Providing Christmas all year long for young salmon was the main event up the Yaquina River this weekend. Sports fishing group “U Da Man,” along with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, gave the little fish a happier if not safer place to grow up and then head for the sea. They say say at certain times of the year, thousands of sea and land birds flock inland to dive bomb and gobble up countless young fish in rivers and sloughs even before they can grow big enough to migrate to the ocean. So instead of growing into adult salmon for fishermen to catch at sea, or having enough adults return upstream to spawn, everyone loses, including Mother Nature.
So Saturday, U Da Man sports fishers took the situation into their own hands with guidance from ODFW and old Christmas trees provided by Dahl Disposal. They loaded the trees onto boats and carried them down the Yaquina River from Cannon Quarry Park. One by one the boats nosed up against the banks of sloughs and volunteers dragged the trees to natural canals that run through the area. They tied the trees together in rafts and attached them to stakes. As the tide rolls in the tethered trees rise and as the tide goes out they fall back into place, providing 24/7 shelter and coverage from predators. It’s very muddy and fatiguing work but seldom does such effort produce so much benefit to a fishery.
The Christmas tree approach to giving young salmon better odds at survival was initiated long ago along the Necanicum River Watershed Council near Astoria by folks up there who learned that the technique was being practiced in numerous areas around the country. Not only do the dead trees give fish protection from predators, the tree needles provide surface area for algae to form which attracts micro-organisms that feed on the algae. Aquatic insects then feed on the micro-organisms that create a food chain for the fish. In short – Christmas trees aid in restoring more bio-diversity to areas that feed rivers and streams that have been starved of nutrients caused by land clearing and other effects of humans being introduced into the local ecology.
However, critics of the Christmas tree technique say trees grown in Christmas tree farms are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides which can then leach into the sloughs and streams where they’re placed. But ODFW says modern pesticides and herbicides degrade very quickly leaving only trace amounts where they exist at all.
ODFW, watershed councils, U Da Man and other sports groups say they could spread the Christmas tree program farther and wider up and down the Oregon Coast if they had more volunteers. Those who don’t mind a little physical labor loading the trees aboard boats or in dragging them across sloughs and tying them to stakes can call ODFW’s Christine Clapp at 541-265-8306, ext. 253. Her email is: Christine.M.Clapp@State.Or.US