Sockeye Return Better than Expectedby Staff
Idaho Mountain Express, 10/25/00
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game called this summer's sockeye salmon return migration "dramatic" compared with previous years.
The 1990s witnessed returns in single digits. In some years, merely one or even zero wild sockeye returned.
This summer, 257 sockeye returned to the Sawtooth Valley, according to a Fish and Game press release.
"This year's return is great news for the programs designed to save Idaho sockeye from total extinction," the press release states. "According to fish researchers in charge of the program, however, this run should not be interpreted as recovery of the species."
Fish and Game fisheries biologist Dave Cannamela said in an interview that Idaho salmon are far from recovery.
"We need lots of years of improved conditions, and we cannot expect Mother Nature to improve conditions with dams in place," he said.
Idaho sockeye program manager Paul Kline said this summer's return migration supports the belief, however, that sockeye populations can at least be maintained through captive breeding programs.
"While this in no way means recovery, in terms of the program, it's great," he said in the press release. "This validates our supposition that we would not lose species productivity by taking the wild population into the hatchery.
"Sockeye returns were good enough this year to cause me to believe they have a good chance of rebounding when survival conditions improve."
Of this summer's returning sockeye, 41 were added to the Eagle Hatchery captive breeding program, 120 were released into Redfish Lake, 28 were released into Pettit Lake, 52 were released into Alturas Lake, two died in the Sawtooth Hatchery and 14 were observed in the river immediately downstream of the Sawtooth Hatchery.
Kline said he hopes the 14 fish left in the river will spawn in Alturas or Pettit lakes.
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