Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Despite Record Returns, Snake River Sockeye Returns Remain Poor

In a year of record sockeye returns to the Columbia Basin when more than 500,000 sockeye have passed above Bonneville Dam, counts of Sockeye returning to the Snake River remain poor. As of last week only 429 sockeye adults had passed Lower Granite Dam on the Lower Snake River. Historically the Stanley Basin in Idaho supported between 25 and 30 thousand sockeye annually, but by the 1990's the run was nearly extinct and between 1991 and 1998 only 16 fish returned including the now famed Lonesome Larry. Returns in recent years have been buoyed slightly by court ordered spill, improved ocean conditions and largescale hatchery supplementation, and more than 1000 fish have returned each of the last three years breaking modern records.

Fortunately these efforts appear to have dramatically reduced the risk of extincction in the near term, but the reality is Sockeye in the Snake River basin are far from recovered. The vast majority of returning fish originate in the Redfish Lake Captive Broodstock program, and until the four Lower Snake River Dams are removed the future remains grim for the once abundant Sockeye which migrate  900 miles from the Pacific to their spawning grounds more than a mile above sea level.

More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:


Follow the runs at the Columbia River DART website:


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