Record Returns of Sockeye Salmon Met With Caution

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Record numbers of sockeye salmon—nearly 30 a minute were clocked on Wednesday—have been swimming over the Bonneville Dam this year. The Associated Press reports that an additional 38,000 sockeye passed the Columbia River dam on Monday. The daily numbers have surpassed some previous years' entire totals. All in, more than 400,000 sockeye salmon are expected to return this year to the Northwest's Columbia Basin.

Twenty years ago this summer, only one sockeye, the legendary Lonesome Larry, fluttered into Idaho's Redfish Lake Creek.

A series of court-ordered spills along the eight Snake and Columbia river dams have assisted salmon survival, along with an Endangered Species Act listing, but IRU remains concerned.

"The return rate is still dismal—probably only 10 percent of what it needs to be," said IRU board member Tom Stuart.

Stuart's colleague, IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy, said hatchery programs and the current spill program won't be enough to recover the species.

"Removing the four low-value dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington is still the only sure way to keep redfish in Idaho's Redfish Lake," said Sedivy.