Adding to November’s Environmental Fails…

Last week, we had to report Oregon Fish and Game whacked wolves off the endangered species list while conceding there may be as few as 81 of them left in the state, so let’s just continue that with this.

Invasive Crayfish Species Found in Willamette Drainage
A freshwater lobster foreign to the Northwest has been discovered living in drainage from the upper end of the Willamette River. The ringed crayfish, which has been dubbed an invasive species, is a concern to experts due to its tendency to compete with native crustaceans for food and habitat space. The first ringed crayfish ever seen in Oregon were discovered only recently by the United States Forest Service in Salem’s Row River.

Though these types of crayfish have never been seen this far north, their unprecedented appearance may not be such a mystery. According to staff at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the new crayfish probably got into the water and began to breed after they were released by someone keeping them as pets or a by fisherman using the crayfish as live bait.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife advises anyone who accidentally catches a ringed crayfish to report where they found it and to not release it back into the river (or flush it down the toilet, for that matter).

New Logging Restrictions Insufficient to Protect Streams
An agreement reached by the Oregon Board of Forestry has resulted in new laws regarding how close loggers can cut trees next to streams. Hoping to better comply with Clean Water Act guidelines set in place to protect salmon and trout from increased temperatures due to human activity, the board has doubled the designated buffer zone for logging near streams.

Logging is now restricted from 60 to 80 feet around forest streams. Though the Board of Forestry has promised that endangered fish species will be better protected from changes that result in warm water preventing fish from swimming upstream to spawn, environmentalists disagree and say that the buffer zone still isn’t big enough.

Members of the Oregon Stream Protection Coalition argue that the Board of Forestry was prevented from making a real difference for the fish by its desire to compromise between the wishes of both landowners and environmentalists. The risks associated with not having a large enough buffer zone are enough that the board has decided to continue to improve their new rules over the next few months.

Algae Bloom Poisons Marine Mammals Off the Northwest Pacific Coast
Biologists have discovered a worrying new trend among marine mammals and birds off the coast of Oregon and Washington. Animals that usually thrive in the north Pacific, like sea lions, dolphins, and whales, are becoming extremely ill. Earlier this year, a sea lion having a seizure was found at Long Beach in Washington. According to scientists, these creatures have been poisoned with toxic domoic acid, which is released by algae in the water.

This summer’s immense algae bloom, a result of rapidly increasing water temperatures, was the largest ever recorded in the Northwest. When sea mammals and birds eat fish that feed on this particular algae, they become poisoned, and in addition to suffering seizures, they can be left with severe health problems by the neurotoxins in the algae.

 The algae presents an equal danger to humans, though it’s far easier for us to avoid it. Many shellfish farms in the region were closed this year when high levels of domoic acid were discovered. As yet, scientists have not discovered a way to prevent animals from being poisoned, nor how to remove the vast algae bloom from Pacific waters.

By Kiki Genoa