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Salmon Return Counts Down

by Staff
Portland Business Journal, June 15, 2007

Fishing on Columbia even worse than feared

There's good news and bad news in the count of salmon returning through Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River.

The spring chinook season ends officially today, and the count is expected to be close to 80,800 adults, below the 10-year average of about 175,000 and less than last year's returns of 126,158 chinook, but well above the record low of 12,780 adults in 1995.

Government and university scientists had predicted adult chinook salmon returns this year would range from 78,500 to 83,000 fish.

The "ocean index predictor" from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that almost all ecosystem indices measured in 2005 also pointed to low adult returns of spring chinook in 2007.

"We've seen wide fluctuations in adult returns over the past 30 years," said John G. Williams, a research fishery biologist with the NOAA Fisheries Service. "That's to be expected when the changeable ocean, where salmon spend most of their lives, has such a powerful influence on adult survival."

But Williams said data on survival of juveniles through the Snake and Columbia river dams in recent years were very encouraging.

According to the NOAA Fisheries Service, juvenile survival of spring chinook through the eight hydropower dams in the Columbia Basin in 2006 was the highest ever measured in 30 years.

By increasing juvenile survival to the ocean, government scientists say, adult returns are likely, on average, to improve over the long term.

Scientists also say prospects for adult returns in 2008 and beyond appear bright. The number of jacks -- adult chinook that return to the river early, just a year after they migrated to the ocean -- is expected to be just over 20,000, the second-highest number since records of jacks started in 1977 and more than double the 10-year average. Jack returns are generally considered a good predictor of overall adult returns the following year.

Salmon Return Counts Down
Portland Business Journal, June 15, 2007

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