterns.

Rationale

Also known as Pacific smelt or candlefish, the eulachon run of the lower Columbia River has historically been a very important forage fish and food source for the Indian tribes. While the reasons for eulachon decline are not fully understood, NOAA Fisheries has determined the FCRPS has affected the ecosystem in which eulachon have evolved. Eulachon are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries is developing a recovery plan for eulachon and has prepared a Federal Recovery Outline that includes recovery tasks as part of a preliminary recovery strategy. Eulachon measures in the program should be consistent with NOAA Fisheries’ recovery plan for eulachon, once the recovery plan is developed.

Principles

  • Eulachon have been impacted by changes to the lower mainstem and estuary caused by construction and operation of the hydropower system.
  • There is a need to understand the importance of eulachon within the ecosystem and to initiate appropriate mitigation efforts.

General measures

  • The Council supports measures to implement the two eulachon conservation recommendations found in the 2014 Supplemental FCRPS Biological Opinion.
  • Upon completion of a recovery plan for eulachon, the Council will incorporate appropriate information regarding eulachon into the program and reflect the importance of this species and the need for protection and mitigation to the extent affected by the hydrosystem. The Council will consider developing the following:
    • Biological objectives for eulachon population characteristics and habitat needs
    • A high-level indicator for eulachon abundance
    • Monitoring and evaluation of the status of eulachon and evaluation of the characteristics affecting their survival
  • If NOAA Fisheries identifies actions for eulachon restoration, the Council will consider those as potential measures that may be implemented through proposed projects after science review and a Council recommendation to Bonneville.
  • Mainstem and hydrograph:
    • The Council, in collaboration with Bonneville, the Corps, NOAA Fisheries, and agencies and tribes, will help organize and facilitate a science/policy forum in 2015 to address the biological requirements of eulachon, combined with related inquiries into the relationship between flow, current hydropower dam operations, and the biological requirements of lamprey and sturgeon. The goal would be to report to the Council, NOAA Fisheries, and interested others on the state of the science, the reasonable next steps in the assessment process, and a recommendation for how to incorporate those steps into the recovery plan.
    • Monitor and report eulachon abundance at Bonneville Dam.
    • Study the role of eulachon as an alternative prey for sea lions.
  • Ocean and estuary:
    • Monitor and evaluate the importance of the tidal freshwater, estuary, plume and nearshore ocean environment to the recovery of eulachon in the Columbia River Basin.

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