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Mother Nature's Son
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I found this post on another forum but thought it was fairly exciting as I love to pursue Coho with the fly...

Forecast for coho indicates a big run

Saturday, March 22, 2003
By ERIK ROBINSON, Columbian staff writer

Federal salmon managers are predicting another big return of coho salmon to the Columbia River, raising hopes that salmon-recovery efforts may be working.

Early estimates of coho abundance in the Pacific Ocean point to one of the biggest runs of Columbia River coho since record-keeping began in 1938, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The projection of 984,000 returning adults would mark the fourth straight year of returns at or near 1 million.

Almost 90 percent were raised in hatcheries.

"This is yet the latest in a continuing positive trend that we're seeing for Pacific Northwest salmon runs," said Bob Lohn, the NMFS regional administrator, in a prepared statement. "These estimates are good news for fishermen and are evidence that our efforts to recover salmon runs are having an effect."

A leading salmon advocate would only go along with part of Lohn's statement.

Pat Ford, executive director of a coalition of fishing and conservation groups called Save Our Wild Salmon, said the big run is indeed good news for commercial, sport and tribal fishermen.

But Ford said the government's actions have had little to do with the big run. "I think it's the ocean that's doing the heavy lifting here," he said.

Biologists credit a trend of cold-water upwelling in the North Pacific in recent years for allowing plenty of nutrients to cycle up from the ocean floor. Lohn and other NMFS officials acknowledge favorable ocean conditions have contributed to strong salmon runs, but they insist that conservation efforts also have played a role.

"Common sense and a cursory scientific analysis would tell you if you're improving in-river survival of juveniles -- and we know we are -- then some of those juveniles are going to grow to come back as adults," said Brian Gorman, a NMFS spokesman in Seattle.

Ford said federal dam managers have been quick to curtail water that's supposed to speed juvenile salmon through the Columbia Basin on their way to the Pacific Ocean.

Ford said the big runs coming back over the past three years benefited from the fact that dam managers spilled water away from turbines, helping fish safely migrate past the dams.

"That program is being significantly reduced so Bonneville can generate electricity with that water rather than spill it," he said.

A team of state, tribal and federal biologists presented their projections last week during a meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council in Sacramento, Calif.

An Oregon Coast population of coho dwindled to the point that the NMFS listed it as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. A separate population in the lower Columbia River is a candidate species for listing.

The projection of a big run, taken from preliminary numbers showing an abundance of coho in the ocean, comes in advance of a planned September review of salmon-recovery efforts in the Columbia Basin.

In late 2000, the NMFS issued a biological opinion on whether the operation of federal dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers jeopardized the survival of 12 imperiled stocks of salmon and steelhead. The opinion rejected calls for breaching four federal dams on the lower Snake River and instead focused on less-dramatic measures to improve to habitat, hatcheries and dams.

The opinion established a series of check-in dates, beginning in September 2003, to review the progress of federal recovery efforts. Without adequate progress, the government is supposed to reconsider breaching the dams.

Despite the big return projected for this year, Ford said conservationists have a strong case for taking much stronger action to restore wild salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia Basin. Even with recent runs of 3 million adult spawners, that's still well below the 10 million to 16 million wild fish that returned to the Columbia and Snake rivers before European settlement. "We bought some time," he said. "But we're still nowhere near the levels needed to remove these salmon from the endangered species list, much less the real goal of harvestable populations."
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