Salmon projections still not meeting recovery levels
Portland, OR—This week, Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife released projection estimates for spring returns of adult salmon. The numbers, certain to be adjusted as the fish start returning, indicate the potential for a stronger return in the Columbia and Snake Rivers than was seen in 2011. Scientists and fish biologists attribute these returns to ocean conditions, as well as due to in-river conditions including increases in court-ordered spill at the federal dams to support fish migration.
Projections are a valuable tool in setting fisheries policies, but they are only estimates and are subject to frequent adjustment. In 2009 and 2010, actual fish returns were significantly lower than projections indicated.
Former Oregon Chief of Fisheries Doug DeHart said, “It’s premature to be making grand claims about this year’s returns until we see the actual numbers, but these projections suggest good news for the numerous industries dependent on healthy salmon runs. I believe we would not be seeing these levels of returns on the Columbia and Snake Rivers without recent in-river improvements including the court-ordered spill.”
A U.S. District Court has required increases in spill at the federal dams to support salmon restoration for the last seven years, due to legal efforts by fishermen and salmon advocates to see wild fish populations restored.
Continued DeHart, “The numbers are still nowhere near where we need them to be for wild fish populations to be fully restored to sustainable levels, but the projections are good news that changes in the hydrosystem can make a big impact on fish returns. We should continue to explore areas to make improvements for salmon so that we can have good returns every year.”