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Wild fish study says many risk extinction
Oregon's first status report in a decade finds nearly half of the state's distinctive populations are in jeopardy in the short term
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Nearly half the state's unique wild fish stocks are at risk of slipping further toward extinction within five to ten years, Oregon wildlife biologists conclude in a new study.
The native fish status report is the first such accounting in 10 years. It is significant because the risk level it defines will set priorities for protecting fish and restoring streams.
Biologists with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife considered 69 distinct populations, including all varieties of the state's salmon and steelhead as well as most trout populations. They assessed selected sturgeon, lamprey, dace and chub species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Of the 33 salmon and steelhead populations, 11 are at risk of irreversible decline, and seven are potentially at risk, a draft of the report says.
Biologists concluded that seven are not at risk. Eight historic populations have gone extinct in the past century, most of them concentrated in upper reaches of the Snake and Klamath rivers cut off from migrating fish by the construction of power-generating dams.
Spring chinook salmon illustrate the pattern. The species went extinct in the upper Snake and Klamath rivers after the construction of impassable dams. Four of the remaining six spring chinook units are at risk because of the loss of habitat, the loss of many historic sub-populations, the escape of large numbers of domesticated hatchery fish into spawning grounds and other problems.
Among trout species, such as redband and bull trout, 17 of 27 unique populations are at risk, five are potentially at risk, and four are not at risk.
The Alvord cutthroat trout, a species native to springs and creeks of southeast Oregon and northern Nevada, is the only trout group considered extinct. The species disappeared within a few decades of the intentional release of non-native rainbow trout into the Alvord cutthroat's only remaining habitat in the 1920s.
Bill Bakke, head of the Native Fish Society, a conservation group, said wild fish are probably in even worse shape than the report suggests.
"The bar they are using for conservation is really low," Bakke said. "Even with the low-bar criteria, there are a lot headed toward extinction."
Kevin Goodson, fish and wildlife conservation planning coordinator, said that the study intends to provide a broad overview of the health of native fish, and that the agency will devote more in-depth studies to the populations facing the worst threats. The Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies, such as the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, will be able to use the information to allocate money and staff to the species most in need.
The study was funded through a grant from the Watershed Enhancement Board. The Department of Fish and Wildlife used to assess and report the status of native fish every two years but stopped in 1995 as state budgets tightened.
The Oregon Native Fish Status Report is online at www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/ONFSR/index.asp. The department will accept public comments on the draft report through Oct. 24. Address comments to Kevin Goodson, 3406 Cherry Ave. N.E., Salem, OR 97303-4924, or firstname.lastname@example.org or.
ODFW welcomes review and comments on this Oregon Native Fish Status Report. You can provide comments on all or part(s) of the document. It would be helpful if you tell us which sections or pages your comments pertain to. Public comments may be submitted via email or in person.
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