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NOAA Fisheries Status Review: 13 Columbia Basin Salmon, Steelhead Stocks To Retain ESA Listing
Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 (PST)

Based on a recently completed review, NOAA Fisheries Service has determined that all 13 Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks now listed under the Endangered Species Act will retain their listing classification as either threatened or endangered.


NOAA Fisheries is required by the ESA to evaluate each five years whether a species should be delisted, reclassified from endangered to threatened or threatened to endangered, or whether the current classification should be retained.


“After considering the best available information, we concluded that all listed salmon and steelhead species in Oregon, Washington and Idaho will retain their listing classifications,” the agency announced Monday. NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Region evaluated 17 species in all, including 13 Columbia-Snake River basin and four Puget Sound stocks.


The review addresses the status of the following “evolutionarily significant units” or “designated population segments” of, respectively, salmon or steelhead: upper Columbia River spring-run chinook; Snake River spring/summer-run chinook; Puget Sound chinook; lower Columbia River chinook; upper Willamette chinook; Snake River fall-run chinook; Hood Canal summer-run chum; Columbia River chum; lower Columbia River chinook; Snake River sockeye; Ozette Lake sockeye salmon; and upper Columbia River, middle Columbia River, Snake River basin, lower Columbia River, upper Willamette and Puget Sound steelhead.


The Snake River sockeye and upper Columbia spring chinook stocks are listed as endangered, and the remainder as threatened. A “species” is considered to be in the more imperiled endangered category if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A species is considered threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future. Protections are more stringent for species in the endangered category.


The assessment of the species' biological status involved all four “viability” attributes -- abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity.


“Although some salmon and steelhead populations within the listed species have experienced increased abundance in the last five years, a comprehensive assessment of the status of these species as a whole indicates that most populations remain at a high to moderate risk of extinction,” according to a fact sheet produced by NOAA Fisheries.


“Our analysis of listing factors indicates that while many regional entities are making significant investments to restore salmon across the Northwest, land and water use practices, human development, population growth, hatchery practices, and global climate change continue to pose significant threats to salmon recovery.


“We considered new genetic and biogeographic information to evaluate species' boundaries, and found no new information indicating that the current boundaries should change,” the fact sheet says. “We evaluated new information on salmon and steelhead hatchery programs to inform an updated assessment of the species membership status of these programs. There are several changes in membership throughout the region.” Based on their genetic likeness to the wild listed stocks, some hatchery programs were added as part of ESU listings, and others were subtracted.


See the species summaries, for changes in hatchery membership.


NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Region evaluated 17 species, including 11 species of salmon and six species of steelhead. The latest review did not include a new look at the status of Oregon coast coho salmon, which had undergone a new listing determination that was completed on  June 20, 2011. NOAA Fisheries determined that Oregon coast coho would retain its threatened status.


The agency used a two-step process to complete the reviews. It evaluated: (1) the species' biological viability and (2) status of the ESA listing factors.


First, the agency asked scientists from its Northwest Fisheries Science Center to collect and analyze new information about species viability. To evaluate viability, the scientists applied the newly developed “viable salmonid population” criteria. VSP relies on evaluating four biological criteria -- abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity.


Second, salmon management biologists from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Region reviewed new information on the five ESA statutory listing factors. They evaluated new information to determine if any of the listing factors' influence on species' extinction risk had changed.


The five listing factors are: (1) the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (5) other natural or human-made factors affecting its continued existence.


Information from each of these steps formed the basis for the five-year review. The summaries for each species can be found at:


The reviews notes biological gains, and risks.


As an example “sockeye extirpation and further loss of genetic diversity and spatial structure have been averted because of the Snake River Sockeye Captive Broodstock Program managed by the Stanley Basin Sockeye Technical Oversight Committee,” the review says. Also implementation of habitat restoration projects and protective efforts are taking place at federal, state, tribal, and local levels. And hydropower improvements through implementation of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing settlement agreements and the Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion have brought benefits.


Snake River sockeye salmon returns have increased, but the status of the species has not improved significantly since it was listed in 1991. Federal agencies, states, and tribes have taken several measures to temper the species’ extinction risk, including improvements to hydrosystem operations and genetic preservation through the Snake River Sockeye Captive Broodstock Program,” the review says. “However, biological benefits of habitat restoration efforts have yet to be fully expressed. These benefits may take decades to result in measurable improvements to population viability. By continuing to implement actions that address the factors limiting population survival and monitoring the effects of the action over time, we will ensure that restoration efforts meet the biological needs of the single Snake River sockeye population.”


Likewise the status of another endangered stock, the upper Columbia River spring-run chinook salmon, and other Columbia-Snake river wild stocks have “not improved significantly” since last reviewed in 2005.


“Some of the risk factors have decreased…. However, the biological benefits of habitat restoration and protection efforts have yet to be fully expressed and may take decades to result in measurable improvements to population viability. In the interim, by continuing to implement recovery actions that address the factors limiting population survival and monitoring the effects of the actions over time, we will ensure that restoration efforts meet the biological needs of each population and, in turn, contribute to the recovery of this species,” the review says


The review says the Snake River fall-run chinook salmon stock remains at moderate risk of extinction.


“Although abundance has increased substantially since the ESA listing, hatchery fish comprise more than 75 percent of the spawning population.  The single Snake River major population group is not viable.”


The NOAA Fisheries review does highlight advances:


-- The agency has begun, and for six species completed, recovery plans to guide recovery efforts. -- Local watershed councils and recovery boards are now established and are instrumental in prioritizing and implementing actions to recover salmon and steelhead.

--Since the previous status review in 2005, the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund has paid for restoration actions on more than 620,000 acres in the Pacific Northwest.

-- Snake River sockeye returns in 2008 and 2009 were the highest since their listing in 1991.

-- Three major population groups of Snake River spring/summer chinook salmon demonstrated an increase in natural spawning abundance.

-- Implementation of actions identified in the FCRPS BiOp is reducing the duration of out-migration to the estuary and improving juvenile survival and spawning and rearing habitat.

-- Surface passage routes for migrating juvenile salmon have been installed at all eight mainstem dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

-- Throughout the Northwest, actions have been taken to improve fish passage and increase access to high quality habitat; restore riparian vegetation through fencing and planning; improve in-stream habitat; screen irrigation diversions; and acquire land to protect existing habitat.


The NOAA Fisheries information includes seven geographically oriented reviews. They're supported by a 346-page science report, "Status review update for Pacific salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act, Pacific  Northwest." See the Fisheries Northwest Region website at to read the reviews, science report and other supporting documents.





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