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    Free the Snake Flotilla Action!

    On Saturday October 3, 2015, over 300 people—fishermen, Native Americans, farmers, orca lovers, business owners, students, salmon advocates, kayakers, and conservationists—took to the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington, a short distance from the Lower Granite Dam. Together, this diverse group formed the “Free the Snake Flotilla.” They were a representative slice of the movement that includes many thousands of people worldwide who are calling for the removal of four deadbeat dams on the lower Snake. Over 130,000 people have signed petitions and sent postcards and letters asking President Obama, his administration, members of Congress and key state and federal agencies to take these harmful dams out.

    As they gathered in kayaks and other water craft, this group of unlikely activists all agreed that the current situation on the Snake is unacceptable, and growing worse by the year: Thousands of endangered salmon died this summer due to over-heated river and reservoir water; endangered orcas are malnourished because their favorite food supply of Snake River Chinook salmon has been decimated by the dams; and, over $9 billion in government spending over the past 30 years, mostly on hatcheries and other failed approaches, hasn’t recovered any endangered wild fish runs.

    Above: Free The Snake Flotilla. Production Company: Moonhouse. Director: Ben Moon. Cinematography & Edit: Page Stephenson. Aerials: Whitney Hassett. Music: “Explosions in the Eye” by Peter M. Murray.

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    Save Money, Save Salmon, Save Mike: Free the Snake

    By Steve Hawley


    Meet Mike. He’s 21 years old, 20 feet long, weighs about 10,000 pounds. He speaks a language that was taught to him by his elders: a series of squeaks, clicks and squeals that allow him to coordinate hunting strategies with his clan. His species is the apex predator in the eastern Pacific. He also babysits.

    Mike is often seen protectively swimming alongside his younger siblings, part of a group of 80 orcas known as the Southern Residents that spend their summers fishing in the vicinity of Puget Sound. But over the past decade the babysitting gigs have been too few and far between. Not enough young orcas are making it through pregnancy, birth and into adolescence. Toxicity is a problem, as it is for all the world’s large marine mammals. But lack of food—Chinook salmon—is a death sentence. Acknowledging as much, NOAA put Mike and the rest of the Southern Residents on the Endangered Species list in 2005.

    Above: J26 Mike surfaces in Haro Strait, a key foraging area for the Southern Residents. Photo: Monika Wieland/Orca Watcher Photography

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    A Fighting Chance for Wild Steelhead - Vote for Puget Sound wild steelhead gene banks

    Words and photos by Dave McCoy


    The cacophonous boom of that explosion will forever resonate within me. With the flip of a switch, one hundred years of destructive history began to wash away. It was a new day—a day in which the Elwha was finally free. At long last, its waters could once again run unabated to the sea and its steelhead inhabitants could return to their long forsaken home waters.

    It had been a tough century for Elwha steelhead. Once so numerous it was common lore you could walk across the river on their backs, the Elwha’s steelhead population crashed after construction of the infamous dams. With 90 percent of the watershed choked off, their habitat was essentially rendered obsolete and their numbers nearly followed suit.

    That flip of a switch gave Elwha steelhead a fighting chance, something they had not had in a century. However, the State of Washington is now poised to let another man-made roadblock further depress Elwha steelhead stocks and undermine the recovery of wild fish—steelhead hatcheries.

    Above: Releasing the greatest reward, a wild steelhead. All photos: Dave McCoy

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    The Chase: a tiny film

    By RC Cone

    Honestly, we went to Iceland to catch big fish. It was that simple. We wanted to bask in the late Arctic sun while bringing dreamy meter-long Atlantic salmon to hand. We wanted to drink whiskey afterwards, go to bed and do it again every day we could. What surprised us wasn’t our ability to check that mission off the list it was the insignificance that those goals held compared to what we actually discovered. The Chase: a tiny film is an ode to the friendships and experiences that were shared while chasing our passions.

    Above: The Chase: a tiny film. Video: Tributaries Digital Cinema

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    Wild Fish Don’t Ride in Trucks

    By Yvon Chouinard and Matt Stoecker


    This op-ed was originally published in the Sacramento Bee on July 23, 2015.

    On May 7, the Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative (YSPI) shared a plan that would create the first “trap and haul” program of its kind in California. Trap and haul involves capturing fish, putting them in trucks, and moving them up or down rivers around obstacles such as dams.

    The initiative is proposing a 50-year, $700 million project that involves moving spring-run chinook salmon around two dams, Englebright and New Bullards Bar Dam, into the North Fork of the Yuba River.

    We all want to see the Yuba River and its salmon thrive. But an expensive project like this one, which doesn’t achieve real recovery of wild and self-sustaining fisheries or watershed function in the Yuba River, would be a huge mistake.

    Above: Yvon Chouinard looks out over Englebright Dam back in 2011, Yuba River, California. Photo: Matt Stoecker

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    Oregon Rain

    By Kate Taylor


    I stand at my kitchen sink, looking out the window as I fill a glass of water. I live in Rockaway Beach a coastal community of 2,500 people, renowned for all that is epic about the Oregon coast: stunning beaches, lush forests and rich ocean and inland waters.

    I take a sip from the glass. Outside, targeting a nearby clear-cut hillside, a helicopter sprays a sheet of herbicide. I spectate as the chemicals float to dirt, supposedly doing their job—killing weeds that might choke out saplings. Those weeds line Jetty Creek, the source of my small community’s drinking water. Yes, you read correctly: logging companies spray chemicals over my community’s drinking water. And under the protection of the archaic Oregon Forest Practices Act, they’re permitted to do so.

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    The Release – Fundamentals of fish and the path to responsible angling

    By Andy J. Danylchuk, PhD


    Recreational angling is an incredibly popular leisure activity in North America, spanning a wide demographic of our society and occurring almost every place fish can be found. Tools and techniques for recreational angling are also vast and selecting the right gear often consumes a lot of our leisure time, basements, and wallets. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ sport and, for the most part, I think we like it that way.

    Given recreational angling’s popularity, breadth and depth, this also means that many different kinds of fish are caught in many different ways. That is part of why we do it. In some cases anglers catch to keep, but even they have to release fish that are the wrong species, aren’t of legal size, or when the limit is reached. There is also a growing movement focused on voluntary catch-and-release—a way to enjoy the sport but potentially reduce the impact on fish. In theory, catch-and-release is more sustainable and more conservation-minded. If you see it swim away, the fish is fine... right?

    Above: April Vokey releases a Skeena River steelhead. Photo: Adrienne Comeau

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    Save the Chuitna – Watch the trailer and join the fight against coal mining on salmon streams

    By Paul Moinester

    There is something intensely visceral and awe-inspiring about the Chuitna Watershed. Deep pools teeming with wild Pacific salmon pervade the vast landscape. Oversized tracks from grizzlies and moose are omnipresent, creating an eerie feeling as you navigate through fields of fireweed. And the spirit of the native Tyonek people, who have called this land home for millennia, resonates with every flight of an eagle and leap of a salmon.

    For the media team privileged to visit this remote Alaskan paradise, the harsh reality that we were experiencing a wilderness slated for destruction proved incomprehensible. Even still, it seems unfathomable that the river we waded could soon be bulldozed to make way for one of the United States’ largest open-pit coal mines and Alaska’s largest coal export terminal.

    Above: Chuitna - More Than Salmon On The Line (Trailer). Video: Trip Jennings and Save the Chuitna.

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    Xboundary – Defending Alaska & British Columbia salmon rivers from open-pit mining

    By Ryan Peterson & Travis Rummel 

    An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines—at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska—has Alaskans concerned over pollution risks posed to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries. These concerns were heightened with the August 4, 2014 catastrophic tailings dam failure at nearby Mount Polley Mine in B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.

    Last summer, as part of production for Xboundary, we completed a 100-mile transect of the Unuk River watershed. What follows is an excerpt and action alert from an interview we did with Trout Unlimited Alaska after the trip, who, along with Patagonia, sponsored our project.

    Video: Xboundary a salmon film by Ryan Peterson.

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    Protecting Bristol Bay: Smart Money

    By Dylan Tomine


    President Obama’s recent protection of Bristol Bay from oil and gas exploration may feel like a victory for fish and the environment, but I think it’s really about time and money. Which in this case, is just as good. Here’s why:

    Oil and gas reserves, as we know, are limited by however much is already in the ground and our ability to extract it. Sure, advancing extraction technologies (fracking, etc) can extend the life of a deposit, but unless we’re waiting for more dinosaurs to die, nobody’s making any new oil or gas.

    Salmon, on the other hand, if properly managed, are perhaps the ultimate renewable resource. By all accounts, the Bristol Bay salmon industry is one of the best managed fisheries in the world, producing a sustainable $2 billion annual fish economy.

    Above: Nushagak River, draining into Bristol Bay, Alaska. Photo: AlaskaTrekker (CC)

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