Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program
RSS Feed for updates to Project 2007-275-00 - Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River Follow this via RSS feed. Help setting up RSS feeds?

Project Summary

Project 2007-275-00 - Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River
Project Number:
Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River
American shad Alosa sapidissima are non-native anadromous clupeids that have become extremely abundant in the Columbia River during the last 70 years, with adult counts at Bonneville Dam being as high as 5 million fish during recent years. American shad adults, perhaps over 20 million, enter the lower Columbia River during April-June for spawning. Juveniles outmigrate in vast numbers primarily during July through early winter, and evidence suggests that many overwinter in the estuary. However, there is very little known about their potential positive or negative impacts on the aquatic community.

The goal of this project is to provide credible lines of argument regarding whether shad provide positive benefits or are detrimental to efforts to restore Columbia River fisheries. This project will provide information on the role that juvenile and adult shad play as competitors for forage, as forage themselves, and as potential vectors of disease that may influence the productivity of salmonid populations. While little is known about American shad in the Columbia River, this project will build upon extensive research from the east coast of North America where efforts to restore American shad runs to rivers have been underway for decades.

The project includes coordinated activities to address three objectives; 1) shad as potential competitors of juvenile salmon for forage, 2) the role that shad play as prey for juvenile salmon (a potential positive effect) and as prey supporting growth of native and introduced predators of juvenile salmon (a potential negative effect), and 3) the role that shad may play as vectors of disease that poses a potential threat to the restoration of salmonid populations. Field, laboratory, and modeling tasks will begin in 2007 and will continue through 2009. Field sampling activities will require fish collection permits from the states of Oregon and Washington, and sampling done at juvenile collection facilities at dams will require coordination and approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. The project proponents will consult with NOAA Fisheries staff regarding the need for permitting under the Endangered Species Act.
Proponent Orgs:
US Geological Survey (USGS) (Govt - Federal)
Starting FY:
Ending FY:
Province Subbasin %
Mainstem - 100.00%
RM and E
Focal Species:
Bass, Smallmouth
Chinook - Snake River Fall ESU
Pikeminnow, Northern
Shad, American
Species Benefit:
Anadromous: 100.0%   Resident: 0.0%   Wildlife: 0.0%
BiOp Association:

Description: Page: 51 Figure 1: A juvenile American shad otolith with labeled microstructural elements.

Project(s): 2007-275-00

Document: P121252

Dimensions: 1430 x 1073

Description: Page: 51 Figure 2: An age-0 American shad otolith with certain microstructural features marked: H=hatch check, C=first feed check, F=daily increments. This fish was captured August 3, 2009, giving a hatch date of June 23 and estimated spawning date of June 18.

Project(s): 2007-275-00

Document: P121252

Dimensions: 803 x 299

Description: Page: 99 Figure 5: Map of the Columbia River Basin showing the locations of dams (black triangles) and the general distribution of American shad (grey shaded area).

Project(s): 2007-275-00

Document: P121252

Dimensions: 1430 x 1091

Description: Page: 117 Figure 1: Distribution of American shad in the Columbia River Basin (grey shaded area).

Project(s): 2007-275-00

Document: P121252

Dimensions: 1021 x 779

Description: Page: 117 Figure 2: Examples of small size class (upper two fish, approximately 78-88 mm FL) and midsize class (lower fish, approximately 189 mm FL) juvenile American shad frequently encountered in the Columbia River, collected October 2007 at the Bonneville Dam juvenile fish monitoring facility.

Project(s): 2007-275-00

Document: P121252

Dimensions: 975 x 443

Description: Page: 118 Figure 3: Image of an otolith from a 55-mm FL pre-migratory age-0 juvenile American shad. Features pertinent to microstructural analysis are noted.

Project(s): 2007-275-00

Document: P121252

Dimensions: 1430 x 1073

Summary of Budgets

To view all expenditures for all fiscal years, click "Project Exp. by FY"

To see more detailed project budget information, please visit the "Project Budget" page

No Decided Budget Transfers

Pending Budget Decision?  No

Actual Project Cost Share

Current Fiscal Year — 2024
Cost Share Partner Total Proposed Contribution Total Confirmed Contribution
There are no project cost share contributions to show.
Previous Fiscal Years
Fiscal Year Total Contributions % of Budget
2010 $6,000 5%
2009 $16,000 5%
2008 $10,000 3%
2007 $35,129 11%


The table below contains contracts with the following statuses: Active, Closed, Complete, History, Issued.
* "Total Contracted Amount" column includes contracted amount from both capital and expense components of the contract.
Expense Contracts:
Number Contractor Name Title Status Total Contracted Amount Dates
BPA-005675 Bonneville Power Administration PIT Tags - Impact of Amer. Shad in Columbia R. Active $1,937 10/1/2006 - 9/30/2007
32815 SOW US Geological Survey (USGS) 2007-275-00 EXP IMPACT OF AMERICAN SHAD Closed $276,706 5/1/2007 - 3/31/2008
36371 SOW US Geological Survey (USGS) 200727500 EXP IMPACT OF AMERICAN SHAD Closed $314,864 2/1/2008 - 1/31/2009
41654 SOW US Geological Survey (USGS) 2007-275-00 EXP IMPACT OF AMERICAN SHAD Closed $328,644 2/1/2009 - 1/31/2010
45991 SOW US Geological Survey (USGS) 2007-275-00 EXP IMPACT OF AMERICAN SHAD Closed $120,000 2/1/2010 - 1/31/2011

Annual Progress Reports
Expected (since FY2004):3
On time:3
Status Reports
On time:13
Avg Days Early:1

                Count of Contract Deliverables
Earliest Contract Subsequent Contracts Title Contractor Earliest Start Latest End Latest Status Accepted Reports Complete Green Yellow Red Total % Green and Complete Canceled
BPA-5675 PIT Tags - Impact of Amer. Shad in Columbia R. Bonneville Power Administration 10/01/2006 09/30/2007 Active 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
32815 36371, 41654, 45991 2007-275-00 EXP IMPACT OF AMERICAN SHAD US Geological Survey (USGS) 05/01/2007 01/31/2011 Closed 17 28 0 0 0 28 100.00% 1
Project Totals 17 28 0 0 0 28 100.00% 1

The table content is updated frequently and thus contains more recent information than what was in the original proposal reviewed by ISRP and Council.

Review: RME / AP Category Review

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2007-275-00-NPCC-20101103
Project: 2007-275-00 - Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River
Review: RME / AP Category Review
Proposal: RMECAT-2007-275-00
Proposal State: Pending BPA Response
Approved Date: 6/10/2011
Recommendation: Do Not Fund
Comments: Do not implement. The sponsors have completed the recommendation for original work in 2011.

Explanations as to how the Council responded to the recommendations of the Independent Scientific Review Panel - The project sponsor proposed to continue this research project into the future. The ISRP concluded that the project met scientific criteria, albeit a conclusion was “qualified” in certain ways. The Council decided instead to recommend not implementing this project further. The technical merits of the research may be adequate, but this is really a question of priorities. The Council approved this project originally for a defined study of a set number of years. The research as designed concludes in FY2011. More of the same research is unnecessary; the question now would be to review the project’s final report and consider what has been learned and whether any particular management decisions are implicated justifying a further Program focus on shad.

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-275-00-ISRP-20101015
Project: 2007-275-00 - Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River
Review: RME / AP Category Review
Proposal Number: RMECAT-2007-275-00
Completed Date: 12/17/2010
Final Round ISRP Date: 12/17/2010
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
Final Round ISRP Comment:
Qualification: Objective 4 currently does not meet scientific review criteria. However, it is an important component of the project, and protocols for the additional work need to be fully described in a study plan and submitted for ISRP review before this objective is implemented.

The proponent has provided adequate responses to most of the Panel's questions with the exception of comments directed to Objective 4. This component, dealing with the question of effects of shad on salmonids, is a key element of the project. An explanation of the experimental design is required – how will this work be conducted? Is this a "natural experiment" that requires years of sampling to cover time periods when shad are abundant and then not? The data collected may allow comparison of age-0 Chinook condition, growth, and survival in locations or years when shad are abundant or zooplankton are scarce, but the analysis of these data was still not entirely clear. The Panel suggests this empirical work could be integrated with proposed bioenergetics modeling and food web analysis.

The ISRP was particularly pleased to see the proponents will broaden their network of biologists involved in the project. Taxonomists and bioenergetics specialists are now involved. The contacts and partnerships with others conducting research on American shad in the region are a positive step. Details of shared tasks and data resulting from these partnerships should be added to the proposal at or prior to contracting with BPA and the Council. The Panel reiterates our suggestion that the proponents contact Dr. Quinn concerning his work on shad in the marine environment as this phase of the life history needs to be integrated into any overall risk assessment for this species in the Columbia River Basin.

The ISRP accepts the proponent's explanation that the original scope of the project was significantly cut due to budget reductions, but it is unfortunate because original food web studies would have provided valuable information regarding shad and juvenile salmonid interactions.
First Round ISRP Date: 10/18/2010
First Round ISRP Rating: Response Requested
First Round ISRP Comment:

This project has provided interesting, relevant, and previously unknown information on the role of shad in the Columbia River reservoir food web. Several interesting hypotheses pertaining to food web relationships involving juvenile shad have been proposed. These include: shad as a potential competitor with juvenile subyearling fall Chinook migrants; shad as important prey for both native (pikeminnow) and non-native (smallmouth bass) predator species which could improve their growth and survival; shad as prey for subyearling salmon; and shad as disease vectors. Instead of pursuing the broad intent of the project, implied by its title “Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River,” the proposed work narrowed its focus to partially address only the competition hypothesis. The proposal focuses on determining abundance of juvenile shad in reservoirs and estimation of zooplankton abundance, production, and consumption by shad. Even with this narrowed focus, it is unclear, given the data that is to be collected, how the proponents will evaluate whether competition for food between juvenile shad and subyearling Chinook is depressing Chinook growth and abundance in lower Columbia River reservoirs. To even demonstrate the feasibility of a competition hypothesis, with the approach implied in this proposal, many years of data on juvenile shad abundance (preferably over periods when shad both increased and decreased), zooplankton abundance, and subyearling salmon growth and survival would be necessary to provide statistical rigor. If the intent of the proponents is not to address the competition question in a rigorous way, they should say so and indicate how their work is relevant to salmon-shad interactions. The proponents seem to have abandoned their work on food web structure (the encompassing set of hypotheses) in favor of a more narrowly focused project. A great deal is yet to be learned about food web dynamics in Columbia River reservoirs, especially as it relates to its most abundant species, American shad. Competition between shad and salmon does not stand alone, independent of the dynamics of the food web – the complex set of food web interactions that could influence the outcome of competition. In other words, competitive outcomes must be viewed in the context of the entire food web. More fertile ground would be to pursue work on food web dynamics, with competition as a subset of the interactions of importance. Along these lines, it seems that the proponents have enough information on possible species relationships and demographic data on shad, salmon, and pikeminnow to pursue food web modeling, such as the loop analyses done by Hiram Li and Phil Rossignol at Oregon State. We recommend that the proponents work with investigators with food web expertise such as Rossignol and Li to improve the project. Specific components that need clarification in a response: 1. Methods to determine competition between shad and other fishes need to be expanded upon, because to show competition, food must be shown to be limiting, and that issue is not being investigated. Are the proponents able to facilitate an accompanying program on juvenile salmon? Partnering with biologists working on juvenile salmon ecology is strongly encouraged. 2. The proponents raise the concern that a nonnative copepod could be supporting shad. However, no mention was made of, for example, determining whether these zooplankters make up a high proportion of the zooplantion biomass and production, or assessing diets of juvenile shad from those caught in purse seines, to determine what proportion of shad diets they make up. It is necessary to have information on a) how the datasets will be analyzed to address the main question of whether shad affect zooplankton, or vice versa, b) whether the nonnative invasive copepod is increasing and influencing zooplankton production and shad abundance, and c) whether shad are making use of the invasive copepod, as suspected. 3. How is this project related to the USGS’s BiOp proposal #2008-719-00 to study non-native predator impacts on salmon? 4. Shad can be stopped at Bonneville Dam with a fishery and/or fish ladder modification. Would the proponents recommend this action? 5. Shad are declining coastwide. Are the proponents in contact with shad researchers elsewhere on the coast to help look for common factors, perhaps in the ocean, relating to the decline? In particular, Dr. Tom Quinn at the University of Washington has a student working on shad coastwide and the ISRP recommends coordination with the UW project. 6. The nematode Anisakis simplex is found in adult American shad in Oregon rivers (see Shields BA, Bird P, Liss WJ. et al. 2002. The nematode Anisakis simplex in American shad (Alosa sapidissima) in two Oregon rivers. J Parasito. 88(5):1033-1035). Have the proponents looked for this parasite in shad and/or considered the effect of this nematode on shad in the Columbia River? 1. Purpose, Significance to Regional Programs, Technical Background, and Objectives This project responds well to the Council’s MERR plan because the plan calls for studies to evaluate positive and negative impacts of American shad on salmon, sturgeon, and other species as well as the feasibility and advisability of shad management measures. The Fish and Wildlife Program and the BiOp also identify the need for understanding the impacts of shad on listed salmonids. Shad are clearly superabundant in the lower river and an understanding of their role is important. An issue, however, is what can managers do about shad if they are found to be a competitor with juvenile salmon? Shad could be controlled by modification of passage structures in mainstem dams. However, as this non-native has been in the Columbia River for several decades, control could cause cascading effects within the ecosystem (e.g., Zavaleta, E. S., R. J. Hobbs, and H. A. Mooney. 2001. Viewing invasive species removal in a whole ecosystem context. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16:454-459). Research on adapting to their presence by using them as fish food in hatcheries (assuming the disease problem can be resolved) is an example of what could be done with them. The technical background is well done, and the proponents have a watching brief on new data from shad projects in the species’ native range. However, the proponents have not covered the invasive literature very well. A reference that covers the topic well and includes high fecundity animals such as American shad is Rilov, G. and J.A. Crooks (Eds.) 2009. Biological Invasions in Marine Ecosystems: Ecological, Management and Geographic Perspectives Ecological Studies Volume 204. Springer. The sampling and analysis methods look sound, but the ISRP requests that the investigators present more information on the ultimate analysis. That is, once data on shad abundance in reservoirs, and zooplankton biomass and production, are derived, what will be done with them? Will a bioenergetics model be used to determine whether shad abundance can deplete zooplankton to levels that will stress juvenile salmon? Will investigators attempt to determine whether zooplankton limit juvenile shad during certain periods in certain reservoirs? Likewise, the concern that a nonnative copepod could be supporting shad was not fully explored in the proposal (response item 2 above). These seem like opportunities missed. 2. History: Accomplishments, Results, and Adaptive Management The proponents have provided documentation of their accomplishments and results. Information gained should allow managers to consider options for near-term management of shad in the system, including prospects for control of this non-native fish. A key finding is the likely influence of disease on shad survival. If the population crash of the species continues, will shad continue to be a problem? Disease and thiamine deficiencies might be key limiting factors but the scope and nature of the problem is still evolving. The investigators appear to be starting to publish the data they have collected since 2007 in the peer-reviewed literature, which is a good sign of progress, and a key to ensuring a strong basis on which future research and management can be built 3. Project Relationships, Emerging Limiting Factors, and Tailored Questions for Type of Work (Hatchery, RME, Tagging) The proposal would be improved by increasing ties with biologists working on juvenile salmonid ecology so that a more comprehensive view of emerging factors affecting food webs can be achieved. It is a daunting task to document competition and an ecosystem approach is required. The investigators discuss the potential for a nonnative zooplankton to change dynamics, but it would be helpful to present information on how or whether density or biomass of this nonnative will be estimated from plankton samples. Is this also an objective of the work, as an emerging limiting factor? Climate change may be driving changes in water temperatures or other physical drivers, which in turn may be causing changes in disease or nonnative invasions. Information on plans to assess the importance of factors related to climate change as drivers of American shad would be a useful addition to the proposal. 4. Deliverables, Work Elements, Metrics, and Methods Methods to determine competition are not well thought out, because to show competition, food must be shown to be limiting. An accompanying program on juvenile salmon is required. Partnering with biologist working on juvenile salmon ecology is strongly encouraged. The other work elements, metrics, and sampling methods are well established and scientifically defensible. Reporting has been done on-time. It was good to see several peer review publications in press or under way, and input to AFS symposium was excellent. Better links are needed to these documents. The basic data described as the one deliverable seems suitable, but it seems incomplete without a more detailed analysis of the relationship between shad and zooplankton, as described above. It is unclear how management agencies might use this deliverable to make decisions about American shad management to benefit native fishes, without further analysis.

Documentation Links:
  • Proponent Response (11/15/2010)

2008 FCRPS BiOp Workgroup Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-275-00-BIOP-20101105
Project Number: 2007-275-00
Review: RME / AP Category Review
Proposal Number: RMECAT-2007-275-00
Completed Date: None
2008 FCRPS BiOp Workgroup Rating: Supports 2008 FCRPS BiOp
Comments: BiOp Workgroup Comments: No BiOp Workgroup Comments

The BiOp RM&E Workgroups made the following determinations regarding the proposal's ability or need to support BiOp Research, Monitoring and Evaluation (RME) RPAs. If you have questions regarding these RPA association conclusions, please contact your BPA COTR and they will help clarify, or they will arrange further discussion with the appropriate RM&E Workgroup Leads. BiOp RPA associations for the proposed work are: (0)
All Questionable RPA Associations (0) and
All Deleted RPA Associations (61.1)
Proponent Response:
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2007-275-00-NPCC-20090924
Project: 2007-275-00 - Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Approved Date: 10/23/2006
Recommendation: Fund
Comments: Need to be complete in 3 years.

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-275-00-ISRP-20060831
Project: 2007-275-00 - Impact of American Shad in the Columbia River
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 8/31/2006
Final Round ISRP Date: None
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria
Final Round ISRP Comment:
Fundable with high priority. This is a well thought-out proposal, whose results could be of great significance in the management of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other fishes in the Columbia Basin. The ISRP has identified several uncertainties associated with American shad in the Columbia Basin (ISRP Retrospective Report, ISRP 2005-14.) This proposal reviews those and is designed to address them.

A proposal similar to this one was previously submitted by the same proponents under the Innovative Proposal initiative of the Council. The ISRP gave it a high ranking and recommended it for funding. The Council also recommended to BPA that it be funded. However, BPA did not fund it. Because there is so little known about shad in the Columbia River Basin even a small increment of knowledge on their effects on other species would be beneficial.

Technical and scientific background: The proposal clearly identifies and reviews the shad problem. The proponents could have given more details on how they arrived at the four identified hypotheses.

One hypothesis is that there is competition with salmonids for food, which might lead to an effect on growth rate of salmonids. To demonstrate this would require significantly more intensive research than is proposed. The proposed isotope work is not necessarily a short-cut method to arrive at such a conclusion.

Early research summarized in the proposal suggests another hypothesis, that availability of juvenile shad may provide a consistent food source to northern pikeminnow when salmonids are not available, thus contributing to the ultimate size of the pikeminnow population and the associated increase in losses of juvenile salmonids. The shad population is a substantial biomass. A bioenergetics model would be required to analyze the validity of this hypothesis.

Work on other hypotheses (disease, shad as prey, nutrient deficiency) might be appropriate at this time, but not necessarily as part of this proposal.

Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: There is no relevant Mainstem Subbasin Plan. However, the questions addressed by this proposal are of considerable significance in implementation of mainstem measures in the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program.

Relationships to other projects: The work is put in context. The proposal would benefit if linkages were shown to several other projects working on food web relationships (e.g., 20030100). Other projects, which might obtain related information are identified, but there are none being conducted on shad per se.

Tasks (work elements) and methods: The proposal does not adequately consider the difficulties in assessing competitive effects on growth and survival of anadromous fish and sturgeon. The simplified food web in the narrative is overly generalized and does not show linkages from invertebrates to algae or detritus from vascular plants. These links, and others, complicate isotope work. Addition of sulfur into the isotope analyses might help. The other components (disease, nutrients, shad as prey) are adequately described and appropriate.

Monitoring and evaluation: The project includes no manipulation, and is itself monitoring in nature.

The facilities, equipment, and personnel are adequate.

Information transfer: There is a good plan for data release, and the proponents have commendable publication records.
Documentation Links:

Legal Assessment (In-Lieu)

Assessment Number: 2007-275-00-INLIEU-20090521
Project Number: 2007-275-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 10/6/2006
In Lieu Rating: Problems May Exist
Cost Share Rating: 3 - Does not appear reasonable
Comment: Basic research on shad; fishery managers authorized/required.

Capital Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-275-00-CAPITAL-20090618
Project Number: 2007-275-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 2/27/2007
Capital Rating: Does Not Qualify for Capital Funding
Capital Asset Category: None
Comment: None

Project Relationships: None

Name Role Organization
Roy Beaty (Inactive) Project Manager Bonneville Power Administration
Michael Parsley (Inactive) Project Lead US Geological Survey (USGS)
Peter Lofy Supervisor Bonneville Power Administration
Sally Sauter (Inactive) Technical Contact US Geological Survey (USGS)
Elizabeth Gordon (Inactive) Administrative Contact US Geological Survey (USGS)