General Information on Salmon

The Pacifics most commonly caught—chum, coho and sockeye, chinooks and pinks (the pinks mostly for canning)—occupy huge ranges. Chum and sockeye run up rivers and off coasts from California to Kyoto. Cohos run thick from British Columbia up through Alaska. And the magnificent chinook, three feet long and sandbag heavy—also known as king, tyee, blackmouth—swim sparse in San Francisco, profusely in the Columbia River and Puget Sound, and in Alaska run abundant, climbing as far as 2,000 miles up the Yukon to spawn. All Pacific salmon are anadramous, spending their youngest days in rivers and their youths and adult lives at sea. When it comes time to spawn, most Pacific Northwest salmon will do so only in their natal streams, making each watershed’s population distinct and vulnerable to extinction if a dam or other insult wipes them out. In the Pacific Northwest and western Canada, where dams have knocked down some populations, the fisheries are faring poorly. In Alaska, the wild-salmon fishery is one of the world’s best-managed and populations are robust.

Timeline of Government Rulings on Salmon

1991/92: Federal government lists Snake River sockeye as an endangered species, others as threatened.

1992: NOAA’s first biological opinion says dams will not jeopardize endangered or threatened fish; plan immediately challenged in court.

1994: U.S. District Judge Malcolm Marsh strikes down plan.

1995: New biological opinion says dams jeopardize salmon and steelh ead; standards proposed for spill, flow, reservoir levels and barging juvenile fish downstream.

1996: Environmental, fishing groups and Oregon sue, saying jeopardy standard isn’t enough; Oregon argues for greater river flows.

1997: Marsh OKs 1995 plan; ruling appealed.

1998: Upper Columbia steelhead listed as endangered; Snake River and lower Columbia steelhead listed as threatened.

1999: Appeals court upholds Marsh’s ruling and 1995 plan; six more Columbia basin salmon and steelhead listed as endangered or threatened.

2000: With a nine-agency federal caucus, NOAA releases plan focused on hydropower, habitat, hatcheries and harvests for 10 years.

2001: National Wildlife Federation, fishing and conservation groups challenge 2000 plan; Oregon and four Native tribes join.

2003: Judge James A. Redden takes case, rejects NOAA’s plan, saying it doesn’t protect salmon harmed by dams.

2004: New NOAA plan adjusts spill, says dams do not threaten salmon survival.

2005: Redden throws out plan for viola ting the Endangered Species Act and overlooking dams’ risk, orders summer spill at three Snake dams and one Columbia dam.

2008: NOAA issues another biological opinion; Redden insists it falls short and says time may be running out before dams are found t violate law and courts assume their o operation; he orders consideration of removing four dams on the lower Snake.

2008: Federal agencies, five tribes and two states sign 10 -year outline of fish and habitat projects — the fish accords — funded by the Bonneville Power Administration. NOAA releases three biological opinions; another appeal says latest plans are similar to 2000 -04 plans.