The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the first genetically modified salmon as safe for human consumption. The approval concludes nearly 20 years of reviews looking at whether the fish are safe to eat and what environmental impacts they'll have. Here are the answers to some key questions about these fish:

What's different about these salmon?

Shane Underwood (left) and his son, David, stand at the Quinault Indian Nation’s seafood plant in Taholah, Washington. The loss of the largest glacier that feeds the Quinault River and rising seas are threatening the tribe’s way of life.
Ashley Ahearn, KUOW/EarthFix

TAHOLAH, Wash. - A big question will confront international leaders in the next round of climate talks in Paris: How do they help poor, island and coastal nations threatened by rising oceans, extreme weather and other climate change-related risks?

In the Northwest, sea-level rise is forcing a Native American tribe to consider abandoning lands it has inhabited for thousands of years.

Salmon in the Ballard Locks, Seattle, Washington.
Flickr Photo/goodmami (CC BY SA 2.0)/

The Wild Fish Conservancy sued federal environmental and fisheries agencies Wednesday, saying they inadequately monitor the impact of commercial salmon farms in Puget Sound.

The lawsuit says commercial farms pose many risks to wild salmon.

Feds Release Plan For Recovering Snake River Salmon

Nov 2, 2015

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a draft plan Monday for recovering threatened Snake River fall chinook salmon – fish that have to pass eight Columbia and Snake River dams to reach their spawning grounds.

In the past, nearly a half million of these fish returned to the Snake River each year. But with overfishing, dam construction and habitat loss, those numbers dropped to just a few hundred by 1992, when the fish were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Is That Wild Salmon Really Wild?

Nov 2, 2015
How do you tell what salmon is truly wild?
Flickr Photo/Wally Gobetz (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/

David Hyde speaks with Mike Cenci, deputy chief law enforcement officer for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, about the dangers of seafood mislabeling and how consumers can make informed purchases. 

Would you be able to tell if the wild Alaskan sockeye salmon you ordered for dinner was swapped out for a less expensive piece of farm-raised salmon?

For the observant, the color difference between the two would likely be the first giveaway. (Sockeye has a deeper red-orange hue.) Or maybe you'd notice the disparity in the thickness of fillet. (Sockeye is flatter and less steaky in appearance.)

Spawning Coho salmon.
Flickr Photo/BLM Oregon (CC BY 2.0)/

David Hyde speaks with Bob Anderson, director of the UW Native American Law Center, about why Western Washington tribes are suing the state over culverts that block salmon. 

What's The Deal With Dam Removals?

Aug 27, 2015

In the past decade, several high-profile dam removals have happened in the Northwest. The Marmot Dam on the Sandy River in Oregon was demolished in 2007. Three dams along the main stem of Oregon’s Rogue River came down between 2008 and 2010.

Evans Creek is barely a trickle. A dry summer in Southern Oregon means the important salmon and steelhead creek, a tributary of the Rogue River, disappears below the gravel bed in places. Seemingly stagnant isolated pools are all that remain in some areas.

Normally, this wouldn’t be considered a good thing. But right now, Brian Barr, dam removal project manager for the GEOS Institute, will take it.

An 8-year-old boy catches a pink salmon in the San Juans off Orcas Island.
KUOW Photo/David Hyde

David Hyde speaks with Seattle forager and writer Langdon Cook about why he's excited about the big pink salmon run of 2015 (and says you should be, too).  

Some good news for anglers in Central Oregon: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted fishing restrictions on the Lower Deschutes River.

Water temperatures, which were fatally hot for fish earlier this summer, have now dropped to near-normal.

This year was supposed to be one of the biggest returns in 40 years for the endangered Idaho sockeye salmon. But it’s not turning out that way. Only a fraction of these fish have survived their journey up the Columbia and Snake rivers. The biggest problem: warm waters. Now dam and fish managers and tribes are in a race against time to save the few remaining fish.

It’s been a one-two punch of low snowpack last winter and not enough rain this spring for many Northwest rivers. Warm temperatures and low river flows are causing problems for salmon making the return migration.

In rivers and streams across the Northwest, waters are reaching a tipping point for salmon. Salmon like water temperatures to be 68 degrees. Officials say water temperatures in June are what is normally expected in late August.

Courtesy of Julie Busch

Jeannie Yandel talks with Mark Titus, director of a new documentary called "The Breach," about the inspiration for the film, Russ Busch.

The longstanding legal battle over maintaining dams and salmon in the Columbia River is back in court this week. On Tuesday, a new judge will hear arguments on the Obama administration's latest salmon plan.