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Report Shows Dwindling Salmon Numbers On Columbia, Snake Rivers

June 5, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Salmon runs on two western rivers have steadily declined over the past 20 years and populations at some dams last year were the lowest ever observed, a report released Monday said.

Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., asked the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to study the runs on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

″Clearly, we know from this report that the runs are in trouble. Clearly, the fish are declining. Particularly on the Snake River, the stocks are way down,″ said Bill Calder, Hatfield’s press secretary.

Oregon Trout, a Portland-based conservation group, has asked the NMFS to place four salmon runs in the Columbia River basin on the endangered species list. The four are the native runs of Lower Columbia coho salmon as well as the Snake River’s spring, summer and fall chinook salmon.

Hatfield said in March he wanted the report in hand to help get a head start on the listing process and avoid some of the political rhetoric that has surrounded the debate over whether to list the northern spotted owl as a threatened species.

The report provides a ″perspective on the salmon runs in question″ but does not provide a basis for definitive judgments on the status of the runs under the Endangered Species Act, its authors said.

In a letter to Hatfield, NMFS regional director Rolland Schmitten and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Randy Fisher said, ″We share your concern over salmon runs and other users of Columbia River water.″

Mark Chilcote, natural production program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the report basically compiled previous studies to give an overview on the status of the fish in the region.

The report based its population counts primarily on escapements, the number of fish that avoid being caught and safely return to their spawning grounds, and redd counts, which are the easily observable nests that female salmon dig in river-bottom gravel to lay eggs.

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