Friday, November 23, 2012

Seattle Times Article on Snake River Sockeye

Last weekend the Seattle Times featured an excellent article on challenges facing Snake River sockeye and the political and economic realities hindering their recovery. Reporter Lynda Mapes offers a well rounded, insightful take on the issue that gives readers a realistic perspective on both the successes of recovery efforts on the Snake and the cost of these programs which are in some ways protecting the status quo in the Columbia Basin. In the 1990's Snake sockeye were critically endangered, and in 1992 only a single fish, dubbed Lonesome Larry, returned to Redfish Lake, a once prolific producer of sockeye on the western slope of the Idaho Rockies. Since that time, a federal program to rescue the nearly extinct populations of sockeye has managed to save the unique genetic legacy of snake river sockeye. However, recovery of Snake sockeye has reached a critical juncture. 

With as many as 1000 fish returning to the Snake in good years (around 250 returned this year), sockeye populations are no longer on critical life support, and it is time to phase out hatchery production and allow fish to spawn in the wild, maintaining the fitness and genetic diversity of these fragile stocks. Instead managers have opted to spend $14 million dollars on a new production hatchery, that will preserve the status quo allowing the BPA to continue operating the four lower Snake River dams that are the primary impediment to true recovery in the Snake basin. 

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