Scientists at U.C. Davis have found a genetic distinction between Chinook salmon that migrate in spring and fall. That has a Northern California tribe calling to make spring Chinook an endangered species. But some farmers are skeptical.
The new research suggests if dwindling populations of spring Chinook disappear, healthier fall runs of salmon can’t replace them.
“The Endangered Species Act seeks to protect genetic information that’s irreplaceable,” says Craig Tucker, a policy advocate for the Karuk Tribe. “There’s probably fewer than 200 wild-spawning spring Chinook salmon in the Klamath river this year, and in good years there’s only maybe 2,000.”
Tom Menne farms 2,000 acres of hay near the Oregon border and worries removing dams to help salmon won’t be kind to his electric bill.“I’m not confident that they count the fish very accurately,” says Menne. “It went from 130,000 a year to about 180,000 a year for power.”
A final decision on listing spring Chinook could take years to litigate.