Rowan Moore Gerety / Northwest Public Radio

Salmon are a touchstone in the Northwest... in food, in nature, and now, in the damage wrought by the ongoing drought: less than half of returning Sockeye are expected to survive to the end of summer. But another important fish is dying in unprecedented numbers too: the massive white sturgeon native to the Columbia River.


River levels around the Northwest are dropping as the drought continues - and the water’s getting warmer.

That’s a problem for salmon.

Wildlife managers in Washington and Oregon have limited fishing to certain times of day and closed some rivers altogether.

But some say that’s not enough to help struggling fish.

It’s really quiet in the fishing gear aisle at Swain’s General Store in Port Angeles.

Courtney Flatt / NWPR/EarthFix

Puget Sound steelhead will be heading to an inland Washington lake again this summer. That’s because federal officials are conducting a review of those hatchery programs. The controversy is bringing up a lot of debate about hatchery science in the Northwest.

Google Images

Oregon scientists are trying to figure out how a fish, native to Japan, was pulled out of a crab pot on the Oregon coast - alive.

“I’ve been thinking about it ever since I heard about it,” says John Chapman, an invasive species expert at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

He says there’s only a handful of ways the striped knifejaw could make it here: in the ballast water of a ship; someone could have dumped their aquarium into the ocean; or the fish survived under debris washed out to sea after the Japanese tsunami.

Wikimedia Commons

Chances are your utility bill has gone up this year. One small part of the reason may be that you’re paying for electricity that was never generated. From Jefferson Public Radio, Liam Moriarty takes a look at how Northwest electricity customers got saddled with more than $2.5 million in payments for power they didn’t use.

Danny Didricksen / Earthfix

Flash floods this August swept mud, debris, and ash through north central Washington. All that gunk has created an unusual problem for farmers and migratory fish.

Farmers usually install screens on the end of irrigation pipes to prevent clogs. Those screens also keep fish from being sucked out of the water and into farmers’ fields. But fish screens do little good when they get inundated with debris and mud.

Danny Didricksen is with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said crews have been working non-stop to help unclog fish screens.

Roger Tabor (USFWS) / Flickr

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has just released a new plan to improve water quality in the state. One measure of how clean your water is, is how much of its fish you can safely eat.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

A plan to poison 3,500 ravens in Idaho won’t proceed this year as state wildlife managers had hoped. The idea is to stop the ravens from eating the eggs of the imperiled sage grouse. Conservation groups call it a ridiculous scheme. An online petition against the plan has received more than 60,000 signatures.

What you pour down your drain could be hurting fish and wildlife populations on the Columbia River – and possibly people too.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was destroyed by the earthquake that hit Japan in 2011. Radiation has made its way into the Pacific Ocean, raising concerns about exposure to Cesium-134 and 137. 

Kasper Sorensen / Flickr

Scientists have found mercury in fish caught in some of the most remote water bodies of the West. Mercury is a neurotoxin that is especially harmful to pregnant women and children.

A new study looked at mercury levels in fish sampled from 21 national parks around the West.

Roger Tabor / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Crews are finishing the largest dam removal in history on the Elwha River. It's on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. A plan to restore fish runs there includes releasing more than 7 million hatchery salmon and steelhead.

timbu / Flickr

For the first time, U.S. officials reported on recent meetings in Beijing to discuss China's ban on shellfish imports from most of the West Coast.

How More People Buying Guns Equals More Money For Wildlife

Mar 26, 2014
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The run on firearms last year is turning into a windfall for conservation programs in the Northwest. 

NOAA Fisheries West Coast/Flickr

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce has declared the Fraser River sockeye salmon run a “fishery disaster”. The Fraser River empties out near Vancouver, British Columbia. But the salmon from that river are a key resource for the state and tribal fishing industries in Washington.

It's not something we often think about, but as we go about daily life, we're constantly shedding little flakes of skin. So are animals and fish.

timbu / Flickr

China banned all imports of shellfish from Alaska to Northern California last week. Chinese officials said two samples of geoduck came back with high levels of arsenic and the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Oregon Dungeness Crab Now in Stores

Dec 17, 2013
Fred Benenson / Flickr

Oregon crab fishermen are out on their boats bringing in pots brimming with Dungeness crab. The season started at midnight Sunday.

M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public to comment on a new fish management plan. The plan would eliminate the release of hatchery-raised fish in three tributaries to the lower Columbia River.

Why is Oregon's Dungeness Crab Season Delayed?

Dec 2, 2013
David Gallagher / Flickr

Oregon's Dungeness crab season has been delayed until Dec. 16. The season normally starts around the first of the month, but the crustaceans don't have enough meat yet.

epSos .de/Flickr

Scientists have photographed dead whales and seabirds, their stomachs filled with plastic bags and bottle caps. But those larger chunks eventually break down. In fact, the majority of plastic pollution in the ocean, by volume, comes in the form of tiny confetti-sized particles. They’re commonly found in Puget Sound. And new research shows that when fish eat particles of plastic the results aren’t good.

Environmental and commercial fishing groups filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday calling on Washington State to update the fish consumption rate. The groups say the state has failed to acknowledge how much fish people eat. That standard will dictate how much pollution is allowed into the water before fish are dangerous to eat.

New advisories from health officials in Washington and Oregon warn that some fish in the Columbia River aren’t safe to eat.


The environmental group Oceana will send a high-definition camera into the ocean off Oregon Tuesday.  The group plans to collect underwater video footage using a remote-operated vehicle over the course of seven days. The videos will be used to make the case for closing more ocean habitat to bottom trawl fishing.

Courtney Flatt

Pacific lamprey are toothy eels that were once plentiful in the Northwest. Many considered them trash fish, but they are an important staple to Native American diets and ceremonies. Lamprey numbers have greatly declined in the past few decades. Now there is a push to understand more about the eels, so more can be harvested for tribal tables.

Oregon wildlife managers approved a plan Friday to allow ranchers and wildlife enforcement officers to once again kill wolves that prey livestock. EarthFix reporter Aaron Kunz explains.

The largest dam removal in U.S. history is running into problems. Over 200,000 fish were found dead at a hatchery on Washington's Elwha River after a water pump failed over the weekend.

US Fish And Wildlife Propose To Delist Gray Wolf

Jun 10, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday it plans to stop protecting the gray wolf and put the states in charge of managing these predators. But the plan is already facing some tough opposition from wolf advocate groups that say it’s too early for this discussion. EarthFix reporter Aaron Kunz explains.

Courtney Flatt

If proper equipment isn’t installed on irrigation pipes and pumps, fish can get sucked into farmers’ fields and drainage ditches. That clogs pipes and kills fish. A new fish screen was just installed on a Central Washington River to prevent this from happening. It’s the first of its kind in the state.

Ghost Fishing Nets Being Vanquished In Puget Sound

May 21, 2013

Fishing nets are designed to ensnare fish. But when those nets are lost or abandoned at sea, they don’t stop catching fish. Instead, they become ghost nets – floating death traps for the marine life that continue to get trapped in their mesh.