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Commentaries and editorials

Suffering Sockeye

by Liz Hamilton
The Seattle Times, July 30, 2008

Healthy runs good sign, but fish still need help

Drawing of an adult Sockeye Salmon Regarding James Vesely's Sunday editorial column on Snake River sockeye salmon ["Summertime, and the Fishing is Perplexing," July 27], let's give credit where credit is due. Thanks to high flows and court-ordered spill, our coma patient is awake and blinking.

Not surprisingly, NOAA Fisheries is claiming "the real driver is the ocean." So let's look at how other sockeye runs are faring in the ocean.

The Fraser River sockeye run, which is the West Coast's largest run, appears to be doing OK this year. Some of the other smaller runs in Washington's coastal streams also appear to be doing OK. Lake Washington has not had a strong run this year.

This indicates that ocean conditions are probably average for sockeye in general, but no run outside the Columbia has had such a significant increase compared with the Snake River run. If ocean conditions were the primary factor, then all sockeye runs should have seen a very large increase in survival, right?

So if ocean conditions are so good, why have West Coast salmon stocks collapsed, precipitating a federal disaster declaration?

There have been good ocean conditions before without a nearly 20-fold increase in Snake River sockeye. This points to improved freshwater and passage conditions (high flows and spill) as significant factors in this near-record run.

It's tragic that a courtroom must serve as the surrogate intensive care unit for sockeye.

If only we could take a sockeye to court to testify.

Liz Hamilton, executive director, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Oregon City, Ore.
Suffering Sockeye
The Seattle Times, July 30, 2008

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