Although 24 salmon reportedly passed over Lower Granite Dam last month, none has made it all the way back to traditional spawning grounds at Redfish Lake.
That concerns Shoshone-Bannock fisheries biologist Doug Taki. He’s part of a staff of five working on the tribe’s Snake River Sockeye Salmon research project funded through the Bonneville Power Administration.
The project is a cooperative effort to restore sockeye salmon to the Sawtooth Valley, with the state Department of Fish and Game, National Marine Fisheries Service and Forest Service also taking part.
“It’s unique that the tribes, the IDFG and NMFS are all doing this project together,” Taki said.
The fish are an important part of the tribes’ cultural heritage. Indians have relied on sockeye salmon as one of their traditional food sources.
Prior to the signing of the 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty, Shoshone-Bannocks roamed central Idaho hunting and gathering as a way of life.
Tribal members still return to central Idaho to exercise off-reservation treaty rights but have had little chance to fish for sockeye or chinook salmon because of the serious decline in numbers.
Sockeye salmon couldn’t migrate after Sunbeam Dam was built across the Salmon River at Yankee Fork in 1913. After the dam was breached in 1933, salmon runs picked up until hydroelectric dams were built across the Snake and Columbia rivers in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1991, the tribes got the National Marine Fisheries Service to declare the Snake River sockeye an endangered species after only four sockeye returned to Redfish Lake.
BPA in 1993 funded the tribes’ sockeye salmon research project which includes monitoring, fish species interaction and habitat enhancement.