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Salmon and Other Fish

History of Salmon Recovery in Oregon

On Aug. 3, 1998, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that coastal coho would be added to the list of species under protection of the Endangered Species Act. The coho population for the Oregon Coast is estimated to be 5 to 10% of historic abundance levels.

The Endangered Species Act requires that wild populations of fish be rescued from the brink of extinction whenever possible.

Since salmon roam between shallow creeks and the deep oceans, their recovery could mean more changes in human activity everywhere from urban driveways to forests, farms, rivers, coasts and the ocean.

The State of Oregon has developed its own salmon and watershed recovery plan called the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. It is a cooperative effort to restore salmon runs, improve water quality, and achieve healthy watersheds and strong communities throughout the state.

Healthy salmon are a sign of a robust, livable business climate as well, according to Duncan Wyse, the executive director of the Oregon Business Council. The group represents the chief executive officers of Oregon's 45 largest companies. Saving the salmon is a practical decision that the CEOs endorsed. "(The salmon) are an indicator of the Northwest's biodiversity"”its health," Wyse said. Companies locate in the Northwest mainly because it has a reputation as a wholesome place to live and work. Lose the wild salmon, and Oregon's livable reputation is damaged as well. Keeping the salmon is sound business that will take hard-headed management.

The loss of salmon already has had a significant economic impact, said natural resource economist Hans Radtke. In his 1996 study, Radtke calculated the cost of the salmon decline in the Columbia River basin compared to the days when catches of 8 million fish were possible.

As of 1996, the decline of fisheries had seen the loss of 25,000 family-wage jobs, according to Radtke. In Columbia River basin communities, this translated to about $500 million in lost earning power as reflected in closed businesses and people moving elsewhere for work.

Ken Currens, a fisheries geneticist for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission in Washington, said losing salmon amounts to losing the reason why the Pacific Northwest is different from places where the green primordial earth has retreated into memory.

"My best reason (for saving salmon) is that they have been part of everything we think of as the Northwest for hundreds of thousands of years," Currens said. "If we value that landscape, if we value all the things that go into that, salmon are really a key part of that picture."

Excerpts with permission from Theresa Novak and C. Savonen, OSU Extension Service