The Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s (NWFSC) Point Adams Research Station has been leading the region in Columbia River estuary, plume and ocean research since the early 1970’s. Located at the mouth of the largest river on the west coast, NOAA‐Fisheries Point Adams Research Station affords scientists a “bird’s eye view” of an extremely dynamic and biologically rich ecosystem. The Point Adams facility supports an array of field‐ based research and technology development aimed at conserving and managing our nation’s living marine resources.
The large volume of fresh water flowing from the Columbia River forms a low‐salinity plume of water that spills into the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River plume is a dynamic feature of Oregon and Washington’s coastal waters and is an area of high biodiversity of fishes, marine mammals, and seabirds. All seaward‐migrating juvenile salmon from the Columbia River swim into the plume where they make their final transition to life in salt water, and all returning adult salmon enter the plume as they begin their journey to their natal streams. Migrating and resident seabirds and marine mammals use the plume as an important feeding ground. At times the boundary between plume water and ocean water is visually distinct, as seen in this photo (left) where turbulent brown river water flowing from the left collides with smoother blue ocean water on the right.
The mission of the Point Adams Station is to conduct leading‐edge research within the Columbia River estuary, plume, and coastal waters of Oregon and Washington. Our research spans a very large area, from Bonneville Dam to the coastal Pacific Ocean, and we study many species, including marine mammals, Dungeness crabs, Pacific salmon, aquatic insects, and many more. We summarize some of the projects supported by the Point Adams Research Station below.
Early ocean survival and fitness of juvenile salmon: In response to multiple stocks of Pacific salmon being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) our Ocean Survival of Juvenile Salmonids project was initiated to better understand how ocean conditions impact recovery of salmon stocks. Scientists from Point Adams collaborate with other NWFSC colleagues to observe, quantify, and describe early ocean growth, survival, and condition of juvenile salmon, and relate them to ocean conditions.
Food web interactions between salmon, prey, and predators: The Columbia River estuary and plume are areas of high biodiversity and serve as an important feeding ground for marine mammals and seabirds. Our scientists examine food web interactions occurring at the river‐ocean interface and interpret the impacts on ESA‐listed fish species such as Pacific salmon and Eulachon stocks.
Adult salmon survival through the estuary: Working in tandem with local fishermen, we tag and release adult spring Chinook salmon in the estuary and monitor their survival to Bonneville Dam. The estuary is a key area of potential mortality for returning salmon. This study provides critical information used to distinguish estuary mortality from mortality that occurred during the ocean phase of the life cycle.
Juvenile salmon survival: Determining survival of juvenile salmon through the Columbia River Federal Power System is crucial for evaluating the efficacy of hydrosystem management. We developed a novel method for sampling salmon downstream of the dams to provide a critical estimate of survival. We continues to develop cutting‐edge methodologies to sample large numbers of salmonids in the estuary.
Juvenile salmon estuarine habitat and food web research: The estuary provides habitat for all seaward‐ migrating salmon from the Columbia River. We investigate how estuarine habitat availability, food availability, and residence time affect the recovery of particular populations of salmon.
Impacts of dredge materials on Dungeness crab: Annually, The Army Corps of Engineers dredges more than 3 million cubic meters of sediment from the mouth of the Columbia River. Disposal methods and locations have the potential to affect the Dungeness crab fishery, which is the most valuable single‐species fishery in Oregon. This study uses advanced technology to assess the impact of dredge spoil disposal on Dungeness crab.
Catch Shares and Observer Programs: Our observer program collects information on at‐sea discards in order to manage Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) and assess the mortality of a variety of groundfish species. At Point Adams Research Station, Fishery Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division (FRAM) personnel supervise data collection and data quality control for both Catch Share (CS) and Non‐Catch Shares (NCS) fisheries observers.
The Point Adams Research Station is located in the small town of Hammond, Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. While fieldwork in tidal wetlands, backwaters, the main stem Columbia River, tributaries, and nearshore ocean habitats comprises the bulk of the research at the station, we conduct equally important aspects of our research in our laboratory space. We also provide research support from our boat maintenance and fabrication facility. Our boatyard and workshop maintains NOAA’s largest fleet of small vessels ranging in size from 10 to 41 feet. Our biologists and boat operators log an average of 3800 vessel hours per year. Our staff designs and fabricates much of the fisheries research equipment including items such as the marine mammal exclusion devices and underwater video sleds.
Historical background: Point Adams Research Station is located at the site of the historic Point Adams Life‐Saving Station dating back to 1889. The life‐saving station was part of the U.S. Life‐Saving Service (predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard), and provided vital rescue services for the growing number of merchant and fishing vessels plying the waters of the Columbia River. The U.S. Coast Guard took over management of the station in 1915.
In 1939 the original station house was demolished and the current building was erected and served as the Point Adams Lifeboat Station from 1939‐1967. The National Marine Fisheries Service took possession of the campus in 1969. Today the station house serves as office and laboratory space for NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center professionals. Three auxiliary buildings dating to 1889, 1925, and 1939 are still in use as boat and equipment storage. NOAA‐Fisheries is proud to be the stewards for such historic buildings and for preserving and maintaining the legacy of the Point Adams Research Station.
Boatyard and workshop: The Point Adams Shop Facility is located on a nearby separate property at 200 Lake Drive in Hammond, Oregon. NOAA personnel began to use this property in 1989, replacing a previous shop at Tongue Point, near Astoria, Oregon established in 1967. Our current facility includes a secure yard for vessel storage and a 4,000 square foot enclosed and heated workspace with recent energy efficiency lighting and heating upgrades. The primary role of the shop facility is maintenance and marine mechanical support. Other shop facility capabilities range from welding, carpentry, construction, and custom fabrication to electrical system installation and repairs. The Point Adams Shop Facility is critical to the maintenance and upkeep of the largest fleet within NOAA Fisheries. Point Adams houses and operates twenty‐one research vessels that average 650 days underway per year. Four full‐time employees staff the shop and numerous seasonal employees join the staff, primarily during the spring and summer months. The shop facility is located in close proximity of the Hammond Marina and the Point Adams main campus, which allows easy access for the Point Adams Research Station fleet.