A new federal report enumerates, for the first
time, exactly how many wild salmon and steelhead need to survive
for them to be removed from the endangered species list. The
report, produced by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS),
suggests specific annual fish populations in more than 60
tributaries of the Columbia River. The figures are vexingly
specific: 426 summer chinook in Idaho's Marsh Creek, and 802 in the
Imnaha River, for example. The agency cautions, though, that the
target numbers are intended only as preliminary estimates to help
regional, local, and tribal stakeholders size their recovery
efforts. "We cannot do this alone. We have to get local support,"
says NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman. "So instead of saying, 'do
better,' or 'try harder,' we're saying, 'here's a target to aim
for. Here's how you'll know.' "
precedes an official recovery plan which NMFS intends to release by
the end of the year. It will be the first since the fish were put
on the endangered species list 11 years ago.
salmon advocates feel the numbers fall short. "It would be a big
mistake to think these numbers mean much," says Pat Ford, executive
director of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, which represents 54
sport, commercial, and conservation fishing business organizations.
"What we need to get to in the Columbia and Snake rivers is
sustainable and harvestable levels of salmon, as opposed to
museum-piece management. And that's what these are."