Non-profit petitions for Chinook salmon to receive federal protection

May 25, 2023, 9:55 AM

fishery chinook salmon protection...

Chinook salmon are an important resource for many tribal communities along the West Coast. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

(Photo courtesy of NOAA)

The Chinook salmon could be getting federal protection after the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Pacific Rivers filed a petition to get the Washington Coast spring-run salmon to be designated an endangered species.

Only about 3,200 adult fish exist returning to Washington state rivers and spawn every spring, and their habitat is under attack by logging, water contamination, and dams, the CBD argues. This is a stark difference compared to the estimated 27,000 spring-run Chinook that historically existed in the region.

More than $220 Million in disaster relief coming to crabbers, salmon fishers

In January 2023, the National Marine Fisheries Service determined that Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Chinook salmon populations may warrant Endangered Species Act protection.

“It’s clear that spring Chinook salmon, treasures of the Pacific Northwest, are in serious trouble in many of their home rivers,” said Pacific Rivers Board Chair Mike Morrison. “Spring-run salmon numbers on Washington’s west coast have declined steeply over decades and are now perilously low. We did not take the filing of this petition lightly, and carefully considered the facts and science before making the decision to seek legal protections.”

These spring-run salmon are a distinct species compared to the ones that swim upriver in the fall, instead, waiting in deep pools to spawn in freshwater rivers.

They have a unique habitat requirement compared to other types of salmon, needing “old water, cool resting pools, clean spawning gravels, and optimal levels of dissolved oxygen, water velocity, and turbidity.”

“Spring-run Chinook are truly king salmon, magnificent fish prized for their size and taste and impressive for their arduous migrations into upper river reaches,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But early returning salmon are in trouble all along the West Coast, and it’s clear they require protection under the Endangered Species Act to stop their slide toward extinction.”

The safeguards would apply to salmon in the Chehalis, Quinault, Queets, Hoh, and Quillayute river basins on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

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Non-profit petitions for Chinook salmon to receive federal protection