BPA's Salmon Run Declines Againby Joseph B. Frazier,
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 13, 2006
Late surge in chinook is still possible
PORTLAND -- For the straight second year, the spring chinook salmon that normally leap by the thousands up the fish ladders of Bonneville Dam toward spawning grounds are virtually absent.
Fishery experts say the run has been late before, thus they aren't hanging out the crepe just yet. But it's off to such a weak start that a Columbia River Indian tribe had to haul some of last year's salmon out of the freezer last weekend for its traditional "First Foods" ceremony that marks the return of the fish.
As of Tuesday, only 135 adult chinook had been counted at the dam. The 10-year average at this point, which includes a couple of bumper years, is about 19,000.
The tribal share of this spring run has been calculated at 6,188 fish. As of last weekend's ceremony at Celilo Village near The Dalles, tribal fishermen had caught only about 20.
The 140 miles of river below the dam will close to salmon, steelhead and shad fishing effective Friday. It could reopen if more fish pass the dam.
"There are ups and downs in the fish world," said Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Last year was one of the latest runs we'd seen, and this year is shaping up that way."
She said a late surge remains possible and more should be known in late April, when about half the run normally would have passed the dam.
She said the sport fishery below the dam has told scientists the fish are in the river. "But we're not seeing movement over the dam."
Preseason estimates for last year were for 254,100 salmon to make it past Bonneville Dam. Only 106,900 did so. This year's prediction is 88,400 -- still a fairly healthy run if it shows up.
In recent years, the run has been as low 42,000 in 1999 and as high as 438,000 in 2001. Brian Gorman of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle said the spring run tapers off in late May or early June, when the summer run begins.
The summer and fall runs are thought to be in better shape.
Problems are not limited to the Columbia.
Last week the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to close commercial salmon fishing on 400 miles of the Pacific Coast.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs