Terns Might Have To Go for the Sake of SalmonAssociated Press, Times-News - September 24, 1999
SPOKANE, Wash. - Drastic steps are needed to stop birds from feasting on millions of young salmon near the mouth of the Columbia River, members of the Northwest Power Planning Council say.
Caspian terns began showing up along the lower Columbia River in the 1980s after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created a 230-acre island from dredgings. Rice Island now supports the largest tern colony in North America.
Biologist believe the birds eat 20 percent or more of all juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean.
The 80 million young salmon and steelhead that swam down the Columbia River this year included 11 groups listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and represented an investment of more than $500 million in efforts to increase their numbers.
"I'm not against terns, . . . but spending millions of dollars on salmon (recovery) just to feed them to terns doesn't make sense," said Frank "Larry" Cassidy Jr., a Washington state member of the council.
The council on Wednesday voted to withold $642,000 for tern research and control unless federal agencies come up with a plan to reduce predation to less than 5 percent by next spring.
The council's responsibility is to minimize damage to and improve the circumstances for fish and wildlife affected by the regions' dams while ensuring an adequate supply of affordable electricity. The four-state council has two members each from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
Biologists have been devising methods to encourage the terns to leave Rice Island for another island nearer the mouth of the Columbia, where their diet includes fewer salmon and more herring and anchovies.
So far, the schemes have not worked, and the tern population along the lower Columbia has continued to grow.
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