Despite rebounding populations, 26 species of Pacific salmon will continue to be classified as threatened or endangered, according to NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency overseeing salmon recovery efforts. The agency is also recommending re-listing an additional run, the Lower Columbia Coho, which had been removed from protection in 2001.
That said, NOAA biologists are optimistic about the recovery of Pacific salmon populations, citing improved ocean conditions and successful stream restoration efforts. "We are turning the corner on this. If you look at the indications, people should not lose hope on it," said Bob Lohn, northwest regional director for NOAA Fisheries.
Salmon populations plummeted throughout the American West following the construction of dams on all of the region’s major river systems. The salmon are born upstream, and typically swim to the ocean, where they remain for two to five years, at which point they attempt to return to the exact location of their birth to deposit their eggs and pass on their genes. The dams have made this return trip impossible for the majority of salmon, thus interrupting the timeless cycle of life.
The Bush Administration is quick to point out that federal salmon hatchery efforts have swelled populations of many of the most endangered species. Most biologists, however, consider the introduction of hatchery-raised fish destructive to the otherwise vibrant gene pool among wild varieties of salmon.