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salmon

What's the best way to ensure the return of salmon and steelhead to something like their historic numbers in the Columbia and Snake rivers? It’s been a hotly debated question for more than 20 years. And it's getting a renewed look with a controversial option on the table:

Removing the four lower Snake River dams.

On a research boat on the Columbia River, Laurie Weitkamp with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grabs two buckets filled with water and about a dozen young salmon and steelhead.

“Ooh, we got some steelies!” she says.

By stretching a net across the river below Bonneville Dam, researchers are intercepting the fish swimming toward the ocean to see what they’ve been eating.

Spawning salmon
US Bureau of Land Management

Salmon are starting to lose their sense of smell and their fear of predators, according to research from federal and university scientists in Seattle.


Culvert Case Decision A 'Win For Salmon' In Washington

May 22, 2017

A big court decision could open up new habitat for salmon in Washington and end up costing the state billions of dollars. The case stemmed from poor maintenance and design of road culverts, which can block fish passage upstream.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday denied the state’s request to rehear the case. A lower court had ordered the state in 2013 to fix hundreds of road culverts.

Road culverts are those metal pipes or concrete boxes you see carrying streams underneath roads. There are thousands across the Northwest.

Georgia Tech

To the list of global problems the world’s oceans are facing, you can add another: They’re losing oxygen.

The Pacific Ocean off the U.S. West Coast, from central California to Alaska, is one of the hardest-hit areas.


The salmon cannon made a big splash a few years ago on local news stations and even had a cameo on HBO’s "Last Week Tonight" with John Oliver. Soon, it could propel fish into its biggest project yet.

Even with all the hubbub around its name, the salmon cannon isn’t so much an explosion as a flexible plastic tube that sucks fish up and over obstructions — like dams.

Helping juvenile salmon migrate out to sea has long been difficult and controversial. Barging is a common way to get the fish around dams.

The salmon are hauled around eight dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Idaho Conservation groups say this practice harms fish — and needs to stop now.

Seven groups sent a letter to NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking the agencies to this spring stop sending salmon along their migration route in barges.

A judge has ordered federal agencies to spill more water over Columbia and Snake river dams to help threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, though not until next year after testing.

The state of the salmon population in Idaho’s Snake River was the topic of a passionate discussion during a conference hosted by members of Idaho’s Nez Perce Indian tribe over the weekend.

A lawsuit filed Thursday by salmon advocates aims to reverse a trend of high summer water temperatures on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

The groups are asking the U.S. District Court in Seattle to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warm water pollution standard for the rivers. The standard, called the “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL), sets limits on how high the water temperature can rise and still meet water quality requirements.

The EPA released a draft plan in 2003, but it was never finalized.

Steve Hinton has a pretty unusual mindset when it comes to his job.

“I try to think like a fish,” he says.

That’s a crucial part of Hinton’s job as the director of habitat restoration for the Swinomish Tribal Community and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe. He spends a lot of his time trying to figure out how salmon will respond to obstacles in their way as they return from the Puget Sound, up the Skagit River, into little creeks and streams to spawn. One of the problems they encounter are road culverts.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick ordered more water releases from dams on the Klamath River to flush out parasites causing deadly disease outbreaks in salmon.

In recent drought years, scientists have found extremely high rates of a disease caused by an intestinal parasite known as Ceratanova shasta in salmon populations protected under the Endangered Species Act.

New research shows Dungeness crab fisheries could suffer as the Pacific Ocean grows more acidic.

Increasing acidification from carbon pollution will drive down food supplies for crab, according to new scientific modeling from the University of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

New Plan Aims To Recover Threatened Snake River Salmon

Oct 27, 2016

Northwest dam operations are getting a closer look from federal officials charged with ensuring the survival of imperiled fish that migrate hundreds of miles up the Columbia and Snake rivers to their native Idaho streams

Taking Down Snake River Dams: It's Back On The Table

Oct 21, 2016

Starting Monday people will get a chance to weigh-in on a controversial question: Should four dams come down on the lower Snake River? They’re facing renewed scrutiny because of a court-ordered analysis on how the dams are harming salmon.

Last May, a federal judge — for the fifth time — rejected the government’s plan for protecting threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River system. He said agencies must take a new look at all approaches to managing the dams — including breaching those on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington.

KUOW / John Ryan photo

Wind and heavy rain could make this weekend tough for Puget Sound dwellers.

The storm could be rough on the sound's underwater residents as well.


Court Rules Corps Can Continue Killing Cormorants

Sep 1, 2016

A federal district court judge found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers broke the law in approving a plan to kill cormorants on the Columbia River, but he allowed the plan to go forward.

In his ruling, Judge Michael Simon said the agency failed to consider alternatives before deciding to kill the birds, which prey on juvenile salmon and steelhead. However, he also ruled that the agency can continue killing the birds because it helps threatened and endangered fish.

Conservation groups announced plans Monday to sue the Environmental Protection Agency. They say the agency isn’t doing enough to protect salmon from high water temperatures on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Warm water can be deadly for salmon. Just last year, 250,000 sockeye died on the Columbia because of high temperatures.

A federal appeals court panel sided with 21 Native American tribes Monday, ruling the state of Washington must continue to repair culverts that prevent salmon from freely moving along waterways.

Culverts are structures that allow water to move under roadways. But when they’re too small, too high or blocked with debris, they can prevent salmon from passing.

Tribes argued successfully more than a decade ago in the case's first hearing that the state’s culverts hurt salmon populations, violating their fishing rights.

Joe Burnison works as a deckhand aboard Loki, a salmon gillnetting boat in Puget Sound. Loki is owned by one of his oldest friends, Jonah Knutson. Both men grew up in West Seattle. Joe Burnison works as a deckhand aboard Loki, a salmon gillnetting boat in
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

With his dark-rimmed glasses, Jonah Knutson doesn’t look like the salty fisherman.

But he smells like it.

In a ruling Wednesday, Federal District Court Judge Michael Simon rejected the government's latest plan for protecting salmon in the Columbia River Basin, saying the system of fish-blocking dams “cries out for a new approach.”

Fishery Managers Consider Closing Ocean Salmon Seasons

Mar 14, 2016

To protect fragile runs of coho, regional fishery managers are considering a rare total closure of Oregon and Washington ocean salmon fisheries north of Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, Oregon.

State, tribal and federal fishery managers have three options for non-treaty ocean salmon fisheries north of Cape Falcon. Two options would permit some salmon fishing this year, but one would close both recreational and commercial ocean fisheries for chinook and coho salmon.

Managers are not considering a total closure option for salmon fisheries south of Cape Falcon.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Northwest coastal tribes have counted on salmon and herring for thousands of years to fill their nets and fuel their cultures. That could change in just a few decades as warmer waters drive fish north, according to a study out this week from the University of British Columbia.

It has taken five years, but low-copper and copper-free brakes are now available in Washington. That’s because of a 2010 law designed to phase out the use of copper and other toxics in brake pads.

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 is confronting international leaders in the Paris climate talks: 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.

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?

Salmon in the Ballard Locks, Seattle, Washington.
Flickr Photo/goodmami (CC BY SA 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1MdxksX

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)/http://bit.ly/1k65tUx

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.)

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