Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Klamath River Chinook Salmon

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Scott Greacen, EPIC, (707) 822-7711
Ani Kame'enui, Oregon Wild, (206) 226-3376

Environmental Groups

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Klamath River Chinook Salmon

PORTLAND, Ore. - As Klamath salmon populations continue to struggle to survive, the
Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Environmental Protection
Information Center and Larch Company today filed a petition
with the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect Klamath River
chinook salmon in northern California and southern Oregon under the
federal Endangered Species Act. 

"Wild chinook salmon in the Klamath have been devastated
by a century of habitat destruction and need the protection of the
Endangered Species Act to survive," said Noah Greenwald, endangered
species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.  "Dams, water
withdrawals, logging, hatcheries and now disease and climate change are
driving the Klamath's chinook salmon toward extinction." 

The petition seeks protection first and foremost for
spring-run chinook, once the most abundant run of Klamath chinook, now
near extinction in its last remaining stronghold. Biologists now count
just 300 to 3,000 wild-spawning spring chinook each year. These fish
are marvels of evolution, living most of their lives in the Pacific
Ocean only to return to the river in the spring with enough fat
reserves to survive without eating until early fall when it's time for
them to spawn. They have long been prized as one of the best-tasting
salmon species and historically the most economically important Klamath
fish. 

"The spring-run chinook have become the Klamath's sad
little secret," said Ani Kame'enui, a Klamath wildlife advocate with
Oregon Wild. "Everyone from fisheries biologists to local anglers knows
that springers are suffering, but we often turn a blind eye. The
protections sought in this petition are about finally doing something
to stop the bleeding."     

The Klamath Basin was once the third-largest producer
of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast, but now produces fewer and
fewer wild fish as a result of dams, habitat degradation and other
factors. Overall, at least 300 miles of spawning habitat in the Klamath
Basin have been made inaccessible by dams. Because of declines in the
overall numbers of returning wild chinook, the petition also asks the
Fisheries Service to consider protecting wild fall-run chinook.

"The Klamath River Basin and the salmon it supports
are a national treasure," said Scott Greacen, executive director of the
Environmental Protection Information Center. "So far, federal
agencies have managed spring-run chinook in the Klamath by ignoring
them. Plans for the restoration of the Klamath need to put spring
chinook recovery front and center." 

Recent river management has exacerbated the chinook's
plight. In the fall of 2002, Klamath River chinook suffered one of the
worst fish kills in Northwest history when as many as 70,000 adult
salmon died before spawning. Excessive water withdrawals, primarily
from the federally run Klamath Irrigation Project, resulted in low
flows and warm water temperatures that allowed disease to develop and
spread quickly. Continued low flows and warm temperatures are key
drivers of an ongoing disease crisis in the river that has sharply
reduced survival of juvenile wild fish on their way to the ocean.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Since 1974, Oregon Wild has worked to protect and restore Oregon's wildlands, wildlife, and waters.as an enduring legacy for future generations.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) works to protect and restore ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries, and native species in Northern California. EPIC uses an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

The Larch Company is a for-profit, non-membership conservation organization that represents species who cannot talk and the human generations to come.

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