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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Good News on Oregon Coast

After reports of oxygen-deprived "dead zones" off the Oregon Coast for the last several summers and an unprecedented closing of the coastal salmon fishing season this year, there is finally some good news for oceans off the Oregon Coast: the waters are getting colder.

As The Oregonian reported a couple of days ago, a cold surge of water from the Gulf of Alaska that may be part of the beginning of a cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (a 20-30 year climate shift along the coast) has flooded the Oregon Coast with cold, oxygen-filled water with lots of large plankton, which is causing a resurgence in many oceanic species and may prove to be vital for the recovery of Oregon and Californian salmon stocks. The cold water contains more nutrients, more oxygen, and marine organisms called copepods that are about 3 times larger than those that have been making up the bottom of the food chain for the last several years. This all translates into a healthier ocean system.

The area where the cold surge is occurring is a summer feeding ground for young salmon from both Oregon and California rivers. This could result in higher salmon returns a couple of years from now, when these salmon are adults and returning to the rivers to spawn. Scientists have developed models that predict salmon run sizes and take into account a wide variety of factors. These models are resulting in the highest salmon predictions since they began modeling just over a decade ago, and this is supported by their highest test catches of juvenile salmon over the same time period.

The article accurately quotes the situation as "guardedly optimistic" - there is still a lot we don't know about salmon and especially what factors contribute to their thriving in the ocean and predictions are often off - but certainly this is good news for salmon and other oceanic life off the Oregon Coast that has been suffering for the last several years.

Thanks to blog reader The K for the tip about this article's publication.

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