Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program
SOW Report
Contract 59076: 2003-009-00 EXP CANADA-USA SHELF PROJECT (CDFO)
Project Number:
Canada-USA Shelf Salmon Survival Study
Province Subbasin %
Ocean - 100.00%
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Contract Description:
Canada-USA Shelf Salmon Survival Study
Statement of Work and Budget FY2013

BPA Project Number:  2003-009-00
BPA Project Title: Canada-USA Shelf Salmon Survival Study
FY07 Contract Number:  29753
FY08 Contract Number:  34892
FY09 Contract Number:  39197
FY10 Contract Number:  44358
FY11 Contract Number:  50871
FY12 Contract Number:  54545
FY13 Contract Number: 59076

Contract Title: PI 2003-009-00 Canada-USA Shelf Salmon Survival Study  
Performance/Budget Period: October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013

The primary objective of the Canada-USA Shelf Salmon Survival Study is to assess the effects of climate change and ocean conditions on the marine survival and production of Columbia River Basin salmon.  Documenting the extent of changes in growth, along with changes in physical features of the ocean will help to improve our understanding of how climatic events such as El Niño in the ocean can impact important fish resources.  This research is essential to fishery managers that wish to establish harvest strategies and conservation measures for the sustainable use of Columbia River salmon, as well as to assess the success of mitigation measures undertaken in the Columbia River Basin in the face of a changing ocean and climate.

The working hypothesis of this research is that the marine survival of salmon is mediated by the effects of ocean conditions on salmon growth during their first year at sea.  In particular, Columbia River salmon experiencing faster growth are expected to have lower mortality.  Similarly, Columbia River salmon that accumulate higher energy and lipid reserves prior to the onset of winter are expected to exhibit lower overwinter mortality than those in poor conditions.  In the marine environment, the bioenergetics processes regulating salmon growth may vary in relation to changes in temperature, ocean productivity, and prey community structure, and may be affected by changes in ocean circulation and climate.  More specifically, large-scale shifts in atmospheric circulation may affect ocean productivity through changes in mixed-layer depth, horizontal transport of nutrients, and upwelling, while prey community composition may vary in response to changes in horizontal transport.

This project is divided into three components:

1) Research: An assessment of the factors affecting the marine survival of Columbia River salmon, which involves identifying where these fish are in the marine environment at different time of the year, estimate their growth rates, and their bioenergetics response to changing ocean conditions and climate. Results from this research are disseminated through BPA annual reports, data reports, peer-reviewed publications, and presentations at national and international workshop and conferences.

2) Monitoring: Measurements of the ocean conditions experienced by Columbia River salmon off the coast of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, as well as their overall health. This information required to address all the components of this project. Data collected in this project stored in databases located at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and available upon request.

3) Evaluation: Development of forecasting models of run size for Columbia River salmon due to changing ocean conditions. This serves as a basis to evaluate the potential success (or failure) of recovery/mitigation effort and to anticipate how Columbia River salmon will respond to climate change. This initiative requires information generated from the first two components of the project.

Results obtained from the Canada-USA Shelf Salmon Survival Study can benefit BPA and the Fish and Wildlife Program on multiple issues such as 1) forecasting salmon returns to the Columbia River, and 2) providing context to explain the decline of salmon returns in the Columbia River and why freshwater mitigation actions have failed to return salmon to the Columbia River Basin:

Forecasting salmon returns to the Columbia River
Forecasting salmon returns is a critical first step required by fishery and hatchery managers for developing sustainable harvest policies and allocating salmon resources between Canada and the US through the Pacific Salmon Treaty (including Columbia River Chinook salmon), while also preserving biodiversity and the productive capacity of the Columbia River Basin.  We also need to forecast salmon returns in order to set appropriate escapement goals for sustaining freshwater and resident fish production (through the delivery of marine-derived nutrients released by decomposing salmon carcasses), as well as sustaining wildlife populations that feed on returning adults (such as endangered killer whales, bears, and eagles).

The results obtained by studying linkages between salmon survival and ocean variability can be directly incorporated into stock assessments for forecasting salmon returns to the Columbia River and can provide the scientific basis for fisheries. For instance, research conducted as part of the Canada-USA Salmon Shelf Survival Study indicates that the marine survival of Columbia River summer and fall Chinook salmon and Redfish Lake sockeye are strongly correlated to the growth conditions off the coast of southern British Columbia, and provide a context to explain the low returns of Redfish Lake sockeye in 2012 compared to Lake Wenatchee and Lake Osoyoos. Thus, it may be possible to forecast adult returns 1-2 years in advance simply by measuring growth conditions for juvenile salmon during their first year at sea. These results indicate that the research conducted in the nearshore ocean environment of British Columbia has the potential for establishing harvest strategies and conservation measures for Columbia River salmon. In addition, the forecasts generated from these ocean condition assessments can serve as early indicators of significant declines that, in turn, can trigger adaptive management and contingency planning for Columbia River salmon. Although the forecasting models developed by DFO are promising, they have not been officially incorporated into existing stock assessment methods for Columbia River salmon, likely due to the relatively short duration of their respective time series, and because their performance has not been tested against traditional approaches. The development of these forecasting models for Columbia River salmon requires a long-term funding commitment, as the stability of the relationships will need to be assessed over time.

Context for explaining the decline of salmon in the Columbia River
Confounding the effects of ocean conditions with those of the hydropower system may lead to unnecessary and costly mitigation actions for BPA. Ocean conditions may enhance, partially mask, or even completely overshadow actions taken in freshwater habitat (such as flow regulation) to improve salmon returns. An increase in salmon returns after restoring a tributary of the Columbia River during favorable ocean conditions could be due to improved freshwater survival, improved marine conditions, or some combination of both. Notably, Canada-USA Shelf Salmon Survival Study has clearly shown that the ocean environment encountered by Columbia River salmon is highly dynamic and a major factor controlling their production. Hence, in order to isolate and evaluate the effectiveness of any mitigation measures, it is essential to be able to factor out the response of salmon to their marine environment. Thus, the baseline data collected by the Canada-USA Salmon Shelf Survival Study provides context for evaluating the performance of mitigation actions taken in the Columbia River, as well as for the High Level Indicators identified by the NWPPC for the ocean phase of the Columbia River salmon's life cycle.

It is also important to note that declines in salmon returns are not unique to the Columbia River.  Similar declines have been observed during the last three decades from the Central Valley in California to Central British Columbia. Some stocks are still on the verge of extinction, decline despite drastic reductions in fishing effort and the implementation of several conservation and mitigation initiatives. The widespread distribution of these declines strongly suggests that a common cause is affecting these salmon populations, including Columbia River salmon, and is likely in the marine environment. The results of the Canada-USA Salmon Shelf Survival Study indicate that most stocks that migrate in the Northern California Current System during their first year at sea show a similar response to ocean and climate conditions, indicating that ocean conditions are a major driver of salmon productivity in the Columbia River, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada. Hence, the data provided by the Canada-USA Salmon Shelf Survival Study allows for broad scale comparisons that can help put the plight of Columbia River salmon into context with populations from the rest of the Pacific Ocean

Workplan for FY13

For FY13 the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (CDFO) plans to continue developing and evaluating these forecasting models through the Canada-USA Salmon Shelf Survival Study.  Special attention will be given to Columbia River spring Chinook salmon and Snake River sockeye salmon, as current models fail to predict the return of these stocks.  It is critically important that the stability of models developed by CDFO are assessed over time, as relationship that are based on relatively short-term time series, such as those developed in this project, commonly break apart over time. The migratory behavior of Columbia River sockeye salmon will also be examined in closer details in FY13. A comprehensive final annual report containing all the findings to date, including results reported in the Synthesis Report produced for the ocean projects, will be submitted to BPA at the end of the fiscal year.

The objectives of this research will be achieved by (1) processing archived samples of juvenile salmon and oceanographic data that were collected from the west coast of Vancouver Island to southeast Alaska during spring/summer, fall, and winter, (2) assessing the growth and feeding conditions of juvenile salmon collected from these areas, (3) assessing the ocean productivity of these areas, (4) reconstructing the migration of specific stocks using DNA analyses, and (5) developing and testing forecasting models of run size for Columbia River salmon. These areas are frequently utilized by juvenile Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and sockeye salmon from the Columbia River during their first years in the ocean. To obtain a broader perspective of the effects of ocean conditions on juvenile salmon, this research will be coordinated with concomitant sampling programs conducted by NOAA Fisheries from California to Washington and in Alaska (BPA project 1998-014-00). In particular, samples will be shared among laboratories to enhance our understanding of the processes limiting the production of Columbia River salmon in the marine environment, to more effectively use the expertise of the research centers studying the marine life of salmon, to avoid duplication of effort, and to promote international cooperation on highly migratory species that are co-managed by Canada and USA.

The work elements for this project fall into 2 different objectives:

Objective 1 - Data analysis
WE C: Analyze/Interpret Data - Oceanography
WE D: Analyze/Interpret Data - Ocean Ecology of Salmon
WE E: Analyze/Interpret Data - Marine Mortality of Salmon

Objective 2 - Administrative
WE A: Produce Environmental Compliance Documentation - Environmental Compliance for Sampling in USA Waters
WE B: Manage and administer Projects - Project Management
WE F: Produce Status Report - Quarterly Reports via Pisces
WE G: Produce Annual Report - Final Annual Report
Account Type(s):
Contract Start Date:
Contract End Date:
Current Contract Value:

* Expenditures data includes accruals and are based on data through 31-Oct-2020.

Env. Compliance Lead:
Work Order Task(s):
Contract Type:
Contract (IGC)
Pricing Method:
Firm Fixed Price
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Full Name Organization Write Permission Contact Role Email Work Phone
Sandra Ackley Bonneville Power Administration Yes Env. Compliance Lead (503) 230-3824
Anne Creason Bonneville Power Administration Yes COTR (503) 230-3859
Mark Saunders Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans No Supervisor (250) 756-7145
John Skidmore Bonneville Power Administration Yes F&W Approver (503) 230-5494
Marc Trudel Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans Yes Contract Manager (250) 756-7049
Kristi Van Leuven Bonneville Power Administration No Contracting Officer (503) 230-3605

Viewing of Work Statement Elements

Deliverable Title WSE Sort Letter, Number, Title Start End Complete
Permits to sample is USA waters-- Deliver to BPA EC Lead A: 165. Environmental compliance for sampling in USA waters 10/28/2012 10/28/2012
Management & administration of project B: 119. Project management 07/28/2013 07/28/2013
Analyze ocean production data C: 162. Ocean production 09/20/2013 09/20/2013
Analyze data on feeding, migration and energy utilization of juvenile salmon D: 162. Ocean ecology of salmon 09/20/2013 09/20/2013
Assessment of factors affecting Columbia River salmon E: 162. Marine mortality of salmon 09/20/2013 09/20/2013
Submit Final Annual Progress Report G: 132. Produce annual report 07/31/2015 09/30/2015
Provide Technical Support H: 122. Provide technical support to BPA for ocean rescoping process 09/30/2015 09/30/2015

Viewing of Implementation Metrics
Viewing of Environmental Metrics

Primary Focal Species Work Statement Elements
Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) - All Populations
  • 3 instances of WE 162 Analyze/Interpret Data
Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) - Lower Columbia River ESU (Threatened)
  • 3 instances of WE 162 Analyze/Interpret Data
Coho (O. kisutch) - Unspecified Population
  • 3 instances of WE 162 Analyze/Interpret Data
Sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) - All Populations
  • 3 instances of WE 162 Analyze/Interpret Data

Sort WE ID WE Title NEPA NOAA USFWS NHPA Has Provisions Inadvertent Discovery Completed
A 165 Environmental compliance for sampling in USA waters 10/01/2012
B 119 Project management 10/01/2012
C 162 Ocean production 10/01/2012
D 162 Ocean ecology of salmon 10/01/2012
E 162 Marine mortality of salmon 10/01/2012
F 185 Periodic Status Reports for BPA 10/01/2012
G 132 Produce annual report 10/01/2012
H 122 Provide technical support to BPA for ocean rescoping process 10/01/2012