ID Salmon Industry Feels the Pain from Dismal Runs
Thursday, September 16, 2021
BOISE, Idaho -- Closed fisheries from imperiled fish runs in the Columbia River Basin are prompting calls for action before it's too late.
Steelhead trout numbers in the Columbia and its tributaries could be the lowest since records began in the 1930s. On the Columbia, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued an emergency closure on salmon fishing up to the Bonneville Dam.
Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, said low salmon and steelhead numbers present an existential crisis for people in the industry.
"Idaho guides and outfitters, if they want to stay in the fishing industry, they have to leave their home," Brooks observed. "They have to go out of Idaho to stay in the industry, and if they don't want to leave their home, then they have to leave the industry."
Brooks applauded Republican Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson for his $33 billion proposal to save endangered species, which includes removing the lower Snake River dams. Other leaders in the region have supported habitat improvements in Congress's infrastructure package, but have not moved to include Simpson's proposal in the package.
Marcia Brownlee, program manager of the Artemis Sportswomen initiative for the National Wildlife Federation, said the region has taken half-measures to save endangered fish for too long.
"We need to do everything in our power to make sure emergency closures do not become permanent closures," Brownlee urged. "And what we've seen this summer has really illustrated that what we're doing now isn't enough. We need to do more."
Brownlee recommended the first step should be removing four lower Snake River dams in southeast Washington.
Earlier in the year, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., praised spring Chinook salmon runs on the Snake River, which were higher than in 2019 and 2020. The members of Congress said it was proof dams and salmon can co-exist.
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