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Commentaries and editorials

NMFS Will Review Status
of Snake Fall Chinook

by Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, April 23, 2015

Fishing guide displays his clients catch of Fall Chinook. NMFS has filed a notice in the Federal Register that announced the agency will conduct a status review of Snake River fall Chinook, after receiving a petition for delisting the ESU earlier this year.

"We find that the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted," said the agency in the April 22 notice.

NMFS reviewed the status of the fall run in 2005 and 2011, and concluded that its "threatened" status was still appropriate. With the new finding, the agency is calling on the public for scientific and commercial information pertaining to the fall-run ESU by June 22. It must complete the review in about 9 months.

The January petition for delisting was written by a group associated with commercial fishermen in Southeast Alaska called Chinook Futures Coalition. The petition argues that NMFS acknowledges the short-term extinction risk of the Snake fall Chinook ESU is zero, since the hatchery programs are continuing, and the long-term extinction risk (100 years) is less than 1 percent. It estimated more than 8,000 wild fall Chinook spawned in the mainstem Snake in 2014, noting that 391 spawners were estimated in 1992, when the ESU was listed as a threatened species.

The petition says the 10-year geometric mean of returning wild fish is more than twice the recovery standard of 3,000 fish, and if hatchery fish are included, the 10-year geometric means for all SRFC spawning in the Snake River, and for those exclusively spawning in the mainstem are 18,347 and 10,443 respectively.

The petition also says the requirement calling for more than a single population group has been fulfilled, since the fall Chinook have colonized the Clearwater River, where nearly 3,000 redds were counted in 2013, when only 4 were counted in 1991. It also says several other standards for delisting have been met.

CFC spokesman Howard Pendell, told NW Fishletter in January that it was high time the Snake fall Chinook got a closer look, in light of the record returns. Pendell is a Sitka-based salmon troller and serves on the Northern Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission.

In a separate April 22 letter, NMFS said it was engaged in two other "parallel" processes related to the status of Snake River fall Chinook. One is the formal 5-year status review, begun Feb. 6, as required by the ESA, which the agency said will be similar in scope to the review initiated by the petition, but will also include 31 other listed species.

"We are also in the process of developing a recovery plan for Snake River fall Chinook. The information used to inform the development of the recovery plan will also be used to inform our status review under the petition and the 5-year review."

Bill Rudolph
NMFS Will Review Status of Snake Fall Chinook
NW Fishletter, April 23, 2015

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