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200311400 - Acoustic Tracking For Survival

Sponsor: Kintama Research

Budgets: FY07: $1,499,816 | FY08: $1,499,816 | FY09: $1,499,816

Short description: A large-scale array is being constructed that will allow establishing ocean movements and survival of Columbia River salmon directly for the first time. This proposal describes the application of this technology to several key resource management issues.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $1,200,000 | FY08: $1,200,000 | FY09: $1,200,000


ISRP final recommendation: Fundable in part (Qualified)


The proponent has provided adequate responses with some notable exceptions as mentioned below. The ISRP's initial (June 2, 2006) review remains largely unchanged. The ISRP continues to recommend that this project be funded in part at a reduced level of funding and deployment of the proposed acoustic tracking arrays, until the proponent's results can demonstrate "proof of concept" of the effectiveness of the open ocean sites to detect tagged Columbia River and Snake River spring Chinook salmon. Results of the 2004 and 2005 field seasons were inconclusive because of incomplete coverage of the continental shelf on the Cape Elizabeth and Brooks Peninsula lines. In addition, detection efficiencies could not be calculated due to significant loss of receivers on the Cape Elizabeth and Brooks Peninsula lines (only 18 of 26 units recovered), as well as the lack of detections on the Alaska line. Somewhat troubling is that BPA-sponsored listening lines installed in previous fiscal years have already required replacement by new lines and new technologies. The ISRP appreciates that our previous comments about placing arrays in the estuary and plume have been used by the proponent to adjust his research. An approach tailored to Columbia River and estuary needs is now apparent. This aspect of the work should be emphasized and more collaboration encouraged between the proponent and other researchers working in the lower river, estuary, and ocean. The ISRP advises reducing (from 4 lines to 1 line) the number of proposed new listening lines on the open ocean coast. We reiterate our previous recommendation that only four open ocean listening lines (two located north of the Columbia River mouth and two located south) are needed to demonstrate the feasibility of this project. Three of these BPA-sponsored lines have already been funded in FY 2006 (Willapa Bay, WA; Lippy Point, BC; Cascade Head, OR), and installation of a second line south of the Columbia River mouth at Tillamook, OR, is proposed for FY 2008. Scientific justification is not adequate for installation of additional new BPA-sponsored lines in the open ocean at Graves Harbor, AK (FY 2007; 23 nodes), Cape Alava, WA (FY 2009; 80 nodes), and Coos Bay, OR (FY 2009; 31 nodes). The ISRP does not recommend funding permanent upriver acoustic listening lines (above Bonneville Dam). However, the proponent's response notes that upriver arrays have already been installed as part of the 2006 work plan. The ISRP advises that upriver research described in the proponent’s response to compare different tagging technologies (PIT tags vs. Vemco acoustic tags) is well beyond the original biological objective of this project, i.e., "tracking smolts in the ocean to resolve how to better manage the Columbia hydropower system." The ISRP reiterates its previous suggestion that the proponent coordinate development of the final acoustic array design with other projects in the Columbia River Basin and Plume, as this issue was inadequately addressed in the proponent's response. Additional comments are as follows: 1. The ISRP stated that its “primary concern is that results to date indicate effectiveness of detecting tagged juvenile salmon along open coast arrays is not always high . . .” In the open ocean, survival rates can be estimated only if all juvenile salmon movements are confined within the area of the continental shelf where acoustic listening arrays are located . . . ” The proponent responded, “We believe we have addressed the question of a significant offshore movement of smolts through a separate manuscript now in review.” This response was not adequate, as the data in this manuscript were not provided to the ISRP. In addition, the proponent’s response “that the Juan de Fuca line . . . showed that Snake River spring chinook do not use that potential migration route” is not in agreement with data in the 9 January 2006 proposal (Fig. 4), which show the detection of a Snake River Chinook on the Juan de Fuca line in 2005. Was this a false detection? 2. Table 1 of the proponent's response is useful supplemental information to Table 2 of the 9 January 2006 proposal, because it provides data on the specific BPA-sponsored arrays proposed for 2007-2009. However, a prioritized list including data on equipment and maintenance costs, as requested by the ISRP, was not provided. Information on month of deployment would also have been useful, as it is not clear whether new arrays would be installed in time to detect releases of tagged fish in the year of deployment. The project design would be improved if installation of the second array south of the mouth of the Columbia River (presumably at Tillamook, OR, not "WA" as listed in Table 1) occurred at the beginning of the proposed project (early in 2007) before tagged smolts are released. This would provide three years of data at two stations south of the mouth of the Columbia River rather than only two years of data. If the FY 2007 results show that tagged Columbia/Snake spring Chinook smolts are detected at the outermost nodes, then curtain lengths of the arrays would need to be extended well beyond the 200-m isobath. 3. The ISRP asked, “How would the fully-implemented ocean array and long-term monitoring data on seasonal and interannual variations in survival rates or migration rates among years or stocks actually be used by managers of the Columbia River Basin hydrosystem? The ISRP agrees with the proponent's response that estimates of ocean survival for tagged release groups of hatchery fish can be used to inform policy makers, fishery managers, and researchers. The proponent did not answer ISRP’s question about how hydrosystem managers would actually use the data. The proponent mentioned the possible over-emphasis of other past projects on freshwater mortality. A balanced approach would consider habitat and environment needs for the community of salmonid fishes, which after all show a wide diversity of life history types. For example, even very good ocean conditions apparently did not enable survival of sockeye in Redfish Lake. 4. The ISRP asked, “Are the proponents relying on these other studies (DFO “Canada-USA Salmon Shelf Survival” project #200300900 and NOAA/NMFS “Ocean Survival of Salmonids” project #199801400) to provide data needed on ocean conditions . . . that might affect survival? The proponent responded, “The goal of the POST project is not to address how the fish die, but to provide hard numbers on where the mortality occurred—and how great the mortality actually is.” The ISRP notes that the "hard numbers" will be estimates (statistical probabilities) of survival of two hatchery stocks of spring Chinook salmon. Collaboration with other projects would provide multiple lines of scientific evidence based on different methodologies, including mechanistic approaches and results to explain causality. This would strengthen support for the proponent’s hypotheses about the relations between fish passage over dams, barging, and ocean survival of Columbia River salmon. The proponent’s response used partial preliminary unpublished data from POST lines to refute alternative hypotheses and technological approaches of other projects, which is not good scientific methodology, even though parenthetical cautions were provided. Although the emphasis in this research is survival, as stated in the response, and not the causes per se, the ISRP considers it important to note that the estimated ocean locations or ages of high or low survival of Columbia River Basin salmon may not be the same in different years because of ocean variability. Therefore, it will be important to correlate minimal ocean survival rates with ocean conditions in the future by collaborating with other research programs. The proponent does not seem to acknowledge that ocean variability will make the concept of tracking the geography of ocean mortality and subsequent adjustment of hydropower system management very difficult to operationalize. For example, the proponent’s response regarding one year of results along a Kintama-sponsored Alaska line: "No Snake R. smolts appear to have migrated over the (Alaska) line, providing a very useful boundary on where the Snake R spring Chinook survival problems must occur.” The ISRP advises that this “boundary” is not a fixed line in the ocean. The ISRP asked, “What specific efforts are underway by the proponents to collaborate with these and other BPA-funded estuary, plume, and ocean studies on salmon survival?” The proponent responded, “We look forwards to closer collaboration in future as POST is proven and we can devote greater time to looking at the linkages.” The ISRP advises that the achievement of common biological objectives of the various BPA-funded ocean distribution and survival projects would benefit from better coordination. The ISRP also reiterates its previous suggestion that the proponent coordinate development of the final acoustic array design with other projects in the Columbia River Basin and Plume, as this issue was inadequately addressed in the proponent's response. 5. The ISRP noted that “survival rates will be calculated as a combination of mortality, non-detection, and tag shedding,” and asked: “Can the proponents distinguish between detections of tags in live salmon, tags in dead salmon that are drifting with the current, and tags in live predators that ate tagged salmon?” The ISRP agrees with the proponent that a technological solution (mortality sensor) to distinguish between tags in live salmon vs. dead salmon is not feasible at this time. More to the point, the response would have been improved if the proponents had provided information on the acoustic data analysis or interpretation methods that they use to distinguish between tags in live and dead salmon. 6. The ISRP asked for an evaluation of the effect of the acoustic tags on the behavior and survival of spring Chinook salmon smolts. The response partially addressed the ISRP’s concerns about behavior by presenting data from an experiment on coho salmon (Chittenden's M.Sc. thesis), but did not adequately address Chinook salmon survival over the period of study for the V6, V7, and V11 tags. The proponent’s response included useful information on new Vemco V7 (7 mm) and a 6-mm acoustic tag (Vemco-developed by spring of 2007) for use on smolts down to approximately 10-10.5 cm in length. These tags will have at least a four-month life span, but the geometry of the array’s nodes will have to be re-configured to achieve a high detection efficiency for 6-mm tags. The ISRP notes that the size of the 6-mm tags will still limit the data from this project. The proponent provided a letter documenting good cooperation and involvement of hatchery managers in the project but did not respond to ISRP's request for more detailed methods, timelines, and schedules for releases of tagged smolts from the two hatcheries participating in the project (Kooskia National Fish Hatchery and Chandler Juvenile Monitoring Facility). The ISRP advises that differences between hatcheries in rearing and release conditions and schedules could affect experimental results. The ISRP asked, “How comparable is the ocean distribution of tagged Snake River hatchery fish to wild Snake River Chinook? Is there a size difference? If so, how much will this influence their results and interpretation?” The proponents did not answer this question adequately: "To our knowledge, the answer to this question is currently impossible to ascertain. We hope to address such questions with the POST array over time." Surely the literature could have provided at least a partial answer to this question. Size data are published and extrapolation from Chittenden's thesis work could have been interpreted. 7. In response to ISRP’s request, the proponent provided useful and detailed information on permits and permitting processes required to deploy the POST array on the ocean floor. However, the response did not demonstrate ISRP-requested coordination and cooperation with coastal fishing communities through Washington, Oregon, and Alaska Sea Grant. 8. The ISRP requested more information on the proposed method for recovering lost acoustic receivers. Previous ISRP reviews raised concerns about detecting lost receivers and the use of expensive ROVs and side-scan sonar. The proponent's response was informative with respect to problems with acoustic releases. The proponent stated, “as a percentage of the POST array, operations costs for ROVs are reasonable, and the POST array’s data is invaluable.” Although requested by ISRP, a breakdown of these costs was not provided. 9. The ISRP asked, “How will the data from other investigators who used VEMCO tags be made available to them and at what cost? How will VEMCO and Kintama facilitate other research programs that want to use the coastal receiver network?” The proponent noted that Kintama would probably handle scientific consultation and financial charging for use of the POST array by other researchers who own Vemco tags. It is not clear, however, if other BPA-funded projects that want to use the BPA-sponsored listening lines will be also be charged a fee for these services. Charging (the cost of membership) for use of POST array is troublesome given the significant BPA funding. The use of BPA-funded lines by other researchers should be specified by the proponent and evaluated by the Council and BPA. The proponents remain optimistic that State, Federal, Provincial, and International agencies will buy into the idea of a continental-scale array and support it in the long term. The cooperation of these agencies is key to the long-term success of POST in this part of the ocean. However the difficulty of continuing long term and expensive monitoring in the ocean may be underestimated. 10. The ISRP noted that “justification for expensive equipment described in the narrative was insufficient” and asked: “What are the specific costs of tags and acoustic nodes? What are the costs of the ROV and additional equipment needed for the ROV, including high-resolution optics, and manipulator, plus surface electronics? What are the projected costs for the single special-purpose vessel that may be required in the future? What are the costs for the wireless (cell, satellite) communications, and other marine electronics? Are these costs shared with other programs funding the POST array? If so, how is BPA’s share determined?” The proponent did not provide the requested estimates of specific costs for expensive equipment. 11. The ISRP requested justification for the PI’s allocation of 100% FTE to this BPA-funded project. The proponent’s response explained that FTE is allocated “between the various POST project sponsors” and “is difficult to precisely define.” The ISRP is concerned that FTEs allocated to the proposed BPA-funded project will not be adequate. The ISRP notes that there is a patchwork of FTEs and associated costs that cannot be explained. Qualifications: The ISRP’s “Fundable in Part” recommendation is qualified because the response and proposal were unresponsive with regard to several critical elements of collaboration and cost. These elements are described in the comments and eleven items above. The ISRP recommends that the Council and BPA secure this information as part of the final project selection process and development of this project's statement of work, if funding is continued.

Response loop edit

See the sponsor's revised proposal from the response loop. You'll be taken to CBFWA's proposal system in Section 10 where most sponsors uploaded revised narratives or other responses to the ISRP comments.

State/province recommendation: MS: High Priority

Review group: MSRT

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: POST tracking project. Some prioritization of tasks proposed in the suite of ocean projects must occur. These projects address a Core Program need, but it is unclear which tasks within the project meet that standard. Several MSRT members are concerned that the suite of ocean projects have outgrown a sustainable size for the Program and are addressing questions derived outside of the needs of the Program. This project needs to be reviewed with other ocean studies. The set of questions around ocean survival and movement are Core Program issues. Which suite of projects should be funded to address those questions needs to be strategically developed to fit within an available budget and address management questions with enough certainty to be useful for decision making.