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Independent Science Review of Salmon Survival Study
Shows Concern over Low Smolt-to-Adult Returns

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 2, 2018

Graphic: Snake River Steelhead have triggered the Early Warning Indicator of the Federal Columbia River Power System's 2014 Supplemental Biological Opinion For eight years running, the Independent Scientific Advisory Board has reviewed the Fish Passage Center's draft Comparative Survival Study for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia/Snake river basin.

It completed its ninth review of the latest draft CSS October 18, saying the FPC's annual report is "mature," inferring that at this point the study typically includes only updates using the latest year's data.

One thing the CSS report has consistently reported the last few years is that many anadromous fish species fail to meet the 2 to 4 percent smolt to adult survival goal called for in the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Fish and Wildlife Program. Species that aren't meeting the goal are Snake River wild spring/summer chinook, Snake wild steelhead populations, as well as the hatchery fish of these species, and Snake River sockeye salmon. Most wild and hatchery steelhead, chinook and sockeye in the middle and upper Columbia River and tributaries also are not meeting the Council's goal.

However, according to the CSS report, steelhead in the John Day, Umatilla, and Deschutes rivers have consistently higher SARs than other species and meet the Council's goal more often, if not every year.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program calls for such an annual independent science review of the FPC's analytical products, including the FPC's draft CSS report, the ISAB review says.

The draft CSS -- titled "Comparative Survival Study of PIT-tagged Spring/Summer/Fall Chinook, Summer Steelhead, and Sockeye" -- was released for public review by the FPC and the Comparative Survival Study Oversight Committee at the FPC website on Sept. 4. Comments were due October 17 and some of the most comprehensive and technical comments each year are those from the ISAB.

The ISAB reviews of the CSS reports began with the draft 2010 annual report and most recently the draft 2017 report. The draft 2018 CSS report covers the period Dec. 1, 2017 through Nov. 30, 2018. (For links to the previous eight ISAB reports, go here.)

"Many of the methods have been reviewed in previous ISAB reports and so now receive only a cursory examination," the ISAB review says. "As more data are acquired, new patterns and questions arise on the interpretation of the results--this is now the primary focus of our reviews."

Among the ISAB's observations of the draft 2018 CSS report are:

The latest CSS report incorporates many of the ISAB's suggestions from past reviews, including: life-cycle models have been extended to more populations and the effect of tag-type (i.e., PIT vs CWT) on SARs and estimates of survival are now being investigated.

The board of scientists also made additional suggestions for next year's CSS report. Among those suggestions are:

The draft 2018 CSS report was prepared by the Comparative Survival Study Oversight Committee and the Fish Passage Center (

The committee includes Jerry McCann, Brandon Chockley, Erin Cooper and Bobby Hsu, Fish Passage Center; Steve Haeseker, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Robert Lessard, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission; Charlie Petrosky and Tim Copeland, Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Eric Tinus and Adam Storch, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Dan Rawding, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The ISAB serves the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, NOAA Fisheries and the Columbia River Indian Tribes by providing independent scientific advice regarding scientific issues that relate to the respective agencies' fish and wildlife programs.

Related Sites:
Science Review Of Salmon Survival Study: Snake River Fish Not Meeting Smolt-To-Adult Return Goals by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 11/4/16

Related Pages:
Idaho Mulls Scrubbing Steelhead Season by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 11/14/18
2015 Salmon Survival Report Updates Smolt-To-Adult Return Data For Columbia/Snake Salmon, Steelhead by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 12/29/15

Independent Science Review of Salmon Survival Study Shows Concern over Low Smolt-to-Adult Returns
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 2, 2018

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