Low Northwest salmon run confounds fishers, closes fisheries

Conservationists, salmon enthusiasts, and fisheries managers along the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest are wondering, Is it something we said? They’ve been stood up by thousands of chinook salmon that were expected to swim up the river to spawn this season, but never arrived. Original projections estimated some 254,000 chinook would pass the first of many dams along the Columbia this spring, but so far only about 52,000 have, and dejected fishery experts are now expecting only a few thousand more, perhaps totaling a paltry 80,000. The numbers are so low that Idaho, Oregon, and Washington banned chinook fishing outright, devastating the region’s sport-fishing industry and disappointing local fishers, among them Indian tribes with treaty rights to the salmon. “A lot of people had declared the salmon crisis over,” said Buzz Ramsey, sales manager for a fishing-tackle company. “Last year’s disappointment and this year’s disappointing run shows we’re really not over it.” Many enviros and tribal officials blame federal dams along the river for the disappearance of the fish.