Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sockeye Run Breaking Records on the Columbia

After 2008 when more than 230,000 Sockeye returned to the Columbia basin, this years preseason forecast of 125,000 was looking fairly modest. Now, after 3 consecutive days of near record numbers past Bonneville the Technical Advisory Committee has updated the forecast to 250,000 fish which would break the previous set in 1955. Sockeye counts of course only began with the construction of Bonneville in 1938, meaning abundance was likely already well below historical levels. Still, the large return three years running is highly encouraging (last years total was 177,000) and raises hope for Snake River Sockeye. Runs of sockeye to the Snake River in the 1990s were critically low and the fish were once thought to be all but extinct when in 1990 zero fish were counted at Lower Granite Dam. Runs on the Snake remain extremely depressed and last years run of 1219 fish was the largest return observed at lower Granite since counting began in 1975. The majority of Columbia River Sockeye return to the Okanagan River, however the Wenatchee River also supports a substantial population and recovery efforts are underway to reintroduce long extirpated sockeye to the Yakima Basin.

The exact cause of this year and last years large returns of Sockeye to the Columbia is unknown and it is likely a combination of good outmigration conditions, court ordered spill and favorable ocean conditions. What is sure though is that there is hope for the future of Columbia sockeye. It is probably not a conincidence that two of the largest runs of sockeye on record have come on the heels of court ordered increases in spill mandated by Judge James Redden in response to an inadequate 2008 BiOp, so why would it make sense to reduce future spill levels as is recommended in the Obama administrations relabeling of the failed 2008 BiOp? Columbia and Snake Sockeye still face a long road to recovery, and if spill has been working keep it coming...

Columbia Basin Article

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