“Maybe 20 years…”
In a recent article from the New York Times, writer Jim Robbins shares the grim future of the wild Salmon that use the Columbia River every year for spawning. Once revered for its healthy salmon runs, the populations of salmon are dwindling. In the 1950s, spawning fish numbered in the tens of thousands, but in the most recent count, there were only 1,500 spawning fish in the river system. And it’s not just the salmon who are suffering, countless native fish species in the system are under threat, resulting in many conservationists pushing for dams on the river to be removed to prevent a total loss of these precious fish.
According to Russ Thurow, a fisheries research scientist with the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, “The Columbia River was once the most productive wild Chinook habitat in the world.”
The dwindling salmon numbers are also impacting other species who reside hundreds of miles away. Orca whales, who rely on the annual run of salmon for food, are starving.
According to the NYT piece, “Many experts believe the orcas are starving in large part because of the decline of wild salmon. This year alone, their number has dropped from 76 to 73, alarming conservationists and scientists. Last year, an orca mother carried a dead calf for 17 days on her back. She was presumed to be grieving.”
The easiest way to ensure the future of these salmon, other native species and the Orca whales is to simply remove the 4 lower dams on the Columbia. This would both free up access for fish movement and help to lower the water temperatures, which are thought to be affecting the salmon runs.
To read more about the peril facing the Columbia River’s wild salmon, check out this incredible article from the New York Times.