Wednesday October 25, 2023

Center for Biological Diversity

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recent count of spring-run Chinook salmon returning to the South Umpqua River showed just 17 wild adult fish detected during snorkel surveys. This dismal return is 12% of the 10-year average of 139 fish returning to the river and signals an urgent need for federal Endangered Species Act protections.

“It’s heartbreaking to learn how few wild spring Chinook are returning to their home waters in Oregon’s beloved South Umpqua River,” said Meg Townsend, freshwater attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a shockingly low number, and this grim reality underscores just how important federal Endangered Species Act protections are. These spectacular spring-run salmon are on the brink of extinction, and they can’t wait any longer.”

In 2019 and 2022, the Center for Biological Diversity, Umpqua Watersheds and Native Fish Society petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect spring Chinook salmon in Oregon’s coastal rivers under the Endangered Species Act. In January the Service determined that the fish may warrant listing, and a decision was due in August.

Results of the department’s latest survey were released last week in response to a public records request. Historical records indicate that spring Chinook lived in numerous watersheds of the Oregon and Northern California coastal range, but the once-abundant spring Chinook runs in the Siuslaw, Coquille and many other coastal rivers in Oregon are now entirely gone.

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