Another troubling sign of the poor state of this year’s Pacific Ocean salmon runs was discovered on one the Klamath River’s tributaries after an annual fish survey counted the second lowest number of spring-run Chinook salmon on record.
Since 1995, teams of divers have surveyed the entire length of the nearly 80-mile Salmon River to count the number of spring-run Chinook salmon. Fish counts have ranged from as low as 90 fish in 2005 to 1,600 fish in 2011. Data made available this week following last week’s dives showed only 110 spring-run salmon were in the river.
“We knew that fish diseases practically wiped out juvenile populations in recent years,” Salmon River Restoration Council and Klamath Riverkeeper board member Nathaniel Pennington said. “Still it’s a shockingly low number of spring salmon.”
The findings come a few months after a University of California Davis study found that spring-run Chinook salmon on the Klamath River and its tributaries were at a critical risk of extinction.
At a research symposium held a day after the July 26 dives took place, UC Davis researchers presented evidence that Klamath River spring-run Chinook salmon are genetically distinct from fall-run Chinook.
Karuk Tribe Councilman Josh Saxon indicated this research could lead to the spring-run fish being listed under federal and state endangered species acts after previous attempts failed because of a lack of genetic evidence.
“The years of surveys and sample collection by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council may finally pay off,” Saxon said. “If we can prove to Western scientists…
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