Fall Chinook Salmon Spawn in Record Numbers in Snake River

Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries/Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish CommissionSalmon nests, known as redds, in the Clearwater River. Fall 2013 saw a record number along with an equally record number of returning salmon.

Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries/Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
Salmon nests, known as redds, in the Clearwater River. Fall 2013 saw a record number along with an equally record number of returning salmon.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Fall Chinook salmon not only returned in droves to spawn in the Snake River Basin, but also created a record number of redds, or nests, that bodes well for the future.

Data culled from several sources show that a record number of salmon spawned in the Snake River Basin in 2013, boosted by a record number of wild fall Chinook that passed Lower Granite Dam, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) announced on February 25. It was the highest number of wild fish to return since the Ice Harbor Dam was built in 1960.

“The multi-agency run reconstruction of fish returning to Lower Granite Dam revealed 21,000 wild fall Chinook returned to the Snake River in 2013, accounting for 37.5 percent of the total Snake River fall Chinook return of 56,000 fish,” the CRITFC said in a statement. “Over 6,300 redds were created in the Snake River and its tributaries between Lower Granite and Hells Canyon dams. The increase in Snake River returns and the increased distribution in redds were aided by tribal programs that supplement existing Snake River fall Chinook populations.”

Fall Chinook numbers were already surpassing expectations in the Columbia River, with more than a million returning, the CRITFC noted back in September 2013. Moreover, fall 2014 is looking to surpass even that record, with a potential 1.6 million returning, the Lewiston Tribune reported on February 21.

RELATED: Northwest Tribes Exult as Nearly One Million Chinook Return to Columbia River

Now, Northwest tribes are again jubilant at yet another “return of the king,” as Chinook are known. The Snake River return records are being attributed to the success of an innovative hatchery program that intermingles hatchery fish with wild. It was a controversial notion when it was first implemented, but subsequent studies have indicated that the interbreeding does not harm either population.

RELATED: Hatching a Plan for Northwest Salmon: Conference Highlights Fish Stock Restoration

“The Nez Perce Tribe’s Snake River recovery program has resulted in fall chinook returns that the region can truly celebrate,” said CRITFC Chairman and Nez Perce Tribe Executive Committee member Joel Moffett in the statement. “Despite returning to a river noted for hot temperatures and poor passage conditions, these resilient fish were able to spawn in numbers not witnessed in many, many years.”

Every year the Nez Perce Tribe releases 450,000 yearling fall chinook and 2.8 million sub-yearling fall Chinook, the CRITFC said. In all, the broader program releases five million juvenile fish back into the Snake and Clearwater river systems. Since 1990, when the adult fall Chinook return numbered just 78 in the Snake River, the number has increased to 2013’s 21,000 wild adults, the commission said. More information on the ins and outs, as well as the history, of the Nez Perce restoration project is at Snake River Fall Chinook.

RELATED: Fisheries Are the Lifeblood of the Nez Perce Economy

“Abundance is a key to success in the Columbia Basin. The Nez Perce Tribe has shown the Columbia Basin that we can rebuild salmon runs with the assistance of hatcheries,” said CRITFC Executive Director Paul Lumley in the statement. “We are anticipating a lot of fall chinook returning to the Columbia River this year. For anyone wondering why, the answer lies with tribal programs like the Nez Perce Tribe’s Snake River Fall Chinook Program. It is as simple as putting fish back in the rivers and protecting the watersheds where fish live.”

Moffett noted that the record numbers are just the beginning and do not guarantee future success without continued effort.

“This year’s run gives us hope for the future, but we still have a long way to go,” Moffett said. “We must continue to do everything we can to ensure the fish runs continue on this path toward a healthy, self-sustaining population capable of supporting well-managed tribal and non-tribal fisheries. Doing so will ensure the success of this run is repeated in years to come.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/03/02/fall-chinook-salmon-spawn-record-numbers-snake-river-153812?page=0%2C1

2014 Fall Chinook Returns Could Be Biggest On Record

A chinook salmon photographed in the Snake River in 2013. That year's run set records, but 2014 returns are on track to outnumber last year's in the Columbia and Snake rivers. | credit: Aaron Kunz | rollover image for more

A chinook salmon photographed in the Snake River in 2013. That year’s run set records, but 2014 returns are on track to outnumber last year’s in the Columbia and Snake rivers. | credit: Aaron Kunz | rollover image for more

By Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio

The future is looking bright for fall chinook salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Predictions are in that this could be another record-breaking year for the fish.

Officials are predicting the largest return on record since 1938. That’s 1.6 million Columbia River fall chinook. Nearly 1 million of those fish will come from salmon near Hanford Reach. These are known as upriver brights, said Stuart Ellis, fisheries biologist with the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.

“One interesting thing about the forecasts is that even though most of the forecasts are big, it is just the two large bright upriver stocks, the upriver brights and The pool upriver brights that we are predicting to be record high runs this year,” Ellis said.

Last year saw a record number of fall chinook salmon returning to the Columbia and Snake rivers since the dams were built. The upriver bright salmon are predicted to reach the same record as the entire returning fall chinook last year.

Joseph Bogaard, executive director of the advocacy group Save Our Wild Salmon, said the strong numbers are due in part to favorable ocean conditions, enough water spilling over dams during migration season and good habitat at Hanford Reach. That’s one of the longest free-flowing areas on the Columbia River.

Columbia River Indian tribes contend hatcheries also play a part in large Snake River fall chinook returns.

Sara Thompson, spokeswoman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said, right now, a record number of salmon are spawning in the Snake River.

“This is the highest number of salmon spawning in the Snake River Basin that we’ve seen since the Lower Granite Dam was constructed,” she said. The dam, one of four on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington, was completed in 1975.

Thompson said more wild fall chinook salmon are expected to return to the Snake River this year.

Bogaard said even though the fall chinook predictions are high, work still needs to be done to protect other endangered salmon runs.

“While the fall chinook run looks like that they’re as strong as they’ve been in quite a few years, we’ve still got a lot of work to do to protect and restore many other runs that provide the benefits to people and ecosystems in the parts of the basin,” Bogaard said.