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200736000 - Columbia River/Cowlitz River Eulachon Research and Monitoring Plan (ERMP)

Sponsor: Steward and Associates

Budgets: FY07: $438,881 | FY08: $410,542 | FY09: $410,542

Short description: The ERMP addresses critical information needs for improved management of eulachon in the Columbia River and its tributaries. This effort is consistent with sub-basin planning objectives, and anticipates needs related to a potential ESA status review.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0


ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)


Eulachon are an important and underappreciated anadromous species in the Lower Columbia River. The timing of their spawning migration and their exceptionally high lipid content makes them an important food resource for many fish and wildlife at a time when other food types are scarce. Both salmon and sturgeon feed on smelt, as well as a variety of birds and scavenging mammals. The ISRP is not requesting a response, but the proposal would be improved be addressing the following comments: Overall, the background information in the proposal was fairly complete. It would have been helpful to have presented data on historical abundance. Current runs are far lower than those of several decades ago, but no data are given. Coastwide, this species has experienced a significant decline that is consistent with Columbia River Basin populations. Even commercial harvests, although notoriously inaccurate, would have suggested the magnitude of current declines in the lower river. Nevertheless, the fact that the smelt runs have gone from supporting a commercial fishery to being considered for Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing make this species an important candidate for monitoring. The proposal covered the local scientific information adequately but did not reference the important research done on this species elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska. The proposal should take into account the research conducted elsewhere. Conditions in the marine environment can also be important limiting factors. Other than the Mt. St. Helen's eruption changing the freshwater habitat in the lower Columbia, the marine environment may be where the greatest changes in their habitat have occurred. The project should look at historical eulachon abundance in relation to Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) cycles and El nino/La nina events. Other concerns are human harvest, bird predation, and food availability in the marine environment. Canada is looking at eulachon bycatch in the shrimp fisheries off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. A consideration of these issues should be incorporated in the project. Care should be taken to ensure sample sizes are sufficient. Has there been a power analysis to show that proposed fish samples fish are enough? The proposal mentions a potential link to the LCREP effort in the estuary, but relatively few details are given. How will this project use estuary data? Physical methods are fairly well described but a few more details could have been given, e.g., sediment monitoring methods on p. 13 of the proposal.

State/province recommendation: Not fundable

Review group: OSPIT - Estuary

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

Comment: Though OSPIT believes this is important work, the Estuary budget will not accommodate this project.

State/province recommendation: MS: Recommended Action

Review group: MSRT

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

Comment: This project provides an assessment of eulachon population status and distribution in the lower Columbia River. Some MSRT members would like to see the focus on limiting factors emphasized in this proposal with a reduction in other efforts within the proposal.