Slide background

Press Releases

Save Our Wild Salmon

Fishermen give Judge Redden the credit for more fish and more jobs

sockeye.quinn.smallFor immediate release: August 5, 2010 -- Aided in large measure by court-ordered spill that makes the lower Snake River less lethal for out-migrating fish, returning populations of chinook and sockeye salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers have been encouraging this summer.
"The good news is, there are fish in the river and people have enjoyed fishing opportunities, fueled by the fish's response to spill, from the ocean off of Washington's coastline, to the lower Columbia, and all the way to central Idaho," said Liz Hamilton, Executive Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. "The bad news is, the federal government has continued to attack the measure of spilling water at lower Snake River dams."
Hamilton said a primary reason for the improved returns of 2010 is extra spill ordered by U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, over the objection of federal agencies. This "Redden effect" helps baby salmon migrate from the mountains and streams of their birth to the Pacific Ocean. Now in its fourth year, it has produced corresponding increases in fish survival every year. Without a permanent order for spill, Hamilton worries for the future of her industry.
Even so, the Obama Administration's plan for endangered salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers rolls back that very spill and threatens to undermine any short-term gains that have been made over the last few years.
"We're fortunate that at least Judge Redden continues to see that fish do better when the river functions as something more closely resembling a river," Hamilton said. "It's great that by making the federal agencies follow the science and the law, Judge Redden is also creating jobs in the Northwest."
Jim Martin, former chief of fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, agrees that spill has contributed significantly to this year's improved returns.
"While the four dams on the lower Snake River are still in place, it's clear that what works for salmon is more spill over the dams," Martin said. "The data, including this year's returns, show that increased spill is unquestionably part of the equation for the recovery of endangered salmon and steelhead."
However, Martin noted that wild salmon returns are still nowhere close to Endangered Species Act recovery targets, which must be met for eight consecutive years before stocks can be considered recovered. Wild Snake River fall chinook had been hovering near recovery targets earlier in the decade, but they've declined in recent years.
In addition, approximately 80 percent of returning fish are hatchery fish that can play only a temporary role in the recovery of wild populations, said Glen Spain, the Northwest Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
"Federal agencies consistently gloss over how badly wild fish are doing by throwing in more hatchery fish and blurring the distinction between the two," Spain said. "But wild fish are still doing poorly." Spain noted that while hatchery production is essential to maintaining viable salmon populations in the near future, rebuilding wild and self-sustaining stocks is the key to the long-term future of Columbia-Snake salmon and the people who depend on them.
While this year's fish counts might be considered good relative to only the last 10 years, Spain noted that these improved returns can only be considered "records" in the era since four dams on the lower Snake River put the species' ongoing survival in jeopardy. Populations were much greater in the Snake River before the dams.
"The bottom line is that even this year's helpful numbers are nowhere near enough," said Glen Spain. "We still need a legally and biologically credible federal plan that will ensure consistent returns of wild salmon and steelhead, and consistent fishing opportunities, in the future. All we have seen so far in the Bush-Obama Plan is mostly smoke and mirrors."
"This year's fishing opportunities are a welcome shot-in-the-arm for our industry, and we're thrilled to see salmon returning to the Salmon River," Hamilton said. "But this is just a wonderful preview of what is possible. If we give them a chance, these fish will prove how resilient they are."
Liz Hamilton, 503-631-8859
Jim Martin, 503-704-9651
Glen Spain, 541-689-2000
Greg Stahl, 208-343-7481
Rhett Lawrence, 503-230-0421, x18
Share This