NOAA 99-R150
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Brian Gorman
9/9/99

NO NEED TO EXPAND ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT COVERAGE TO OREGON AND NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CHINOOK,
FISHERY AGENCY SAYS

Populations of chinook salmon in Oregon's Deschutes River and several coastal basins of southern Oregon and northern California do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service said today. Listings were proposed by the fisheries service last year, when preliminary information indicated that these and other populations might qualify as threatened or endangered species under the ESA.

"Since that time," said William Stelle, head of the fisheries service's Northwest regional office in Seattle, "our own scientists and their counterparts at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon have been working together to determine the relationship between Deschutes River chinook and listed Snake River fall chinook, as well as the population structure of coastal chinook populations from Oregon and northern California. The conclusion is that these populations are structured differently than was previously believed and they do not need ESA protection."

According to fisheries service scientists, the Deschutes River populations are a separate, distinct population segment whose abundance continues to increase. Most recent data shows annual returns to be at a five-year average of about 16,000 fish, increasing at about 18 percent a year. Coastal chinook populations between Cape Blanco and the Klamath River are also distinct from coastal populations to the south, numbering more than 50,000 fish in the Rogue River alone.

"This is a rare bit of good news about salmon," Stelle added. "These chinook populations are in relatively good shape. And thanks to a remarkable degree of support from our state and tribal colleagues, we were able to make a scientific determination of that fact, and furthermore, to establish that we're talking about populations that are distinct and more robust than neighboring populations."

James Greer, Oregon's fish and wildlife department director, echoed Stelle's sentiments regarding the benefit of the two agencies' working together.

"This effort was a breath of fresh air for both of us," he said. "The entire process by which the fisheries service made its determination was open to our staff and a model of cooperation. That's just the way it ought to be with a federal action."

In related decisions, the fisheries service said it was listing as "threatened" spring-run chinook in California's Central Valley and a California coastal chinook population. A Central Valley fall/late-fall chinook population was determined to be "not warranted."

The fisheries service had proposed protection for a broad range of salmon and steelhead last year, including the five populations decided on today. In March, it listed nine populations of salmon or steelhead, but deferred decisions on four others decided on today because of scientific uncertainties about whether they should be listed or what category of protection they should be afforded. Today's announcement refines the population structure and status of West Coast chinook populations, and concludes the most comprehensive review ever completed for the species.

Further information about this announcement, including maps of the affected areas, can be found on the fisheries service's Northwest Region's Web site at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov.