[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 48 (Friday, March 13, 2009)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 10857-10876]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-5403]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 223

[Docket No. 080229343-81352-02]
RIN 0648-XF87

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Proposed 
Threatened Status for Southern Distinct Population Segment of Eulachon

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the NMFS, have completed a review of the status of the 
Pacific eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus; hereafter ``eulachon'') under 
the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in response to a petition submitted by 
the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to list eulachon as a threatened or endangered 
species. After reviewing the best scientific and commercial information 
available, we have determined that the species is comprised of two or 
more distinct population segments (DPSs) that qualify as species under 
the ESA. Moreover, after evaluating threats facing the species, and 
considering efforts being made to protect eulachon, we have determined 
that the southern DPS is likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future throughout all of its range. We propose to list it 
as threatened under the ESA. The southern DPS of eulachon consists of 
populations spawning in rivers south of the Nass River in British 
Columbia, Canada, to, and including, the Mad River in California. 
Within the range of the southern DPS, major production areas or ``core 
populations'' for this species include the Columbia and Fraser rivers 
and may have historically included the Klamath River. We solicit 
information to inform the development of the final listing rule.
    Any protective regulations determined to be necessary and advisable 
for the conservation of the southern DPS of eulachon under ESA section 
4(d) will be proposed in a subsequent Federal Register notice. We 
solicit information to inform the development of proposed protective 
regulations and designation of critical habitat in the event the DPS is 
listed. If the proposed listing is finalized, a recovery plan will also 
be prepared and implemented for the southern DPS.

DATES: Comments on this proposal must be received by May 12, 2009. A 
public hearing will be held promptly if any person so requests by April 
27, 2009. Notice of the location and time of any such hearing will be 
published in the Federal Register not less than 15 days before the 
hearing is held.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by 0648-XF87 by any of 
the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting 
     Mail: Submit written comments to Chief, Protected 
Resources Division, Northwest Region, National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without 
change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, 
address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly 
accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information. We will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. The 
eulachon petition, status review, and other reference materials 
regarding this determination can be obtained via the Internet at: 
http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/ or by submitting a request to the Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, Northwest Region, 
NMFS, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232.

(503) 231-2378; or Dwayne Meadows, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources 
(301) 713-1401.



    On July 16, 1999, we received a petition from Mr. Sam Wright of 
Olympia, Washington, to list and designate critical habitat for 
Columbia River populations of eulachon. On November 29, 1999, we 
determined that, while the petition indicated that eulachon catches had 
recently declined in the Columbia River basin, it did not present 
substantial scientific information indicating that the petitioned 
action may be warranted (64 FR 66601). That finding was based on 
observations that the species is likely more abundant than commercial 
landings indicate and, based on life history attributes (e.g., the 
species' high fecundity and short life span) and assumptions from catch 
data and anecdotal reports, has a demonstrated ability to rebound from 
periods of low abundance. Additionally, the petition did not provide 
sufficient information regarding the distinctness of eulachon 
populations in the Columbia River relative to the other populations in 
the species' range.
    On November 8, 2007, we received a petition from the Cowlitz Indian 
Tribe requesting that we list the eulachon that spawn south of the 
U.S./Washington-Canada border as threatened or endangered under the 
ESA. In contrast to our 1999 review, we concluded there was sufficient 
information showing that eulachon may warrant delineation into DPSs and 
that eulachon in the petitioned portion of the species' range had 
substantially declined in abundance. On March 12, 2008, we determined 
that the petition presented substantial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted, and we requested information to 
assist with a status review to determine if eulachon warranted listing 
under the ESA (73 FR 13185).

ESA Statutory Provisions

    The ESA defines species to include subspecies or a DPS of any 
vertebrate species which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and NMFS have adopted a joint 
policy describing what constitutes a DPS of a taxonomic species (61 FR 
4722; February 7, 1996). The joint DPS policy identifies two criteria 
for making DPS determinations: (1) the population must be discrete in 
relation to the remainder of the taxon (species or subspecies) to which 
it belongs; and (2) the population must be significant to the remainder 
of the taxon to which it belongs.
    A population segment of a vertebrate species may be considered 
discrete if it satisfies either one of the following conditions: (1) 
``it is markedly separated from other populations of the same taxon as 
a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral 
factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation''; or (2) ``it is 
delimited by international

[[Page 10858]]

governmental boundaries within which differences in control of 
exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory 
mechanisms exist that are significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D)'' 
of the ESA.
    If a population segment is found to be discrete under one or both 
of the above conditions, its biological and ecological significance to 
the taxon to which it belongs is evaluated. This consideration may 
include, but is not limited to: (1) ``persistence of the discrete 
population segment in an ecological setting unusual or unique for the 
taxon; (2) evidence that the loss of the discrete population segment 
would result in a significant gap in the range of a taxon; (3) evidence 
that the discrete population segment represents the only surviving 
natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an 
introduced population outside its historic range; and (4) evidence that 
the discrete population segment differs markedly from other populations 
of the species in its genetic characteristics.''
    The ESA defines an endangered species as one that is in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a 
threatened species as one that is likely to become an endangered 
species in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532 (6) and (20)). The statute 
requires us to determine whether any species is endangered or 
threatened because of any of the following factors: the present or 
threatened destruction of its habitat, overexploitation, disease or 
predation, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, or any 
other natural or manmade factors (16 U.S.C. 1533). We are to make this 
determination based solely on the best available scientific and 
commercial information after conducting a review of the status of the 
species and taking into account any efforts being made by states or 
foreign governments to protect the species.

Status Review

    To conduct the status review, we formed a Biological Review Team 
(BRT) comprised of Federal scientists from our Northwest, Southwest, 
and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers, the FWS, and the U.S. Forest 
Service. We asked the BRT to review the best available scientific and 
commercial information to determine whether eulachon warrant 
delineation into DPSs, using the criteria in the joint DPS policy. We 
then asked the BRT to assess the level of extinction risk facing the 
species, describing their confidence that the species is at high risk, 
moderate risk, or neither. We described a species with high risk as one 
that is at or near a level of abundance, productivity, and/or spatial 
structure that places its persistence in question. We described a 
species at moderate risk as one that exhibits a trajectory indicating 
that it is more likely than not to be at a high level of extinction 
risk in the foreseeable future, with the appropriate time horizon 
depending on the nature of the threats facing the species and the 
species' life history characteristics. In evaluating the extinction 
risk, we asked the BRT to describe the threats facing the species, 
according to the statutory factors listed under section 4(a)(1) of the 
ESA. The draft report of the BRT deliberations (Gustafson et al., 2008) 
(hereafter ``status report'') thoroughly describes eulachon biology and 
natural history, and assesses demographic risks, threats, limiting 
factors, and overall extinction risk. The key background information 
and findings of the draft status report are summarized below.

Biology and Life History of Eulachon

    The biology of eulachon is described in detail in the draft status 
report and in Willson et al. (2006), and is summarized below. Eulachon 
are a member of the osmerid family (smelts), and no subspecies have 
been identified. The following section presents biology and life 
history information gathered from throughout the range of eulachon, 
though much of the research on eulachon has occurred in Alaska and 
British Columbia. A later section focuses on information specific to 
the southern DPS of eulachon.

Spawning Range

    Eulachon (also called Columbia River smelt, candlefish, or 
hooligan) are endemic to the northeastern Pacific Ocean, ranging from 
northern California to southwest and south-central Alaska and into the 
southeastern Bering Sea. In the portion of the species' range that lies 
south of the U.S./Washington-Canada border, most eulachon production 
originates in the Columbia River Basin (Figure 1). Within the Columbia 
River Basin, the major and most consistent spawning runs return to the 
mainstem of the Columbia River (from just upstream of the estuary, 
river mile (RM) 25, to immediately downstream of Bonneville Dam, RM 
146) and in the Cowlitz River. Periodic spawning also occurs in the 
Grays, Skamokawa, Elochoman, Kalama, Lewis, and Sandy rivers 
(tributaries to the Columbia River) (Oregon Department of Fish and 
Wildlife (ODFW) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), 
2001). Other river basins in the lower 48 United States where spawning 
runs of eulachon have been documented include the Klamath River in 
northern California and infrequently in some, but not all, coastal 

[[Page 10859]]


    in northern California, Oregon and Washington (Emmett et al., 1991, 
Willson et al., 2006). Major production areas in Canada are the Fraser 
and Nass rivers (Willson et al., 2006). Numerous other river systems in 
central British Columbia and Alaska have consistent yearly runs of 
eulachon and historically supported significant levels of harvest 
(Willson et al., 2006; Gustafson et al., 2008). Many sources note that 
runs occasionally occur in many other rivers and streams, although 
these tend to be erratic, appearing in some years but not others, and 
appearing only rarely in some river systems (Hay and McCarter, 2000; 
Willson et al., 2006).

Spawning Behavior

    Eulachon typically spend 3-5 years in saltwater before returning to 
fresh water to spawn from late winter through early summer. Spawning 
grounds are typically in the lower reaches of larger rivers fed by 
snowmelt (Hay and McCarter, 2000). Spawning typically occurs at night. 
Willson et al. (2006) concluded that the age distribution of eulachon 
in a spawning run probably varies among rivers and also varies between 
sexes in some years, and among years in the same river system. Males 
typically outnumber females by 2:1 or more. Spawning occurs at 
temperatures from 4[deg] to 10[deg] C in the Columbia River and 
tributaries (ODFW and WDFW, 2001) and from 0[deg] to 2[deg] C in the 
Nass River (Langer et al., 1977) over sand, coarse gravel, or detrital 
substrates. The sexes must synchronize their activities closely, unlike 

[[Page 10860]]

other group spawners such as herring, because eulachon sperm remain 
viable for only a short time, perhaps only minutes (Hay and McCarter, 
2000). Some researchers report that males lie next to, beside, or on 
top of females in riffles (Lewis et al., 2002). Langer et al. (1977) 
report that males congregate upstream of groups of females, releasing 
milt simultaneously, and females lay eggs as the milt drifts over them. 
Eggs are fertilized in the water column, sink, and adhere to the river 
bottom typically in areas of gravel and coarse sand. Most eulachon 
adults die after spawning.
    In many rivers, spawning is limited to the part of the river that 
is influenced by tides (Lewis et al., 2002), but some exceptions exist. 
In the Berners Bay system of Alaska, the greatest abundance of eulachon 
was observed in tidally-influenced reaches, but some fish ascended well 
beyond the tidal influence (Willson et al., 2006). Eulachon once 
ascended more than 160 km in the Columbia River system. There is some 
evidence that water velocity greater than 0.4 m/s begins to limit the 
upstream movements of eulachon (Lewis et al., 2002).
    Entry into the spawning rivers appears to be related to water 
temperature and the occurrence of high tides (Ricker et al., 1954; 
Smith and Saalfeld, 1955; Spangler, 2002). Spawning occurs in January, 
February, and March in the Columbia River, and April and May in the 
Fraser River. Eulachon runs in central and northern British Columbia 
typically occur in late February and March or late March and early 
April. Attempts to characterize eulachon run timing are complicated 
further by marked annual variation in timing. Willson et al. (2006) 
give several examples of spawning run timing varying by a month or more 
in rivers in British Columbia and Alaska.
    Although spawning generally occurs at temperatures from 4[deg] to 
7[deg] C in the Cowlitz River (Smith and Saalfeld, 1955), peak eulachon 
runs occurred at noticeably colder temperatures (between 0[deg] and 
2[deg] C) in the Nass River. The Nass River run is also earlier than 
the eulachon run that occurs at warmer temperatures in the Fraser River 
(Langer et al., 1977).

Early Life History and Maturation

    Eulachon eggs are approximately 1 mm in diameter, averaging about 
43 mg in weight; however, in the Fraser River population egg weight 
varied from 10 mg in fish measuring 120 mm in length to almost 30 mg in 
fish of 180-190 mm standard length (Hay and McCarter, 2000). Eggs are 
enclosed in a double membrane; after fertilization in the water, the 
outer membrane breaks and turns inside out, creating a sticky stalk 
which helps anchor the eggs to sand grains and small gravel (Hart and 
McHugh, 1944; Hay and McCarter, 2000). Eulachon eggs hatch in 20-40 
days, with incubation time dependent on water temperature. Shortly 
after hatching, the larvae are carried downstream and dispersed by 
estuarine and ocean currents. Similar to salmon, juvenile eulachon are 
thought to imprint on the chemical signature of their natal (birth) 
river basins. However, juvenile eulachon spend less time in freshwater 
environments than do juvenile salmon, and researchers believe that this 
short freshwater residence time may cause returning eulachon to stray 
more from their birth spawning sites than salmon (Hay and McCarter, 
    After leaving estuarine rearing areas, juvenile eulachon move from 
shallow nearshore areas to deeper areas over the continental shelf. 
Larvae and young juveniles become widely distributed in coastal waters, 
with fish found mostly at depths up to 15 m (Hay and McCarter, 2000) 
but sometimes as deep as 182 m (Barraclough, 1964). There is currently 
little information available about eulachon movements in nearshore 
marine areas and the open ocean. Willson et al. (2006) summarized the 
results of surveys showing concentrations of pre-spawning adult 
eulachon off Vancouver Island, in the Bering Sea, in the Gulf of 
Alaska, in Prince William Sound, and in the Coastal Fjords of Southeast 
Alaska. The amount of eulachon bycatch in the pink shrimp fishery seems 
to indicate that the distribution of these organisms overlap in the 


    Eulachon feed on zooplankton, chiefly eating crustaceans such as 
copepods and euphausiids, including Thysanoessa spp. (Barraclough, 
1964; Hay and McCarter, 2000), unidentified malacostracans (Sturdevant 
et al., 1999), and cumaceans (Smith and Saalfeld, 1955). Eulachon 
larvae and post-larvae eat phytoplankton, copepods, copepod eggs, 
mysids, barnacle larvae, worm larvae, and eulachon larvae (WDFW and 
ODFW, 2001). Adults and juveniles commonly forage at moderate depths 
(15 to 182 m) in inshore waters (Hay and McCarter, 2000).


    Eulachon are very high in lipids, and, due to their availability 
during spawning runs, they are an important part of the Pacific coastal 
food web. They have numerous avian predators such as harlequin ducks, 
pigeon guillemots, common murres, mergansers, cormorants, gulls, and 
eagles. Marine mammals such as baleen whales, orcas, dolphins, 
pinnipeds, and beluga whales are known to feed on eulachon. During 
spawning runs, bears and wolves have been observed consuming eulachon. 
Fishes that prey on eulachon include white sturgeon, spiny dogfish, 
sablefish, salmon sharks, arrowtooth flounder, salmon, Dolly Varden, 
Pacific halibut, and Pacific cod. In particular, eulachon and their 
eggs seem to provide a significant food source for white sturgeon in 
the Columbia and Fraser Rivers.

Age and Length

    It is difficult to compare eulachon body lengths among reports 
because researchers have used different length measures (i.e., 
standard, fork, and total length) and these must be standardized for 
across-population comparisons (Buchheister and Wilson, 2005). As 
expected, both length and body mass increase with age. Eulachon on the 
Twentymile River averaged about 180-200 mm and 40-58 g at age 2, to 
220-225 mm and 80-90 g at age 5. At age 3, the most common age of 
spawners, fork length averaged about 200-215 mm and body mass averaged 
about 60-65 g (estimated from Spangler, 2002). For the Fraser River 
population, fork-length distribution was as follows: age 0+ fish were 
about 20-50 mm, age 1+ about 50-80 mm, age 2+ about 75-105 mm, age 3+ 
about 105-135 mm, and age 4+ about 135-160 mm (estimated by Willson et 
al., 2006, from Barraclough, 1964). Eulachon in the Kemano, Kitimat, 
Nass, Stikine, and Columbia rivers have similar distributions of size-
at-age, but the increase in size-at-age is small for both sexes (10 mm 
from age 3 to 4 and 4 mm from age 4 to 5; Lewis et al., 2002).

DPS Delineation

    Evidence that the BRT found informative for determining whether 
southern populations of eulachon may be discrete from northern 
populations of eulachon included differences in: spawning 
characteristics; size- and age-at-maturity of eulachon between northern 
and southern rivers in the species' range; ecological features of both 
the oceanic and freshwater environments occupied by eulachon; and 
genetic characteristics.
Spawning Characteristics
    Eulachon generally spawn in rivers that are glacier-or snowmelt-fed 
and have a pronounced peak freshet in spring. Some researchers 
hypothesize that the rapid flushing of eggs and

[[Page 10861]]

larvae out of the spawning river reach by these freshets may result in 
eulachon imprinting and homing to the larger local estuary rather than 
to individual spawning rivers (Hay and McCarter, 2000). Thus, the 
estuary has been invoked as the likely geographic population unit for 
eulachon (Hay and McCarter, 2000; Hay and Beacham, 2005).
    Variation in spawn timing among rivers has also been cited as 
indicative of local adaptation in eulachon (Hay and McCarter, 2000), 
although the wide overlap in spawn timing among rivers makes it 
difficult to discern distinctive patterns in this trait. These 
differences in spawn timing result in some populations spawning when 
water temperatures are as low as 0-2[deg] C, and sometimes under ice 
(e.g., in the Nass River; Langer et al., 1977), whereas other 
populations experience spawning temperatures of from 4-7[deg] C (e.g., 
in the Cowlitz River; (Smith and Saalfield, 1955)). In general, 
eulachon spawn earlier in southern portions of their range than in 
rivers to the north. River-entry and spawning begin as early as 
December and January in the Columbia River Basin and as late as June in 
central Alaska. However, eulachon have been known to spawn as early as 
January in rivers of the Copper River Delta of Alaska and as late as 
May in northern California. The general spawn timing pattern is 
reversed along the coast of British Columbia where the earliest 
spawning occurs in the Nass River in the far north in February to early 
March, and the latest spawning occurs in the Fraser River in April and 
May in the far south.
Size and Age-at-Maturity
    Coastwide, there appears to be an increase in both mean length and 
weight of eulachon at maturity with an increase in latitude. Mean 
eulachon fork length and weight at maturity range from about 215 mm and 
70 g in the Twentymile River in Alaska to 175 mm and 37 g in the 
Columbia River. This pattern is typical of many vertebrate 
poikilotherms (i.e., cold-blooded animals), for which higher rearing 
temperatures result in reduced size at a given stage of development 
(Lindsey, 1966; Atkinson, 1994; Stout et al., 2001a).
    Age determination of eulachon has been difficult to validate and 
estimates of age based on otolith increments may not be accurate 
(Ricker et al. 1954, Hay and McCarter 2000). Most studies based on 
otolith increments conclude that some eulachon spawn at age-2 through 
age-5, but most spawn at age-2, age-3 or age-4 (Barraclough, 1964; 
Langer et al., 1977; Hay and McCarter, 2000; Willson et al., 2006). 
Recently, Clarke et al. (2007) developed a method to estimate eulachon 
age at spawning from analysis of variations in barium and calcium in 
the otoliths. This study indicated that age structure of spawners in 
the southern areas may be limited to one or at most two year classes 
(Clarke et al., 2007). According to Clarke et al. (2007), the number of 
peaks in the Barium to Calcium ratio observed in eulachon otoliths 
increased with increasing latitude, suggesting that the age at maturity 
is older for northern populations.
Ecological Boundaries
    The fidelity with which eulachon return to their natal river, 
estuary, or inlet implies some association between a specific 
population and its freshwater and/or estuarine environment. Differences 
in life-history strategies among eulachon populations may have arisen, 
in part, in response to selective pressures of different freshwater/
estuarine environments. If the boundaries of distinct freshwater or 
estuarine habitats coincide with differences in life histories, it 
would suggest a certain degree of local adaptation. The BRT looked at 
the characteristics of the terrestrial and marine environments occupied 
by eulachon to assist in evaluating potential DPS structure.
    The BRT used the Environmental Protection Agency ecoregion 
designations (Omernik, 1987) to evaluate potential eulachon DPS 
structure based on freshwater distribution. These ecoregions have been 
used in past ESA status reviews and recovery plans to identify DPSs and 
population structure of Pacific salmon and other marine fishes (e.g., 
Good et al., 2005). The historical distribution of eulachon in 
Washington, Oregon, and California corresponds closely with the Coastal 
Range Ecoregion as defined in Omernik (1987). Extending from the 
Olympic Peninsula through the Coast Range proper and down to the 
Klamath Mountains and the San Francisco Bay area, this region is 
influenced by medium to high rainfall levels because of the interaction 
between marine weather systems and the mountainous nature of the 
region. Topographically, the region averages about 500 m in elevation, 
with mountain tops under 1,200 m in elevation. The region is heavily 
forested, primarily with Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and western red 
cedar. Streams occupied by eulachon within this region generally follow 
two distinct annual flow patterns: (1) Streams draining coastal 
watersheds, where winter rain storms are common, have high flow periods 
coinciding with these storms; (2) streams draining more interior areas, 
such as the Columbia and Cowlitz Rivers, have a distinct spring freshet 
period coinciding with snow melt. Eulachon production is highest in 
these latter systems.
    The BRT also used Environment Canada's (2008) established system of 
ecozones and ecoregions to help assess eulachon DPS boundaries in 
Canada. Their ``Ecozones'' are approximately the same size as the 
ecoregions defined by Omernik (1987), while their ecoregions are 
considerably smaller. All rivers that support regular runs of eulachon 
in British Columbia are within the Pacific Maritime Ecozone, which 
consists of 14 ecoregions. The Lower Mainland, Pacific Ranges, and 
Coastal Gap ecoregions contain rivers supporting regular runs of 
eulachon as defined in Hay and McCarter (2000) and Hay (2002). The 
Lower Mainland Ecoregion is dominated by the Fraser River and includes 
the Fraser River valley. Mean annual precipitation in the Fraser River 
Valley ranges from 200 cm in the Cascade foothills to 85 cm at the 
river's mouth. Mean summer and winter air temperatures in this region 
are 15[deg] C and 3.5[deg] C, respectively. Douglas fir dominates 
native forest stands while other common tree species include red alder, 
Pacific madrone, western red cedar and western hemlock. The Pacific 
Ranges Ecoregion extends from the southern extent of the steeply 
sloping irregular Coast Mountains at the US border to Bella Coola in 
the north. These mountains range from sea level to as high as 4000 m. 
Many rivers in this region originate in expansive ice-fields, and 
numerous glaciers extend into the lowlands. Mean summer and winter air 
temperatures in this region are 13.5[deg] C and -1[deg] C, 
respectively. Mean annual precipitation in this ecoregion ranges from 
340 cm at high elevations to 150 cm at sea level. The coastal forest 
zone is dominated by stands of western red cedar, western hemlock, and 
Pacific silver fir; and by Douglas fir and western hemlock in drier 
sites. The Coastal Gap Ecoregion extends from Dean Channel north to the 
border between British Columbia and Alaska and is bounded by the taller 
Pacific Ranges to the south and the Boundary Ranges to the north. The 
low-relief mountains in this ecoregion consist of the Kitimat Ranges, 
which rarely reach higher than 2400 m. Mean summer and winter air 
temperatures in this region are 13[deg] C and -0.5[deg] C, 
respectively. This ecoregion has the highest mean annual

[[Page 10862]]

precipitation in British Columbia, ranging from 200 cm on the coast to 
over 450 cm at high elevations. Forests are dominated by western red 
cedar, yellow cedar, and western hemlock. Some Sitka spruce and shore 
pine are also present with red alder being common on disturbed sites.
    The Nass Basin Ecoregion contains two rivers, the Nass and the 
Skeena, which also support regular runs of eulachon. The Nass Basin 
Ecoregion lies between the interior and coastal portions of the Coast 
Mountains in west-central British Columbia and is an area of low-relief 
composed of folded Jurassic and Cretaceous sediments that is almost 
encircled by mountains. Mean summer and winter air temperatures in this 
region are 11.5[deg] C and -9.5[deg] C, respectively. Mean annual 
precipitation ranges up to 250 cm at higher elevations to 150 cm in the 
lowlands. The moist montane zone is dominated by western red cedar and 
western hemlock, whereas forests in the subalpine zone contain 
subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, and Engelmann spruce.
    The BRT also looked at ecological features of the ocean environment 
to evaluate potential eulachon DPS structure. Ware and McFarlane (1989) 
built upon previous descriptions of oceanic domains in the northeast 
Pacific Ocean by Dodimead et al. (1963) and Thomson (1981) to identify 
three principal fish production domains in the range of eulachon: (1) a 
Southern Coastal Upwelling Domain, (2) a Northern Coastal Downwelling 
Domain, and (3) a Central Subarctic Domain (the Alaskan Gyre). The 
boundary between the Coastal Upwelling Domain and Coastal Downwelling 
Domain occurs where the eastward flowing Subarctic Current (also called 
the North Pacific Current) bifurcates to form the north-flowing Alaska 
Current and the south-flowing California Current. This occurs in the 
vicinity of a Transitional Zone between the northern tip of Vancouver 
Island and the northern extent of the Queen Charlotte Islands (an 
archipelago off the northwest coast of British Columbia, Canada, just 
south of the Nass River outlet).
    Similarly, Longhurst (2006) identifies an Alaska Downwelling 
Coastal Province and a California Current Province within the Pacific 
Coastal Biome in his delineation of ocean zones. Within Longhurst's 
(2006) Pacific Coastal Biome, ocean distribution of eulachon spans the 
Alaska Downwelling Coastal Province and the northern portion of the 
California Current Province. Longhurst (2006) also places the boundary 
between the Alaska Coastal Downwelling Province and the California 
Current Province where the eastward flowing Subarctic Current (also 
called the North Pacific Current) bifurcates.
    Different modes of physical forcing and nutrient enrichment 
characterize these provinces. Eulachon occupying these different 
provinces likely experience different ocean conditions and selective 
pressures. In the Alaska Coastal Downwelling province, large amounts of 
precipitation and runoff from melting glaciers along the mountainous 
Alaskan coast provide the majority of freshwater input. In summer and 
fall, when runoff is at a maximum, waters in the fjord-like coastline 
and in this area are usually highly stratified in both temperature and 
salinity. Following the spring phytoplankton bloom, stratification in 
the top layers of the water column limits nutrient availability and 
leads to subsequent nutrient depletion. Occasional wind events lead to 
temporary local upwelling of nutrients and subsequent phytoplankton 
blooms. In general, water temperatures are lower in this province than 
the more southerly California Current Province.
    In the California Current Province, seasonal wind driven upwelling 
is a dominate feature of this province. This process carries nutrients 
onshore where they are upwelled along the coast, leading to high 
primary production that lasts through much of the spring and summer. 
Nearshore upwelling also results in higher salinities and lower 
temperatures compared to offshore locations.
    These two provinces are also characterized by distinct plankton 
communities: a boreal community in the Alaska Downwelling Province and 
a temperate community in the California Current Province. Food 
availability for eulachon differs in type and seasonal availability 
between provinces. It is likely that food availability highly 
influences eulachon behaviors such as seasonal movements.
    The analysis of the geographical distribution of genetic variation 
is a powerful method for identifying discrete populations. In addition, 
such analysis can sometimes be used to estimate historical dispersals, 
equilibrium levels of migration (gene flow), and past isolation. 
Commonly used molecular genetic markers include protein variants 
(allozymes), microsatellite loci (variable numbers of short tandem 
repeats in nuclear DNA), and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).
    The BRT reviewed three published genetic studies to consider 
evidence of population structure in eulachon. One of these studies 
(McLean et al., 1999) used restriction fragment length polymorphism 
analysis to examine variation in mtDNA. Mitochondrial DNA studies are 
generally most useful for detecting deep divergence patterns of 
population structure, and may not be very powerful for detecting 
structure among closely related populations. The other studies (McLean 
and Taylor, 2001; Kaukinen et al., 2004; Beacham et al., 2005) analyzed 
microsatellite loci. Microsatellite DNA markers can potentially detect 
population structure on finer spatial and temporal scales than can 
other DNA or protein markers because of higher levels of polymorphism 
(diversity) found in microsatellite DNA (reflecting a high mutation 
    McLean et al. (1999) examined mtDNA variation in 285 eulachon 
samples collected at 11 freshwater sites ranging from the Columbia 
River to Cook Inlet, Alaska, and also from 29 ocean-caught fish 
captured in the Bering Sea. They concluded that, overall, there was 
little genetic differentiation among eulachon collected from distinct 
freshwater locations throughout the eulachon range. The pattern of 
eulachon mtDNA variation does not indicate the existence of any highly 
divergent populations and is consistent with the hypothesis that 
eulachon dispersed from a single glacial formation and retreat event. 
However, McLean et al. (1999) did note an association of geographic 
distance with genetic differentiation among eulachon populations, and 
suggested this represented an emerging population subdivision 
throughout the range of the species.
    In a later study, McLean and Taylor (2001) used five microsatellite 
loci to examine variation in the same set of populations as McLean et 
al. (1999). The populations in the Columbia and Cowlitz rivers were 
represented by 2 years of samples with a total sample size of 60 fish 
from each river. However, several populations were represented by very 
few samples, including just five fish from the three rivers in Gardner 
Canal and just 10 fish from the Fraser River. Results from a 
hierarchical analysis of molecular variance test were similar to those 
of the McLean et al. (1999) mtDNA study, with 0.85 percent of variation 
occurring among large regions and 3.75 percent among populations within 
regions. In contrast to the mtDNA analysis however, genetic distances 
among populations using these five microsatellite loci were not 
correlated with geographic distances. Overall, McLean and Taylor (2001)

[[Page 10863]]

concluded that their microsatellite DNA results were mostly consistent 
with the mtDNA findings of McLean et al. (1999) and that both studies 
indicated that eulachon have some degree of population structure.
    The most extensive genetic study of eulachon, in terms of sample 
size and number of loci examined, is that of Beacham et al. (2005). 
Beacham et al. (2005) examined microsatellite DNA variation in eulachon 
collected at 9 sites ranging from the Columbia River to Cook Inlet, 
Alaska, using the 14 loci developed in an earlier study by Kaukinen et 
al. (2004). Sample sizes per site ranged from 74 fish from the Columbia 
River to 421 from the Fraser River. Samples collected in multiple years 
were analyzed from populations in the Bella Coola and Kemano rivers (2 
years of sampling) and also in the Nass River (3 years of sampling). 
Beacham et al. (2005) observed much greater microsatellite DNA 
diversity within populations than that reported by McLean and Taylor 
(2001), and all loci were highly polymorphic in all of the sampled 
populations. Significant genetic differentiation was observed among all 
comparisons of the nine populations in the study. A cluster analysis of 
genetic distances showed genetic affinities among the populations in 
the Fraser, Columbia, and Cowlitz rivers and also among the Kemano, 
Klinaklini, and Bella Coola rivers along the central British Columbia 
coast. In particular, there was evidence of a genetic discontinuity 
north of the Fraser River, with Fraser and Columbia/Cowlitz samples 
being approximately 3-6 times more divergent from samples further to 
the north than they were to each other. Similar to the mtDNA study of 
McLean et al. (1999), the authors also found that genetic 
differentiation among populations was correlated with geographic 
    Beacham et al. (2005) found stronger evidence of population 
structure than the earlier genetic studies, and concluded that their 
results indicated that management of eulachon would be appropriately 
based at the level of the river drainage. In particular, the 
microsatellite DNA analysis showed that populations of eulachon in 
different rivers are genetically differentiated from each other at 
statistically significant levels. The authors suggested that the 
pattern of eulachon differentiation was similar to that typically found 
in marine fish, which is less than that observed in most salmon 
    Although Beacham et al. (2005) found clear evidence of genetic 
structure among eulachon populations, the authors also noted that 
important questions remained unresolved. The most important one in 
terms of identifying DPSs for eulachon is the relationship between 
temporal and geographic patterns of genetic variation. In particular, 
Beacham et al. (2005) found that year-to-year genetic variation within 
three British Columbia coastal river systems was similar to the level 
of variation among the rivers, which suggests that patterns among 
rivers may not be temporally stable. However, in the comparisons 
involving the Columbia River samples, the variation between the 
Columbia samples and one north-of-Fraser sample from the same year was 
approximately 5 times greater than a comparison within the Columbia 
from 2 different years.
    When all genetic studies are considered, the BRT found modest 
genetic structure within eulachon, with the most obvious genetic break 
appearing to occur in southern British Columbia north of the Fraser 
River. This break indicates a degree of reproductive isolation between 
northern and southern populations, suggesting the two population 
segments are discrete.

DPS Conclusions of the BRT

    Based on the foregoing, the BRT identified six possible DPS 
configurations or scenarios that could include eulachon that spawn in 
Washington, Oregon, and California rivers (i.e., the petitioned 
region). The geographic boundaries of possible DPSs considered in this 
evaluation were: (1) the entire biological species is the ``ESA 
species'' (i.e., there is no DPS structure within the species); (2) a 
DPS boundary near the Yakutat Forelands in Alaska such that eulachon in 
Southeast Alaska through Northern California consist of one DPS and 
eulachon further north and west consist of one or more additional 
DPS(s); (3) a DPS boundary just south of the Nass River/Dixon Entrance 
in British Columbia such that eulachon from south of the Nass River 
through Northern California consist of one DPS and eulachon from the 
Nass River and further north and west consist of one or more additional 
DPS(s); (4) a DPS boundary north of the Fraser River such that eulachon 
from the Fraser River through Northern California consist of one DPS 
and eulachon from the Fraser River and further north and west consist 
of one or more additional DPS(s); (5) a DPS boundary south of the 
Fraser River such that eulachon south of the US-Canada border consist 
of one DPS and eulachon from the Fraser River and further north and 
west consist of one or more additional DPS(s); (6) multiple DPSs of 
eulachon in Washington, Oregon and California and one or more 
additional DPSs throughout the remainder of the species' range.
    Because of the paucity of quantitative population data, the BRT 
used structured decision making to guide its determination of DPS 
structure and boundaries. To allow for expressions of the level of 
uncertainty in identifying the boundaries of a discrete eulachon 
population, the BRT adopted a ``likelihood point'' method, often 
referred to as the ``FEMAT'' method because it is a variation of a 
method used by scientific teams evaluating management options under the 
Northwest Forest Plan (Forest Ecosystem Management and Assessment Team, 
1993). In this approach, each BRT member distributed 10 ``likelihood 
points'' amongst these six DPS scenarios. This approach has been widely 
used by NMFS BRTs in previous DPS determinations (e.g., Pacific Salmon, 
Southern Resident Killer Whale). The BRT did not attempt to divide the 
entire species into DPSs, but rather focused on evaluating whether a 
DPS could be identified that contains eulachon that spawn in 
Washington, Oregon, and California, as discussed in the listing 
    Scenario 1 (no DPS structure) received about 12 percent of the 
total likelihood points. Scenarios 2 (one DPS inclusive of eulachon in 
Southeast Alaska to Northern California) and 5 (one DPS south of the 
Fraser River) received no support by the BRT. There was also very 
little BRT support for multiple DPSs of eulachon in the conterminous 
United States; only 4 percent of the likelihood points were placed in 
scenario 6. All remaining likelihood points (84 percent) were 
distributed among scenarios supporting a DPS at a level larger than the 
petitioned unit of Washington, Oregon, and California but smaller than 
the entire biological species. Scenario 3 (one DPS south of the Nass 
River/Dixon Entrance) received over 57 percent of the total likelihood 
points. Scenario 4 (one DPS inclusive of eulachon in the Fraser River 
through California) received significant support with over 27 percent 
of all points placed in this scenario.
    After reviewing these results, it was the majority opinion of the 
BRT that eulachon from Washington, Oregon, and California are not 
discrete from eulachon north of the U.S.-Canada boundary (as 
petitioned), but that eulachon south of the Nass River are discrete 
from eulachon in the Nass River and northward (Figure 1). This opinion 
is based on the evidence indicating that eulachon occurring in this 
area are discrete from eulachon occurring north

[[Page 10864]]

of this area based on differences in spawning temperatures; length- and 
weight-at-maturity; ecological features of both the oceanic and 
freshwater environments occupied by eulachon; and the genetic results 
(particularly of Beacham et al. 2005).
    This BRT determined the discrete population segment is significant 
to the species as a whole because it constitutes over half of the 
geographic range of the entire species' distribution and includes at 
least two of the major production areas (Columbia and Fraser rivers) 
for the entire species. Therefore, the loss of this DPS would result in 
a significant reduction in the species' overall distribution.
    During the status review, the BRT did not evaluate potential DPS 
structure of eulachon populations occurring north of the Nass River. 
The BRT found, however, that northern populations are discrete from 
southern populations. We conclude that this discrete northern 
population segment (from the Nass River (inclusive) to Bristol Bay, 
Alaska) would also be significant to the taxon because it comprises a 
substantial portion of the range of the species and because the Alaska 
Downwelling Coastal Province (described above) represents a unique 
ecological setting for the taxon. We have not considered whether this 
northern population segment of eulachon might be further subdivided 
into more than one DPS. We refer to the DPS south of the Nass River as 
the southern DPS.

Extinction Risk Assessment

Information Reviewed

    The BRT considered several types of information while evaluating 
the status of the southern DPS of eulachon. The available data types 
and their respective strengths and weaknesses are discussed in detail 
in the draft status report. Fishery-independent scientific assessments 
of the total number or biomass of spawning eulachon were only available 
for the Fraser River and from several other British Columbia rivers. In 
some areas, the only data available on eulachon abundance are derived 
from commercial or subsistence fisheries landings. Commercial landings 
were available from the Klamath, Columbia, Umpqua, Fraser, Kitimat, and 
Skeena rivers. Data from Canadian First Nations subsistence fisheries 
landings were available for the Fraser River and several other British 
Columbia coastal rivers. Recreational fisheries for eulachon have been 
poorly documented, even though the recreational catch may have been 
equal to the commercial catch on many rivers with eulachon runs. Some 
data are available for Fraser River recreational catches and the BRT 
considered this information. The BRT recognized that inferring 
population status from commercial, subsistence, or recreational fishery 
data can be problematic and considered this when drawing conclusions 
from fishery-dependant data.
    Numerous ethnographic studies emphasize the nutritional and 
cultural importance of eulachon to coastal Indian tribes and First 
Nations. The BRT examined ethnographic sources that describe historical 
distributions and relative abundance of eulachon fisheries within the 
boundaries of the DPS. Many of the statements in these sources as to 
the historical distribution and abundance of eulachon consisted of 
traditional ecological knowledge or were anecdotal in nature. The BRT 
also examined a variety of both primary anecdotal sources (e.g., 
accounts of early explorers, surveyors, fur trappers, and settlers; and 
newspaper articles) and secondary anecdotal sources (e.g., agency 
fisheries reports and journal articles that cite personal 
communications) that describe historical distributions and relative 
abundance of eulachon within the boundaries of the DPS.
Absolute Numbers
    The absolute number of individuals in a population is important in 
assessing two aspects of extinction risk. For small populations that 
are stable or increasing, population size can be an indicator of 
whether the population can sustain itself into the future in the face 
of environmental fluctuations and small-population stochasticity. In 
addition to total numbers, the spatial and temporal distribution of 
adults is important in assessing risk to a species or DPS. At a 
minimum, adults need to be in the same place at the same time for 
reproduction to occur.
    Several aspects of eulachon biology indicate that large 
aggregations of adult eulachon are necessary for maintenance of normal 
reproductive output. Eulachon are a short-lived, high-fecundity, high-
mortality forage fish, and such species typically have large population 
sizes. Research from other marine fishes (Sadovy, 2001) suggests that 
there is likely a biological requirement for a critical threshold 
density of eulachon during spawning to ensure adequate synchronization 
of spawning, mate choice, gonadal sterol levels, and fertilization 
success. Since eulachon sperm may remain viable for only a short time, 
perhaps only minutes, sexes must synchronize spawning activities 
closely, unlike other fish such as Pacific herring (Hay and McCarter, 
2000; Willson et al., 2006). In most samples of spawning eulachon, 
males greatly outnumber females (although many factors may contribute 
to these observations) (Willson et al. 2006), and in some instances 
congregations of males have been observed simultaneously spawning 
upstream of females that laid eggs as milt drifted downstream (Langer 
et al., 1977).
    In addition, the genetically effective population size of eulachon 
may be much lower than the census size. Effective size is important 
because it determines the rate of inbreeding and the rate at which a 
population loses genetic variation. In marine species, under conditions 
of high fecundity and high mortality associated with pelagic larval 
development, local environmental conditions may lead to random 
``sweepstake recruitment'' events where only a small minority of 
spawning individuals contribute to subsequent generations (Hedgecock, 
1994), and this effect appears to be more pronounced in larger 
populations (Hauser and Carvalho, 2008).
Historical Abundance and Carrying Capacity
    Knowing the relationship of present abundance to present carrying 
capacity is important for evaluating the health of populations; but the 
fact that a population is near its current carrying capacity does not 
necessarily signify full health. A population near carrying capacity 
implies that short-term management may not be able to increase fish 
    The relationship of current abundance and habitat capacity to 
historical levels is another important consideration in evaluating 
risk. Knowledge of historical population conditions provides a 
perspective for understanding the conditions under which present 
populations evolved. Historical abundance also provides the basis for 
scaling long-term trends in populations. Comparison of present and past 
habitat capacity can also indicate long-term population trends and 
problems of population fragmentation. For eulachon, current and 
historical abundance data and information was available in the form of 
spawner biomass and/or total spawner counts, offshore juvenile eulachon 
biomass estimates, mean eulachon larval density, catch-per-unit-effort, 
commercial/recreational/subsistence fisheries landings, ethnographic 
studies, and anecdotal qualitative information.

[[Page 10865]]

Trends in Abundance
    Short- and long-term trends in abundance are a primary indicator of 
risk. Trends may be calculated from a variety of quantitative data, 
which are discussed in detail in specific sections below. 
Interpretation of trends in terms of population sustainability is 
difficult for a variety of reasons: First, eulachon are harvested in 
fisheries, and shifting harvest goals or market conditions directly 
affect trends in spawning abundance and catch. Second, environmental 
fluctuations on short timescales affect trend estimates, especially for 
shorter trends and relatively short-lived species like eulachon.
Recent Events
    A variety of factors, both natural and human-induced, affect the 
degree of risk facing eulachon populations. Because of time lags in 
these effects and variability in populations, recent changes in any of 
these factors may affect current risk without any apparent change in 
available population statistics. Thus, consideration of these effects 
must go beyond examination of recent abundance and trends. Yet 
forecasting future effects is rarely straightforward and usually 
involves qualitative evaluations based on informed professional 
judgment. Events affecting populations may include natural changes in 
the environment or human-induced changes, either beneficial or 
    It is generally accepted that important shifts in ocean-atmosphere 
conditions occurred about 1977 and again in 1998 that affected North 
Pacific marine ecosystems. Several studies have described decadal-scale 
oscillations in North Pacific climatic and oceanic conditions (Mantua 
and Hare, 2002). These changes have been associated with recruitment 
patterns of several groundfish species and Pacific herring (McFarlane 
et al., 2000). Increases in eulachon in the Columbia, Fraser, and 
Klinaklini rivers in 2001-2002 may be largely a result of the more 
favorable ocean conditions for eulachon survival during the transition 
from larvae to juvenile when these broods entered the ocean in 1998-
    At this time, we do not know whether recent shifts in climate/ocean 
conditions represent a long-term shift in conditions that will continue 
affecting populations into the future or short-term environmental 
fluctuations that can be expected to be reversed in the near future. 
Although recent conditions appear to be within the range of historic 
conditions under which eulachon populations have evolved, the risks 
associated with poor climate conditions may be exacerbated by human 
influence on these populations (Lawson, 1993).

Distribution and Abundance

    Historically important spawning areas for eulachon south of the 
Nass River include the Klamath, Columbia, and Fraser Rivers, and 
numerous coastal rivers in British Columbia (Willson et al. 2006).
Klamath and other Northern California Rivers
    There has been no long-term monitoring program targeting eulachon 
in California, making the assessment of historical abundance and 
abundance trends difficult (Gustafson et al., 2008). Ethnographic 
studies, pioneer diaries, interviews with local fishers, personal 
observations and communications from managers, and newspaper accounts 
are therefore the best scientific and commercial information available 
that provide documentation of eulachon occurrence in the Klamath River 
and other rivers on the Northern California coast.
    Hubbs (1925) and Schultz and DeLacy (1935), leading ichthyologists 
of their day, described the Klamath River in Northern California as the 
southern limit of the range of eulachon. More recent compilations state 
that large spawning aggregations of eulachon were reported to have once 
regularly occurred in the Klamath River (Fry 1979, Moyle et al., 1995; 
Larson and Belchik 1998; Moyle 2002; Hamilton et al., 2005) and on 
occasion in the Mad River (Moyle et al., 1995; Moyle 2002) and Redwood 
Creek (Redwood Creek is located south of the Klamath River near the 
town of Orick, California) (Moyle et al., 1995). In addition, Moyle et 
al. (1995) and Moyle (2002) stated that small numbers of eulachon have 
been reported from the Smith River (the Smith River is located just 
south of the Oregon/California border). California Department of Fish 
and Game's ``Status Report on Living Marine Resources'' document 
(Sweetnam et al., 2001) stated that ``The principal spawning run [of 
eulachon] in California is in the Klamath River, but runs have also 
been recorded in the Mad and Smith Rivers and Redwood Creek.''
    Eulachon have been occasionally reported from other freshwater 
streams of California. Jennings (1996) reported observations of adult 
eulachon in creeks tributary to Humboldt Bay, California in May of 
1977. Although Minckley et al. (1986) indicate that eulachon were 
native to the Sacramento River and drainages within the south 
California Coastal to Baja California region, no verifying references 
or actual observations for these assertions were given. Recently, 
Vincik and Titus (2007) reported on the capture of a single mature male 
eulachon in a screw trap at RM 142 on the Sacramento River.
    The California Academy of Sciences (CAS) ichthyology collection 
database lists eulachon specimens collected from the Klamath River in 
February 1916 and March 1947 and 1963, and in Redwood Creek in February 
1955 (see CAS online collections database at http://research.calacademy.org/research/Ichthyology/collection/index.asp). A 
search of available online digital newspaper resources revealed an 
early account of eulachon in the Klamath River in a newspaper account 
in 1879 and runs large enough to be noted in local newspaper accounts 
occurred in the Klamath River in February 1919, March 1968, and April 
1963 and 1969; in Redwood Creek in April 1963 and 1967; and in the Mad 
River in April 1963 (see draft BRT report Appendix B). An early memoir 
by a traveler surveying timber resources on the Klamath River reported 
eulachon being harvested (15-20 pounds in a single dipnet haul) by 
Yurok tribal members in the early 1890s (Pearsall, 1928).
    Eulachon were of great cultural and subsistence importance to the 
Yurok Tribe on the Lower Klamath River (Trihey and Associates, 1996) 
and the Yurok People consider eulachon to be a Tribal Trust Species 
(Trihey and Associates, 1996; Larson and Belchik, 1998). Eulachon once 
supported popular recreational fisheries in Northern California rivers, 
but were never commercially important in California. The only reported 
commercial catch of eulachon in Northern California occurred in 1963 
when a combined total of 25 metric tons (56,000 lbs) was landed from 
the Klamath River, the Mad River, and Redwood Creek (Odemar, 1964). 
Larson and Belchik (1998), report that eulachon have not been of 
commercial importance in the Klamath and are totally unstudied as to 
their run strengths.
    Larson and Belchik (1998) also reported that according to accounts 
of Yurok Tribal elders, the last noticeable runs of eulachon were 
observed in the Klamath River in 1988 and 1989 by Tribal fishers. Most 
fishers interviewed perceived a decline in the mid to late 1970s, while 
about a fifth thought it was in the 1980s. A minority of those 
interviewed noticed declines in the 1950s and 1960s. Larson and Belchik 
(1998) further stated that ``in December 1988 and May 1989, a total of 
44 eulachon were identified in outmigrant

[[Page 10866]]

salmonid seining operations in and above the Klamath River estuary 
(CDFG unpublished seining data)'' and that only a single eulachon 
specimen (in 1996) was positively identified between 1991 and 1998 on 
the Klamath River. As detailed in Larson and Belchik (1998), the Yurok 
Tribal Fisheries Program spent over 119 hours of staff time from 5 
February to 6 May 1996 sampling for eulachon in the lower Klamath River 
at five different sites, where eulachon had been noted in the past, 
without encountering a single eulachon. However, one eulachon was 
captured by a Yurok Tribal member near the mouth of the Klamath River 
in 1996 (Larson and Belchik, 1998). Sweetnam et al. (2001) stated that 
``In recent years, eulachon numbers seem to have declined drastically; 
so they are now rare or absent from the Mad River and Redwood Creek and 
scarce in the Klamath River.'' They also stated that, ``the eulachon 
and its fishery have been largely ignored in the past'' in California. 
Sweetnam et al., 2001 suggest the perceived lack of eulachon in the 
Klamath River, currently and in the recent past, represents a low point 
in a natural cycle, though they also admit that the declines may be due 
to human activities. In January 2007, six eulachon were reportedly 
caught by tribal fishermen on the Klamath River (Dave Hillemeier, Yurok 
Tribe, pers. comm.).
    The BRT discussed several possible interpretations of the available 
information. In particular, the BRT discussed the possibility that, 
historically, runs of eulachon in the Klamath River were episodic and 
perhaps only occasionally large enough to be noticed. This 
interpretation, however, is inconsistent with the numerous anecdotal 
but independent reports of regular large runs. The BRT also considered 
the possibility that eulachon still occur in low but viable numbers in 
Northern California rivers but are not frequently observed because of 
the absence of a formal monitoring program, or that some eulachon may 
spawn in estuarine environments and are therefore not observed in the 
riverine environment. These interpretations are inconsistent with the 
following facts: state and tribal biologists are monitoring rivers 
where eulachon were historically reported but are not regularly finding 
eulachon; sizable spawning runs of eulachon attract large numbers of 
predators, which are readily observable and were historically well-
reported (see above); and eulachon are not known to spawn in estuaries 
in large numbers.
    After considering these possible interpretations of the available 
information, the BRT concluded that the explanation most consistent 
with the evidence is that Klamath River eulachon runs used to be 
regular and large enough to be readily noticeable and now are 
intermittent, small, and sporadic. In particular, various accounts 
written by California Department of Fish and Game personnel (Fry, 1979; 
Sweetnam et al., 2001; CDFG, 2008), Yurok Tribal Fisheries Department 
personnel (Larson and Belchik, 1998), the National Resource Council's 
Committee on Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River 
Basin (NRC, 2004), and available academic literature (Moyle et al., 
1995; Moyle, 2002; Hamilton et al., 2005) describe accounts of the past 
occurrence of eulachon in the Klamath River and their subsequent 
decline. Based on the available information, the BRT was unable to 
estimate the historical abundance of eulachon in northern California, 
but found no reason to discount the veracity of these anecdotal 
sources, which span a period of approximately 100 years and are 
consistent in their description of noticeable runs of eulachon having 
once ascended the Klamath River.
    Likewise, although the BRT was concerned about the absence of a 
contemporary monitoring program for eulachon, the available information 
strongly indicated that noticeable runs of eulachon are not currently 
spawning in Klamath River or other northern California rivers. In 
particular, the BRT thought it likely that if eulachon were returning 
in any substantial numbers it would be reported by local residents or 
those engaged in recreation, research, or management on rivers in 
Northern California. The BRT noted that large eulachon runs tend to 
attract the attention of fishers, and the previous runs on the Klamath 
River were readily noticeable (e.g., ``the fish moved up in huge 
swarms, followed by large flocks of feeding seabirds'' (Moyle, 2002)). 
The BRT therefore concluded that the available information was most 
reasonably interpreted as indicating that noticeable, regularly 
returning runs of eulachon used to be present in the Klamath River, but 
have been rare or sporadic for a period of several decades.
    Although the BRT was reasonably confident that eulachon have 
declined substantially in Northern California, it is also clear that 
they have not been totally absent from this area in recent years. In 
particular, recent reports from Yurok Tribal fisheries biologists of a 
few eulachon being caught incidentally in other fisheries on the 
Klamath in 2007 indicates eulachon still enter the Klamath River on 
occasion in low numbers. We agree that the BRT's conclusions regarding 
eulachon presence and declines in the Klamath and other Northern 
California rivers are the most persuasive interpretation of the best 
available scientific and commercial information.
Columbia River
    The Columbia River and its tributaries support the largest known 
eulachon run. Although direct estimates of adult spawning stock 
abundance are unavailable, records of commercial fishery landings begin 
in 1888 and continue as a nearly uninterrupted data set to the present 
time (Gustafson et al., 2008). A large recreational dipnet fishery for 
which catch records are not maintained has taken place during the same 
time as the commercial fishery (WDFW and ODFW, 2001).
    Although commercial eulachon landings do not provide a quantitative 
measure of spawning stock abundance, since they can be driven by market 
and environmental conditions as well as population abundance, the WDFW 
and ODFW Joint Columbia River Management Staff (JCRMS, 2007) has 
concluded that ``they do provide a useful measure of the relative 
annual run strength.'' In particular, State fisheries managers of 
Columbia River eulachon use commercial landings to judge whether 
population trends are upward, neutral, or downward (JCRMS, 2007). In 
their report, the BRT agreed with this use of commercial landings data.
    The Columbia River, estimated to have historically represented 
fully half of the taxon's abundance, experienced a sudden decline in 
its commercial eulachon fishery landings in 1993-1994 (ODFW and WDFW, 
2001; JCRMS, 2007). Commercial catch levels were consistently high 
(usually greater than 500 metric tons and often greater than 1,000 
metric tons) for the three quarters of a century from about 1915 to 
1992. In 1993, the catches declined greatly to 233 metric tons and 
declined further to an average of less than 40 metric tons between 1994 
and 2000. From 2001 to 2004, the catches increased to an average of 266 
metric tons, before falling to an average of less than 5 metric tons 
from 2005 to 2008 (JCRMS, 2007). Some of this pattern is due to fishery 
restrictions, which were in turn put in place due to sharp declines in 
apparent abundance. Persistent low returns and landings of eulachon in 
the Columbia River from 1993 to 2000 prompted the States of Oregon and 
Washington to adopt a Joint State Eulachon Management Plan in 2001 that 

[[Page 10867]]

for restricted harvest management when parental run strength, juvenile 
production, and ocean productivity indicate a poor return is likely 
(WDFW and ODFW, 2001). The fishery has operated at the most 
conservative level allowed for in the Joint State Eulachon Management 
Plan since 2005 owing to the low level of returns during this time 
period (JCRMS, 2005; 2006; 2007). Based on these data and the 
interpretation of them described above, the BRT concluded that 
available catch and effort information indicate an abrupt decline in 
eulachon abundance in the early 1990's, with no evidence that the 
population has returned to its former level since then.
Fraser River
    As in the Columbia River, a long-term data set for commercial 
landings dating back into the 1880s exists for the Fraser River in 
British Columbia. Between 1941 and 1996 commercial landings averaged 
about 83 metric tons, but ranged as high as 421 metric tons (Hay and 
McCarter, 2000). For much of this period the commercial fishery 
landings are not a good indicator of relative abundance, since landings 
were largely driven by market demand (Moody, 2008). Following a similar 
pattern to that of the Columbia River, eulachon abundance began to 
decline in 1993 to the point where the fishery was closed in 1997. This 
closure was also partially due to what the Canadian DFO perceived to be 
a lack of ability to control the fishery under the existing regulations 
(Hay et al., 2002). Since then only minor commercial landings have been 
allowed in only two of the last ten years (2002 and 2004) (DFO, 2006). 
Due to poor returns, recreational and First Nation subsistence 
fisheries have also been suspended on the Fraser River since 2005.
    In 1996, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) 
began to estimate spawning stock abundance, independent of the fishery 
landings, using mean egg and larval plankton density and river 
discharge rates (gathered throughout a seven week outmigrant period at 
five locations) in combination with known relative fecundity (egg 
production per gram of female) and sex ratio. Over the three-generation 
time of approximately 10 years, the overall biomass of the Fraser River 
eulachon population has undergone a 92.5 percent decline (1998, 134 
metric tons; 2008, 10 metric tons). The most recent population 
assessment of Fraser River eulachon by Fisheries and Oceans Canada 
(DFO, 2007) stated that ``despite limited directed fisheries in recent 
years, the Fraser River eulachon population remains at a precariously 
low level and has failed to recover from its collapse.'' Subsequent to 
this statement, spawner biomass for the 2008 eulachon run in the Fraser 
River was estimated at 10 metric tons (see draft BRT report citing data 
at http://www-sci.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/herring/herspawn/pages/river1_e.htm), which equates to a maximum escapement of approximately 300,000 
Coastal British Columbia Rivers
    Other coastal rivers and inlets in British Columbia south of the 
Nass River with historically consistent eulachon runs include rivers in 
Knight (Klinaklini River), Kingcome (Kingcome River), and Rivers 
(Wannock, Chuckwalla, and Kilbella rivers) inlets; rivers flowing into 
Dean (Bella Coola, Dean, and Kimsquit rivers) and Douglas (Kitimat and 
Kildala rivers) channels; rivers flowing into Gardner Canal (Kemano, 
Kowesas, and Kitlope rivers); and the Skeena River (Hay and McCarter, 
2000; Willson et al., 2006). Spawner biomass (pounds or metric tons) 
and/or total spawner counts (numbers of adult fish) are available for 
the Klinaklini River (1995), Kingcome River (1997), Wannock/Kilbella 
rivers (2005-2006), Bella-Coola River (2001-2004), Kitimat River (1993-
1996, 1998-2005), and Skeena River (1997). Many of these coastal rivers 
also have a long history of anecdotal reports of eulachon runs or 
sporadic records of First Nations' harvest. Some areas, such as the 
Kingcome and Knight Inlet, have spawning stock abundance estimates for 
a single year but no trends can be determined from these single data 
points. The BRT concluded that available catch records, the extensive 
ethnographic literature, and anecdotal information all indicate that 
eulachon were probably present in larger annual runs in the past and 
that current run sizes of eulachon appear inconsistent with the 
historic level of eulachon oil or ``grease'' production, which is 
extensively documented in the ethnographic literature (Macnair, 1971; 
Codere, 1990).
    Hay and McCarter (2000) reported that annual runs of eulachon 
return on a regular basis to the Wannock, Chuckwalla, and Kilbella 
rivers in Rivers Inlet on the Central Coast of British Columbia. The 
spawning stock biomass of eulachon in Rivers Inlet was estimated using 
scientific survey methods in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, an estimated 2,700 
adults returned to the Wannock River, based on the capture of only 
eleven adults during spawner abundance surveys (Burrows, 2005 as cited 
in Moody, 2008). An additional three adult eulachon were taken on the 
Kilbella River in 2005 (Burrows, 2005, as cited in Moody, 2008). Moody 
(2008) stated that this adult spawner survey was repeated in 2006 and 
although no adults were captured, an estimated 23,000 adult spawners 
returned. Some limited information is available for First Nation 
harvest in the 1960s and 1970s; Moody (2008) reported that catches were 
1.81, 2.27, and 4.54 metric tons, in 1967, 1968, and 1971, 
respectively. The BRT determined that available recent estimates of 
spawning stock abundance, catch records, ethnographic literature 
(Hilton, 1990), and anecdotal information indicate that Rivers Inlet 
eulachon were present in larger annual runs in the past.
    The Bella Coola, Dean, and Kimsquit rivers in Dean Channel support 
regular eulachon runs (Hay and McCarter, 2000). Moody (2007) reports 
relative abundance estimates, based on egg and larval surveys similar 
to those used on the Fraser River, for the Bella Coola River in 2001 
(0.039 metric tons), 2002 (0045-0.050 metric tons), 2003 (.016 metric 
tons), and 2004 (0.0072 metric tons). Nuxalk First Nation subsistence 
fishery landings of eulachon from the Bella Coola River show an average 
catch of 18 metric tons between 1948 and 1984, with a low of 0.3 metric 
tons in 1960 and a high of nearly 70 metric tons in 1954, based on data 
available in Hay (2002). These data suggest that recent (2001-2004) 
spawner biomass in Bella Coola River is approximately two orders of 
magnitude less than the average First Nations eulachon landings were 
between 1948 and 1984. According to Moody (2007), it has been nine 
years since the last First Nations fishery occurred on the Bella Coola 
    The BRT concluded that that available spawning stock biomass data 
collected since 2001, catch records, extensive ethnographic literature, 
and anecdotal information indicates that Bella Coola River and Dean 
Channel eulachon in general were present in much larger annual runs in 
the past. In addition, the present run sizes of eulachon appear 
inconsistent with the historic level of grease production that is 
extensively documented in the ethnographic literature on the Nuxalk 
First Nations Peoples (Kennedy and Bouchard, 1990; Moody, 2008).
    The Kitimat and Kildala rivers in Douglas Channel support regular 
eulachon runs (Hay and McCarter, 2000). Spawning stock biomass of 
eulachon in the Kitimat River was estimated using scientific survey 
methods in 1993 and First Nations fisheries landings are available for

[[Page 10868]]

1969-1972. Between 1969 and 1972, First Nations fisheries landings of 
eulachon ranged from 27.2 to 81.6 metric tons (Moody, 2008). The First 
Nations eulachon fishery reportedly came to an end in 1972 as pollution 
by industrial (pulp mill) and municipal effluent discharges made the 
eulachon unpalatable (Pederson et al., 1995; Moody, 2008). Pederson et 
al. (1995) estimated a total spawning biomass in the Kitimat River of 
22.6 metric tons or about 514,000 individual eulachon in 1993. 
According to Moody (2008), catch-per-unit-effort of eulachon on the 
Kitimat River, as presented in EcoMetrix (2006), declined from 50-60 
fish per 24 hour gill net set in 1994-1996 to less than 2 eulachon per 
gill net set since 1998. According to EcoMetrix (2006, as cited in 
Moody, 2008), abundance of eulachon from 1994 to 1996 ranged between 
527,000 and 440,000 individual spawners, and from 1998 to 2005 ranged 
between 13,600 and less than 1,000. Based on anecdotal information, 
Moody (2008) stated that the last strong run returned to the Kitimat 
River in 1991 and runs from 1992-1996 were estimated at half the size 
of 1991. The BRT concluded that given this information, Kitimat River, 
and Douglas Channel eulachon in general, were present in larger annual 
runs in the past and that present run size estimates of eulachon appear 
inconsistent with the historic level of grease production extensively 
documented in the ethnographic literature (Hamori-Torok, 1990).
    The Kemano, Kowesas, and Kitlope rivers in Gardner Canal support 
regular runs of eulachon with the Kemano River being the primary 
production area. First Nations fisheries landings on the Kemano River 
are available for 1969-1973 and 1988-2007 (Moody, 2008). Rio Tinto 
Alcan operates a hydroelectric generation facility on the Kemano River 
and, as part of an environmental management plan, has funded monitoring 
of eulachon since 1988 (Lewis et al., 2002). From 1988 to 1998, 
landings ranged from 20.6 to 93.0 metric tons (average of 57 metric 
tons)(Lewis et al., 2002; Moody, 2008). However, according to Moody 
(2008), no run occurred in 1999. First Nations landings in the Kemano 
River were low from 2000 to 2002, but improved to between 60 and 80 
metric tons in 2003 and 2004 (ALCAN, 2005; Moody, 2008); however, 
anecdotal information indicate that eulachon returns were not detected 
in the Kemano River in either 2005 or 2006 (ALCAN, 2006, 2007; 
EcoMetrix, 2006, as cited in Moody, 2008). Catch-per-unit-effort data 
showed similar trends to the First Nation fishery landings, with a 
sharp drop from about 2.5 metric tons per set in 1998 to less than 0.5 
metric tons per set from 1999-2002, a rebound to between 0.5 and 1 
metric tons per set in 2003-2004, and no fish caught in 2005-2007 
(Lewis et al., 2002; Moody, 2008)
    The BRT concluded that available catch-per-unit-effort data 
collected since 1988, First Nations catch records, extensive 
ethnographic literature, and anecdotal information indicates that 
Kemano River, and Gardner Canal eulachon in general, were present in 
larger annual runs in the past and that present run sizes of eulachon 
appear inconsistent with the historic level of grease production that 
is well documented for this region in the ethnographic literature 
(Hamori-Torok, 1990).
    The Skeena River and its tributaries have supported eulachon runs 
(Moody, 2008), but they reportedly were small, of short duration, and 
difficult to harvest because of the large size of the mainstem Skeena 
River (Stoffels, 2001; Moody, 2008). Lewis (1997) estimated the total 
spawning stock abundance of the Skeena River eulachon at only 3.0 
metric tons in 1997. A small commercial eulachon fishery operated 
between 1924 and 1946 (landings ranged from 15.4 metric tons in 1924 to 
0.9 metric tons in 1935) (Moody, 2008). However, total landings records 
(both commercial and subsistence) were as high as 100 metric tons at 
one time and averaged 27.5 metric tons from 1900-1941 (Canada 
Department of Marine and Fisheries, Annual Report, Fisheries (1900-
1916); and Statistics Canada, Fisheries Statistics of Canada (1917-
1941)). It is likely that demands of the local market have driven 
subsistence and past commercial fisheries statistics on the Skeena 
River, thus the BRT did not believe these data were a good index of 
abundance. Moody (2008) reported anecdotal information indicating that 
very few Skeena River eulachon were observed between 1997 and 1999, a 
good run occurred in 2005, and virtually no eulachon were observed in 
2006 (Moody, 2008). Although unable to draw strong conclusions, the BRT 
concluded that available catch records and anecdotal information 
indicate that Skeena River eulachon were present in larger annual runs 
in the past that at one time supported a fishery. Although the current 
status of this population is unknown, the BRT concluded that anecdotal 
information indicates declines in abundance have occurred.

Demographic Risk Summary

    Eulachon in the southern DPS were assessed according to the four 
viability criteria of abundance, productivity, diversity, and spatial 
structure (including connectivity). These four parameters are universal 
indicators of species' viability, and individually and collectively 
function as reasonable predictors of extinction risk (McElhany et al., 
2000) that have been used extensively in extinction risk analysis for 
endangered species.
    The BRT was concerned that although eulachon are a relatively 
poorly monitored species, almost all of the available information 
indicates that the southern DPS of eulachon has experienced an abrupt 
decline in abundance throughout its range. The BRT was particularly 
concerned that two large spawning populations, in the Columbia and 
Fraser Rivers, have both declined to what appear to be historically low 
levels. The BRT was also concerned that there is very little monitoring 
data available for Northern California eulachon, but determined that 
the available information suggests that eulachon in Northern California 
experienced an abrupt decline several decades ago. The BRT was 
concerned that recent attempts to estimate actual spawner abundance in 
some rivers in B.C. that are known to have supported significant First 
Nations fisheries in the past have resulted in very low estimates of 
spawning stock.
    In addition, the BRT was concerned that the current abundance of 
the many individual populations within the DPS may be sufficiently low 
to be an additional risk factor, even for populations (such as the 
Columbia and Fraser) where the absolute population size seems large 
compared to many other at-risk fish populations. Of relevance to this 
issue are recent reviews of extinction risk in marine fishes 
illustrating that forage fish are not immune to risk of extirpation at 
the population scale (Dulvy et al., 2003; Reynolds et al., 2005). 
Hutchings (2000; 2001a; 2001b) and others (Dulvy et al., 2003; Mace and 
Hudson, 1999; Hutchings and Reynolds, 2004) cite empirical analyses 
indicating that marine fishes likely have similar extinction 
probabilities to those of non-marine taxa. In evaluating this issue, 
the BRT concluded that eulachon (and other similar forage fishes) (see 
Dulvy et al., 2004) may be at significant risk at population sizes that 
are a fraction of their historical levels but are still large compared 
to what would be considered

[[Page 10869]]

normal for other ESA listed species. The BRT believe that high eulachon 
minimum viable population sizes are necessary to: (1) ensure a critical 
threshold density of adult eulachon are available during breeding 
events for maintenance of normal reproductive processes, (2) produce 
enough offspring to counteract high in-river egg and larval mortality 
and planktonic larval mortality in the ocean, and (3) produce enough 
offspring to buffer against the variability of local environmental 
conditions which may lead to random ``sweepstake recruitment'' events 
where only a small minority of spawning individuals contribute to 
subsequent generations. In species with a life history pattern like 
eulachon, the genetically effective population size can be several 
orders of magnitude lower than the census size (Hedgecock, 1994; ICES, 
2004). Based on the best available information summarized above, the 
minimum viable census sizes for spawning populations may therefore be 
on the order of 50,000 to 500,000 (Dulvy et al., 2004). The BRT was 
concerned that in a number of sub-areas of the DPS (Klamath, Fraser 
River, Bella Coola River, Rivers Inlet, etc.) population sizes of 
eulachon are below what would be considered minimum viable population 
sizes for highly fecund, broadcast-spawning species.
    The BRT noted that variable year-class strength in marine fishes 
with pelagic larvae is dependent on survival of larvae prior to 
recruitment and is driven by match-mismatch of larvae and their 
planktonic food supply (Hjort, 1914; Lasker, 1975; Sinclair and 
Tremblay, 1984), oceanographic transport mechanisms (Parrish et al., 
1981), variable environmental ocean conditions (Shepherd et al., 1984; 
McFarlane et al., 2000), and predation (Bailey and Houde, 1989). If 
time of spawning does not coincide with river conditions conducive to 
successful fertilization and egg survival, and to the appearance of 
larval prey species in the oceanic environment, the result would be 
high rates of environmentally-driven egg and larval mortality. The BRT 
was concerned that there is evidence that climate change is leading to 
relatively rapid changes in both oceanic and freshwater environmental 
conditions that eulachon are unable to tolerate. Eulachon are basically 
a cold-water species and are adapted to feed on a northern suite of 
copepods in the ocean during the critical transition period from larvae 
to juvenile and much of their recent recruitment failure may be traced 
to mortality during this critical period. Recent studies show a shift 
in the suite of copepod species available to eulachon toward a more 
southerly species assemblage (Mackas et al., 2001; 2007; Hooff and 
Peterson, 2006), contributing to a mismatch between eulachon life 
history and prey species. It is also likely that pelagic fish with 
their shorter life cycles may be less resilient to long-term climatic 
changes than longer-lived demersal species.
    The ability of the Columbia River eulachon population to respond 
rapidly to the good ocean conditions of the late 1999-early 2002 period 
illustrates the species' resiliency, which the BRT viewed as providing 
the species with a buffer against future environmental perturbations. 
The productivity potential or intrinsic rate of increase of eulachon 
(Musick et al., 2000), as indicated by life history characteristics 
such as low age-at-maturity, small body size, and planktonic larvae, 
was recognized by the BRT as likely conferring eulachon with some 
resilience to extinction as they retain the ability to rapidly respond 
to favorable ocean conditions.
    In terms of threats related to diversity, the BRT was concerned 
that not only are eulachon semelparous (spawn once and die) but if 
recent estimates of age structure in eulachon are correct (Clarke et 
al., 2007), then spawning adults-particularly in southern areas such as 
the Columbia and Fraser rivers-may be limited to a single age class, 
which likely increases their vulnerability to perturbations and 
provides less of a buffer against year-class failure than species such 
as herring that spawn repeatedly and have variable ages at maturity. 
The BRT was also concerned about the apparently very low abundance of 
the Klamath River sub-population, which might be expected to have 
unique adaptations to conditions at the southernmost extent of the 
range, and about the potential loss of biocomplexity in Fraser River 
eulachon due to contraction of spawning locations, as documented by 
Higgins et al. (1987).
    The BRT noted some positive signs including observations that 
eulachon continue to display variation in spawn timing, age-at-
maturity, and spawning locations, and a high degree of biocomplexity 
(i.e., many spawning locations and spawn-timing variation) in the 
Columbia River, which may buffer this population from freshwater 
environmental perturbations.
Spatial Structure
    The BRT also had concerns about risks related to spatial structure 
and distribution. In particular, because the major spawning populations 
within the DPS appear to have declined substantially, the BRT was 
concerned that if some formerly significant populations, such as the 
Klamath River, become extirpated, there would be less opportunity for 
successful re-colonization. In addition, the apparent decline of 
populations in Northern California may result in contraction of the 
southern portion of the DPS's range. The BRT also noted that several 
populations that used to support significant First Nations fisheries on 
the British Columbia coast have declined to very low levels (e.g., 
Bella Coola River and Wannock River). Positive signs for spatial 
structure and connectivity noted by the BRT include considerations that 
eulachon appear to have the potential to re-colonize some areas, given 
their apparent ability to stray from the natal spawning area, at least 
within rivers sharing the same estuary. In addition, the perceived 
historical spatial structure of the DPS, with the possible exception of 
the Klamath River, remains intact.
    The BRT noted several recent events that appear likely to impact 
eulachon. Global patterns suggest the long-term trend is for a warmer, 
less productive ocean regime in the California Current and the 
Transitional Pacific. The recent decline in abundance or relative 
abundance of eulachon in many systems coupled with the probable 
disruption of metapopulation structure may make it more difficult for 
eulachon to adapt to warming ocean conditions. In addition, warming 
conditions have allowed both Pacific hake (Phillips et al., 2007) and 
Pacific sardine (Emmett et al., 2005) to expand their distributions to 
the north, increasing predation on eulachon by Pacific hake, and 
competition for food resources with both species. However, cold ocean 
conditions in 2008 suggest that this may have been a good year for 
eulachon recruitment. The BRT concluded that the net effects of these 
recent positive and negative events are likely to be negative.

BRT Extinction Risk Assessment Conclusion

    The BRT was asked to use three categories of risk to describe the 
species' status - ``high risk'' of extinction; ``moderate risk'' of 
extinction; or ``not at risk'' of extinction. To allow individuals to 
express uncertainty in determining the overall level of extinction risk 
facing the species, the BRT adopted the ``likelihood point'' method 
referred to

[[Page 10870]]

previously. The BRT's scores for overall risk to the southern DPS of 
eulachon, throughout all of its range, were heavily weighted to 
``moderate risk,'' with this category receiving 60 percent of the 
likelihood points. The ``high risk'' category received 32 percent of 
the likelihood points, and the ``not at risk'' category received 8 
percent of the points.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Southern DPS of Eulachon

    As described above, Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA and NMFS's 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) state that we must determine 
whether a species is endangered or threatened because of any one or a 
combination of the following factors: (1) the present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or man-made 
factors affecting its continued existence. According to the BRT, the 
primary factors responsible for the decline of the southern DPS of 
eulachon are the destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat 
and inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. The following 
discussion briefly summarizes the BRT's findings regarding threats to 
the eulachon southern DPS. More details can be found in the draft BRT 
report (Gustafson et al., 2008). For analytical purposes, the BRT 
identified and ranked threats for the four primary populations of this 
DPS: mainland British Columbia Rivers south of the Nass River, Fraser 
River, Columbia River, and Klamath River.

The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of 
its Habitat or Range

    The BRT identified changes in ocean conditions due to climate 
change as the most significant threat to eulachon and their habitats. 
They ranked this as the most significant threat to all of the DPS 
populations. Marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitat in the Pacific 
Northwest has been influenced by climate change over the past 50-100 
years, and this change is expected to continue into the future. Average 
annual Northwest air temperatures have increased by approximately 1oC 
since 1900, or about 50 percent more than the global average warming 
over the same period (see ISAB, 2007 for a recent review). The latest 
climate models project a warming of 0.1 to 0.6oC per decade over the 
next century (ISAB, 2007). Analyses of temperature trends for the U.S. 
part of the Pacific Northwest (Mote et al., 1999); the maritime 
portions of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (Mote, 2003a); and 
the Puget Sound-Georgia Basin region (Mote, 2003b) have shown that air 
temperature increased 0.8 C, 0.9 C, and 1.5 C, in these respective 
regions during the twentieth century. Warming in each of these areas 
was substantially greater than the global average of 0.6 C (Mote, 
2003b). This change in surface temperature has already modified, and is 
likely to continue to modify, freshwater, estuarine, and marine 
habitats of eulachon.
    Climate change is likely to have significant effects on the large 
river systems that are essential to eulachon production. Ferrari et al. 
(2007) predict that the Fraser River will increase in temperature over 
the next century in all summer months with a maximum increase in August 
temperatures of 0.14oC per decade. Peak flows in the Fraser River may 
also shift during this timeframe (Morrison et al., 2002), potentially 
altering the timing of freshets that coincide with eulachon spawning. 
It is uncertain whether eulachon would adjust spawn timing to account 
for shifts in peak flows. In the Columbia River, climate change is 
likely to result in decreased snowpack, increased peak flows, decreased 
base flow, and increased water temperatures (ISAB, 2007). As with the 
Fraser River, peak flows in the Columbia and its tributaries are likely 
to shift, possibly decoupling eulachon spawning and spring freshets.
    Climate change could cause problems for the eulachon spawning in 
the other areas throughout the range of this DPS. In British Columbia, 
many of the coastal systems that support eulachon are fed by glaciers. 
The size of these glaciers and other glaciers at mid-latitude areas 
around the world has been decreasing (Meier et al., 2003; Barry, 2005). 
It is uncertain what effect reduction in glacier size might have on the 
hydrology of these systems, but in most cases a shift in peak stream 
flow timing would occur. Mote (2003) reports that anticipated 
reductions in snowpack in the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound area are likely 
to alter hydrologic patterns, possibly reducing peak and/or base stream 
flows. Again, shifting stream flow patterns may cause problems for 
eulachon spawning.
    Changes in the marine environment due to climate change are also 
likely to affect eulachon. Eulachon generally inhabit cool to cold 
ocean waters and feed on cold water assemblages of copepods and other 
marine invertebrates (Willson et al., 2006). The consequences for 
Pacific zooplankton communities of warming trends in the high to mid-
latitudes could be substantial, but their magnitude and trajectory are 
not yet known (Mackas et al., 2007). Increases in ocean temperatures 
off the coast of the Pacific Northwest could alter the abundance and 
composition of copepod communities, thus reducing the amount of food 
available for eulachon, particularly larvae. Zamon and Welch (2005) 
reported these types of rapid shifts in zooplankton communities in the 
Northeast Pacific during recent El Nino-La Nina events. Warming ocean 
conditions may also lead to a general reduction in eulachon forage. For 
instance, Roemmich and McGowan (1995) noted an 80 percent reduction of 
macrozooplankton biomass off Southern California between 1951 and 1993. 
Warming ocean temperatures could also facilitate the northward 
expansion of warm-water eulachon predators and competitors for food 
resources, such as Pacific hake (Rexstad and Pikitch, 1986; McFarlane 
et al., 2000; Phillips et al., 2007).
    Changes in the freshwater and marine environment due to climate 
change are likely to cause adverse effects on eulachon abundance, 
productivity, spatial distribution, and diversity. There is still a 
great deal of uncertainty associated with predicting specific changes 
in timing, location, and magnitude of future climate change. It is also 
likely that the intensity of climate change effects on eulachon will 
vary by geographic area.
    The BRT identified dams and water diversions as moderate threats to 
eulachon in the Columbia and Klamath Rivers where hydropower generation 
and flood control are major activities, and a low to moderate risk for 
eulachon in the Fraser and mainland British Columbia rivers where dams 
are less common. Dams can slow or block eulachon migration. Dams and 
water divisions alter the natural hydrograph of river systems, in many 
cases reducing the magnitude of spring freshets with which eulachon 
have evolved. Dams can also impede or alter bedload movement, changing 
the composition of river substrates important to spawning eulachon.
    Water quality degradation is common in some areas occupied by 
southern DPS eulachon. In the Columbia and Klamath systems, large-scale 
impoundment of water has increased water temperatures, potentially 
altering the water temperature during eulachon spawning periods (NMFS, 
2008). Numerous chemical contaminants are also present in freshwater 
systems where eulachon

[[Page 10871]]

spawn, but the exact effect these compounds may have on spawning and 
egg development is unknown (NMFS, 2008).
    The BRT identified dredging as a low to moderate threat to eulachon 
in the Fraser and Columbia Rivers and a low severity threat for 
eulachon in mainland British Columbia rivers as less dredging for 
commercial shipping occurs in these areas. Dredging during eulachon 
spawning would be particularly detrimental, as eggs associated with 
benthic substrates are likely to be destroyed.

Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific or Educational 

    Commercial harvest of eulachon in the Columbia and Fraser rivers 
was identified as a low to moderate threat. Current harvest levels are 
orders of magnitude lower than historic harvest levels, and a 
relatively small number of vessels operate in this fishery. No 
significant commercial fishing for eulachon occurs in the Klamath or 
British Columbia rivers north of the Fraser. The BRT ranked 
recreational and Tribal/First Nations harvest of eulachon as a very low 
to low severity threat to eulachon in all four DPS populations. It is 
likely that these harvests have a negligible effect on population 
Commercial Fisheries
    In Oregon, commercial fishing for eulachon is allowed in the 
Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, Sandy River, and Umpqua River. In the 
Pacific Ocean, eulachon can be harvested year-round using any method 
otherwise authorized to harvest food fish in the open ocean. In the 
Sandy River, commercial fishing with dip nets is allowed in a small 
portion of the lower river downstream from the U.S. Route 30 Alternate 
bridge at Troutdale Oregon, year-round, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. 
The last large harvest of eulachon in the Sandy River occurred in 1985 
(304,500 lb (138 metric tons)), with a moderate harvest occurring in 
2003 (23,000 lb (10 metric tons)) (John North, ODFW, pers. comm.). In 
the Umpqua River, commercial fishing for eulachon is allowed year-round 
and 24 hours a day with dip nets and gill nets not more than 600 ft 
(183 m) in length and of a mesh size no more than 2 inches (51 mm). 
Those areas of the Umpqua River not closed to commercial fishing for 
shad (upstream from approximately river mile 21 (34 km)) are open for 
commercial eulachon fishing. However, commercial fishing for eulachon 
has not occurred for many years in the Umpqua River (John North, ODFW, 
pers. comm.). In the mainstem Columbia River, permissible commercial 
gear includes gill nets with a mesh size of no more than 2 inches (51 
mm), dip nets having a bag frame no more than 36 inches (91 cm) in 
diameter, and small trawl nets (Oregon Administrative Rule 635-004-
0075). In the past several years, the Columbia River commercial fishery 
has been open 7 days a week in December and 2 days a week from January 
1-March 31. Commercial fishing in the Columbia River is now managed 
according to the joint ODFW and WDFW management plan for eulachon (ODFW 
and WDFW, 2001). Under this plan, three eulachon harvest levels can be 
authorized based on the strength of the prior years' parental run, 
resultant juvenile production estimates, and ocean productivity 
indices. Current effort in the Columbia River mainstem fishery is 
typically low (less than 10 vessels) (John North, ODFW, pers. comm.).
    In Washington, year-round commercial fishing for eulachon is 
allowed in the Columbia and Cowlitz rivers. In the Columbia River, 
commercial fishing for eulachon is permitted during 9 hour periods on 
Mondays and Thursdays. In the Cowlitz River, commercial fishing is 
allowed for 6 hour periods on Sunday and Wednesday nights. The Canadian 
DFO did not authorize any commercial fishing for eulachon in 2008 due 
to low abundance. Historically, commercial fishing for eulachon 
occurred at low levels in the Fraser River (as compared to the Columbia 
River). DFO has only allowed a commercial harvest of eulachon in the 
Fraser River twice since 1997 (DFO, 2008).
Recreational Fishing
    The states of Oregon and Washington have altered sport fishing 
regulations in the past due to declining eulachon abundance (WDFW and 
ODFW, 2001). During the eulachon run, the ODFW allows recreational 
fishers to capture 25 lb (11 kg) per day of eulachon, using a dip net. 
Each fisher must have his or her own container; the first 25 lbs (11 
kg) of fish captured may be retained. No angling license is required to 
harvest eulachon in Oregon. The WDFW currently allows harvest of 
eulachon by dip netting on the Cowlitz River, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on 
Saturdays from January 1st-March 31st. The daily limit on the Cowlitz 
River is 10 lb (4.5 kg) per person per day. In Washington, the mainstem 
Columbia River is open for eulachon harvest 24 hours per day, 7 days 
per week during the eulachon run, and the daily limit is 25 lb (11 kg) 
per person per day. Washington and Oregon developed a joint eulachon 
management plan in 2001 (WDFW and ODFW, 2001). The two states plan to 
continue authorizing eulachon sport fishing at various levels depending 
on predicted yearly eulachon abundance. Under the strictest proposed 
regulations, harvest would be limited to less than 10 percent of the 
run. If run sizes increase beyond current levels, the states would 
consider allowing additional harvest, but these more liberal harvest 
rates have not been specifically identified. In the State of 
California, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) currently 
allows licensed recreational fishers to dipnet up to 25 lb (11 kg) of 
eulachon per day per person year-round (CDFG, 2008). However, in 
practice, little to no fishing is taking place because so few fish 
return each year. In 2008, the Canadian DFO did not authorize any 
recreational fishing for eulachon due to low abundance. In general, 
interest in recreational fishing for eulachon has decreased 
significantly due to the difficulty of harvesting these fish at their 
currently low abundance.
Tribal Subsistence Fishing
    In the past, eulachon were an important food source for many Native 
American tribes and Canadian First Nations from northern California to 
Alaska. In more recent history, tribal members in the United States 
harvest eulachon under recreational fishing regulations. The Canadian 
DFO typically authorizes a small subsistence fishery for First Nation 
members, primarily in the Fraser River. Historically, members of the 
Yurok Tribe harvested eulachon in the Klamath River in California for 
subsistence purposes. The Yurok Tribe does not have a fishery 
management plan for eulachon at this time, and eulachon abundance 
levels on the Klamath are too low to support a fishery.

Disease or Predation

    The BRT identified disease as a low risk to all four DPS 
populations of eulachon. Although Willson et al. (2006) identify common 
parasites of eulachon, the BRT did not present any information 
indicating that disease was a significant problem for this DPS.
    Predation primarily from marine mammals, fishes, and birds was 
identified as a moderate threat to eulachon in the Fraser River and 
mainland British Columbia rivers and a low severity threat to eulachon 
in the Columbia and Klamath where there are fewer predators. Large 
numbers of predators commonly congregate at

[[Page 10872]]

eulachon spawning runs (Willson et al., 2006). Eulachon rely on high 
abundance and synchronized spawn timing to ensure that adequate numbers 
of male and female fish escape predators and reproduce successfully. At 
low eulachon abundance, predation at historic levels may jeopardize 
population viability.

The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The BRT identified bycatch of eulachon in commercial fisheries as a 
moderate threat to all four populations. In the past, protection of 
forage fishes has not been a priority when developing ways to reduce 
shrimp fishing bycatch. Eulachon are particularly vulnerable to capture 
in shrimp fisheries in the United States and Canada as the marine areas 
occupied by shrimp and eulachon often overlap. In Oregon, the bycatch 
of various species of smelt (including eulachon) has been as high as 28 
percent of the total catch of shrimp by weight (Hannah and Jones, 
2007). In Canada, bycatch of eulachon in shrimp fisheries has been 
significant enough to cause the Canadian Department of Fisheries and 
Oceans to close the fishery in some years (DFO, 2008).
    In 2000, we declared canary rockfish overfished, as recommended by 
the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. In response, the states of 
Oregon, Washington, and California enacted regulations to reduce canary 
rockfish bycatch that require bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) on trawl 
gear used in the ocean shrimp fishery. The BRDs were successful in 
reducing bycatch of all finfish species (Hannah and Jones, 2007). In 
Oregon, these devices have been shown to reduce the smelt (including 
eulachon) bycatch to between 0.25 and 1.69 percent of the total catch 
weight (Hannah and Jones, 2007).
    The DFO sets bycatch limits for the Canadian shrimp fishery and the 
shrimp trawl industry in Canada adopted 100 percent use of BRDs in 
2000. The DFO will implement further management actions if estimated 
eulachon bycatch meets or exceeds the identified level. Management 
actions that may be taken include: closure of the shrimp trawl fishery, 
closure of certain areas to shrimp trawling, or restricting trawling to 
beam trawlers, which have been found to have a lower impact on eulachon 
than otter trawlers.
    Little is known about the degree of injury and mortality eulachon 
experience as they pass through BRDs. Suuronen et al. (1996a; 1996b) 
found that herring passing through mesh and rigid trawl net sorting 
devices (similar to BRDs) often die (mortality estimates ranging from 
30-100 percent depending on herring size and season caught). Although 
eulachon bycatch rates in shrimp fisheries have declined significantly, 
it is not certain what percent of eulachon traveling through BRDs 

Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Natural events such as volcanic eruptions may cause significant 
local declines in eulachon abundance by causing catastrophic debris 
flows in rivers and drastically increasing fine sediments in benthic 
substrates. After the eruption of Mt. Helens in 1980, the Army Corps of 
Engineers constructed a sediment retention structure on the Toutle 
River. This structure was placed to prevent debris avalanches resulting 
from the eruption from moving downstream and causing navigation 
problems. Although the structure is designed to reduce the level of 
fine sediment traveling down the Toutle and into the Cowlitz River, 
there is some concern (as mentioned in the 2007 petition to list 
eulachon) that water released from the structure in the spring may 
contain high sediment levels that adversely affect eulachon spawning.

Efforts Being Made to Protect Southern DPS Eulachon

    Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA requires the Secretary of Commerce to 
take into account efforts being made to protect a species that has been 
petitioned for listing. Accordingly, we assessed conservation measures 
being taken to protect eulachon to determine whether they ameliorate 
this species' extinction risk (50 CFR 424.11(f)). In judging the 
efficacy of conservation efforts that have yet to be implemented or to 
show effectiveness, we consider the following: the substantive, 
protective, and conservation elements of such efforts; the degree of 
certainty that such efforts will reliably be implemented; the degree of 
certainty that such efforts will be effective in furthering the 
conservation of the species; and the presence of monitoring provisions 
that track the effectiveness of recovery efforts, and that inform 
iterative refinements to management as information is accrued (68 FR 
15100; March 28, 2003).
    Although no efforts specific to eulachon are currently being made 
to protect freshwater habitat in the United States, this species 
indirectly benefits from several Federal, state, and tribal regulatory 
and voluntary aquatic habitat improvement programs aimed at other 
species. Based on the available information on eulachon biology, the 
physical habitat features most likely to be important to eulachon 
reproduction in fresh water are water quantity, water quality 
(especially temperature), free passage, and substrate condition. 
Federal programs carried out under legislation such as the Federal 
Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 help to ensure that water quality is 
maintained or improved and that discharge of fill material into rivers 
and streams is regulated. Several sections of this law, such as section 
404 (discharge of fill into wetlands), section 402 (discharge of 
pollutants into water bodies), and section 404(d) (designation of water 
quality limited streams and rivers) regulate activities that might 
degrade eulachon habitat. Although programs carried out under the CWA 
are well funded and enforcement of this law occurs, it is unlikely that 
programs are sufficient to fully protect eulachon habitat. Despite the 
existence and enforcement of this law, a significant percent of stream 
reaches in the range of Pacific eulachon do not meet current water 
quality standards.
    Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act prohibits placement of any 
structure in any navigable waterway of the United States without 
approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. Most or all freshwater 
eulachon habitat in the United States is considered to be navigable, 
and it is not expected that any additional major obstructions (i.e., 
dams) to eulachon migration would be authorized within their range in 
this area. Smaller structures such as weirs and fish traps intended for 
fishery management may be placed in some tributaries of the Columbia 
River (see: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Salmon-Harvest-Hatcheries/Hatcheries/Mitchell-Act-EIS.cfm and NMFS, 2004; for more information).
    In Canada, dredging is not allowed in the Fraser River during early 
March to June to protect spawning eulachon. We are not aware of any 
other specific measures taken to protect eulachon freshwater habitat in 
    State regulatory programs that protect eulachon habitat include 
wetland/waterway fill-removal programs such as those administered by 
the Oregon Department of State Lands and the Washington Department of 
Ecology. Similar to the Federal CWA, these programs regulate filling of 
wetlands and discharge of fill material that might adversely affect 
eulachon spawning habitats. In addition, the State of California 
protects water quality and associated beneficial uses through 
administration of the Porter-Cologne

[[Page 10873]]

Act, (similar to the Federal CWA), and implementation of CDFG 1602 
regulations. In general, the described regulatory programs within these 
three states are aimed at protecting the important functions of 
riverine and wetland ecology, such as maintaining a properly 
functioning riparian plant community, storing groundwater, and 
preserving floodplain roughness. They are also aimed at reducing the 
discharge of fine sediments that might alter or degrade eulachon 
spawning substrates. It is thus reasonable to conclude that these laws 
will provide some protection to eulachon habitat.
    The range of eulachon in the Pacific Northwest and California 
largely or completely overlaps with the range of several ESA-listed 
stocks of salmon and steelhead and green sturgeon. Although the habitat 
requirements of these fishes differ somewhat from eulachon, habitat 
protection generally focuses on the maintenance of aquatic habitat 
forming processes expected to benefit eulachon. In particular, the 
numerous ESA section 7 consultations carried out on Federal activities 
throughout the range of eulachon provide a level of habitat protection. 
The protective efforts for salmon and steelhead are described in detail 
in our proposed listing determinations for 27 species of West Coast 
salmon and steelhead (69 FR 33102; June 14, 2004). Efforts to protect 
green sturgeon are described in our proposed listing determination for 
this species (70 FR 17386; April 6, 2005).
    The development and operation of the Federal Columbia River Power 
System (FCRPS) and Bureau of Reclamation irrigation projects in the 
Columbia River basin have altered the hydrology of this river system. 
We have worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power 
Administration, and Bureau of Reclamation to develop mitigation 
measures to minimize the adverse effects of these projects on ESA-
listed salmon and steelhead. On May 5, 2008, we issued final biological 
opinions on the operation of the FCRPS and Upper Snake River Irrigation 
Projects. The planned mitigation measures, including additional spring 
water spill and predator control programs, will benefit eulachon as 
well. Since eulachon are known to be plentiful in systems with a strong 
spring freshet, spilling additional water in the spring to increase 
survival of juvenile salmon and steelhead is likely to move the 
hydrograph of the Columbia River to a state more similar to that under 
which eulachon evolved. The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery 
should reduce predation levels in the Columbia River on all small 
fishes, including eulachon.
    Throughout the eulachon's range in Oregon, Washington, and 
California, an array of Federal, state, tribal, and local entities 
carry out aquatic habitat restoration programs. These programs are 
generally intended to benefit other fish species such as salmon, 
steelhead, trout, etc. Eulachon also benefit from improvements in water 
quality and physical habitat attributes resulting from these projects. 
Although these programs are too numerous to list individually, some of 
the larger programs include the Bonneville Power Administration's 
Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, the Pacific Coast Salmon 
Recovery Fund, the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board, and the Oregon 
Watershed Enhancement Board. The Federal land managers, U.S. Forest 
Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service also 
carry out aquatic restoration projects in some watersheds where 
eulachon migrate and spawn. These agencies have been conducting 
restoration projects in these areas for many years and projects located 
in the lower reaches of rivers (where eulachon spawn) are likely to 
provide some benefit to eulachon habitat.
    Marine waters of the United States are managed by state and Federal 
Governments. At this time, we do not know enough about eulachon use of 
near shore ocean habitats to determine the degree to which existing 
marine habitat management benefits eulachon.

Proposed Determination

    Section 4(b)(1) of the ESA requires that the listing determination 
be based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, 
after conducting a review of the status of the species and after taking 
into account those efforts, if any, being made by any state or foreign 
nation to protect and conserve the species. We have reviewed the 
petition, the report of the BRT (Gustafson et al., 2008), co-manager 
comments, and other available published and unpublished information, 
and we have consulted with species experts and other individuals 
familiar with eulachon.
    Based on this review, we conclude that eulachon populations 
spawning from the Skeena River in British Columbia south to the Mad 
River in Northern California meet the discreteness and significance 
criteria for a DPS (Gustafson et al., 2008). Eulachon occurring in this 
area are discrete from eulachon occurring north of this area based on 
differences in spawning temperatures; length- and weight-at-maturity in 
the species' range; ecological features of both the oceanic and 
freshwater environments occupied by eulachon; and genetic 
characteristics. This group of fish is significant to the species as a 
whole because it constitutes over half of the geographic range of the 
entire species' distribution and includes two of the known major 
production areas (Columbia and Fraser rivers) and a third area that may 
have been historically a major production area (Klamath River). 
Although eulachon are currently rarely seen in the Klamath River, 
sampling in 2007 confirmed they are still present there in small 
numbers. The loss of this group of fish would create a significant 
reduction in the species' overall distribution.
    Ongoing efforts to protect Pacific salmonids, as described in the 
previous section, are likely to also benefit Pacific eulachon habitat. 
Taken together, however, these efforts do not comprehensively address 
the threats to eulachon from climate change and bycatch in the shrimp 
    Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, 
including the draft BRT report, we propose that the southern DPS of 
eulachon is not presently in danger of extinction, but is likely to 
become so in the foreseeable future throughout all of its range. 
Factors supporting a conclusion that the DPS is not presently in danger 
of extinction include: (1) two core spawning areas have sufficient 
numbers of eulachon to maintain spawning, at least at low levels; (2) 
as observed in the past (2001-2003), a reversion to favorable 
environmental ocean conditions could result in a rebound in abundance; 
and (3) the species likely strays at a moderate-to-high rate, so that 
in the presence of favorable environmental conditions re-building of 
depressed populations may occur.
    Factors supporting a conclusion that the DPS is likely to become in 
danger of extinction in the foreseeable future include: (1) abundance 
in all surveyed populations, and in the two remaining core populations, 
is low and declining; and (2) the available information suggests that 
eulachon in Northern California experienced an abrupt decline several 
decades ago, and although still present at very low numbers, it is 
unknown if these represent a viable self-sustaining population, and (3) 
eulachon require minimum population sizes to achieve successful 
    In sum, future declines in population abundance may occur as a 
result of climate change and continued bycatch in the shrimp fishery. 
These threats

[[Page 10874]]

indicate that the southern DPS of eulachon is likely to become 
endangered in the foreseeable future. Therefore, NMFS proposes to list 
the southern DPS of eulachon as threatened.

Take Prohibitions and Protective Regulations

    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits certain activities that directly or 
indirectly affect endangered species. These 9(a) prohibitions apply to 
all individuals, organizations, and agencies subject to U.S. 
jurisdiction. In the case of threatened species, ESA section 4(d) 
requires the Secretary of Commerce to issue regulations necessary and 
appropriate for the conservation of the species. We have flexibility 
under section 4(d) to tailor protective regulations based on the needs 
of, and threats to, the species. The 4(d) protective regulations may 
prohibit, with respect to threatened species, some or all of the acts 
which section 9(a) of the ESA prohibits with respect to endangered 
species. We will evaluate protective regulations pursuant to section 
4(d) for the southern DPS of eulachon and propose any considered 
necessary and advisable for conservation of the species in future 
rulemaking. In order to inform our consideration of appropriate 
protective regulations for southern DPS eulachon, we seek information 
from the public on the threats to this species and possible measures 
for its conservation.

Other Protections

    Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA and NMFS/FWS regulations require Federal 
agencies to confer with us on actions likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of species proposed for listing or that result in 
the destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. 
If a proposed species is ultimately listed, Federal agencies must 
consult on any action they authorize, fund, or carry out if those 
actions may affect the listed species or its critical habitat. Examples 
of Federal actions that may affect the southern DPS of eulachon 
include: water diversions, hydropower operations, discharge of 
pollution from point sources, non-point source pollution, contaminated 
waste disposal, dredging, water quality standards, fishery management 
practices, and a variety of land management practices such as 
development, logging, and transportation management.

Peer Review

    In December 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued 
a Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review establishing 
minimum peer review standards, a transparent process for public 
disclosure of peer review planning, and opportunities for public 
participation. The OMB Bulletin, implemented under the Information 
Quality Act (Public Law 106-554), is intended to enhance the quality 
and credibility of the Federal government's scientific information, and 
applies to influential or highly influential scientific information 
disseminated on or after June 16, 2005. To satisfy our requirements 
under the OMB Bulletin, we are obtaining independent peer review of the 
draft status review report, which supports this proposal to list the 
southern DPS of eulachon as threatened; all peer reviewer comments will 
be addressed prior to dissemination of the final report and publication 
of the final rule.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the ESA as: ``(i) the 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the provisions of section 1533 
of this title, on which are found those physical or biological features 
(I) essential to the conservation of the species and (II) which may 
require special management considerations or protection; and (ii) 
specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the provisions of 1533 of this 
title, upon a determination by the Secretary that such areas are 
essential for the conservation of the species'' (16 U.S.C. 1532(5)(A)). 
``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures needed to 
bring the species to the point at which listing under the ESA is no 
longer necessary (16 U.S.C. 1532(3)). Section 4(a)(3)(A) of the ESA 
requires that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, critical 
habitat be designated concurrently with the listing of a species (16 
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(A)(i)). Designations of critical habitat must be 
based on the best scientific data available and must take into 
consideration the economic, national security, and other relevant 
impacts of specifying any particular area as critical habitat.
    Once critical habitat is designated, section 7 of the ESA requires 
Federal agencies to ensure that they do not fund, authorize, or carry 
out any actions that are likely to destroy or adversely modify that 
habitat. This requirement is in addition to the section 7 requirement 
that Federal agencies ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the 
continued existence of listed species.
    We are currently compiling information to prepare a critical 
habitat proposal for the southern DPS of eulachon, and in this document 
are seeking public input and information to assist in gathering and 
analyzing the best available scientific data to support a critical 
habitat designation. We will continue to meet with co-managers and 
other stakeholders to review this information and the overall 
designation process. We will then initiate rulemaking with the 
publication of a proposed designation of critical habitat in the 
Federal Register, opening a period for public comment and the 
opportunity for public hearings.
    Joint NMFS/FWS regulations for listing endangered and threatened 
species and designating critical habitat at 50 CFR 424.12(2)(b) state 
that the agency ``shall consider those physical and biological features 
that are essential to the conservation of a given species and that may 
require special management considerations or protection.'' Pursuant to 
the regulations, such requirements include, but are not limited to the 
following: (1) space for individual and population growth, and for 
normal behavior; (2) food, water, air, light, minerals, or other 
nutritional or physiological requirements; (3) cover or shelter; (4) 
sites for breeding, reproduction, rearing of offspring, germination, or 
seed dispersal; and generally; (5) habitats that are protected from 
disturbance or are representative of the historic geographical and 
ecological distributions of a species. The regulations also state that 
the agency shall focus on the principal biological or physical 
constituent elements within the specific areas considered for 
designation. These primary constitutent elements may include, but are 
not limited to: spawning sites, feeding sites, seasonal wetland or 
dryland, water quality or quantity, geological formation, vegetation 
type, tide, and specific soil types.
    In accordance with the Secretarial Order on American Indian Tribal 
Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered 
Species Act, we will coordinate with federally recognized American 
Indian Tribes on a Government-to-Government basis to determine how to 
make critical habitat assessments in areas that may impact Tribal trust 
resources. In accordance with our regulations at 50 CFR 424.13, we will 
consult as appropriate with affected states, interested persons and 
organizations, other affected Federal agencies, and, in cooperation 
with the Secretary of State, with the country or countries in which the 
species concerned are normally found or whose

[[Page 10875]]

citizens harvest such species from the high seas.

Public Comments Solicited

    To ensure that the final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and effective as possible, we solicit comments and 
suggestions from the public, other governmental agencies, the 
Government of Canada, the scientific community, industry, environmental 
groups, and any other interested parties. Comments are encouraged on 
this proposal (See DATES and ADDRESSES). Specifically, we are 
interested in information regarding: (1) eulachon spawning habitat 
within the range of the southern DPS that was present in the past, but 
may have been lost over time; (2) biological or other relevant data 
concerning any threats to the southern DPS of eulachon; (3) the range, 
distribution, and abundance of the southern DPS of eulachon; (4) 
current or planned activities within the range of the southern DPS of 
eulachon and their possible impact on this DPS; (5) recent observations 
or sampling of eulachon in Northern California rivers including but not 
limited to the Klamath River, Mad River, and Redwood Creek; and (6) 
efforts being made to protect the southern DPS of eulachon.

Critical Habitat

    We also request quantitative evaluations describing the quality and 
extent of freshwater and marine habitats for juvenile and adult 
eulachon as well as information on areas that may qualify as critical 
habitat for the proposed southern DPS. Specific areas that include the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
DPS, where such features may require special management considerations 
or protection, should be identified. We also solicit biological and 
economic information relevant to making a critical habitat designation 
for the southern DPS of eulachon. Although the range of this DPS 
extends into Canada, ESA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(h) 
specify that critical habitat shall not be designated within foreign 
countries or in other areas outside of United States jurisdiction. 
Therefore, we request information only on potential areas of critical 
habitat within the United States or waters within U.S. jurisdiction.
    Section 4(b)(2) of the ESA requires the Secretary to consider the 
``economic impact, impact on national security, and any other relevant 
impact,'' of designating a particular area as critical habitat. For 
this, section 4(b)(2) authorizes the Secretary to exclude from a 
critical habitat designation those particular areas where the Secretary 
finds that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of 
designation, unless excluding that area will result in extinction of 
the species. We seek information regarding the conservation benefits of 
designating areas in the Columbia River and its tributaries, the 
Klamath River, other coastal rivers in Washington, Oregon and 
California, and marine areas, as critical habitat. We also seek 
information on the economic benefit of excluding areas from the 
critical habitat designation, and the economic benefits of including an 
area as part of the critical habitat designation. In keeping with the 
guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget (2000; 2003), 
we seek information that would allow us to monetize these effects to 
the extent possible, as well as information on qualitative impacts to 
economic values. We also seek information on impacts to national 
security and any other relevant impacts of designating critical habitat 
in these areas.
    Data reviewed may include, but are not limited to: (1) scientific 
or commercial publications, (2) administrative reports, maps or other 
graphic materials, information received from experts, and (3) comments 
from interested parties. Comments and data particularly are sought 
concerning: (1) maps and specific information describing the amount, 
distribution, and use type (e.g., spawning, rearing, or migration) of 
eulachon habitat (both freshwater and marine), as well as any 
additional information on occupied and unoccupied habitat areas; (2) 
the reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined to be 
critical habitat as provided by sections 3(5)(A) and 4(b)(2) of the 
ESA; (3) information regarding the benefits of designating particular 
areas as critical habitat; (4) current or planned activities in the 
areas that might be proposed for designation and their possible 
impacts; (5) any foreseeable economic or other potential impacts 
resulting from designation, and in particular, any impacts on small 
entities; (6) whether specific unoccupied areas (e.g., areas where 
eulachon have been extirpated) may be essential to provide additional 
habitat areas for the conservation of this DPS; and (7) potential peer 
reviewers for a proposed critical habitat designation, including 
persons with biological and economic expertise relevant to the species, 
region, and designation of critical habitat. We seek information 
regarding critical habitat for the southern DPS of eulachon as soon as 
possible, but by no later than May 12, 2009.


    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES section).


National Environmental Policy Act

    The 1982 amendments to the ESA, in section 4(b)(1)(A), restrict the 
information that may be considered when assessing species for listing. 
Based on this limitation of criteria for a listing decision and the 
opinion in Pacific Legal Foundation v. Andrus, 675 F. 2d 825 (6th Cir. 
1981), we have concluded that ESA listing actions are not subject to 
the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental 
Policy Act (See NOAA Administrative Order 216-6).

Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Flexibility Act and Paperwork 
Reduction Act

    As noted in the Conference Report on the 1982 amendments to the 
ESA, economic impacts cannot be considered when assessing the status of 
a species. Therefore, the economic analysis requirements of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act are not applicable to the listing process. 
In addition, this proposed rule is exempt from review under Executive 
Order 12866. This proposed rule does not contain a collection-of-
information requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction 


    In keeping with the intent of the Administration and Congress to 
provide continuing and meaningful dialogue on issues of mutual State 
and Federal interest, this proposed rule will be given to the relevant 
state agencies in each state in which the species is believed to occur, 
and those states will be invited to comment on this proposal. We have 
conferred with the states of Washington, Oregon, and California in the 
course of assessing the status of the southern DPS of eulachon, and 
considered, among other things, Federal, state and local conservation 
measures. As we proceed, we intend to continue engaging in informal and 
formal contacts with the states, and other affected local or regional 
entities, giving careful consideration to all written and oral comments 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 223

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, 

[[Page 10876]]

    Dated: March 6, 2009.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 223 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 223 continues to read as 

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 1543; subpart B, Sec.  223.201-202 
also issued under 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 5503(d) for 
Sec.  223.206(d)(9) et seq.
    2. In Sec.  223.102, paragraph (c) is revised by adding and 
reserving paragraphs (c)(25) and (c)(26) and adding a new paragraph 
(c)(27) to read as follows:

Sec.  223.102  Enumeration of threatened marine and anadromous species.

    (c) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------     Where Listed         Citation(s) for listing        Citation(s) for critical
                  Common name                     Scientific name                                determination(s)             habitat designation(s)
                                                                      * * * * * * *
(27) eulachon - southern DPS                          Thaleichthys                     California, Oregon,  [INSERT FR CITATION & DATE      [INSERT FR CITATION & DATE
                                                         pacificus      Washington, and       WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL       WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL
                                                                               British Columbia.                  RULE]                           RULE]

[FR Doc. E9-5403 Filed 3-12-09; 8:45 am]