JUNE 8, 2015
Plan lacks meaningful action, and fails to address downstream mortality from dams and intensifying climate impacts.
Joseph Bogaard, Save Our wild Salmon,
Background: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its plan to recover endangered Snake River sockeye salmon today. This imperiled population was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1991. 24 years later, the world’s highest and longest-migrating sockeye population remains endangered and far from recovery.
The following is a press statement from Save Our wild Salmon Coalition executive director Joseph Bogaard:
“NOAA’s 2015 plan for endangered Snake River sockeye salmon perpetuates many mistakes and inadequacies of earlier related federal efforts: a failure to address dam-caused mortality, an over-reliance on research and under-reliance on meaningful science-base actions, and the establishment of a permanent hatchery program in a misguided effort to make up for the plan’s serious shortcomings.
While the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is to be commended for bringing Snake River sockeye back from the brink of extinction in the late 1990s and early 2000s through the use of an emergency-room hatchery program, the world’s highest and longest migrating sockeye salmon today remain at grave risk. This “new” plan does not contain the necessary actions to protect and rebuild this unique and irreplaceable population. The survival of Snake River sockeye depends upon a lawful, science-based action plan that meets the essential life cycle needs of natural-origin (non-hatchery) fish. While we will need more time to carefully analyze this plan, we see three fatal flaws based on an initial review.
First, this plan relies on the illegal, inadequate Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion (BiOp) which fails to adequately mitigate these salmon’s largest source of human-caused mortality – the Columbia and Snake river dams and reservoirs. The courts have invalidated five Columbia Basin BiOps since this population was first listed under the Endangered Species Act. Challenged again by salmon and fishing advocates, the State of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe, the “new” 2014 BiOp closely resembles the illegal 2011 plan it is supposed to replace, with one exception. The 2014 BiOp reduces spill – strongly supported by regional scientists as our most effective salmon measure short of dam removal.
Second, this new sockeye plan relies upon a permanent hatchery and captive broodstock program. The government’s temporary emergency conservation hatchery strategy that saved sockeye from imminent extinction 20 years ago now serves as this plan’s strategic foundation. According to scientists, the recovery and de-listing of Snake River sockeye can only be achieved by returns of 2500 natural-origin fish annually for 8 consecutive years. Given, for example, the high downstream dam-caused mortality and the growing impact of climate change, this plan will not restore sockeye and further is highly improbable to protect them from extinction over time.
Third, like many previous government plans, this one over-relies on research, monitoring and assessment and under-relies on meaningful, science-based actions needed now to dramatically increase survival of out-migrating smolts and returns of adult fish.”