Dangers Await Upstream for Local Salmon

With damns coming down and the battle over “Frankenfish” heating up, what lies ahead for local salmo

Trolling with a guide off Malcolm Island near the northern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, we watch the rod tip, hoping for a strike. It’s 6:30 a.m., and the sky over the Coast Mountains looks like the underbelly of a salmon. The rod tip dips sharply, and I let out the line, trying to keep the fish on. I don’t want to blow it; I haven’t caught a lot of salmon lately. Regional salmon fishing has been inconsistent over the last decade, spiking in 2010 when 30 million sockeye salmon returned to the Fraser River, the best run in a century, with similarly strong runs returning along the West Coast. ¶ That run was great news for fishermen and everyone concerned about the iconic species of the Pacific Northwest, but it’s been a mixed bag of good and bad news for local salmon of late. The past year or so has brought significant developments for salmon on several fronts—including some serious threats.

The Good News

The region’s salmon fishery got an historic boost last fall with the removal of older dams along the Elwha River. In mid-September, contractors began the three-year process of simultaneously removing the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams in order to restore a free-flowing river. That project—the largest of its kind in U.S. history—will reopen more than 70 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat in the Elwha River and its tributaries at a cost of more than $324 million. Salmon populations there should increase from 3,000 to nearly 400,000 as all five species of Pacific salmon return to one of the region’s most productive salmon streams.

“The removal of the Elwha dams is very good news,” says Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association and a former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman. “[In the past,] the Elwha produced some of the largest king salmon known to man, fish up to 100 pounds.”

In addition to growing large kings, the increased habitat will improve the health of the state fishery. “It will open up tremendous spawning areas,” says Jim Aggergaard at Catchmore Charters in Anacortes. “As soon as the dam is removed, they can pass the lower four miles, up to Lake Sutherland and tributary streams.”

The weather appears to be on the salmon’s side as well. “La Niña conditions are great for skiing and salmon,” Floor says. “The lower temperatures trigger a higher survival rate for salmon, which makes for outstanding fishing. We just experienced one of the biggest king runs on the Columbia in the last 50 years.”

And, for now, local salmon appear to have dodged one very dangerous bullet: Reports that infectious salmon anemia (ISA)—a pathogen linked to aquaculture that has killed millions of farmed salmon in Europe and Chile—was detected in British Columbia could not be confirmed. That’s a huge relief, at least for now, but leading researchers and scientists continue to stay on high alert.

In fact, our state gets high marks from Floor for battling other dangerous viruses; he says state officials have dealt swiftly with viruses in hatchery fish, destroying fingerlings in the case of outbreaks. But he sees the recent ISA scare as an example of what can happen if governments don’t pay attention. “When salmon farming got started, Washington allowed only 13 permits in Puget Sound,” he says. “British Columbia went wild, issuing hundreds of permits.” Our state, says Floor, is more vigilant: “Canada took a much more liberal approach. They have learned by baptism by fire: virus outbreaks or sea lice explosions. I’m a proponent of hatchery salmon and farmed fish, but I think hatcheries and farmed salmon need to be scrutinized. I think Washington has done a good job with this.”

The Bad News

Some worry about the ecological impacts of local farmed salmon, which, like farmed Atlantic salmon, can escape and compete with wild salmon for habitat. Farming has also taken an economic toll on Northwest wild salmon fisheries.

And while the Fraser River run fueled optimism about wild salmon recovery around the region, not all areas or species have enjoyed such a resurgence. The reasons for that aren’t clear; despite extensive fish-tagging and research efforts, the data is still incomplete. Wild chinook salmon in Puget Sound remain on the threatened species list. Coho salmon runs in Puget Sound have stagnated, surviving at low levels. The regional salmon fishery represents a very complicated picture, with some species—such as sockeye and pink salmon—booming, while other species—sometimes, king and coho—struggle, at least in the Puget Sound region.

Fears for Northwest salmon are leading some state lawmakers, including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, to take a firm stance against another threat that’s brewing: genetically modified Atlantic salmon. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether to approve the AquAdvantage salmon, which would be the very first modified animals on American dinner tables. Many are concerned that these so-called “Frankenfish,” modified with a growth-hormone gene to grow larger and faster than natural salmon, are as yet untested, and could contribute to certain cancers in humans. There is also the worry that the fast-growing fish will flood the market, harming our state’s fishing industry. While the FDA is considering the issue, two pieces of legislation are making the rounds: one to ban genetically modified fish outright; the other, to require labeling. In February, consumer groups urged the FDA to require rigorous testing of the fish before approval. The issue remains a hot topic for lawmakers, environmental and consumer groups, and the Canadian company AquaBounty Technologies, which created the AquAdvantage salmon. There is no word yet on when the FDA will make its decision.

Despite the threats to their survival, salmon runs persist—occasionally even thrive. My fish, for one, is a fighter, taking out line, making angry rushes back toward the kelp bed. But slowly and carefully, I work it into the boat. The beautiful 12-pound king thrashes as my guide slips it into a net.

“Welcome aboard,” he says to the fish. “You’re the guest of honor at a dinner party in Seattle.”


Capital One Reimagines Banking With Its First Retail Locations in Seattle

Capital One Reimagines Banking With Its First Retail Locations in Seattle

The new Capital One Café brings banking and living together
| Posted
A rendering of the new Capital One Cafe

Sponsored by Capital One

Residents and workers in Bellevue and South Lake Union neighborhoods will soon be doing their banking Seattle-style—in a new community space, hanging out, drinking coffee and taking care of business—as Capital One brings its new Capital One Café concept to Seattle in 2017.

The Capital One Café is an entirely new approach to banking in the Seattle region, providing a space where individuals can recharge their bank accounts, devices and lives while learning new ways to manage their finances, try innovative digital and financial tools, and grab a great cup of coffee. The Café is intended to serve as a community hub and the open layout will have a range of lounge seating and work spaces. Throw in free Wi-Fi and the resulting mix invites people to relax, get some work done, host study groups or community meetings, learn about finances, or just hang out with friends.

“We know industries are being disrupted by bold technologies and banking is no exception,” said Ryan Laudenbach, Seattle Market Lead for Capital One Café. “Customers want a swift, convenient banking experience, and sometimes, they want a personal connection, too. Our Capital One Cafés blend these needs giving individuals the ability to bank on their own terms.”

The newly announced second Capital One Café location will open in South Lake Union (333 Westlake Ave.), home to a growing number of top technology and life science companies, giving workers an extension to their offices or just a place for that area’s mobile workforce to take a break.

The Bellevue Capital One Café, located at The Bellevue Collection in the Lincoln Square Expansion along Bellevue Way (418 Bellevue Way NE), will be approximately 7,800 square feet with four ATMs on premise, three nooks and two meeting rooms for customers, partners and community members to use for work space.

Capital One has partnered with Fuji Bakery to provide freshly baked goods with a Japanese artisanal touch delivered from Seattle’s Interbay and International Districts. Each Café will also serve Peet’s handcrafted espresso, coffee and tea beverages.

In addition to bringing the Café concept to Seattle, this October Capital One will host a live streamed #CapXTalk to look beyond the natural confines of ‘finances’ and explore how visionaries are reimagining the role that technology and money play in our day-to-day lives. The panel discussion will include personal finance experts, such as Jake Fuentes, co-founder and CEO of Level Money, Stefanie O’Connell, author of The Broke and Beautiful Life, and Erin Lowry of Broke Millennial. Be sure to watch the live stream at http://capxtalk.fora.tv and participate using #CapXTalk on Thursday, October 13 at 10 a.m. PT.