Columbia River salmon runs up? Wild fish?

An eastern Washington state newspaper reports that this year may be remembered for the big comeback of the Columbia River’s migratory fish.

(I’m no expert on salmon but it looks like wild fish are not recovering and these increases are in hatchery fish.)

The paper reports that coho salmon and steelhead had record returns and that sockeye successfully spawned at Lake Cle Elum for the first time in a century. Improvements in fish habitat and fish passage at dams is credited with helping improve survival for species that migrate to the ocean.

“It was a pretty good year for the fishery,” said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission in Portland. “We’re happy with the numbers of fish coming back, but still concerned about the number of wild fish,” he said.

Only 12 adult coho passed Rock Island Dam near Wenatchee in 1999, while nearly 20,000 swam past the fish counters this year.

At McNary Dam on the Columbia — up from 4,736 coho a decade ago to 33,385 this year.

The increase pleases Tom Scribner, the Yakama Nation’s project leader, who said the best part is it also shows an expanding number of fish that spawn naturally. Biologists are counting on those fish to build self-sustaining wild stocks.

Fish biologists decided in 1990 to begin using hatchery-bred fish to rebuild the runs.

The effort, a joint project of Bonneville Power Administration, the Chelan County and Grant County Public Utility districts and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, aimed to entice fish reared in the lower Columbia River to swim hundreds of miles upstream.

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0 Responses to Columbia River salmon runs up? Wild fish?

  1. Jay Taber says:

    Always nice to have good news, but to keep it in context, I recall that the Sacajawea State Park interpretive sign at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers notes that the annual runs of salmon passing there once numbered sixteen million.

  2. The Bush Administration labored hard to erase distinctions between wild and hatchery salmon. One good year does not mean the fish are returning. Habitat continues to decline in the Pacific Northwest, and the global warming trend will likely end all salmon runs south of Alaska in this century.

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