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U.S. considers protected status for wild spring Chinook

A group of people in a large canoe head upriver into scores of fishing boats during the Spring Chinook Salmon run May 4, 2011 on the Willamette River in Oregon City, Ore. (Don Ryan / Associated Press)
A group of people in a large canoe head upriver into scores of fishing boats during the Spring Chinook Salmon run May 4, 2011 on the Willamette River in Oregon City, Ore. (Don Ryan / Associated Press)
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Federal fisheries officials said Tuesday they will consider putting the Pacific Northwest’s once-flourishing wild spring-run Chinook salmon on the list of threatened or endangered species.

The National Marine Fisheries Services plans a 12-month review on whether to give protected status to the salmon in and around the Klamath River.

Spring Chinook, historically the first Chinook salmon to return from the ocean each winter, were once one of the most abundant salmon of the Pacific Northwest, important to tribes, fishermen and wildlife.

California’s Kuruk tribe, which joined the Salmon River Restoration Council environmental group in petitioning for more protections for the fish, say the species is nearly extinct throughout much of its range in Oregon and Northern California.

The tribe blames Klamath River dams for blocking the fish from their spawning grounds.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to decide in 2019 whether to approve a deal among tribes, dam-owner PacifiCorp utilities company, and others to remove the dams and reopen hundreds of miles of river to the migrating salmon.

The federal fisheries’ move comes after a University of California, Davis study showed the spring Chinook are more of an evolutionary rarity than realized when compared to Chinook salmon that return later in the year.

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