Twelve Days of Fishmas

Twelve Shining Conservation Moments from the Columbia Pacific Northwest and Pacific Islands

A salmon in a Christmas sweater with the words “Merry Christmas” above

The word “change” is inside the word “challenge.” In other words, we cannot spell challenge without change. This minor linguistic realization can help us look back on some pretty major changes we have made in conservation during the challenges of 2020. In an unpredictable year, we had undeniable successes. Take festive look back with us as we highlight some of the ways our people, partners, and programs powered conservation in the Columbia Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Islands this past year!

Photo: A gray and white pintail duck takes flight, Credit: USFWS
Photo: A pintail duck takes flight, Credit: USFWS

On the first day of Fishmas, our Pacific Flyway program gave to us:

Thousands of ducks for banding! Our Pacific Flyway program banded together with States (literally!) to assist our ODFW partners with their annual two-night nighlighting operation, netting nearly 800 ducks. This was in addition to the nearly 2,000 ducks the team banded at the Summer Lake Wildlife Area in South Central Oregon. Despite challenges posed by border closures, the Pacific Flyway program continued their collaboration with Canadian colleagues by maintaining the flow of scientific information vital for federal harvest frameworks.

Photo: A close up tiny invasive mussels, Credit: USFWS
Photo: A close up tiny invasive mussels, Credit: USFWS

On the second day of Fishmas, our Science Applications program gave to us:

Climate change collaborating! New collaboration on invasive species in the Islands: Science Applications has led the formation of a new collaboration with the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center, the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, the State of Hawai’i Invasive Species Council, and the East-West Center to tackle the interacting threats of climate change and invasive species in Interior Region 12. Guided by land and ocean manager needs, this collaboration (Pacific RISCC Management) will focus research funds and information dissemination to support strategic management of key invasive species as changes in temperature, storms, and rainfall threaten to magnify their ecological impact.

Photo: Hunters after a successful day of waterfowl hunting at a National Wildlife Refuges, Credit: USFWS
Photo: Hunters after a successful day of waterfowl hunting at a National Wildlife Refuges, Credit: USFWS

On the third day of Fishmas, our Hatcheries and Refuges gave to us:

Increased outdoor recreating! Hunting and fishing: Interior Region 9 continued to make strong gains on the Department’s priority of expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands. Eight National Wildlife Refuges and five National Fish Hatcheries in the region created new opportunities for the public on hundreds of thousands of acres of public land in the Columbia-Pacific Northwest, offering everything from elk and quail hunting to ice fishing.

Photo: Law Enforcement staff holds up confiscated materials, Credit: USFWS
Photo: Law Enforcement staff holds up confiscated materials, Credit: USFWS

On the fourth day of Fishmas, our Office of Law Enforcement gave to us:

Bad guys stopped from smuggling! Our Office of Law Enforcement continues to work hard to protect wildlife and plant resources through the effective enforcement of federal laws in cooperation with state, federal and international partners. Among this year’s highlights, our agents caught a Chinese national who has pleaded guilty to smuggling hundreds of endangered and vulnerable turtles from the United States to China. In other cases, wildlife inspectors monitor international ports for illegal items. Among the highlights, they intercepted a undeclared commercial shipment of two-hundred pounds of sea cucumbers, and they also discovered an undeclared seal fur sporran. The sporran was seized for import in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act import moratorium and the Endangered Species Act.

The orange tail fin of a fish swimming away from the camera
Photo: A fish eye view of salmon swimming, Credit: USFWS

On the fifth day of Fishmas, our National Fish Hatcheries gave to us:

Millions of fish swimming! In 2020, our 14 Columbia — Pacific Northwest Region National Fish Hatcheries raised and then released or transferred to partners nearly 57.3 milllion Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, and rainbow trout. Our fish and eggs are used to restore populations of imperiled fish species, support commercial fishing and recreational, honor tribal treaty rights and provide tribes with fish for subsistence and ceremonial use, and support thousands of jobs in our region’s communities.

The tiny silver Borax Lake chub swims underwater, Credit: USFWS
Photo: The tiny silver Borax Lake Chub, Credit: USFWS

On the sixth day of Fishmas, our Ecological Services program gave to us:

The Borax Lake chub delisting! Through thoughtful, planned collaboration that included the State of Oregon and many others, we now have ensured steady lake levels, and our partners (The Nature Conservancy and BLM in this case) provide needed continued protection to the surrounding area as well. This success isn’t about just one fish, however; aquatic ecosystems within a desert ecosystem provide important habitat and are a haven for biodiversity. As these wetlands are protected or restored, many other species have benefitted beyond this fish.

An underwater look at fish eggs hatching on the title screen of a salmon in the class virtual video for classrooms
Photo: A screenshot of the intro to a virtual lesson of Salmon in the Classroom, Credit: Florian Graner

On the seventh day of Fishmas, our Education and Information specialists gave to us:

Thousands of students virtually learning! In unprecedented times, the dynamic FAC information and education staff reached an unprecedented number of new and existing audiences by converting their in-person curriculum to digitally accessible lessons on salmon, pollinators, and virtual hatchery tours.

A gray and white Tahiti Petrel spreads its wings, Credit: USFWS
Photo: Tahiti Petrel, Credit: USFWS

On the eighth day of Fishmas, our partners in American Samoa gave to us:

Tahiti Petrel for monitoring! USFWS and its partners in American Samoa made significant accomplishments toward establishing a monitoring program for threatened and endangered seabirds such as the Tahiti petrel on Tutuila Island, American Samoa. This project is a collaborative effort among USFWS, National Park of American Samoa, and the American Samoa Division of Marine and Wildlife Resources to identify potential breeding colonies as a vital first step in monitoring and conserving these species in the Territory.

Photo: Tufted puffin with bright orange beak, white and black feathers in water, Credit: USFWS
Photo: Tufted puffin, Credit: USFWS

On the ninth day of Fishmas, The Seabird Colony Legacy Project gave to us:

Data for analyzing! The Seabird Colony Legacy Project is reaching a successful completion after four years of collaborative work between Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Refuges, Migratory Birds, and Oregon State University. The primary goal of this project was to create a stable archive of 35 mm images of Oregon and Washington seabird colonies that spanned 40 years, and provide access to these colony data to BOEM for impacts analyses for offshore energy and other activities.

The gray and white Hawaiian goose stands in a field Credit: USFWS
Photo: The Hawaiian goose, Credit: USFWS

On the tenth day of Fishmas, collaborative conservation gave to us:

Hawaiian goose recovering! After 60 years of effective collaborative conservation efforts among federal, state, NGOs and local partners the Hawaiian Goose, or Nene, is indeed one step closer to recovery. By the time it was federally listed in 1967 — it was on the very first list of endangered species click for: “Class of 1967,” first-ever listed species — the Nene was on the brink of extinction with only 30 birds left in the wild and just 13 birds in captivity.

An aerial view of the large scale restoration project done at Chapman Ranch in Idaho, Erik Ryan, Headwaters Engineering
Photo: An aerial view of Chapman Ranch in Idaho, Credit: Erik Ryan, Headwaters Engineering

On the eleventh day of Fishmas, The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Idaho gave to us;

Habitat restoring! The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Idaho completed a large-scale restoration project at the Chapman Ranch, a site of significance to the Nez Perce Tribe and containing portions of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The water table was raised, the floodplain reconnected, and the native plant diversity was increased to improve aquatic habitat conditions including sediment, temperature, cover, and complexity for federally listed fish species and migratory birds.

A large white bird with black and grey plumage (Laysan albatross) on its nest, Credit: Jon Brack
Photo: A Laysan albatross on its nest, Credit: Jon Brack/Friends of Midway Atoll NWR

On the twelfth day of Fishmas, Wisdom gave to us:

Another reason for celebrating! Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and the world’s oldest known, banded bird in the wild returned to her home at Midway Atoll. More than that, she and her partner are taking turns incubating an egg! Wisdom and her mate return to the SAME nest site each year — a behavior called “nest site fidelity.” At least 69 years young, we estimate she has laid between 30–36 eggs in her lifetime. When chicks grow up and are ready to find a mate themselves — they often return to the site where they were raised. How amazing to think that Wisdom is surrounded by generations of her family at Midway Atoll! Over three million seabirds, including approximately 70% of the world’s mōlī, rely on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. You can learn more about Wisdom, her newest egg, and Midway Atoll here

Just as Wisdom inspires us with her longevity, the people and partners that work for conservation in our regions inspire us with their continued commitment to the nature of America in the face of challenges. Thank you for supporting us this year — we look forward to a bright 2021 with you!




Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.

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USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Region

USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Region

Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.

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