sockeye

Snake River sockeye salmon were placed on the Endangered Species list in 1991.

Conservation groups and Shoshone-Bannock Tribal leaders plan to gather at the state Capitol on Saturday to observe the 30-year anniversary of the listing of Snake River sockeye salmon under the Endangered Species Act.

Representatives from the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Sierra Club – Idaho chapter, and the tribes plan to gather at 4 p.m. on the Capitol steps.

“Tribal leaders and youth advocates will be speaking about the history, importance, and urgency needed to save Snake River sockeye salmon,” said Laura Pinover, of the Idaho Conservation League.

Other events across the Northwest are also planned at the same time, including a vigil for endangered salmon and 1-mile walk in downtown Bellingham, Washington; a vigil in downtown Spokane, Washington; and vigils in Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.

“After three decades of work and millions of dollars spent, these fish still swim on the brink of extinction,” Pinover said in a news release. “This year, just four wild adult sockeye salmon successfully completed the migration to their spawning grounds in central Idaho after struggling past eight dams and the warm, stagnant reservoirs they impound downstream.”

The dismal return was helped somewhat when Idaho Fish and Game stepped in and trapped 201 of the endangered fish at the Lower Granite Dam, the last dam on the lower Snake River, and trucked them to the Eagle Fish Hatchery west of Boise earlier this summer. The extraordinary move was taken when the river water temperatures were deemed too warm to support the migrating fish.

Idaho’s sockeye salmon were placed on the Federal Endangered Species list in 1991. The total number of sockeye that returned from 1991-99 was 23, including two years when no sockeye returned. From 2010 to 2019, the annual average sockeye returning to Stanley Basin has been 558 fish, Fish and Game reports. In the distant past, sockeye returned to Idaho in the tens of thousands. But the number tends to bounce up or down depending on a variety of conditions.

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