Officials predict poor sockeye return

The Lewiston Tribune –

This year’s return of Snake River sockeye salmon, Idaho’s most imperiled fish, is lagging far behind the 10-year average and isn’t expected to improve.

Through Monday, just eight sockeye had been counted at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River in Washington compared to a 10-year average of 317. The fish are listed as endangered and have been struggling for decades.

Sockeye that make a 900-mile journey with an elevation gain of 6,000 feet to return to Redfish, Alturis and Pettit lakes in the Stanley Basin nearly blinked out in the 1990s when returns were often in the single digits. Some years, no adults returned. The fish were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1991.

The run was somewhat stabilized when state and federal officials opted to take the extraordinary measure of bringing remaining fish into a captive breeding program. Returning adults were bred in hatcheries, and many of their offspring spent their entire life cycles in captivity while others were released to migrate as juveniles to the Pacific Ocean.

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