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Rex Cozzalio responds to newest program to impregnate Shasta River with fertilized coho eggs — preposterous, it is
While the Federal and State’s self-benefitting position is to maintain the OPINION that coho are indigenous to the Klamath, no multi-generational from our upper Klamath River region that I have heard of ever felt them so.

- There is NO historical documentation I have ever found which claims they were, and a number that support they were not. While current ‘authorities’ claim people just weren’t able to tell the difference then (apparently including government contracted fisheries experts like Evermann), it is interesting that within a few years after initial and repeated plantings, the sporadic returns of coho were noted. Proponents base their claims almost invariably on recent publications by a relative handful of admittedly agenda oriented ‘experts’ such as Moyle citing selected assumptions from the even then biased 1931 Fish and Game Snyder Report, and a couple bulletins since, repeating Snyder’s assumptions.

- A now retired Fish and Game fish hatchery manager at Iron Gate for several decades researched extensively and did not feel they were natural to the river, and only upon the third attempt of planting from the Cascadia coho strain in the 1960s under the improved water and hatchery conditions resulting from Iron Gate Dam did they finally consider they had obtained a MARGINAL return. That return likely comprises much if not all of the in-river ‘wild runs’ cited now for reasons stated below.

- It has been PROVEN locally that straying to other tributaries from hatchery runs is as high as 40-60%. Tagged tracking of salmon returned to the river from the hatchery were found voluntarily retracing downriver and successfully spawning in many locations including the Shasta and Scott Rivers. Given that propensity, only a few short generations (3 years per generation or shorter for ‘precocious’ spawners) would be required to ‘expand’ their territory to diffuse tributaries.

That potential is supported by at least three facts.

One is that both hatchery and ‘wild’ salmon are found to be DNA identical and I understand from the Cascadia strain.

Second is that adipose fin clipping has been the ONLY way to differentiate hatchery spawned coho. Until now a maximum of 10% (if any) of coho were clipped, resulting in returning strays being INDISTINGUISHABLE from ‘wild’ stocks and therefore resultant breeding quickly creating a homogenous strain, even if ANY other stocks DID exist.

Third, with the lack of any recent river changes except as mentioned below, it is coincidental (?)that during the 90’s subsequent to the drought cycle coho ‘downturn’, Fish and Game issued policy that ALL coho returning to the Hatchery/Bogus Creek not harvested for spawn were to be killed, instead of being returned to the river for spawning, and therefore failing to bolster coho populations as likely occurred throughout the past.

- A factor that supports the above coho effect statements is that ALL human Klamath ‘impacts’ are a mere fraction of what they were long before the ‘recent’ downturn. The ONLY significant non-ocean based Klamath factors recently changed are the increased protected predation, increased KBRA mandated ‘unnatural’ water flows, recently ‘reenacted’ effectively unenforced Tribal gill netting, Shasta and Scott River diversion removals’ sediment releases, increased degraded water from massive unmanaged forest fires, and greater un-thinned timber groundwater transpiration, ALL a result of relatively recent regulatory Agencies’ enforcements.

- Coho, even IF they WERE indigenous, are defined exclusively as a coastal fish, with 80+ % spawning within 20 miles of the coast under the cooler, clear water coastal influence, making inland climate conditions marginal and inconsistent at best. With the most ideal Klamath conditions ALL located downriver within the coastal mountain range influence, it becomes an extremely important and relevant point that only 25% of that habitat is current being utilized by salmon. That not only reinforces the vastly preponderant ocean based and harvest return effects, but also solidly supports introducing eggs into those unutilized tributaries comprising a far greater likely success than ALL of the anticipated historically contradicted upper basin ‘habitat expansion’ costing billions of dollars to attempt.

- Considering the above, several things seem clear.

- Coho should NOT be on the endangered list. Questions are too great and well evidenced to support current and developing oppression from Agencies’ experimentation and/or incompetence.

- Cooperation without repercussion is fine, and if large numbers of coho are to be supported as superior to the needs of other resident species, then planting of coho eggs in suitable habitats unquestionably becomes an extremely viable option, AS LONG AS it does NOT increase restrictions, oppression, or liability to resident landowners for utilizing their vested property rights.

- Unfortunately, to date every detrimental regulatory action and decision has instead been used to justify INCREASED Agency power, authority, and resource ‘taking’.

- Any ‘cooperation’ of plantings, successful or not, should ONLY occur with guarantees of vested immunity. The possibility of that immunity is slim, however, considering the self-serving politics involved.

- Agencies and NGOs will want either to ‘deny’ plantings to continue a created endangered listing furthering expansion and the ‘re-wilding without compensation’ attrition of the region. Others may feel it advantageous to pursue since introducing the eggs to uninhabited areas would give them the ability to expand designation of ‘critical habitat’ even further.

- Nature Conservancy would likely quietly endorse it since planting on their Big Springs Ranch, if successful, would result in significant returns to their location allowing them to publicly proclaim the ‘success’ of their ‘restoration’ theories and the ‘need’ for their expanding existence. Without those guarantees of landowner immunity going in, a potentially great plan to benefit all can become a weapon against the people.

- Regarding the ‘genetics’ as an excuse to rationalize either objective of the Agencies/NGOs, there is a great hypocrisy taking place. While one moment the cry of concern justifying expansion and asset taking uses ‘DNA integrity’ as their mantra, once that mantle of unaccountable power is bestowed, Agencies are allowed to use their ‘best judgment’ as to introducing other salmon to try and force a perceived success.

- Even while claiming removal of dams to ‘save indigenous salmon’, Fish and Wildlife is nonetheless currently testing ‘genetically superior salmon from this and other watersheds having a greater chance of survival’ to be ‘introduced’ even before the dams are out. Considering the above discussion, arguments over the planted ‘coho genetic diversity’ become baseless. Support of the Supervisors’ option for egg planting seems great, as long as the Supervisors first protect their people.



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