King salmon close to ESA listing
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1997:
SEATTLE––National Marine Fisheries Service biologists
reported on April 10 that the coveted chinook or king
salmon could qualify for Endangered Species Act
protection––four months after Canadian fisheries minister Fred
Mifflin pronounced chinook well enough recovered to reopen
sport fishing of the species off the west coast of Vancouver
Island, with a year-long limit of two per day.
The Puget Sound chinook count is down to 71,000,
NMFS said, from an estimated 690,000 in 1911. Wild-run chinook
account for under 25% of the current population. The rest
come from hatcheries.
Similar declines were reported in Oregon and northern
California rivers. But the Oregon and California coastal
populations were said to be still healthy.
An ESA listing, favored by major environmental
groups, could lead to the removal of dams from some spawning
streams, cutting hydroelectric output; might take water
from farm irrigation; and could further restrict logging, in a
region whose unemployed loggers are already more inclined to
blame the ESA for hard times than exhausted forests.
Hoping to avoid ESA listing of the chinook, Oregon
has already adopted legislation taxing logging companies to
fund salmon restoration, Idaho governor Phil Batt has introduced
a similar proposal, and Washington authorities are seeking
politically expedient ways to cut back fishing.
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press, Oregon and
California elected officials were anxiously awaiting a longpending
federal decision, due April 25, as to whether or not to
list northern California coho salmon under the ESA. Many
spawn in rivers rising from the Oregon side of the state line.
Fishing for coho, once accounting for 25% of the total
California commercial catch and half the Oregon catch, has
been forbidden since 1993. Southern coho, spawning from
Humboldt County to Santa Cruz, were already listed last
October, killing a lucrative recreational fishery. The current
southern coho stock is believed to be fewer than 6,000 fish.
Steelhead trout are also under consideration for an
British Columbia reported disastrous 1996 coho and
sockeye runs in the more heavily inhabited and fished central
and southern parts of the province––but to the north, the Fraser
River sockeye run came in at 4.3 million, three times the original
forecast, while the Skeena River run set records.
Alaska has for three years in a row had record chum
salmon runs, enabling fishers to catch far more than canneries
want to buy. More than half a million chum were donated to
soup kitchens in the Lower 48 last year. An estimated 2.5 million
were merely stripped of roe, pulverized, and dumped at
sea to feed other fish.
Smaller, short-lived fish like the chum have significant
advantages over slower-maturing giants like the chinook in
today’s climate of intensive netting, an effect also evident on
the Columbia River. While salmon are scarce, shad introduced
to San Francisco Bay in 1868 spread up the coast to the
Columbia, were caught commercially in the Columbia by
1938, and long since became the most abundant fish in the
river, reportedly even crowding salmon and steelhead out of
fish ladders in spawning season.