Fw: News Release: Caspian tern research project ends early

Jon. Anderson and Marty Chaney festuca at olywa.net
Sat Jun 2 13:49:44 PDT 2001

Hi folks -

Here's some news on the Tacoma (Commencement Bay) Caspian Tern colony. The
last couple of years, the colony was nesting on the ASARCO smelter site, on
plastic-covered piles of contaminated soil. ASARCO determined to not allow
the terns to nest this year, and WDFW set a barge out into Commencement Bay
to entice the terns to nest on an 'alternative' site, to study their diet,
etc. Of course, WDFW and others didn't want these birds moving down to the
colony near the mouth of the Columbia where they might prey on
ESA-"endangered" salmon/steelhead, rather than the merely "ESA-threatened"
Puget Sound chinook (as well as the Muckleshoot Tribe's 'enhanced' fish...).

I realize that no one wants a bunch of fish-eating birds in their backyard -
politically, it gives the development-oriented Rush Limbaugh screaming
meanies the 'out' of saying "why come after our land uses, when these
protected birds are eating the fish". Mind you, they'll say that, whether
it's the seals, Indians, sport fishers, commercial fishers, drought, etc.
When it comes push to shove, the birds will lose out to the fish, and the
fish will lose out to power production (Seattle City Light, Tacoma,
PacifiCorp, Bonneville, etc. will all operate their dams as usual and the
fish will be sucking hind teat so that the "power crisis" will not
inconvenience us - or the Californians needing thier air conditioned....)

There's no easy answer to competing resource needs, especially when one
protected resource is impacting another protected resource. The politics of
the charismatic mega-fauna is such that Salmon have better press around here
than do the Terns. In the long view, the fish AND the birds suffer from
our poor land-use practices, poor water-resource management, and from our
mis-management of the human population glut in Puget Sound. I think that it
sucks that the WDFW knuckled under to the Tribes' whining that the birds
would eat too many of their hatchery fish, and I just don't believe that the
terns were impacting the "threatened" chinook enough to have our Resource
Protection Agency destroy 1,000 eggs of these magnificent birds.

I am saddened that this portion of the largest remaining population of
Sterna caspia appears to be so unwelcome that they aren't allowed to
complete nesting. I imagine that, after we've spent enough time harrassing
them from Puget Sound, at the mouth of the Columbia, and wherever else they
might move where they might eat our precious ESA-listed fish, and their
population begins to decline, they may end up on the Endangered Species
List. Then, we can spend millions of dollars to recover the Caspian

Jon. (Disgruntled) Anderson
Olympia, Washington
festuca at olywa.net

600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, Washington 98501-1091
Internet Address: http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/do/jun01/jun0101a.htm

June 1, 2001 Contact: Rocky Beach, (360) 902-2510
Craig Bartlett, (360) 902-2259

Caspian tern research project ends early

OLYMPIA The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has cut
short a research project on Caspian terns in Commencement Bay due to
concerns raised by tribal fisheries co-managers about the birds' consumption
of area salmon.
WDFW Director Jeff Koenings said those concerns were supported by
preliminary findings of the project itself, which showed that salmon made up
78 percent of the diet of the terns attracted to a research barge since
April 13.
"We can understand the tribes' concerns, given that they have a major
hatchery facility on the nearby Puyallup River," Koenings said. "We also
share their concerns for wild salmon stocks in the area, which have been
listed under the Endangered Species
Nevertheless, Koenings underscored WDFW's commitment to continue
cooperative research on terns with federal and state agencies, and to
develop a regional plan to protect the species and minimize its impact on
endangered salmon
"We will be sitting down with our partners within the next few
weeks to discuss strategies and determine our next step," Koenings said.
The project came to a close Thursday (May 31), when a team of WDFW
biologists scared off hundreds of the birds that had been attracted to the
barge that had been anchored off Brown's Point as a floating roost.
Approximately 1,000 eggs were recovered, which WDFW plans to distribute
to research institutions and museums. Biologists had expected to find no
more than 300 eggs.
Rocky Beach, WDFW wildlife diversity manager, expressed disappointment
that the project ended three months ahead of schedule, but noted that it has
already yielded critical information about tern management.
"The most important finding was that we can attract nesting terns to a
temporary site in this case, a floating barge," Beach said. "That opens up
a range of new options for managing these birds in ways that are consistent
with protecting both salmon and
Beach noted that birds on or near the barge represent a significant
share of the estimated 700 to 1,000 terns in Commencement Bay this year,
down from 2,000 birds observed at the ASARCO site last year. That site is
currently in the process of being cleared one reason why attracting the
birds to an offshore site was initially proposed, Beach said.
Koenings explained that his agency is required by law to protect and
manage both salmon and terns, the latter of which are protected by the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"The tern issue really puts us between a rock and a hard spot,"
Koenings said. "The only way we can gather the information necessary to
manage terns and salmon effectively is through scientific research. This
project, in particular, has helped to advance our knowledge of terns in ways
that will contribute to the development of our tern management efforts
throughout the state."

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